Kevin Shattenkirk

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The Capitals would like to see Tom Wilson score a few more goals this season

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Tom Wilson is the classic “love him or hate him” type of player depending on which team he happens to be playing for.

If he is playing on your team, you probably like him. If he is not … you probably hate him.

Wilson has spent the first four years of his career playing in the Washington Capitals’ bottom-six, playing an extremely physical brand of hockey that can sometimes come close to crossing the line. He is also a very good defensive player and penalty killer, a fact that can sometimes get overlooked due to his style of play and the punishing hits.

With the Capitals roster getting ripped apart around the edges this summer due to salary cap restrictions there are a couple of openings in the team’s top-six forward group thanks to the departures of veteran forwards Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson.

Wilson would like to take one of those spots, but he knows he needs to add more consistent offense to do it.

The Capitals would like to see that from him as well.

Here is coach Barry Trotz talking about what he wants to see from Wilson this season, via Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.

“Like all our young players, we’ve been trying to continually have growth with Tom,” Trotz said. “The next step in his evolution — he has that physical element, he’s reliable, he can kill penalties, he can play late-game situations, he’s developed that — now he’s got to find that offensive side. We’ve got to get more production out of Tom Wilson. We’re going to need some more goals out of him. He’s got to get into double digits this year.

He went on to say little improvements like that from players like Wilson are how the team can chip away and deal with the players they lost over the summer, just getting a few extra goals from players that are still on the roster.

Wilson’s production has been incredibly consistent during his career and has averaged about seven goals and about 18 total points per 82 games. He has never scored more than seven goals in a season, the mark he has reached in each of the past two seasons. He did add three goals in the first-round of the Capitals’ series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, including a two-goal effort in their Game 4 win in Toronto.

The Capitals are going to look like a very different team this season after losing Williams, Johansson, Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer and only bringing in Devante Smith-Pelly and Alex Chiasson on a tryout deal. Still, with a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen and what is probably one of the top-three goalies on the planet they should still be a fierce contender in the Eastern Conference.

They may not bring home a third consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, but they are not going away just yet, either.

Marc Staal is ‘fighting for a spot’ with Rangers, says Vigneault

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The New York Rangers have opened training camp, with head coach Alain Vigneault emphasizing the competition for ice time on his blue line.

Among those vying for minutes? Veteran defender Marc Staal, who has played in 689 career NHL games, turned 30 years old in January and is currently the second highest paid player on the Rangers’ defense, with an annual cap hit of $5.7 million.

He still has four years remaining on that deal, which includes a no-movement clause, per CapFriendly.

The Rangers have undergone significant changes throughout the roster this offseason. On defense, they bought out Dan Girardi while Kevin Klein moved on from his NHL career. They signed free agent defender Kevin Shattenkirk and acquired 21-year-old Anthony DeAngelo as part of the Derek Stepan trade with Arizona.

After an impressive first full year on the Rangers roster, Brady Skjei could also take on a larger role this season and former KHLer Alexei Bereglazov, who signed with New York in the spring, could challenge for minutes with the NHL club.

The Rangers will also have college free agent signing Neal Pionk at camp, and he could contend for a spot, as well. He’s certainly aiming to make the roster, and the fact he’s a right-handed shot may add further appeal.

So, there is plenty of competition on the Rangers’ blue line.

“It would be safe to say there are a few guys for the first time in a long time — Marc being one of them — that are fighting for ice-time, fighting for a spot on the team,” Vigneault told reporters, per The Sporting News.

“If we decided to bring Marc Staal back, it’s because we believe in him. I like Marc Staal, I believe in Marc Staal, but at the end of the day he’s fighting for a spot, and he knows it. Nick was a real effective player for us last season, both offensively and defensively, but it’s a new season for everybody. His play will dictate how much he plays, and that’s probably the same for everybody at this point.”

Fellow 30-year-old Rangers defenseman Nick Holden also found his name in the trade rumor mill this summer.

Alex Chiasson will join Capitals on tryout contract

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After the Calgary Flames decided to not extend him a qualifying offer this summer, veteran forward Alex Chiasson became an unrestricted free agent. He remained unsigned throughout the entire offseason but will get an opportunity to make the Washington Capitals roster when he joins the team in training camp on a professional tryout contract.

The team announced his tryout deal on Saturday morning.

