Evander Kane

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PHT Morning Skate: Blues season-ticket holder suits up as emergency goalie

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• A big blow for the Vancouver Canucks, as Bo Horvat will miss up to six weeks because of a lower-body injury. (Canucks Army)

• The Penguins called up Frank Corrado from the minors because they were forced to put Justin Schultz on IR. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

• Dave Lozo argues that the NHL needs a “super team” like the NBA has with the Golden State Warriors. With John Tavares, Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson about to hit free agency over the next couple of years, it’s entirely possible that those three can join forces. (Vice)

• The Tampa Bay Lightning have been really good this season, but are they even better than we realize? (TSN.ca)

J.T. Brown, Alex Ovechkin, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin are all proof that the NHL is definitely political. (Sporting News)

Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are huge reasons for Winnipeg’s strong start to the 2017-18 season. (NHL.com)

• From top to bottom, things are pretty tight in the Metropolitan Division. Believe it or not, there’s only 11 points separating first and last place. (elitesportsny.com)

• The Calgary Flames definitely miss Kris Versteeg on and off the ice. Whether it’s the things he does during games or his ability to be the team deejay in the locker room, they can’t wait for him to be back. (Calgary Herald)

• The Hockey News compares Capitals forward Tom Wilson to a bully in 1980’s teen movies. (The Hockey News)

• Many expect the Sabres to trade pending free agent Evander Kane, but what would Buffalo’s salary cap situation look like if they signed him to an extension? Diebytheblade.com has the answer.

• Things have been rocky for Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith lately. Not only did he finish minus-4 in a game earlier this week, he’s also failed to score in 42 consecutive games. (Chicago Sun-Times)

• Devils blue liner Steve Santini had been struggling this season, but the acquisition of Sami Vatanen has allowed him to slide into a more comfortable spot on the depth chart. (NJDab.com)

• Here’s an awesome story about a Blues season-ticket holder that became the team’s emergency goalie last night. (The Score)

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.

The Buzzer: Byron nets hatty, Wedgewood blanks former team

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Players of the Night:

Paul Byron, Montreal Canadiens:

Byron notched his first career NHL hat trick as the Canadiens annihilated the Detroit Red Wings 10-1. He now has nine goals on the season, well on pace to eclipse his career-high of 22 he set last season. Bryon was claimed off waivers by the Canadiens from the Flames on the day before the 2015-16 began. He’s exceeded expectations, to say the least.

Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins:

How’s this for a replacement for Matt Murray? Two wins, one shutout, one goal allowed in 120 minutes of play. Jarry has been sensational since Murray went down with a lower-body injury and the Penguins are reaping the rewards.

Scott Wedgewood, Arizona Coyotes: 

Wedgewood stopped 26 shots from the New Jersey Devils en route to his second-career shutout against the team that he recorded his first with. The Devils had yet to have been shutout this year prior to Saturday.

Highlights of the Night:

Wedgewood did this to Stefan Noesen:

Byron’s hat trick goal came off a nice snipe:

Ryan Miller did his best Domink Hasek:

Viktor Arvidsson was instrumental in a pre-game proposal:

Streak-ender of the Night:

The Buffalo Sabres finally scored. Jason Pominville, mercifully, fired home in the third period against the Penguins, the first goal for the club since Nov. 24, some 233:19 of game time.

Factoids of the Night:

A couple from the night of destruction in Montreal:

Alex Ovechkin moved himself up the all-time goal-scoring list again. Ovechkin is tied with Nikita Kucherov, who scored twice on Saturday,  for the league-lead in goals at 19.

Tyler Seguin played quite a bit tonight:

MISC:

    • The St. Louis Blues have lost three straight and four of their last five after dropping a 2-1 overtime decision against the Minnesota Wild.
    • So close, yet so far: The Oilers had a 6-1 lead early in the third period only to watch it get cut to 6-5 as the Calgary Flames stormed back after a brutal start. Alas, the Oilers held on to win their sixth game in a row against their Battle of Alberta rivals.
    • Radek Faska has five goals in his past three games for the Dallas Stars.
    • Elliotte Friedman said on Hockey Night in Canada that there is a “sense and a hope” that the salary cap in the NHL could reach $80 million next season.
    • On the same broadcast, Friedman touched on what it would take for the Sabres to trade Evander Kane. The asking price, of course, is high. Friedman said the returns bigger than those of what the Winnipeg Jets got for Andrew Ladd (Marko Dano, 1st round and conditional picks) and the Arizona Coyotes got for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White (1st, 2nd, 4th round picks) should be expected.
    • Furthermore, the Los Angeles Kings are going to make pending UFA Drew Doughty a priority when it comes to inking him to a long-term extension.

