Eddie Lack

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Kings hope to find emergency goalie candidates with open tryouts

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This isn’t your typical Hollywood audition.

The L.A. Kings have officially announced that they are holding open goaltending tryouts on Sept. 27. The purpose is to find candidates who could be used for potential emergency goalie duties for all Kings home games this upcoming season.

The requirements?

— You must be 18 years old.

— You must have played a “high level” of amateur hockey.

— Must not have signed a contract with another professional league.

“The NHL requires each home team to have an emergency goalie in the stands for every game and we thought this would be a good opportunity to see who in our area is best qualified for the job,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said in a statement.

“It will be interesting, that is for sure.”

Yeah, no kidding.

But this isn’t a new idea.

In fact, the Minnesota Wild held a contest about five years ago to find emergency goalies. There have been numerous instances in which NHL teams have been forced to sign a goalie not on their roster in cases of sudden illness or injury to their primary two netminders and not enough time to recall someone from the AHL.

The Carolina Hurricanes signed their own equipment manager Jorge Alves to a professional tryout last December when Eddie Lack was ill and didn’t dress for a game. With Carolina trailing in the final seconds of the third period, Alves was put in to the game, making his (brief) NHL debut.

Last December, the Chicago Blackhawks also had to sign an emergency goalie when Corey Crawford couldn’t dress due to illness. The early start time (1 p.m. ET) for the game prevented the Blackhawks from calling a goalie up from the AHL.

Related:

NHL GMs need to address emergency goalie rule after Florida incident

Flames sign Bennett to two-year bridge deal

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Sam Bennett, among the most notable names on the list of remaining restricted free agents, is now under contract.

The Flames announced on Wednesday that they had re-signed the 21-year-old center to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $1.95 million.

That’s certainly an affordable price for a Flames team that had about $7.1 million in cap space before this contract, according to CapFriendly.

The Flames have added to their defense this offseason, building a strong top-four group on the blue line, and looked to upgrade their goaltending by adding Mike Smith and Eddie Lack.

These moves would strongly suggest this organization feels it’s in a window to win now, and it still has about $5.2 million in cap space to perhaps make another addition to their lineup, if they choose.

The fourth overall pick in 2014, Bennett made his NHL at the end of the 2014-15 regular season and then turned heads in the opening round of the playoffs with an impressive showing for such a young player — remember, he was only 18 years old at the time — against the Vancouver Canucks.

But after scoring 18 goals and 36 points during his first full season in 2015-16, Bennett’s numbers dropped off this past campaign with only 13 goals and 26 points.

General manager Brad Treliving stressed to Sportsnet 960 the importance of getting Bennett signed prior to training camp.

“I think history has shown that missing time — or people that don’t get (to training camp) on time — usually it’s not a good thing,” said Treliving, before the deal was announced. “To get ready for an NHL season is difficult. You’ve got to get the reps. You’ve got to get playing at NHL pace. You’ve got to get doing it every day prior to the start of the season.”

This new contract, a bridge deal, puts the onus on the highly touted and talented Bennett to now go out and prove himself over the next two years.

Cam Ward ready for backup role with Hurricanes

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For the better part of the past 12 seasons Cam Ward has been a constant in the Carolina Hurricanes’ net. He is the longest tenured member of the team and a Stanley Cup champion.

This season, however, his hold on the starting job seems to have finally come to an end with the arrival of Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hurricanes acquired Darling’s free agent rights in a trade, then acted quickly to sign him to a four-year, $16.6 million contract.

That is not a commitment you make to a player that you intend to sit on the bench, and Ward knows this.

In an interview with the News & Observer this week Ward talked about his new role with the team and how he is willing and ready to accept it after being a starter for more than a decade.

From the News & Observer:

“I’m realistic,” Ward said in an interview at Raleigh Center Ice. “I understand the situation. I know he was brought in here to sign a four-year deal for pretty good money not to be a backup.

“I know where I am in my career. … Certainly I’m a competitive guy and I still want to be able to play and I’ll do whatever I can to earn that ice time, but I’m hopeful he can make that next step. He deserves that.”

The unfortunate reality for Ward is that it is a move the Hurricanes had to make.

Goaltending has been one of the single biggest issues plaguing the Hurricanes in recent seasons, and Ward has been the key player at that position. He has not finished a season with a save percentage higher than .910 since the 2011-12 season. In the five years since then his .907 save percentage is 43rd out of 47 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games, ahead of only Ondrej Pavelec, Ben Scrivens and Jacob Markstrom.

The Hurricanes have been assembling a talented, young roster in recent seasons and finally look like a team that is on the verge of becoming a player in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They have an outstanding young defense that has already made them one of the best shot suppression teams in the league, as well as some young high-end forward talent up front. The only ingredient that has been missing has been more consistent play in net.

The Hurricanes have also taken chances on backups Anton Khudobin and Eddie Lack over the years in the hopes they could push Ward and help solidify the position. None of them worked out.

