Vincent Trocheck

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Big centers back: Getzlaf in for Ducks, Panthers regain Barkov

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The Anaheim Ducks would probably qualify as unlucky so far in 2017-18 even beyond an extremely unfortunate bounce of a puck fracturing Ryan Getzlaf‘s cheekbone.

That loss was especially severe with Ryan Kesler already recovering, as Getzlaf missed 19 games, last appearing in a contest on that painful night of Oct. 29. The Ducks get quite the treat, then, as both Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg are slated to return as they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Check out how much better everything fits together with the returns of Getzlaf and Silfverberg, not to mention the recent addition of Adam Henrique (line combos via the Ducks website):

Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry
Cogliano-Henrique-Silfverberg
Blandisi-Vermette-Kase
Wagner-Grant-Shaw

The Ducks are still without Kesler, and Patrick Eaves is fighting a serious physical battle that puts hockey on the backburner, so there’s still some mystery to how the Ducks might look if they can get anywhere near full-strength this season.

As is, they look a whole lot better going into Monday’s game, something the Florida Panthers could relate to.

While Anaheim’s dealt with bad luck, you could chalk up Florida’s troubles to a mix of unforced errors (jettisoning depth, particularly to Vegas) and tough breaks of their own (Roberto Luongo‘s injury issues). Either way, management will look infinitely smarter when Aleksander Barkov is in the lineup than when he’s not, so the Panthers must be happy to welcome him back tonight.

Interestingly, Left Wing Lock lists Barkov along with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, rather than Denis Malgin taking Bjugstad’s spot (Malgin received looks, at least, once Evgenii Dadonov suffered an injury).

That would be quite the top-heavy approach for Florida, even if Malgin can mesh well with Vincent Trocheck.

While the Panthers have floundered at times, the Ducks seemed like they were finally starting to crater under the pressure of all those injury losses, as Anaheim only boasts two wins (2-4-4) in its last 10 games.

It’s true that the return of Barkov and Getzlaf would be important in just about any context for their teams, but each team likely feels especially relieved on Monday, as they can use all the help they can get.

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.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Vincent Trocheck shares classic stories about Jaromir Jagr

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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.

–Check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Capitals and Predators. T.J. Oshie scored twice, but it simply wasn’t enough to propel Washington to a win. (top)

–The Sabres had high hopes for Jack Eichel, but he’s struggling to meet those expectations right now. “I feel like people are judged based off statistics so frequently, and so is the case with our league for a reason,” Eichel said. “That’s my job, my job is to produce. (Buffalohockeybeat.com)

–NHL hockey will be one of the sports featured on the new ESPN+ app which is set to launch next year. (Forbes)

–Bruce Boudreau’s Minnesota Wild are off to a slow start this year, but there’s reason for optimism. Two years ago, when Broudreau was coaching the Anaheim Ducks, he got off to a horrible start before turning things around. (Twincities.com)

–It’s been a tough month for the Chicago Blackhawks, as their special teams has struggled and they haven’t been able to score much. The problem is, there probably won’t be any outside help coming in the near future. They’ll have to play themselves out of this funk. (Chicago Sun-Times)

–The Surrey Knights of the Pacific Junior Hockey League haven’t won a hockey game in nearly two years. This horrible streak started after a bench-clearing brawl got their coach and co-owner suspended for six years. It was all downhill from there. (Globe and Mail)

–Here’s a bunch of interesting nuggets from Brian Burke. He admitted that the Flames thought about bringing back Jarome Iginla. Burke also touched on the red flag Jaromir Jagr had coming out of the draft, and how Sam Bennett would have been torn to shreds if he played in Toronto. (Sportsnet)

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have put up some strong numbers playing together this season, but the team remains last in goals scored. Is it time to separate them in an attempt to balance their lineup? (Oilersnation.com)

–George Gosbee, who was instrumental in keeping the Coyotes in Arizona, passed away at the age of 48 on Sunday. “It was shocking, it was sad and it was tragic,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “I don’t know how else to describe it. He was smart, he was affable, he was friendly and he just struck me as being an all-around good guy. Obviously, our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.” (arizonasports.com)

Travis Zajac is close to returning to the Devils lineup, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team’s lines will change when he gets back. There’s a good chance he’ll slot in on the first line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. (NJ.com)

Mathew Barzal has been an incredible playmaking center throughout his hockey career. That hasn’t changed in his first full NHL season. “One of my best attributes is my passing and head-up vision,” Barzal said. “I think guys like Nicklas Backstrom and Patrick Kane are pass-first guys and they’re both very good.” (NHL.com)

–For the last few seasons, the Washington Capitals have been the dominant team in the NHL during the regular season. This year, they’ve really struggled to find any kind of consistency. As we saw in last night’s loss to Nashville, the Caps are struggling to put three good periods together. (dcpuckdrop.com)

–If the Florida Panthers want to get back in the playoff hunt, they’ll have to find a way to go on a strong run over the next two months. It won’t be easy, but it’s been done before. (therattrick)

–Speaking of the Panthers, Vincent Trocheck wrote a great piece for The Players’ Tribune. In the story, Trocheck shares a number of classic stories about former teammate Jaromir Jagr, including his poor choice of music in the locker room. He also touched on his experience at the World Cup of Hockey and his family’s move from Pittsburgh to Detroit. (Players’ Tribune)

–The Four Nations Cup just concluded in the Florida area, and it went exactly how many expected. Sweden struggled, while Canada and the USA battled hard against each other. (victorypress.org)

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.

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)

Trocheck’s upper-body injury not believed to be ‘anything serious’

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Vincent Trocheck scored a goal during Tuesday’s exhibition game versus Nashville, however the 24-year-old forward had his night limited by an upper-body injury.

Trocheck recorded 6:49 of ice time — the vast majority of that taking place on the power play — in the first period and missed the second and third periods.

Per reports, Trocheck was to have the injury re-evaluated today.

“He had an upper-body injury, I don’t think it’s anything serious,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner told 560 WQAM Sports Radio on Wednesday. “I expect him back for practice in the next couple days.”

Originally a third-round selection in the 2011 NHL Draft, Trocheck enjoyed a breakout season in 2015-16 with 25 goals and 53 points, emerging as one of Florida’s promising young forwards.

He followed that up with 23 goals and 54 points last season. That point total led the Panthers, a team that was decimated by injuries to a number of key players, particularly Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau.