Andrej Sustr

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PHT Morning Skate: T.J. Oshie has special bond with young cancer patient

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–We know that Connor McDavid is really good at hockey, but like the rest of us there are certain things he just can’t do. He’s not a morning person, he can’t cook, and dealing with spiders isn’t a strength of his. (ESPN.com)

–The Rangers had a lot of scouts on hand to watch Monday’s game between Ottawa and Montreal. Could they be after Canadiens forwards Alex Galchenyuk and/or Andrew Shaw? (NY Post)

–The Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a hot start, but they’ve now dropped four of their last five games. Head coach Mike Babcock isn’t going to tolerate this slide going much further, so he decided to make huge changes at practice. Patrick Marleau was moved to center, Tyler Bozak found himself on the fourth line and a few depth players are coming out of the lineup. (pensionplanpuppets.com)

–TSN’s Travis Yost looks at established players that have seen the ice time drop over the last few seasons. There’s some interesting names on the list. Are these players starting to decline? (TSN.ca)

–NBCSN’s coverage of the hockey season continues on Wednesday night, as the Flyers battle the Blackhawks. NHL.com look at five reasons you shouldn’t miss this game. The fact that Patrick Kane and Ivan Provorov are in this game certainly doesn’t hurt. (NHL.com)

–In yesterday’s morning skate, we had a list of the top 15 scariest masks of all-time. Today, the Sporting News tells the tales of some of the most frightening masks the ice has ever seen. (Sporting News)

–Here’s a really touching story about the impact Capitals forward T.J. Oshie has had on a young cancer patient named Addy Flint. “Her getting to see T.J. and watch the Caps practice is really inspirational for her,” Addy’s mom, Stacey said. “She mentioned how it kind of allows her to look forward to something. She’s been determined to be healthy today as well as it kind of gives her something fun to remember when there are kind of the rough times.” (Washington Post)

–The Tampa Bay Lightning have several quality defensemen on their roster. Because Mikhail Sergachev is sticking around, there’s one less spot for Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr. Despite their depth on the blue line, now isn’t the time to get rid of those two guys, according to rawcharge.com.

–You’ve probably heard a thing or two about Vegas’ depth between the pipes being tested. With Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk on the shelf, The Score looks at five goalies that could help the Golden Knights right now. Guys like Andrew Hammond and Michael Hutchinson could probably be had for a relatively low cost. (The Score)

–The Arizona Coyotes haven’t had much to celebrate this season, but rookie Clayton Keller has been one of the positives on the team. The youngster has been able to create offense on a bad team, which doesn’t surprise people in the organization. “A real creative mind, a creative person, a lot of structure and detail with his life,” Coyotes GM John Chayka said of Keller. “Good personality, easy to get along with, easy to talk to, but also very intense and passionate and driven about anything hockey related. He’s a hockey genius, no doubt about it.” (Sports Illustrated)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Lightning look to use Dan Girardi as a top-pairing D. In 2017.

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After years of debate, it seemed like most of the hockey world agreed recently that Dan Girardi might be a little … overmatched as an NHL defenseman. Even his biggest proponents would probably acknowledge that years of wear-and-tear have left him limited.

Even so, the generally shrewd Tampa Bay Lightning handed Girardi a polarizing two-year, $6 million contract. There might have been talk of Girardi scoring well based on their own internal metrics. It was weird.

MORE: After being bought out by the Rangers, Girardi wants to show he can still ‘play and contribute.’

The bottom line is that at least someone in the organization disagrees with the consensus against Girardi. And that voice – or those voices – proved loud enough to allocate precious cap space to him.

To really hammer home that belief, consider this: it looks like he’ll line up with popular PHT Norris pick Victor Hedman on the top pairing tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Now, it’s true that there are some extenuating circumstances. The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith notes that Jake Dotchin, Hedman’s most common preseason partner, looks to be a surprise scratch for the Bolts. It seems like Dotchin is still in Jon Cooper’s dog house for some murky “team rules violation.”

Perhaps it’s a balm for Bolts fans that Cooper told Smith that combos might be temporary?