Chiasson, 26, appeared in 81 games for the Flames during the 2016-17 season, scoring 12 goals and adding 12 assists. He has also spent time with the Dallas Stars and Ottawa Senators in his career, scoring 50 goals in 320 games.

It has been a slow offseason for the Capitals as the salary cap has taken a lot of depth from a team that won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies. The only real addition to the lineup has been Devante Smith-Pelly. Because of those subtractions — combined with the lack of moves to replace them — there is an opening in the Capitals lineup for a player like Chiasson to potentially step in.

Earlier this week the team signed defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka to a tryout contract. The Capitals lost Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt off of their blue line this summer.

Report: NHL trade deadline will be Feb. 26

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Set the date.

The 2017-18 NHL trade deadline, one of the most highly anticipated days of the hockey calendar, will take place on Feb. 26, according to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports.

The lead-up to last year’s trade deadline saw a number of high profile deals.

The struggling Canucks went into sell mode by trading Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen. Bolts netminder Ben Bishop was sent to the L.A. Kings,  and Kevin Shattenkirk went to Washington as the Capitals attempted to bolster their lineup for what they were hoping was going to be a lengthy Stanley Cup run.

Of course, this year’s trade deadline will include the Vegas Golden Knights and general manager George McPhee. They have nine players that will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of next season.

Backed by the Pope: Hockey organizations unveil ‘Declaration of Principles’

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NEW YORK (AP) Seventeen hockey organizations teamed up to unveil a “Declaration of Principles” that NHL players hope will boost the game at all levels, particularly among young children and the parents who decide what sports to have them play.

Going beyond the “Hockey is For Everyone” campaign and a partnership with You Can Play that promotes inclusiveness, the league and NHL Players’ Association took the unconventional step to list eight guiding principles for hockey culture. USA Hockey, the International Ice Hockey Federation and others joined in on the initiative, which earned praise from Pope Francis and garnered optimism from top players about the impact it could make.

“Hopefully it makes more kids want to play the game, more parents maybe push their kids into playing hockey or starting it at a young age,” Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones said. “The things I’ve learned as a kid just growing up playing – discipline, the love and the passion for the game, commitment – these are all things that you need in life outside of hockey, and that’s what the principles are about.”

At a news conference on Wednesday attended by leaders from all over the sport, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called it an “important day” for hockey. Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, now the league’s vice president of hockey development, spearheaded the process.

The declaration says hockey’s greatest value is in the development of character and life skills, and it also noted there are significant benefits to kids playing multiple sports. Among other things, it said programs should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families “regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.”

Asked to evaluate the initiative, Saint Joseph’s University sports marketing professor Amie Sheridan said she considers it an effort to grow hockey’s footprint and show it’s not a cost-prohibitive sport. Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson said he wanted parents and kids to know that.

“I think hockey these days is a much cheaper sport than what it used to be,” Karlsson said. “I think that that’s something that’s important to get out there – that it doesn’t actually cost you that much if you just want to play for fun.”

Second-hand equipment and ice time aren’t available in some parts of the U.S. like in Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby‘s hometown of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, one reason why hockey struggles to attract young players who could more easily pick up a basketball or a soccer ball.

Data from the National Federation of State High School Associations shows high school boys hockey participation has been largely stagnant over the past four years, though USA Hockey reported an increase of about 6.5 percent among all youth players over that time. USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said “enormous progress” has been made, but this is another effort.

“At a time when sport is under pressure from issues ranging from violence to doping to corruption, it is helpful for an organization to set principles that guide their behavior,” University of Oregon marketing professor T. Bettina Cornwell said. “In terms of marketing, and financial support from sponsors, they want to know what sport stands for and this statement goes some distance in describing a culture that should be appealing to a marketer or sponsor.”

The NHL and its teams have already taken stands on topics of inclusion, including the Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars coming out against what they called “discriminatory” state legislation aimed at restricting restrooms for transgender people.

In a letter written to the Archbishop of New York, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the pope was pleased by the initiative and “trusts that this significant gesture will inspire greater appreciation of the pivotal role played by sports and sportsmanship.”

“To be able to hammer these principles – not into the kids, but into the coaches and into the organizations so they bleed it into the kids, that’s what’s going to draw more people into hockey,” New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. It could “draw more parents to say: `You know what, I like what they’re doing over there. Maybe they’re not going to play baseball or football and I’m going to get my kids involved in something that’s really going to mean a lot for them in their life.”‘