Henrik Zetterberg

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The Buzzer: Backstrom dominates, another shutout for Anderson

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Player of the night: Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

Before the Washington Capitals took the ice in New Jersey on Friday night there was some doubt as to whether or not Nicklas Backstrom would play after he left warmups after taking a puck to the head (he was initially listed as a scratch).

He not only played, he absolutely dominated in the Capitals’ 5-2 win.

Backstrom finished with four points, scoring a goal and adding three assists to help the Capitals bounce back from a tough loss on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov are all tied for the league lead in points (10) after Friday’s game.

The Capitals may not have the depth that they did a year ago, especially after losing Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt over the summer, but they still have some elite players that are going to carry them a long way.

Highlight of the night. 

How can it be anything other than Artemi Panarin‘s first goal as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets? It is a thing of beauty.

Factoid of the night. 

Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson recorded the 39th shutout of his career. That puts him in the top-five among American-born goaltenders.

Misc.

— The Vegas Golden Knights have lost a game. With their loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, as well as the New Jersey Devils’ loss to the Washington Capitals, there are now no more unbeaten teams in the NHL.

— Speaking of the Vegas-Detroit game, Henrik Zetterberg was magnificent for the Red Wings with four points. James Neal also continued his incredible start for Vegas with his sixth goal of the season.

Mike Smith had a brutal night for the Calgary Flames, getting benched after giving up five goals on 22 shots.

— The Colorado Avalanche … dominated? Yeah. They did. Not only did they beat the Anaheim Ducks, 3-1, to improve to 4-1-0 on the young season but they also outshot the Ducks by a 39-18 margin. Has to be concerning if you are a Ducks fan. This game was a classic Randy Carlyle game on the shot chart.

Scores and recaps

Washington Capitals 5, New Jersey Devils 2

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, New York Rangers 1

Colorado Avalanche 3, Anaheim Ducks 1

Ottawa Senators 6, Calgary Flames 0

Detroit Red Wings 6, Vegas Golden Knights 3

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.

Red Wings open new arena with win over Wild

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Anthony Mantha made history. And the Detroit Red Wings made some memories playing their first regular season game in their new home.

Mantha scored the very first Red Wings regular season goal at Little Caesars Arena, breaking a scoreless deadlock late in the second period before Detroit prevailed in the third period for a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

After the Wild worked its way back into the game, erasing a two-goal deficit, it was long-time Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg putting his team back in front, this time for good, before Martin Frk provided the insurance marker.

Devan Dubnyk made a spectacular save in the first period, channeling his inner Dominik Hasek with a sprawling effort.

He did allow four goals on 31 shots, while at the other end, Jimmy Howard was impressive with 37 saves, as he was busy throughout this contest.

Poll: Is it time for the Red Wings to go through a full rebuild?

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This post is part of Red Wings Day on PHT…

The Detroit Red Wings have been one of the model franchises in the NHL for a very long time (they made the playoffs for 26 years in a row), but every team goes through a phase where they have to retool their roster.

Some teams can retool on the fly (that’s incredibly difficult), while others are forced to blow up the roster and start from scratch.

Even though the roster needs a lot of work, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has already stated that there will be no long and painful rebuild for his team.

“We have the best fans in the world. They’re passionate. They’re incredible,” Holland said in April, per MLive.com.

“These fans want to watch playoff hockey. Nobody wants to see a rebuild. They want to see us be competitive. They want to see us have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. While we’re trying to draft and develop and get better long-term, one of our short-term goals is trying to figure out how to make the team as good as it can be and hope that team can qualify for the playoffs.”

So, it’s gonna be a retool over a rebuild, but is that really the best decision?

Making the playoffs every year is great, but being stuck between sixth and 11th in the conference year after year isn’t always a recipe for success either.

The Wings’ cap situation is far from ideal. As of right now, they’re one of three teams (Chicago and Toronto are too) that have negative cap space. Of course, that’ll change once they put Johan Franzen on injured reserve, but that still doesn’t leave them with a ton of room.

They also have many veterans making a lot money. Henrik Zetterberg has been terrific for the Wings over the years, but the 36-year-old still has four years left on his contract at just over $6 million per season.

Frans Nielsen, 33, was signed as an unrestricted free agent last summer. He’s on the books for five more years at $5.25 million.

Defensemen Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley are all over 33 years old, and they each have at least two years remaining on their contracts. They each make between $3.16 million and $4.75 million.

On the flip side, Detroit does have some interesting young pieces that should be able to help them win right away.

Dylan Larkin had a tough sophomore season. He’ll need to bounce back in a big way if the Wings make it back to the postseason.

After scoring 27 goals in 2014-15, Gustav Nyquist has had back-to-back disappointing seasons. The 27-year-old needs to contribute more.

The Wings also have Tomas Tatar, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Riley Sheahan that they can rely on in 2017-18 and beyond.

The goalies are also a question mark for them going into next season. Coming into last season, it appeared as though Petr Mrazek was ready to become a solid number one goaltender. Unfortunately for Detroit, things didn’t pan out that way (he ended up being exposed in the expansion draft).

Jimmy Howard had struggled over the last few years, but he emerged as the starting goaltender once Mrazek failed to seize his opportunity.

Like any team, the play of their goaltenders will affect the outcome of their season.

We know that Holland isn’t interested in blowing up the Wings roster, but what would you to if you were in his shoes? It’s time for you guys to vote (feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section, too).

Red Wings’ cap future after Tatar signing: should they buy out Ericsson?

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In a vacuum, the Detroit Red Wings handing Tomas Tatar a four-season deal that carries a per-year cap hit of $5.3 million makes a lot of sense. Tatar ranks as one of their deadliest scorers, and at age 26, the contract likely takes up the final years of his prime.*

Still, it must be mentioned that Tatar’s contract reminds us that the Red Wings may no longer stand as an obvious contender, yet they sure spend like one.

Yes, Johan Franzen‘s near-$4 million will go to LTIR, but this Cap Friendly reading still stands as a reminder that there isn’t much breathing room, especially with Andreas Athanasiou needing a contract. Detroit figures to have a little less than $1 million minus Franzen:

OK, so there are a few options. Winging it in Motown brings up an intriguing idea: what if the Red Wings buy out defenseman Jonathan Ericsson‘s contract?

They used Cap Friendly’s tool to show that a cap hit of $4.25 million would be spread out over six seasons in this setup. Each year, the actual cost would be a bit less than $1.39 million.

The bright side is that, for the next two seasons, the Red Wings would see real savings:

2017-18: save $2.61 million
2018-19: save $2.86 million
2019-20: save $2.86 million
2020-21 and 2021-22: would cost them about $1.39 million

Naturally, that would be quite the price to pay to get a player to not play for the Red Wings, yet it would also help Detroit squeeze under the cap. More on that conundrum here.

Let’s leaf through most of the Red Wings’ structure to see which deals are good, bad, and ugly.

(Note: As usual, Cap Friendly was highly helpful in putting this together.)

Dicey defense

  • Obviously, Ericsson’s health issues and struggles make him a tough guy to keep around at 33 and with a $4.25M. He’s merely the most obvious defensemen who’s an issue for this team.
  • Mike Green presents an interesting situation. He still has his use, yet at 31 and with his $6 million cap hit to expire after next season, the Red Wings must ponder his future. If they don’t want him back, could they send him somewhere else, whether that be now or in-season? Salary retention would likely need to be a consideration, especially if they wanted to move him earlier. That said, their already dicey defense would experience a painful loss if they traded Green.
  • Danny DeKeyser‘s $5 million cap hit through 2021-22 would be very difficult to move. At least he has … some proponents in the organization?
  • Niklas Kronwall‘s been a great solider for DRW, and the positive news is that his $4.75 million cap hit will evaporate after two seasons. Much like Ericsson, health is really hampering what he can do in the present, though.
  • Trevor Daley was just signed this summer. While he brings some strengths to the table, you have to wonder if the 33-year-old will slip enough that the $3.16 million could be an annoyance rather soon.

