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Stars go deeper than rock bottom in Ruff’s ‘worst game’ with team

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At this point the 2016-17 season can not end fast enough for the Dallas Stars as they keep finding new lows in what has been an already disappointing season.

Things continued to get worse on Tuesday night when they were thumped by the Edmonton Oilers, 7-1, to run their current losing streak to three games, all of which have seen the team surrender more than five goals.

Reactions after the game were, to say the least, not pleasant, with the harshest criticism coming from coach Lindy Ruff when he said, via Mark Stepneski of NHL.com, that it was probably the worst game he has ever coached with the Stars, and that the the team “needs a lot more from the leaders of the team.”

Said Tyler Seguin, again via NHL.com, “I thought we hit rock bottom last game, but we got deeper tonight. We are going to have to find some pride here. We left our goalies hanging out to dry. It’s frustrating.”

It’s been a season long problem, and it only seems to be getting worse in recent weeks.

Some numbers to ponder about just how bad this team has been defensively:

  • Tuesday’s game was the third consecutive game the Stars have given up at least five goals in a game
  • It is the eighth time they have given up five goals since Feb. 1.
  • Their 3.29 goals against per game on the season is the worst in the league and the fourth worst mark in the NHL over the past five seasons.
  • Their penalty kill, which gave up another goal on Tuesday, has been successful on just 73.9 percent of its attempts this season. That would be the third-worst mark the NHL has seen since the 1990-91 season. Only the 1993-94 Ottawa Senators and 1990-91 Quebec Nordiques (two truly awful teams in NHL history, both playing in a higher scoring era) were worse.

The Stars’ downfall is one of the more surprising developments of the NHL season, especially after making it to the second round of the playoffs just one year ago. Part of it has been out of their control (like the rash of injuries that at times devastated their forward depth this season), but part of it has been self inflicted from a management perspective.

Their inability to address the goaltending issue over the summer and trying to once again roll with the Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen duo, combined with a defense that lost solid veterans Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers over the summer, has been a devastating blow to their season and it is showing up in the performance.

This isn’t just a bad defensive team, it has been the worst goal prevention team in the NHL and one of the worst in recent memory.

Now they head into another offseason where their coach is without a contract, they still have both goalies signed for another year at a combined salary cap hit of nearly $10 million per season, and have several unrestricted free agents (Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, Jiri Hudler) and restricted free agents (Brett Ritchie, Radek Faska, Mattias Janmark, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, and Esa Lindell) to deal with.

For a team that entered the season as one of the most entertaining teams in the league and a potential Stanley Cup contender it is a pretty drastic turnaround, and at this point it seems like it is going to take quite a bit of work to fix it.

 

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley

Predators sign Arvidsson to seven-year, $29.75 million deal

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Viktor Arvidsson has cashed in on his impressive, breakout 2016-17 campaign.

Playing in the final year of his entry-level contract — and making $640,000 in total salary, according to CapFriendly — the 5-foot-9 tall Arvidsson erupted for 31 goals and 61 points playing on the top line last season for a Nashville Predators team that eventually made its way to the Stanley Cup Final.

The two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday.

From The Tennessean:

Viktor Arvidsson received a new contract Saturday befitting a breakout star, with the Predators signing the energetic forward to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract, Arvidsson’s agent told The Tennessean. 

Few unheralded NHL players last season surprised more than Arvidsson. Expected to be a secondary contributor, Arvidsson erupted offensively with 31 goals and 61 points as part of Nashville’s top line, tying for the team lead in each category. 

Update: The Predators have since confirmed the deal, which pays Arvidsson an annual average value of $4.25 million per season, through the 2023-24 season.

Nashville’s general manager David Poile has work remaining this offseason. The Predators still have restricted free agents Ryan Johansen — another member of that vaunted top line in Nashville — and Austin Watson left to get under contract.

Watson and the Predators have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday. Watson is reportedly seeking $1.4 million in arbitration.

Flames re-sign RFA goalies Gillies and Rittich

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The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.

Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.

He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.

Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.

The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.