Scores:

Bruins 3, Flyers 0

Wild 2, Blues 1 (OT)

Canucks 2, Leafs 1

Canadiens 10, Red Wings 1

Lightning 5, Sharks 2

Penguins 5, Sabres 1

Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 3

Hurricanes 3, Panthers 2 (OT)

Coyotes 5, Devils 0

Predators 3, Ducks 2 (SO)

Stars 3, Blackhawks 2 (SO)

Oilers 7, Flames 5


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Buffalo Sabres keep getting worse

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The Buffalo Sabres keep finding ways to reach new lows.

On Friday night they were on the losing end of a 4-0 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing for the 10th time in their past 11 games.

The overall numbers for the season are, to say the least, ugly.

  • They remain tied with the Arizona Coyotes for the worst record in the league, and given the way Arizona is starting to play a little better they may not be tied for much longer.
  • They are still the lowest scoring team in the league.
  • They have yet to receive a goal from a defenseman. Any defenseman. Twenty-six game sinto the season.

Friday’s loss also marked the third consecutive game that they were shut out.

This one was particularly ugly.

Not only were they shutout by a rookie goalie making just his fifth NHL start, they really did not pose a significant threat at any point during the game.

Their power play, entering the night ranked 30th in the NHL and only outscoring the opposing penalty kills by a 9-7 margin on the season, looked especially anemic and spent most of the night getting booed by an increasingly angry and frustrated crowd.

Coach Phil Housley called the way his team executed the gameplan on Friday night “embarrassing.”

What has to be especially concerning for the Sabres is that the start to this season is making it pretty clear that they are going to take another step backwards in their overall rebuild. The arrival of Jack Eichel, as well as the additions of players like Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo, and Robin Lehner over the past few years were supposed to be a turning point. They were supposed to get the organization going back into a more successful direction and make them a playoff contender again.

Instead, the team regressed across the board a season ago and seems to be taking an even bigger step in the wrong direction this season.

After Friday’s loss the Sabres have won just six of their first 26 games.

Just look at how that start compares to the past five years.

2013-14: 5-20-1 (11 points)

2014-15: 9-15-2 (20 points)

2015-16: 11-12-3 (25 points)

2016-17: 10-10-6 (26 points)

2017-18: 6-15-4 (16 points)

This start this season, more than a quarter of the way through it, is right on par with what they were doing when the team was in full-on tank mode. This team is not built to tank. This team has big-money veterans. It has a potential superstar and franchise building block in Eichel.

It should not be this bad.

It also does not seem that things are on the verge of getting much better, especially with a brutal schedule in December.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Maple Leafs, Sabres face brutal December schedules

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Don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of “What’s wrong with the Toronto Maple Leafs?”-type articles during the next few weeks.

Actually, if you don’t, that might be the biggest deal of all. Mike Babcock’s bunch has already shaken off some turmoil – some of it inner, as young players like Mitch Marner and William Nylander have periodically found themselves lower in the lineup – but the month of December stands as a potentially cruel, cold test.

Take a look at what lies ahead for these young Buds:

Sat, Dec 2 @ Vancouver
Wed, Dec 6 vs Calgary
Sat, Dec 9 @ Pittsburgh
Sun, Dec 10 vs Edmonton
Tue, Dec 12 @ Philadelphia
Thu, Dec 14 @ Minnesota
Fri, Dec 15 @ Detroit
Tue, Dec 19 vs Carolina
Wed, Dec 20 @ Columbus
Sat, Dec 23 @ NY Rangers
Thu, Dec 28 @ Arizona
Fri, Dec 29 @ Colorado
Sun, Dec 31 @ Vegas

You can almost picture the hot takes that could come from a cold streak, particularly during that stretch from Dec. 12-31, when the Maple Leafs play eight of nine games on the road, with some back-to-back headaches added for spice.

“These young Maple Leafs just can’t stay focused.”

“Are the Maple Leafs distracted during the holidays?”

You can almost hear the water starting to boil for those hot takes. This is a few days old, but it still holds true for the Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and other teams:

Really, such a schedule might just move Buffalo to throw in the towel a little sooner, possibly expediting Evander Kane‘s exit, among other things. Since we’re already here, check out Buffalo’s December, too. Things are a little dicey to begin 2018, too, so consider this December-plus:

Fri, Dec 1 vs Pittsburgh
Sat, Dec 2 @ Pittsburgh
Tue, Dec 5 @ Colorado
Fri, Dec 8 @ Chicago
Sun, Dec 10 @ St. Louis
Tue, Dec 12 vs Ottawa
Thu, Dec 14 @ Philadelphia
Fri, Dec 15 vs Carolina
Tue, Dec 19 vs Boston
Fri, Dec 22 vs Philadelphia
Sat, Dec 23 @ Carolina
Wed, Dec 27 @ NY Islanders
Fri, Dec 29 @ New Jersey
Sun, Jan 1 vs NY Rangers
Wed, Jan 4 @ Minnesota
Thu, Jan 5 @ Winnipeg
Sat, Jan 7 @ Philadelphia

Really, it’s kind of tough to call the outdoor extravaganza that is the 2018 Winter Classic a “home game,” even if it’s scheduled that way. The event (airing on NBC in all its glory) serves as the palate-cleanser for two three-game road trips for the Sabres.

