Keith Yandle

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The Buzzer: Flyers end it at 10, Ovechkin magic

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Key happenings from PHT

Roberto Luongo might have suffered a serious injury.

Joe Thornton delivers a debatable hit on T.J. Oshie, then Tom Wilson makes him pay.

A big step for Seattle in its drive to get an NHL team?

The redemption of Ray Shero

Win of the Night:

The Philadelphia Flyers finally did it.

After losing 10 straight games (see a deeper look on that skid here), the Flyers made sure that Monday would mark the end of their suffering by way of a 5-2 win against the Calgary Flames.

In this case, it was a mixture of usual suspects (Jakub Voracek collected three assists) and less-than-expected names showing up (Scott Laughton generated a two-goal night). You can probably bet that Brian Elliott relished getting a win against a Flames team that passed on him after one up-and-down season. The veteran netminder stopped 43 shots for his first win since Nov. 9.

Michael Raffl won the Ric Flair robe. Hey, this team might not win much yet, but they’re stylin’ and profilin’ when they do.

It’s worth noting that the Flames scored first, but the Flyers tied it up about a minute later, and never relinquished their lead once they went from being up 2-1 to 4-1.

Can you really blame this team for being excited/relieved?

Player of the Night: Craig Smith, Nashville Predators

Voracek, Keith Yandle, and Vincent Trocheck all managed three-assist nights on Monday, so there’s some solid competition for this spot. When in doubt, I usually give the tiebreaker to the guy scoring goals, and Smith did so for his three points with two goals and one helper.

Smith continues to be red-hot for Nashville lately alongside Kevin Fiala (1G, 1A), who seem to be thanking the Predators for the early holiday present of Kyle Turris (two assists).

Smith, 28, already has 11 goals on the season, putting him one goal behind his rough 2016-17 campaign’s 12. His career-high for goals in a single season is 24, while he’s crossed the 20-goal plateau three times overall. Even if things slow down (his shooting percentage is a bit high at 17.2 percent right now), it’s easy to imagine him putting up the best numbers of his underrated career.

It sure looks like Nashville now has two dynamic lines to go with two great defensive pairings (when Ryan Ellis is healthy) and a duo of goalies that ranges from competent to splendid. Be scared, rest of the NHL.

Factoids

Alex Ovechkin will probably be a healthy distance ahead of Dr. Recchi by the time his career ends:

And another milestone for Ovechkin:

SO NOT CLUTCH.

Highlight of the Night:

Sorry, tough night for Ovechkin haters, as he generated this great setup:

Snub of the Night:

You know how teams do ceremonial puck drops? I think Evgeny Kuznetsov is owed a ceremonial fist bump.

Scores

Capitals 4, Sharks 1
Islanders 5, Panthers 4 (SO)
Predators 5, Bruins 3
Flyers 5, Flames 2

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.

Best NHL trade targets with Duchene off the market

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Fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, and other teams must feel a little left out after this weekend.

While those GMs either were afraid to pay the sticker price or weren’t in the conversation, the bottom line is that the Ottawa Senators got Matt Duchene, the Nashville Predators added Kyle Turris, and the Colorado Avalanche’s future looks brighter.

[Breaking down blockbuster Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris trade]

So, what’s next for teams hoping to add that missing piece?

As Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic (sub required), “some stuff will always come up.”

With that in mind, let’s consider some of the best trade targets post-Duchene. For the sake of brevity, we’ll stick to forwards; maybe there will be a time to discuss the Keith Yandles of the world some other day. The likelihood of possible moves varies, and will likely change dramatically as the season goes along.

(Note: As usual, Cap Friendly was a glorious resource for this.)

Mandatory, especially unrealistic mentions

John Tavares: Even if they’re more worried about letting him go than they’re letting on, it’s very difficult to picture New York Islanders GM Garth Snow actually trading the face of the franchise and a guy who is, during the bleakest moments, the only bright side to look on.

Still, I’d have to turn in my blogger’s badge if I didn’t at least mention Tavares, because a team would offer up its vital organs if JT actually did go on the market.

The Sedin twins are unlikely as well, though in wildly different ways. Throw Joe Thornton here, too.

A bucket of Golden Knights

Even if the Vegas Golden Knights remain competitive heading into the trade deadline, GM George McPhee could be forgiven if he jumps on a good offer. It’s possible they can have their cake and eat it too, really.

  • James Neal: You can go in circles talking about the negatives (he’s 30, can sometimes go invisible for a while, takes bad frustration penalties), but getting a big, prime-ish-age sniper could be huge for a contending team. If Vegas decides he’s not a part of the future, why not sell high?
  • David Perron: A lot like Neal – they even both had stints with the Penguins – except a lower ceiling, one year younger, and a smaller cap hit. His slick mitts give him the potential to be a gamebreaker if a team doesn’t ask for too much.
  • Jonathan Marchessault: The 26-year-old carries just a $750K cap hit, and he’s at a fascinating fork in the road for his career. Vegas might want to keep him, but what kind of raise is coming? And what if a contender tight against the cap presents a war chest of assets for him, considering that cheap 2017-18 mark?