Darling is the latest top backup that they have tabbed to be their solution in net. He has been one of the best backup goalies in the league in recent seasons and will be getting his shot to be a starter this season.

Flames – Oilers rivalry is worth getting excited about again

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This post is a part of Flames day at PHT…

For about a recent 10-year period, the rivalry between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers — known as the Battle of Alberta — had really just become about the past.

It was about old memories, a trip back in time to when both clubs were battling it out, particularly during the 1980s and into the early 1990s, for hockey supremacy in that Canadian province. That’s because, over this more recent stretch, the Flames and Oilers had been mired in mediocrity in the Western Conference.

From 2006 to 2016, the Flames had made the playoffs five times, advancing to the second round only once and the team’s success that season under Bob Hartley was in no way going to be sustainable long-term. The Oilers, well, they made the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 and then endured 10 straight seasons out of the playoffs. For both franchises, that is a far cry from their glory days and fiercest battles against each other.

Technically, the rivalry still existed during this 10-year downturn. But it was never really worth getting too excited about. At one point, there was hope from Oilers executive Kevin Lowe that perhaps the outspoken Brian Burke would help rekindle the rivalry when he joined the Flames a few years ago.

It appears, however, that has all changed.

Both teams not only made the playoffs last season, which is a positive sign, but have rosters that should allow them to build on those steps forward when the upcoming season gets underway.

After management changes, coaching changes and getting the No. 1 overall selection in four out of six years — Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov are no longer with Edmonton — the Oilers appear like they are turning a corner following the second year of the Connor McDavid Era and with the play of Cam Talbot in goal last season.

The Flames? Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau anchor their offensive attack, with Matthew Tkachuk set for his sophomore season after an impressive rookie campaign as a teenager. The Flames have also done a nice job of building a strong group of defensemen, particularly their top four, with the summer addition of Travis Hamonic to join Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton.

Does Calgary now have the best defense in the NHL? That’s up for debate, but it’s still a solid blue line, with their top four under contract for at least another three years. (Giordano has five years remaining on his deal and Hamilton has another four years.)

Acquiring Mike Smith to take over the starting duties in net (he’s under some pressure) and adding Eddie Lack as a capable No. 2 are also moves that indicate the Flames feel they are, within this cycle of the organization, ready to compete for the West.

Not only should both clubs remain competitive over the next few years, but the star power they both contain helps grow the rivalry, as well.

McDavid is, well, McDavid.

For the Flames, Johnny Hockey isn’t the biggest player on the ice but with his slick hands and ability to evade larger defenders, he’s shown capable of producing at a point-per-game pace over a long season and doing so with some flair for the fans. Monahan, only 22 years old, was recently listed as one of the top 20 centers in the NHL, and has scored at least 20 goals or more in each of his four seasons.

The Flames and Oilers won’t have to wait long to renew the rivalry. With star players involved, steps taken in the right direction by both franchises last season and higher expectations in 2017-18, they will face each other on Oct. 4 in Edmonton to kick off the new season.

This next chapter in the Battle of Alberta shouldn’t have to rely on nostalgia.

Under Pressure: Mike Smith

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This post is a part of Flames day at PHT…

Goaltending has been a major issue for the Calgary Flames in recent seasons and for the second year in a row they have completely overhauled the position, bringing in two new faces in an effort to fix it.

Replacing Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson this season (after Elliott and Johnson replaced Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio the year before) will be the veteran of duo of Mike Smith and Eddie Lack.

Both goalies are looking to rebound with a fresh start in a new city.

Smith, acquired in an offseason trade with the Arizona Coyotes, is going to be the starter and is going to have the most pressure on him.

Not only because the Flames are still on the hook for the remainder of his contract (more than $11 million over the next two seasons) but because he is going to be playing behind a defense that is going to be one of the best in the NHL, led by Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton and Travis Hamonic. That is an outstanding group and even average goaltending should make the Flames one of the toughest teams in the league to score against.

Smith, however, has not always performed at that level in recent seasons.

Looking at his past three years total his even-strength save percentage of .920 places him 38th out of 61 goalies that have appeared in at least 50 games, while his overall save percentage of .911 places him 45th out of that group (his new backup, Eddie Lack, is 46th over that same stretch). Even if you look at only his performance from this past season in Arizona (a .914 save percentage) it wouldn’t be that big of an upgrade over what the Flames were getting out of the Elliott/Johnson duo.

Now, that was good enough to get the Flames into the playoffs and make them a middle-of-the-pack team when it came to preventing goals.

But the Flames are at a point now where their objective should be more than just simply “make the playoffs” or be an average defensive team.

If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have traded for a 35-year-old goalie and been willing to pay him more than $11 million over the next two seasons.

This is a team that has what should be on paper one of the best quartets of defensemen in the league, it has some outstanding young forwards that are just now entering the prime of their careers (Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund) and some emerging young stars in Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett.

They are clearly in what they believe to be a “win-now” mode with a chance to compete in the Western Conference.

For them to do that they are going to need a big season from their new goaltender.