“You look all around the league, I don’t know if there’s a d-core that has stayed completely intact,” Cooper said. “Maybe Nashville, but (Ryan) Ellis is hurt. Different guys have got to play and get a different feel for each other. It’s Game 1, there’s 82 in a season. You hope chemistry comes because we don’t know if this is going to stay together the whole time. But you’ve got a good veteran guuy that can protect the net and you’ve got a horse that leads the charge out there. For tonight, that’s how it’s going to go.”

Still, the Lightning clearly hold Girardi in higher regard than … just about any objective measure.

You might not see a more dramatic disparity between two HERO charts than Hedman vs. Girardi. Confession: I didn’t know that a player could score poorly enough on shot suppression to not even show up on the chart.

via Dom Galamini

OK, again, Hedman will make most defensemen look bad. And maybe there’s some thought that he can carry Girardi around; the other pairings appear to be Anton StralmanMikhail Sergachev and a less inspiring third duo of Andrej Sustr and Braydon Coburn, with Slater Koekkoek joining Dotchin in street clothes.

What about Girardi against, say, Dom Galamini’s standards for a bottom-pairing duo?

via Dom Galamini

Yeah, also not great.

Again, the Lightning’s lineup will probably look more sensible once Dotchin leaves timeout.

Still, as much as injuries and bad luck plagued the Lightning, it’s a little troubling to see certain patterns from Cooper & Co.

Sergachev could very well end up filling a serious need for the Bolts. Still, while Jonathan Drouin seemingly always struggled to gain Cooper’s approval, an extremely limited player like Sustr keeps getting chances, often taking away opportunities for defensemen with better potential. If Girardi serves a similar role, Lightning fans could grow increasingly frustrated, particularly if this places excessive pressure on Andrei Vasilevskiy to save the day.

It’s not the end of the world that Girardi is starting with Hedman, especially if it’s a short-term thing.

For a team that’s often seen as brilliant, decisions like these do make people scratch their heads, however.

Will Rangers fans warm up to Vigneault this season?

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

From the way many New York Rangers fans discuss Alain Vigneault, you’d think he was presiding over the era of 1997-98 to 2003-04, when the Rangers missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons.

Impressive results

From a sheer win-loss standpoint, Vigneault’s been a success, even if the Rangers haven’t been able to win it all. The Rangers’ points percentage has been at .628, almost as strong as his .632 mark with the Canucks, when AV took Vancouver within one win of that elusive Stanley Cup title.

(Breaking: things haven’t gone so smoothly for Vancouver since he left town.)

The Rangers are 192-108-28 under Vigneault. They made an unexpected run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and also brought them to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Plenty of critics

Of course, Vigneault wasn’t on the ice winning those games, and many would (understandably) attribute the Rangers’ successes to the players, most notably Henrik Lundqvist. In the eyes of many, this team’s successes come despite Vigneault.

Again, the criticisms are often as harsh as they are widespread.

Sometimes people find his defensive pairing decisions maddening. If you want to make some Rangers fans wince, just utter the name Tanner Glass. SBNation Rangers blog Blueshirt Banter provides a portal into such angst, with headlines like “Rangers demise started at the top” and failing grades for his playoff maneuvering.

Twitter can honestly get a little weird with the AV vitriol, although … maybe that’s to be expected? Consider this a random example that’s on the more, well, SFW spectrum:

Not everyone is bashing Vigneault, mind you, but his critics can sometimes resemble a chorus.

Glass floor

Of course, any passionate fan base will have its qualms with coaches. People have been discussing “the pros and cons of Alain Vigneault” for ages.

It’s easy to get caught up in your favorite team and ignore the notion that virtually every coach has “their guys.”

In this case, “their guys” means marginal players whose elevated roles leaves fans shaking their heads. Jon Cooper seemingly favored Andrej Sustr and arguably never really trusted Jonathan Drouin. Maple Leafs fans weren’t always thrilled to see, say, Roman Polak getting serious minutes. The list goes on and on.

A turning point?

