Olli Maatta

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PHT Morning Skate: How does the Quick contract look six years later?

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Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been out with a concussion, skated at the Golden Knights’ practice facility on Wednesday. It sounds like he could be activated off injured reserve as soon as Friday. (sinbin.vegas)

–Isles owner John Ledecky went the extra mile to make a young fan have the time of his life at two home games. The fan got the VIP treatment simply because he went out to the city in his Islanders jersey. (silive.com)

–Puck Junk has a book review on “The O-Pee-Chee Hockey Card Story”. The company went from selling gum, to adding player cards in 1933-34. (puckjunk.com)

John Carlson was forced to take a faceoff during the overtime period of Monday’s game against Arizona. He didn’t win it (he looked awful doing it), but it didn’t come back to haunt his team. Now, the Capitals are thinking about making some changes to the way they approach 3-on-3 overtime. (NBC Sports Washington)

–Former Kings GM Dean Lombardi has been criticized for the contract he gave Jonathan Quick six years ago. But when you compare the deal to others around the league, you realize that it isn’t so bad. It’ll be interesting to see what it looks like as Quick gets older. (jewelsfromthecrown.com)

–Even though he isn’t lighting up the NHL, rookie Alex DeBrincat is focused on playing a complete game with the Blackhawks this season. He’s gotten some playing time with Jonathan Toews, which has also helped his development. “I think it’s good for me. I think learning when you don’t need to be breaking for, trying an offensive break and you’ve just got to play sound in the (defensive) zone,” DeBrincat said. “I think it’s definitely good for my development and learning where to be because he’s always talking and letting you know where to be.” (Sporting News)

–There’s no doubt that fighting is down in hockey and there are numbers to prove it. Less than 30 percent of games since 2012 have had a fight, which is remarkably low compared to previous years. (CBS Sports)

–Local merchants in Carolina have come out with a bunch of new products that they’ll be selling at Hurricanes home games this season. One of the items available for purchase are Hurricanes scented candles. Some of the proposed scents that were rejected were pretty unique. For example, there was unscented vanilla, Swedish fish, Cam Ward‘s glove, and many others. (section328.com)

Nico Hischier has been solid during his rookie season, but the Devils can do more to help him succeed, according to allaboutthejersey.com. For starters, they can take him off the top line (for now) and give him a more defined role on the man-advantage. (allaboutthejersey.com)

–November is “Hockey Fights Cancer” month, and there’s no denying that people in and around the Penguins organization have been affected by the disease. Mario Lemieux, Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta, former head coach Bob Johnson and Ashley Barrasso (Tom’s daughter) all showed remarkable courage in their respective fights against cancer. (thesportsdaily.com)

–The Predators’ bottom pairing of Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin played a big role in the team’s two wins in California. The fourth line of Cody McLeod, Frederick Gaudreau and Austin Watson also put together a solid performance during the trip. (ontheforecheck.com)

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.

Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

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On Thursday night, TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins may have some interest in Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk.

The Penguins have been looking for another center since the departure of Nick Bonino in free agency this summer, so them being interested in him makes sense.

“There’s been some speculation as to who might be available as to players who aren’t and Matt Duchene probably isn’t a great fit financially for the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Dreger said during the Insider Trading segment. “But Alex Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadiens, his name has surfaced. We shouldn’t be overly surprised by that, again given the fact that more often than not Galchenyuk seems to be in the doghouse there and given the play of the Montreal Canadiens as of late, perhaps there’s a fit there that could make some sense.”

Galchenyuk has been as enigmatic of a player as we’ve seen in the NHL over the last few seasons. Two years ago, he scored 30 goals for Montreal. Last season, he was top 10 in league scoring when he suffered a knee injury in Los Angeles. When he returned to the lineup, he clearly wasn’t the same player.

Things haven’t been rosy under head coach Claude Julien, either. During lasts year’s playoffs,  The 23-year-old found himself as the fourth line left winger. He finished the postseason with three assists in six games.

To say that Galchenyuk’s been in the dog house under Julien would be an understatement (most of the time, he fully deserves to be there).

It hasn’t gotten much better this year. After a slow start, he found himself back on the fourth line. But with the Canadiens struggling out of the gate, Julien decided to put Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin together against the Kings on Wednesday night. The line didn’t produce any offense, but Galchenyuk seemed to be a little more engaged than he had been in previous games.

As inconsistent as he’s been, there’s no denying that he’s a rare talent. When he’s playing well, you’ll notice his vision, quick hands and his quick release. He’ll never be an excellent two-way player, but other teams may be willing to put up with his defensive shortcomings more than Montreal has been willing to.