It’s worth noting that the Maple Leafs and Sabres are both essentially as effective on the road vs. at home so far in 2017-18, especially if such trends fall apart thanks to harsh exposure.

Maple Leafs: at home (8-5-0); on the road (9-4-1).

Sabres: at home (3-8-1); on the road (3-7-3).

Hmm, curious, right?

Again, I’d wager that the Sabres will be in a dark place by early January, to the point that they’re justified if they – painfully – punt on another season. Ideally for Buffalo, it would be one more pulling off of the Band-Aid as they continue to try to ascend the ladder, rung by rung.

The Maple Leafs will be a more fascinating case.

Will fans and media in Toronto give this young team a little leeway if they stumble during this stretch? If they don’t stumble, will people recognize that there continues to be something special forming?

It should be interesting to find out, even if you have to wade through a few less-than-understanding takes in the process.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Contenders should jump on Sabres’ offer to trade Evander Kane

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During Tuesday’s edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, Pierre LeBrun mentioned that the Buffalo Sabres would be willing to get creative in moving Evander Kane. Specifically, LeBrun reports that the Sabres are OK with retaining a portion of Kane’s $5.25 million salary to make something happen and maximize their takeaway.

In that same segment, LeBrun notes that there might be a gestation period here, suggesting that it might take six or seven weeks for something to happen. Even so, while expanding upon that issue for The Athletic, LeBrun described a Kane trade as “inevitable.”

So, here’s an opinion: both the Sabres and a potential contender should make this happen. Like, now.

Speeding up the process

If the Sabres are willing to absorb part of Kane’s salary to make something work, perhaps they’d also be willing to take on a pricey expiring deal to expedite the process?

Just looking around the league, it’s conceivable that a team might give up a pretty penny to land Kane. Imagine how much of a difference the power forward could make for, say, the injury-addled Ducks; imagine the kind of return Buffalo might net if they absorbed Kevin Bieksa‘s $4M cap hit in such a move? (Assuming Anaheim can part ways with the other master of the “Superman Punch.”)

Honestly, Sabres management might even be wise to take on a slighter longer problem contract. What if Buffalo absorbed all of Brooks Orpik‘s $5.5M (expiring after 2018-19) if it meant a futures-heavy package deal?

The possibilities are fascinating for Buffalo, at least if they don’t think that Kane is a part of their longer-term plans.

The thing is, I’d argue that contenders should jump on this opportunity, rather than waiting too long. Allow me to share my rationale in handy bullet-point form:

  • Kane might need a little time to adjust.

If I were to grade Kane’s time in Buffalo, I’d probably lean toward an “Incomplete.”

From personal issues to injuries and other concerns, it’s often felt like Kane, 26, never was going to take off with the Sabres. Honestly, this is the first season where he’s made the sort of top-line impact (at worst, top-six impact) many envisioned when the one-time 30-goal scorer was fast-track-pantsed out of Winnipeg.

The sooner you land Kane, the sooner you get him into your lineup, and if there were work visa concerns, you’d already be losing a game or two once the transaction is made.

  • Get ahead of the trade market

Look, this trade being leaked probably ups some pressure on GMs of struggling contenders to get something done.

Still, maybe the early bird will get the worm here? Perhaps being proactive would lower the price, while waiting more than a month might encourage a greater bidding war?

  • More value, more time to determine rental vs. keeper

Kane doesn’t turn 27 until August. Even if he’s seeking a riskier, long-term deal, his next contract would include a few peak years and then some near-peak time.

The question, then, is “How good is Kane, really?”

You can break down tape all you want, but with injuries limiting some of the sample size over the years and zero career playoff games to judge Kane by, there’s at least a bit of mystery as to how much he’s truly worth.

With that in mind, and the potential for the Sabres to get a greater conditional return in a hypothetical trade if Kane re-signs, why not buy a few extra weeks or even months to gauge Kane’s value? The winger with the boxer-inspired name might be worth keeping around, but a team could really benefit from seeing where he fits in, both on the ice and in the locker room.

***

Now, there are a lot of factors that go into a situation like this.

We don’t know how many teams are calling up the Sabres about Kane. If a deal would be anywhere near as complicated as the three-team Matt Duchene/Kyle Turris swap was, then it might take some haggling.

That said, a contender should look at the boost the Predators got from Turris, feel jealous, and then try to land a difference-maker like Kane sooner rather than later. LeBrun’s reports certainly indicate that the Sabres are willing to get creative to make a big move happen.

So why wait?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.