Lightning round

Alex Galchenyuk: Free Alex.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Could the latest $6M Oilers forward be gone?

Jesse Puljujärvi: Would Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers really cut ties with another high draft pick?

Patrick Maroon, Ryan Strome: Two guys on expiring contracts. Bargain-hunting GMs might as well keep Chia on their speed dial, right?

Phil Kessel: Ugh, it’s irksome to mention, but it feels required. There’s at least some merit to the murmurs.

Rick Nash: See more on how Nash could fit into a mini-Rangers rebuild here. Nash is tantalizing, but the Rangers would need to find a way to make things work for a trade partner considering his Nash-sized cap hit.

Evander Kane: Has his issues, but he’s a power forward in his prime, and the 26-year-old seems like he’s playing at a high level. Manageable cap hit at $5.25M, especially since the trade deadline tends to make guys like him easier to get under the ceiling.

Gabriel Landeskog: Tough to imagine the Avalanche making such bold moves in succession, but then again, why not at least gauge the market? With four years remaining at about $5.57M per, it would require a major undertaking. What if Sakic offered to take, say, Ryan Callahan‘s problem deal on for Landeskog in exchange for a boatload of assets? Just saying.

[Sakic’s patience pays off in Duchene trade]

Gustav Nyquist, various Red Wings: Gotta pull off the rebuild Band-Aid sometime, right? Maybe?

Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk: Two affordable Maple Leafs forwards who are likely to get lost in the shuffle when Auston Matthews & Co. burn through their rookie deals. JVR is a chronically underrated winger.

Patric Hornqvist: The scorer of the 2017 Stanley Cup-clinching goal is an old 30 considering all of his battles in front of the net. Maybe he’d go the other way if the Penguins wanted to make a move or a series of moves?

Tomas Plekanec, Thomas Vanek, etc.: There are a handful of aging, reasonably useful forwards on expiring deals. Imagine them all listed here; check Cap Friendly for even more options.

***

That’s quite the list, and some of those players are even worth trading for. Maybe Blue Jackets and Hurricanes fans can daydream about better days, too?

Feel free to add any names you believe are missing in the comments, emails, or via Twitter. You can even embrace the freedom to be more out-there than the idea of trading Tavares. Have fun.

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.

Panthers’ salary cap outlook after Matheson’s eight-year contract

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On Saturday night the Florida Panthers locked up defenseman Michael Matheson to an eight-year, $39 million contract.

If you’re not too familiar with the Panthers it might seem like a pretty significant investment (and to be fair, even if you are familiar with the Panthers it is a significant investment) but since the start of the 2016-17 season no player on the team has played more even-strength minutes than the 23-year-old Matheson.

He is clearly a player that the organization trusts and one that it sees as a long-term building block.

Now that he is locked in through the end of the 2025-26 season, let’s take a look at the long-term salary cap outlook for the Panthers.

Another young player signed long-term

With Matheson signed the Panthers now have eight players signed for at least the next four seasons: Matheson, Roberto Luongo, James Reimer, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad.

Six of those players are age 25 or under. The only three that are not are Yandle, Reimer, and Luongo.

Together that group of nine players accounts for $47.3 million in salary cap space.

Most of them look like solid investments

While the Panthers have a significant chunk of their roster locked in for at least the next three or four years they don’t really have many deals that look like they will be a problem in the future.

The only two players on the team that carry a salary cap hit of more than $6 million per season are Ekblad ($7.5 million) and Yandle ($6.3 million).

They are also the only two players on the roster that crack the top-75 salary cap hits in the NHL.

Assuming Ekblad bounces back from what seemed to be a bit of a regression a season ago his contract could look like a steal. In the future. A young, top-pairing, all-situations defender that can play at the level Ekblad showed in his first two years in the league not only doesn’t come cheap, they usually end up costing more than what his $7.5 million cap hit is.

Yandle’s deal carries a bit of a risk simply because of his age. He is already 31 years old and signed for five more years after this one.

Up front Nick Bjugstad ($4.1 million per year through 2020-21) needs to stay healthy to get his career back on track, but Huberdeau, Barkov and Trocheck will only cost the Panthers $16.7 million per season for the next four years. All of them are legitimate 25-goal, 50-60 point players when healthy.

No more core players are in line for a new deal anytime soon

Because the Panthers were so aggressive in getting their young players signed, and because they have so many young players on their roster, they have a ton of cost certainty over the next few years. The only players that will be unrestricted free agents after this season are Radim Vrbata and Colton Sceviour, while the only restricted free agents are Jared McCann, Connor Brickley, Alex Petrovic and MacKenzie Weegar.

Only Jamie McGinn, Derek MacKenzie and Michael Haley are unrestricted free agents after the 2018-19 season while only Ian McCoshen is eligible for restricted free agency.