With that in mind, the 2017-18 season could be an especially fascinating chapter in the love-hate affair between Rangers fans and Vigneault.

Frankly, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton took measures to protect Vigneault from himself, and those changes might just leave fans begrudgingly agreeing with more AV moves than usual … or it might send some over the edge if old habits die hard.

As much as people criticize individual moves, Vigneault made a strong argument that he’s a versatile coach in 2016-17, taking a more modern approach with the Rangers. It mostly worked, and now this team has better tools to improve their transition game.

To an extent, it’s addition by subtraction, as Dan Girardi‘s time mercifully ends, and with it the motivation for AV to give him big minutes. This opens the door for more mobile defenders to get time, such as promising young blueliner Brady Skjei.

The actual additions are most important. Kevin Shattenkirk stands, on paper, as a massive upgrade, especially if he slides into a pairing with Ryan McDonagh (who some believe has been dragged down by Girardi for years).

Another key will be how Marc Staal is used. If the emphasis shifts from Staal to Shattenkirk, McDonagh, Skjei, Brendan Smith and maybe even Anthony DeAngelo, stats-minded Rangers fans might be pleased.

Maybe most importantly for the mental health of some fans, that lure to put Glass in the lineup is also gone.

***

To some extent, criticisms are just the nature of the beast for coaches in professional sports. Vigneault’s been around long enough to realize that.

Even so, the highs and lows of Vigneault can sometimes be quite dramatic, making him a polarizing subject for fans. This season should be especially interesting to watch from the perspective of Rangers fans, whether AV makes changes or continues to frustrate them in familiar ways.

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

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This post is part of Lightning Day on PHT…

Mikhail Sergachev, the talented defenseman Tampa Bay acquired in the Jonathan Drouin trade with Montreal, is ready to play in the NHL.

But circumstances beyond his control might keep him back.

On talent alone, Sergachev should push for a roster spot. The 19-year-old wowed in a four-game cameo with the Habs last season, and was a dynamic offensive force in junior with OHL Windsor. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound rearguard put up 10 goals and 43 points in 50 games for the Spits and, in January, starred on the international scene by helping Russia capture bronze at the World Juniors.

Sergachev says he’s ready to make the next step.

“I’ve played a lot in juniors and I learned a lot in those years,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “And I feel like this is my time to play in the NHL and I’ll do my best and play my best to make the Lightning roster.”

But there are those aforementioned circumstances at play.

If Sergachev doesn’t play 40 games for Tampa Bay this season, then the Lightning will receive the Canadiens’ second-round pick in 2018, and the Canadiens will receive the Lightning’s sixth-round pick.

So in a roundabout way, there’s an incentive for the Lightning to return Sergachev to junior for another year. The Bolts would get a second-round pick for a sixth-round pick, and that’s a good trade.

There’s another factor to consider as well. The Lightning have Stanley Cup aspirations. As such, they’re not in a position to gift anyone a roster spot — especially if it costs them a second-round pick.

Right now, the club projects to ice a top-six defense of Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn, Dan Girardi, Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr. Jake Dotchin is firmly in that mix as well, and Ben Thomas — a key part of the Syracuse team that made the Calder Cup Final last year — could also push his way into the conversation.

Still, the allure of getting Sergachev into the lineup is high.

His puck moving skills and creativity would be a boon for the power play, especially on a back end that’s essentially carried by Hedman. To that point: Hedman led the team in PP assists last year, with 29. The next closest blueliner was Stralman, who had six.

In the end, this decision could come down to the preseason. If Sergachev plays like a guy Tampa has to keep in the lineup, the club will probably respond accordingly. And if not? Well, the consolation prize is a second-round pick, which isn’t too bad.

PHT’s 2017 free agent frenzy tracker

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Welcome to Thunderdome!

Come embrace the madness with us. Throughout the weekend, we’ll be keeping tabs on all the UFA signings across the NHL, so check back regularly for all the biggest signings, trades and other acquisitions.

