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Goaltending may finally be strength for Winnipeg Jets

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The Ondrej Pavelec era in Winnipeg is – mercifully – over.

Seeing the regularly underwhelming netminder leave for the Rangers isn’t the only reason why the Jets’ goaltending situation looks as promising as it ever has been. With the addition of Steve Mason and the possible ascension of Connor Hellebuyck, this franchise hasn’t enjoyed this kind of optimism in net since … what, the Atlanta Thrashers days? Ever?

Now, it’s worth noting that goalies are notoriously tough to predict. Mason himself struggled in 2016-17, which was a big reason why the Philadelphia Flyers let him walk in the first place.

Still, the big picture seems as promising as ever for the Jets, at least from a goaltending perspective.

Even with last season in mind, Steve Mason’s managed a .928 even-strength save percentage since his first full season with Philly in 2013-14. That ties him for 10th place among goalies who’ve played at least 50 games, tying him with Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask, and Roberto Luongo.

Hellebuyck is the other Jets goalie who’s been strong in that area, managing a .924 even-strength save percentage, giving the impression that he could at least be an above-average backup.

If even-strength save percentage is a little too specific for you, Mason managed an excellent .918 save percentage during his time with the Flyers. Such numbers give the impression that the Jets have a good chance at getting top-10 goaltending, a refreshing thought for a franchise that’s been hung out to dry one too many times, particularly with Pavelec in net.

Could the Mason – Hellebuyck combo stand as the missing piece(s) for Winnipeg? The Jets made hearty investments in their defense and boast an underrated offensive attack, inspiring hope that this middling team might finally make a big step forward.

Heck, they might even finally win a playoff game.

“I’m just really excited to be a part of an organization that’s in the right direction,” Mason said after the signing, via the Canadian Press. “I believe that I can be a piece that helps get this team over the hump, here.”

Granted, the Jets still need to hash out an RFA deal with Hellebuyck and figure out what to do with Michael Hutchinson, who has a year remaining on his contract (and generally seems to have a lower ceiling).

Still, if the Jets can get a few more ducks in a row, things could rapidly look very promising. What a difference a couple of promising goalies can make.

Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

From the Houston Press:

But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

And Houston is growing fast.

Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

Predators hire new assistant coach in wake of Housley departure

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The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Muse as an assistant coach.

Muse, who spent the last two years as head coach of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, will be in charge of the Preds’ forwards as well as the penalty kill, while associate head coach Kevin McCarthy  — in the wake of Phil Housley’s departure — will now have responsibility for the defense and the power play.

Muse led the Steel to a championship in May. He also won an NCAA title in 2013 as an assistant coach for Yale.

“Dan comes to us as a successful young coach that brings great energy and passion to the game,” said Preds head coach Peter Laviolette in a statement. “He has worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first winning an NCAA title at Yale in 2013, and then taking a Chicago team that had missed the playoffs eight straight seasons and turned them into the Clark Cup champions in just two seasons. We are excited to welcome him to the organization and look forward to his contributions to the coaching staff.”

Senators avoid arbitration with Ryan Dzingel

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The Ottawa Senators have narrowly avoided arbitration with Ryan Dzingel.

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dzingel has signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

Dzingel’s hearing was scheduled for today. Last season, the 25-year-old forward had 14 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.

Earlier this week, the Sens also avoided arbitration with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though that case didn’t go down to the wire like Dzingel’s did.

Pageau and Dzingel were the only Sens with arbitration hearings scheduled.

Related: Sens want to avoid arbitration with Dzingel