So, what does Pittsburgh have that Montreal could use?

Realistically, we know that the Penguins have a bunch of untouchables (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray aren’t going anywhere). They still have other pieces that could be used to get Galchenyuk out of Montreal.

First, the Canadiens would either have to hold on to some of his $4.9 million cap hit, or they’d need to take salary back because Pittsburgh only has $2 million in cap space.

Secondly, Montreal could use a puck-moving defenseman and/or more offense. Would the Pens be willing to sacrifice a blue liner like Olli Maatta to add another center? That’s what it might take to get a deal done.

But again, Montreal isn’t exactly loaded with offensive talent. Can they really trade one of their best offensive weapons without getting a forward back? GM Marc Bergevin is in a tough spot (mainly because he put himself there).

Would Pens GM Jim Rutherford be willing to make Jake Guentzel available, too? He’s been solid for the Pens and his entry-level contract comes with a cap hit of just $734, 167, which makes him even more valuable to the defending Stanley Cup champions.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all unfolds. The longer Montreal’s struggles last, the more likely they are to want to shake things up.

Galchenyuk has his issues, but he seems like the perfect buy-low candidate right now.

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.

Boyle is not alone in fighting cancer and playing hockey

When Phil Kessel got over the initial shock of being diagnosed with cancer and had surgery, he asked doctors, ”When can I play?”

When Jason Blake was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, he had the choice of taking a chemotherapy pill or having a bone marrow transplant that would cause him to miss a full season. He chose the pill and got back on the ice.

After his cancer diagnosis last month, New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle quickly turned his attention to playing hockey again. He will join a group of NHL players who played with cancer or after beating the disease, including Kessel, Blake, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta, former Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.

”This (stuff) rocks your world,” said Blake, who played six more seasons after being diagnosed with CML, the same type of bone marrow cancer Boyle is now fighting. ”It’s tough. I think it doesn’t matter how old you are, who you are. When someone says you have cancer, it definitely turns your world upside down.”

Now 44 and retired, Blake reached out to Boyle last month to offer his support. Blake said if his situation had come up five years earlier, doctors would’ve given him a 50/50 chance of living five to seven more years and is glad Boyle can benefit from even more advanced technology.

Blake said medication ”shocked my system” and made him lose a lot of weight. He still feels tired but was glad to have his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates and hockey to distract him from his battle with cancer when he wasn’t with his wife and three children.

”That’s the one positive or plus that every time I went to the rink, you kind of just forget about it,” Blake said. ”Those are distractions, and those are good distractions in this case. I understand what (Boyle) is going through, but I understand the person that he is, he’s a character guy and I know that he’ll get through this no problem.”

Kessel said Boyle has a great support system from his family, teammates and players around the league.

”Having a positive attitude toward the fight is important,” Kessel said. ”He needs to listen to the professionals and do whatever you can to return to the game.”

Kessel was found to have testicular cancer at age 19 and recently partnered with Cigna on the NHL’s ”Every Save Counts” program to raise awareness and money for cancer research. After noticing a lump and having surgery early in his rookie season in 2006-07, Kessel was back on the ice in 11 days.

”I love the game and I knew that because I was in good shape that this would help me in returning as quickly as I could,” Kessel said. ”I didn’t want to miss any games. I was fortunate that I came back as soon as I did.”

Longtime coach and general manager Bryan Murray, who lost his battle with colon cancer this past summer at age 74, said he wanted early detection to be part of his legacy. Nephew Tim Murray, a former Buffalo Sabres GM, was one of several people around hockey who immediately got a colonoscopy.

Kessel hopes he can have the same effect.

”If partnering with Cigna to share my personal health story can encourage others to get a check-up with their doctor and potentially save a life, that’s a huge win for me,” said Kessel, who has won the Stanley Cup with Maatta for Lemieux’s Penguins each of the past two seasons. ”Being a voice for early detection and regular check-ups will always be my priority.”

Lemieux missed two months after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1993 at age 27 and then took a leave of absence because of fatigue brought on by radiation treatments. Upon his return, ”Super Mario” led the league with 69 goals, 92 assists and 161 points and won the Hart Trophy as MVP.

Koivu missed most of 2001-02 with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, set a new career high with 71 points the next year and played 11 more NHL seasons. Maatta, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2014, returned two weeks after surgery.

