PHT Morning Skate: Mike Ilitch paid Rosa Parks’ rent for over a decade

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–Not many people knew about this, but Mike Ilitch quietly paid Rosa Parks’ rent for years when she was living in downtown Detroit. “They don’t go around saying it, but I want to, at this point, let them know, how much the Ilitches not only meant to the city, but they meant so much for Rosa Parks, who was the mother of the civil rights movement,” federal judge Damon Keith said. (CNN)

–Coyotes top prospect Dylan Strome found an interesting way to score a goal. The Erie Otters forward had his stick ripped out of his hands by his opponent, so he went to pick up his opponent’s discarded stick and he used it to find the back of the net. (Sportsnet)

–When we discuss this year’s race for the Calder Trophy, we usually mention the names of Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine or even Zach Werenski, but there’s another player that should be getting more recognition. Even though he won the Stanley Cup last spring, Pens goalie Matt Murray is still eligible to take home the Calder in 2016-17. No rookie goalie has come close to reaching the numbers he’s put up this year. (The Hockey News)

–The St. Louis Blues continue to pile up wins under new head coach Mike Yeo, as they took down the Detroit Red Wings, 2-0, on Wednesday night. Carter Hutton picked up his second consecutive shutout in the win. You can watch the highlights by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Sergeant Major Bob McDonald often sings the national anthem before Capitals home games, but last week, he sang for a smaller audience. After singing the national anthem at the Verizon Center on Saturday night, McDonald went to see Tracey Madigan, who was hosting a house party because she had recently become a U.S. Citizen. McDonald surprised her and her guests by singing the anthem inside her home. “When he showed up, you’d think Elvis had arrived at the door. It was ‘OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE HE’S HERE. Everybody was screaming. … He was treated kind of like a rock star.” (Washington Post)

Sidney Crosby currently leads the NHL in goals, but is he the favorite to land the Rocket Richard Trophy? The ESPN roundtable weighed in. Three of the five writers figured Crosby would take home the award, but two others believe Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin will be able to overtake him. (ESPN)

–Columbus Blue Jackets forward David Clarkson has been unable to play hockey in almost a full year because of a serious back injury. Some days, even simple tasks like getting out of bed prove to be difficult.”I left home at 15 to play juniors, and hockey’s all I’ve ever known. It’s hard to go through, but I’ll look at a picture of my kids, or think about them, and it brings me back to earth. I have a lot to be happy about, but this sucks. There’s not a day that goes by — not an hour, honestly — when I don’t think about (playing hockey) and miss it.” (Columbus Dispatch)

Video: Whoa, this is one sweet Mike Hoffman backhand goal

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Monday’s game won’t help the Ottawa Senators defy critics about last season running on luck, at least in that it doesn’t count in the standings.

Senators sniper Mike Hoffman didn’t seem to care.

Hoffman owned last night’s pre-season NHL highlight reel (sorry Nico Hischier), scoring two very different goals.

The best one can be viewed in the video above this post’s headline, as he burst through the Maple Leafs defense for a ridiculous backhander on the rush. Wow.

His first of the night was memorable for a different reason, as Hoffman shook off a near-miss (eventually) to score this goal.

Weird/cool/good, indeed.

Prediction: Hoffman will score a lot of goals that will “count” in 2017-18, too.

Wild extend captain Mikko Koivu’s contract for two years, $11M

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Minnesota Wild fans fearing that the 2017-18 season could be Mikko Koivu‘s last can breathe a sigh of relief, and that suspense didn’t even carry into opening night.

Instead, the Wild signed Koivu to a two-year contract extension worth $11 million.

That $5.5M cap hit kicks in during the 2018-19 campaign and ends after 2019-20. It represents a minor cut in pay for Koivu, as he’s entering the final year of a deal with a $6.75M cap hit.

Koivu, 34, enjoyed a strong first season under Bruce Boudreau, becoming a Selke finalist for the first time in his underrated career. He’s been Minnesota’s captain since 2008-09.

Koivu’s deal would qualify as a 35+ contract, according to Cap Friendly.

The Finnish forward likely valued stability, maybe taking a little less in AAV for the sake of peace of mind.

This continues a busy week-or-so for the Wild, who also broke their impasse with RFA Marcus Foligno by handing him a four-year, $11.5M deal.

Opinion: this Koivu deal is a much, much easier decision to justify, even taking into account his advanced age.

Predators captain announcement looming; they have some great options

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Multiple reporters* indicate that the Nashville Predators will name their captain (and alternates) on Wednesday.

Mike Fisher briefly held the title, and before him, Shea Weber wore the “C.” Both were safe, obvious choices; this time around, there are some intriguing options. The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan reports that the Predators themselves realize that there are quite a few logical captains in their midst (which probably isn’t a bad problem to have).

“It’s totally different this time around,” Pekka Rinne said. “I think Mike last year, I think everybody saw that coming. Everybody agreed. Everybody was really comfortable with it. I think now we have, in my opinion, at least four great options to choose from.”

Note: the Predators would be wise not to pull a Canucks with Roberto Luongo as captain experiment, even if Rinne’s easily one of the team’s leaders.

Some of the most obvious options include young-yet-veteran defenseman Roman Josi, big-dollar-center Ryan Johansen, and star blueliner P.K. Subban.

(Honestly, though, it’s difficult to imagine Subban wearing the “C” after all the weird, Listerine-scented stuff with the media happened during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.)

As strong as those options are, it sure feels like Josi is the favorite, especially since he’s been around longer than Subban, Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson.

Vegas oddmakers agree:

And so do reporters covering the team on a day-to-day basis:

One moment of devil’s advocacy, though: Subban, Johansen, Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Mattias Ekholm all have more term on their contracts than Josi, who is a bargain at $4M for three more seasons.

OK, that’s kind of a weak argument, but hey … sometimes it’s a pain to have to deal with captain questions so often, and you never know if the team might determine that Josi is expendable, considering their deep war chest on the blueline.

Nah, Josi’s probably the easy and correct choice. Right?

* – Including Cory Curtis of WKRN-TV and Justin Bradford of 102.5 The Game.

Duchene dusts off ‘one day at a time’ for Avalanche trade questions

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The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers posted an exclusive video interview with Matt Duchene, who was verbose …

… Compared to the terse statement he provided, without questions, last week regarding what must seem to him like ubiquitous Colorado Avalanche trade rumors.

Check out Duchene’s comments in the video below, which seem to mix saying a lot of the right things – and finding a new way to use the “one day at a time” cliche – with a little bit of edge that makes you wonder how well he’ll contain his frustration in other situations.

How often will he be available for such questioning on the road, particularly in big media markets and/or around reporters covering teams who’ve long been connected to Duchene?

Either way, Chambers’ video is another reminder that, for all the times people roll their eyes at canned responses during press conferences and locker-room interviews, reporters can get less-guarded moments where you can parse out greater truths.

(And, hey, it’s nice to give Duchene a chance to make faces that seem a little less … depressed?)

Chambers transcribes an especially intriguing part at the end of the interview (click here for more transcriptions from Chambers at the Denver Post, if video isn’t an option or your preference).

What if he’s not traded? “I’m not looking that far (ahead),” he said. “I’m taking one day at a time.”

Hmm, interesting, right?

/Refreshes the #FreeDuchene hashtag.