All of they pieces of the team are locked in place for the foreseeable future with what should be a decent amount of salary cap space.

The important questions now are how good is that core, and what can do with that salary cap space to fill in around them?

(Salary data via CapFriendly.com)

Panthers’ polarizing makeover continues with massive Matheson extension

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Dale Tallon’s do-over of the Florida Panthers seems less and less about saving money and more about restoring his vision.

After all, salary retention made the Jason DemersJamie McGinn trade pretty even financially. Tallon also spared no expense in reportedly signing promising young defenseman Michael Matheson to a whopping new deal.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman originally reported it, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie backs it up as a “done deal” of eight years, $39 million. That means Matheson will carry a $4.875M cap hit starting in 2018-19, as his rookie deal still has one year remaining. The Panthers have yet to confirm it, but this seems like a safe bet to be true.

Giving Matheson an eight-year deal could be understandable if it meant huge savings. Handing him almost $5M would be reasonable if you instead wanted a bridge deal to see if he’s really worth that money. The Panthers giving Matheson both is where things get hairy, and many reactions boil down to Matheson being good, but the contract being bad.

Now, it’s better to overpay a talented player than it is to say, give precious cap space to a more limited defenseman like the Panthers once did with late-stage Ed Jovanovski.

It’s one thing to lock up a player early in a contract year when that person is a huge part of your marketing plan and could very well cost you a ton of money a year later. There’s a reason why teams like the Buffalo Sabres are proactive with the likes of Jack Eichel.

Even as a prominent member of the Panthers’ defense, it’s a bit baffling to imagine that they wouldn’t want a bigger sample size before handing Matheson almost $5M per year. This is a guy coming off of a 17-point season. Would a strong 2017-18 season really hurt that Panthers that much in the wallet?

Now Matheson is opened up to potentially painful comparisons. Look at the Anaheim Ducks, who have one proactive deal that looks better (Josh Manson) and one strenuous RFA situation that fell very nicely for them (Hampus Lindholm).

The Panthers have already seen a promising defenseman struggle under the weight of a lofty new extension.

It’s plausible that Aaron Ekblad will get things back together, and a star defenseman is often worth the $7.5M he’s receiving – and then some. Still, at the moment, people feel a lot worse about Ekblad’s deal than they did before, and that was a more agreeable decision in the moment.

Between Ekblad, Matheson, and Keith Yandle, the Panthers will devote $18.725M to three blueliners beginning in 2018-19.

Overall, it’s tough not to criticize this process, even if there are still some things to like about Florida’s roster, and that includes Matheson. Did they really need to cut ties with Jaromir Jagr, Jason Demers, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault so rapidly? Did this Matheson deal need to get done right away? It also feels a little slap-dash.

Again, things aren’t all bad, and Matheson has talent. The bigger picture could be prettier, though.

Tune in on Sunday for a breakdown of the good and the bad of this team’s structure.

Trade: Panthers send Jason Demers to Coyotes for Jamie McGinn

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The Florida Panthers continue to hit the “reset” button on their brief analytics era now that GM Dale Tallon is fully back in charge. Sometimes that means making some dramatic moves.

The Arizona Coyotes certainly seem analytics-leaning, too, so it makes sense that they’ll reportedly be the new home for defenseman Jason Demers. The Panthers recently confirmed that they will receive Jamie McGinn in the trade.

It should be a fairly even swap from a cap-hit-standpoint, at least thanks to this wrinkle, via Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Two teams moving in opposite directions

Again, the Panthers are really doubling down on Tallon’s vision, which seems to mean jettisoning “fancy stats guys.”

The Panthers already parted ways with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith around the time of the expansion draft. There were rumors of Keith Yandle being floated, but perhaps his deal isn’t palatable for suitors.

Demers is very much along those same lines, and it makes sense that the Coyotes would have interest in him.

This continues a dramatic makeover for Arizona. As crucial as the additions of Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta might be (not to mention the exits of Shane Doan and now-former-head-coach Dave Tippett), the Coyotes’ defense corps now look remarkably modern. They’re inching up the ranks thanks to trades for Demers and Niklas Hjalmarsson, along with the signing of Alex Goligoski. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has gone from feeling very alone on that blueline to being the leader of an increasingly formidable group.

On the other hand, these defensemen aren’t exactly cheap. The Coyotes have made some bold moves under progressive-minded GM John Chayka, yet that aggressiveness will also bring higher expectations.

And, if this ends up looking bad for the Coyotes, the analytics naysayers won’t hesitate to gloat.

McGinn is the kind of player Tallon might love

McGinn, 29, has two years remaining on a contract that carries a $3.33 million cap hit.

He’s a grinder with some skill, as he’s generated two 20+ goal seasons and managed 19 in another campaign. McGinn must be getting used to checking real estate listings, too, as this is the fourth time he’s been traded.

Demers has been around, too, as you can note from this interesting anecdote.