July 2

Patrick Marleau signs in Toronto: three years, $18.75 million (link)

— Steve Oleksy signs in Anaheim: two years (link)

Evgeny Kuznetsov re-signs in Washington: eight years, $62.4 million (link)

July 1

Justin Schultz re-signs with Pittsburgh: three years, $16.5 million (link)

— Tom Sestito, Frank Corrado, Casey DeSmith, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi, Zach Trotman, and Greg McKegg also signed with Pittsburgh.

Joe Thornton re-signs in San Jose: one year (link)

Chris Kunitz signs in Tampa Bay: one year, $2 million (link)

Darcy Kuemper signs with Los Angeles: one year, $650K (link)

Radim Vrbata signs in Florida: one year, $2.5 million (link)

Kevin Shattenkirk signs with New York Rangers: four years, $26.6 million (link)

— Brian Strait signed a one-year, two-way deal with New Jersey. Brian Gibbons and Bracken Kearns also signed two-way contracts.

— Zac Rinaldo signs a one-year, two-way deal with Arizona. Also signing with Coyotes: Andrew Campbell, Joel Hanley, and Michael Sislo.

— Ryan Stanton signs in Edmonton: two years, $1.4 million

— Mike McKenna signs in Dallas: one year, $650,000

— Paul Carey signs with New York Rangers: one year, $650,000

— Buddy Robinson signs in Winnipeg: one year, $650,000

Dominic Moore signs in Toronto: one year, $1 million

Patrik Nemeth re-signs in Dallas: one year, $945,000

Kyle Quincey signs in Minnesota: one year, $1.25 million

Nick Cousins re-signs in Arizona: two years, $2 million

— Cal Petersen signs in Los Angeles: two year, $1.85 million (link)

— Kyle Rau signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

— Tyler Randell signs in Ottawa: one year, $700,000

— Niklas Svedberg signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

— Kenny Agostino signs in Boston: one year, $875,000

— Anthony Peluso signs in Washington: one year, $650,000

— Ty Rattie signs in Edmonton: one year, $700,000

— Anders Lindback signs in Nashville: one year, $650,000

— Matt O’Connor signs in Nashville: one year, $650,000

— Dennis Robertson re-signs in Carolina: one year, $650,000

Luke Witkowski signs in Detroit: one year, $750,000

Jean-Francois Berube signs in Chicago: two years, $1.5 million

— Jordan Osterle signs in Chicago: two years, $1.3 million

— Derek Grant signs in Anaheim: one year, $650,000

— Michael Sgarbossa signs in Winnipeg: one year, $650,000

Anton Rodin re-signs in Vancouver: one year, $700,000

Cam Fowler re-signs in Anaheim: eight years, $52 million (link)

Jeremy Smith signs in Carolina: one year, $750,000

Scott Hartnell signs in Nashville: one year, $1 million (link)

— Seth Griffith signs in Buffalo: one year, $650,000

— Evgeny Dadonov signs in Florida: three years, $12 million (link)

— Dan Girardi signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $6 million (link)

— Cal O’Reilly signs in Minnesota: two years, $1.4 million

— Landon Ferraro signs in Minnesota: two years, $1.4 million

Ron Hainsey signs in Toronto: two years, $6 million (link)

Ryan Miller signs in Anaheim: two years, $4 million (link)

Christian Folin signs in Los Angeles: one year, $850,000

— Patrick Wiercioch signs in Vancouver: one year, $650,000

Mike Cammalleri signs in Los Angeles: one year, $1 million (link)

Adam Clendening signs in Arizona: one year, $775,000

Ryan Murphy signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

Chris Thorburn signs in St. Louis: two years, $1.8 million

Oskar Sundqvist re-signs in St. Louis: one year, $675,000

— Beau Bennett signs in St. Louis: one year, $650,000

— Antti Niemi signs in Pittsburgh: one year, $700,000

Paul Postma signs in Boston: one year, $725,000

Josh Jooris signs in Carolina: one year, $775,000

Martin Jones re-signs in San Jose: six years, $34.5 million (link)

Marc-Edouard Vlasic re-signs in San Jose: eight years, $56 million (link)

Justin Williams signs in Carolina: two years, $9 million (link)