Forwards

  • Tatar ($5.3 million) becomes the second-highest-paid Red Wings forward behind Henrik Zetterberg, who makes just over $6 million. Zetterberg quietly enjoyed a strong 2016-17, and you can bet that he delivered at far higher a value than $6 million through the earlier years of his contract. Still, he’s 36 and that cap hit runs through 2020-21, the same year Tatar’s ends. Not ideal.
  • That Franzen headache expires after 2019-20.
  • Frans Nielsen is a nice player, and he had a strong debut season for Detroit. Still, he’s somehow already 33 and his $5.25 million cap hit won’t expire until after 2021-22. One would think that, if the Red Wings wanted to move him, now would be one of the better times since his value is probably still reasonably high. Of course, savvy teams will balk at that term. Maybe, like DeKeyser and some other players, the Red Wings would need to move a “problem” (Nielsen’s term) for some other team’s issue.
  • Moving on, there are bit players getting too much. Justin Abdelkader‘s term (2022-23) and $4.25M cap hit give off an albatross vibe. Darren Helm, already 30, at $3.85M per year seems shaky. Even Luke Glendening‘s reasonable but maybe unnecessary $1.8M cap hit argues that Red Wings management might be overvaluing supporting cast members.
  • Then you have young players who may cost more soon. Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha could see big jumps with breakthrough contract years as their ELC’s expire. Will Athanasiou be on a shrot deal, too?

Goalies

The netminder situation is pretty cloudy as well.

Jimmy Howard‘s contract is worrisome, although at least that $5.3M only runs through two more seasons. Petr Mrazek‘s a baffling situation, though maybe a team would take him from Detroit if the Red Wings retained some of that $4M? Would that even be a smart move considering Mrazek’s still-considerable potential?

***

Yikes, that entire outlook is almost entirely dismal. It’s not easy to say what the Red Wings should do next, especially if you’re not in the “blow it all up” camp.

(Note: Ken Holland doesn’t seem to be in the “blow it all up” camp.)

* – Of course, he could defy the general odds by having a longer run of prime years.

Johnny Gaudreau bests Granlund, Tarasenko for Lady Byng Trophy

Johnny Gaudreau has always been able to hurt the opposition on the score board.

The Calgary Flames forward scored 18 goals and 61 points this season, while spending all of four minutes in the penalty box, despite often being the target of the opposition.

Sometimes, other teams and players can go over the line, but Gaudreau kept out of the extracurriculars, earning him the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which exemplifies sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct in the game.

He beats out Mikael Granlund of the Minnesota Wild and Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues for the award.

All three players combined for a total of 28 penalty minutes between them all season, while scoring a total of 83 goals and 205 points.

The winner is selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Here is how the voting turned out:

Points. (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)

1. Johnny Gaudreau, CGY 906 (54-33-15-16-12)
2. Vladimir Tarasenko, STL 738 (35-31-25-12-10)
3. Mikael Granlund, MIN 445 (12-22-23-16-8)
4. Marian Hossa, CHI 320 (17-13-9-3-5)
5. Oscar Klefbom, EDM 264 (11-8-12-7-17)
6. Auston Matthews, TOR 238 (2-14-12-15-15)
7. Brandon Saad, CBJ 211 (1-10-15-12-20)
8. Jason Pominville, MIN 127 (4-5-4-9-5)
9. Henrik Zetterberg, DET 119 (5-1-7-8-3)
10. Ryan O’Reilly, BUF 98 (1-2-7-11-6)
11. Duncan Keith, CHI 67 (3-2-2-4-1)
12. John Carlson, WSH 55 (2-1-4-2-2)
13. Aleksander Barkov, FLA 54 (2-0-4-3-5)
14. Connor McDavid, EDM 51 (3-3-0-0-0)
15. Erik Karlsson, OTT 50 (3-0-2-3-1)
16. Sidney Crosby, PIT 47 (2-3-0-2-0)
17. Leon Draisaitl, EDM 46 (0-4-1-3-4)
18. Marcus Johansson, WSH 37 (0-2-0-4-11)
19. Jared Spurgeon. MIN 33 (1-2-1-0-4)
20. Rickard Rakell, ANA 29 (0-2-2-1-2)