”When I found out I had a tumor, it’s scary,” Maatta said. ”It’s a scary word. Every situation’s different. There are different stages, and mine was really harmless and easy to take out. … The more we found out about it, the less scary it was for me. I was lucky with that.”

Lemieux, Kessel, Blake, Koivu and Maatta provide examples for Boyle that he can not only keep playing but at a high level.

”I’m expecting to live my life, to live a normal life,” Boyle said. ”Hopefully the season can go on as normal, as regular as possible. We don’t have to be asking about it all the time. And if I suck one night, it’s because I sucked, not because of any other reason and hopefully if that’s the biggest issue, then that’s a good thing.”

HOCKEY AND POLITICS

Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown on Saturday night became the first hockey player to engage in a national anthem protest when he stood on the bench with his fist raised in the air. Brown said he received death threats and racist remarks on Twitter after his protest but defended his decision to bring light to ”police brutality, racial injustice and inequality” in the U.S.

”I know it may not sit well with everyone, but to truly make change in this world we must be able to be pushed outside of our comfort zone,” Brown said on Twitter. ”I want young minorities to see that what they may be going through is not being ignored by the hockey community.”

The Cup champion Penguins visited President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday, reiterating that it wasn’t about politics. Trump mostly stuck to hockey, and coach Mike Sullivan thought the ceremony went well.

LEADERS (through Tuesday)

Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 7; Assists: Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington), 8; Points: Kuznetsov, 8; Time on ice: Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis), 27:02. Goals-against average: Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus), 0.48; Save percentage: Bobrovsky, .985.

GAME OF THE WEEK

The defending Western Conference champion Nashville Predators on Saturday night visit the Chicago Blackhawks, who they swept in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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Penguins camp begins with a lot of news, including Kessel sticking with Malkin

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Pittsburgh Penguins training camp is just now swinging back into action, and there was a lot to digest on Friday. Let’s take a look at everything in lightning-round fashion.

Phil Kessel + Evgeni Malkin … + basketball?

A lot – way too much, probably – was made of Kessel barking on the bench, with many perceiving it to be at Malkin, before scoring a huge goal against the Senators during the 2017 Eastern Conference Final.

Kessel told media members including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey that the yapping wasn’t directed at Malkin, and that they get along great. (He also had great things to say about Geno Malkin, basketball player. Picture Malkin’s sweet jumper for a moment or two if you’re bored.)

As a reminder, here’s Kessel yapping away.

Good times.

One thing Kessel wasn’t interested in talking about? Apparently he grew his hair out a bit this summer.

Never change, Phil.

Patric Hornqvist update

The bad news is that Patric Hornqvist’s hand issue required “a procedure” during the summer. The good news is that the Penguins expect him to be back toward the end of training camp. Even if that’s a bit optimistic, it seems like it’s a positive update overall for the guy who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal.

The search to replace Nick Bonino

Is it too bold to wonder if the Penguins might just turn Matt Duchene‘s frown upside down?

OK, imagining Duchene as a third-line center seems like a stretch, but you have to admit that it’s quite the intriguing teaser for GM Jim Rutherford to leave things so enticingly vague.

The Penguins’ website goes deeper on the subject, including on easier-to-manage, in-house fixes, including possibly trying Jake Guentzel as their 3C.

***

Those are the biggest considerations coming out of Penguins camp, but there’s more, such as Letang initially lining up with Olli Maatta. Scroll Mackey’s feed and the Penguins’ official feed for more nuggets, among other sources, as there’s a lot out there regarding the back-to-back defending champs trying to make it three in a row.

Dumoulin agrees to six-year contract with Penguins

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Brian Dumoulin won’t need his arbitration hearing today.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced this morning that the 25-year-old defenseman has agreed to terms on a six-year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit.

From the press release:

Dumoulin, 25, has been a key component to the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, as he played in all 49 playoff games in that span, and recorded 14 points (3G-11A). In the 2017 playoffs, Dumoulin had an average ice time of 21:59 minutes, the most of any Penguins skater, and his plus-9 paced all team defenders. He assisted on Carl Hagelin‘s empty-net goal that sealed the 2-0 victory in the decisive Game 6 of the Cup Final against Nashville. 

Dumoulin is coming off of a contract that paid him just $800,000 in each of the past two seasons.

With Dumoulin signed, Pittsburgh now has five defenseman under contract for at least the next three seasons, the other four being Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, and Matt Hunwick.

The Pens still have one more arbitration case in forward Conor Sheary. His hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.

Related: Without Letang, the ‘simple bunch’ gets it done for Penguins