Martin Hanzal signs in Dallas: three years, $14.25 million (link)

Tyler Pitlick signs in Dallas: three years, $3 million

Jonathan Bernier signs in Colorado: one year, $2.75 million (link)

Chad Johnson signs in Buffalo: one year, $1.25 million (link)

— Brian Elliott signs in Philly: two years, $5.5 million (link)

Steve Mason signs in Winnipeg: two years, $8.2 million (link)

— Alexander Burmistrov signs in Vancouver: one year, $900,000 (link)

Anders Nilsson signs in Vancouver: two years, $5 million (link)

Michael Del Zotto signs in Vancouver: two years, $6 million (link)

Sam Gagner signs in Vancouver: three years, $9.45 million (link)

Dmitry Kulikov signs in Winnipeg: three years, $13 million (link)

Trevor Daley signs in Detroit: three years, $9.5 million (link)

Patrick Sharp signs in Chicago: one year, $1 million (link)

Matt Hunwick signs in Pittsburgh: three years, $6.75 million (link)

Nick Bonino signs in Nashville: four years, $16.1 million (link)

Benoit Pouliot signs in Buffalo: one year, $1.15 million

Brian Boyle signs in New Jersey: two years, $5.1 million (link)

Alex Petrovic re-signs in Florida: one year, $1.8 million (link)

Nate Thompson signs in Ottawa: two year, $3.3 million (link)

Ondrej Pavelec signs with New York Rangers: one year, $1.3 million (link)

— Garrett Wilson re-signs in Pittsburgh: two years, $1.3 million

— Garret Sparks re-signs in Toronto: two years, $1.35 million (link)

Curtis McElhinney re-signs in Toronto: two years, $1.7 million (link)

Karl Alzner signs in Montreal: five years, $23.125 million (link)

Previous deals of note

Michael Stone re-signs in Calgary: three years, $10.5 million (link)

Dmitry Orlov re-signs in Washington: six years, $30.6 million (link)

Jordan Weal re-signs in Philly: two years, $3.5 million (link)

Kris Versteeg re-signs in Calgary: one year, $1.75 million (link)

Keith Kinkaid re-signs in New Jersey: two years, $2.5 million (link)

Magnus Paajarvi re-signs in St. Louis: one year, $800,000 (link)

Chandler Stephenson re-signs in Washington: two years, $1.3 million (link)

— Dylan McIlrath re-signs in Detroit: two years, $1.3 million (link)

— Brian Lashoff re-signs in Detroit: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brock McGinn re-signs in Carolina: two years, $1.775 million (link)

Sven Andrighetto re-signs in Colorado: two years, $2.8 million (link)

— Cory Conacher re-signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brendan Smith re-signs with New York Rangers: four years, $17.4 million (link)

Mike Condon re-signs in Ottawa: three years, $7.2 million (link)

— Jacob De La Rose re-signs in Montreal: one year, $725,000 (link)

— Pheonix Copley re-signs in Washington: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Noel Acciari re-signs in Boston: two year, $1.45 million (link)

Jordan Schroeder re-signs in Columbus: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Eric Gryba re-signs in Edmonton: two years, $1.8 million (link)

— Max McCormick re-signs in Ottawa: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brett Connolly re-signs in Washington: two years, $3 million (link)

Tomas Jurco re-signs in Chicago: one year, $850,000 (link)

Anton Forsberg re-signs in Chicago: two years, $1.5 million (link)

Tom Pyatt re-signs in Ottawa: two years, $2.2 million (link)

Zack Kassian re-signs in Edmonton: three years, $5.85 million (link)

Esa Lindell re-signs in Dallas: two years, $4.4 million (link)

Yanni Gourde re-signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $2 million (link)

Andrej Sustr re-signs in Tampa Bay: one year, $1.95 million (link)

Derek Ryan re-signs in Carolina: one year, $1.425 million (link)

Korbinian Holzer re-signs in Anaheim: two years, $1.8 million (link)

Andy Andreoff re-signs in L.A.: two years, $1.355 million (link)