Cam Tucker

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Senators are getting a bargain now, but keep an eye on that Erik Karlsson contract situation

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This post is part of Senators Day on PHT…

Erik Karlsson wasn’t playing at nearly 100 per cent during the Stanley Cup playoffs — and he was still by far Ottawa’s best player in their run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Not only was he Ottawa’s best player, he was often the best player on the ice between the Senators and their opponents, despite playing through a foot injury. That landed him a vote for the Conn Smythe, despite the fact his club came oh-so-close but ultimately didn’t make it to the Stanley Cup Final.

While brilliant in the playoffs, he paid quite a price.

The surgery on his injured left foot took place in the middle of June and requires a four-month recovery. The Senators remain hopeful that their best player will be ready for the beginning of the regular season in October.

While Karlsson gets plenty of accolades for the skill he possesses and his ability to log big minutes during regular season and playoffs — making it look easy at times, too — he may not get enough credit for just how durable he’s been over the last four years.

He had a string of three consecutive seasons in which he played the full 82-game schedule. That streak was interrupted in March at 324 consecutive games played due to his injury suffered right before the playoffs.

As Mark Stone aptly put it at the time: “He’s the best defenceman in the world. If you take him out of your lineup, it’s obviously a huge blow.”

The Senators have a number of key contributors like Craig Anderson in goal and Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman — among others — up front. But the success of this team hinges greatly on Karlsson being in the lineup and healthy enough to play. Even on one healthy foot, he showed he was still capable of carrying Ottawa, but the Senators will gladly take him at 100 per cent health in two months time.

Off the ice, it’s worth mentioning that Karlsson has only two years remaining on his contract before he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency. At a $6.5 million cap hit, you could argue that for what Karlsson provides them every game — not just the points (71 in 77 games this past season) but being able to play almost 27 minutes per game on average — Ottawa is getting a bargain on that seven-year contract right now.

Karlsson is a premier defenseman at the age of 27, and yet his $7 million salary for next season is at the same level as Jeff Petry, Alex Pietrangelo and Johnny Boychuk, per CapFriendly. For Karlsson, that number does bump up to $7.5 million in the final year of his contract.

That is, of course, going to change with his next deal.

The Senators have benefited greatly from having one of the game’s best players on their blue line. He showed that once again in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s won the Norris Trophy twice and has four nominations in total.

And it won’t be long before the Senators will have to pay accordingly in order to keep Karlsson in Ottawa.

Looking to make the leap: Thomas Chabot

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This post is part of Senators Day on PHT…

Thomas Chabot spent a brief time in the NHL last season, before he was reassigned to junior in November.

His debut included just over seven minutes of ice time against the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 18, and he was on the ice for two goals against. After his brief time in Ottawa, the 2015 first-round pick had another strong year in junior with the Saint John Sea Dogs, with 45 points in 34 games during the regular season and 23 points in 18 playoff games.

He was most impressive, however, for Team Canada at the World Juniors. His puck-moving abilities were instrumental in helping lead Canada’s offensive attack and he finished the tournament with four goals and 10 points in seven games.

It was just another part of a productive year from the left-shooting blue liner, who turned 20 years old in January.

Now, the Senators will look for Chabot to take another step in his development. He’s eligible for both the NHL and AHL this season.

Not including Chabot, Ottawa currently has seven defensemen signed for next season, with $19.85 million committed to that position, per CapFriendly. The club wanted to expose Dion Phaneuf in the expansion draft but he ultimately didn’t waive his no-movement clause. Instead, the Senators were left to expose Marc Methot, who was not only selected by Vegas but then traded to Dallas.

During the period of time in which Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was contemplating asking Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause, he spoke highly of Chabot, saying he could challenge for a roster spot when training camp opens.

He previously stated that Chabot was, “…arguably the best defenceman outside the NHL right now,” according to TSN in April, when the injury-plagued Senators were looking into calling up Chabot.

An offseason signing that may impact Chabot’s situation is the addition of veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya at one year for $1 million.

“We know, through the course of last year, that defencemen are always at a premium,” Dorion told the Ottawa Citizen recently.

“Does this mean (Chabot) starts in Belleville? We don’t know. There’s a chance we could start with eight defencemen or seven defencemen.”

It’s Florida Panthers day at PHT

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The Florida Panthers entered last season with high expectations, given their playoff appearance in 2016 and a busy summer of acquisitions and signings that followed.

But they were unable to live up to those expectations, as injuries plagued them throughout the season, and they ultimately fell short of the postseason, finishing 14 points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

There has been significant change both on and off the ice for the Panthers since April.

They lost Jonathan Marchessault, who had a breakout 2016-17 campaign but was surprisingly left unprotected in the expansion draft, to Vegas. They sent Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights in a trade. The days of Jaromir Jagr in a Panthers uniform appear to be over. Thomas Vanek went to the open market and is still unsigned.

They have added Radim Vrbata to their group of forwards and Evgeni Dadonov has returned from the KHL, where he lit it up with St. Petersburg SKA. It appears the Panthers have big plans for him.

The biggest changes, though, came in the coaching and management departments.

Dale Tallon is back in the general manager’s role, while the club introduced Bob Boughner as its new head coach. Boughner spent the last two years as an assistant with San Jose, and has head coaching experience from his time with Windsor in the the Ontario Hockey League.

Today at PHT we’ll look into the key storylines surrounding the Panthers with training camp approaching.

 

Stepan feels ‘like a young guy,’ but will take leadership role with Coyotes

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The Arizona Coyotes have big plans for Derek Stepan — at least while prospects like Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller continue to develop — as the club’s No. 1 center next season.

He’ll begin training camp next month with a Coyotes team that has made some big moves this summer, but is still very young. How young? Stepan is 27 years old, with 515 career regular season games played, and he’s among the oldest forwards in Arizona.

Ten players on their roster are 24 years of age or younger, according to CapFriendly.

Given Stepan’s experience, especially on a playoff team in a big market like New York, is likely valued with an impressionable group of forwards, as well.

“I still feel like a young guy,” Stepan told NHL.com.

“But now I look at the lineup and I think there’s only going to be one guy that’s older than me up front (forward Jamie McGinn, 28), and maybe two or three guys on the back end (defensemen Zbynek Michalek, 34; Alex Goligoski, 32; Niklas Hjalmarsson, 30). It’s definitely a new experience, but something that certainly doesn’t worry me. I’ve been in a leadership role in New York and I’ll just transfer into a new one in Arizona. I couldn’t be more excited.”

The previous leader in their locker room, Shane Doan, was not brought back and is currently a free agent. It’s been reported that Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be named as the new Coyotes captain.

Predators prospect Farrance goes end-to-end for beauty goal at Summer Showcase

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So, how about some hockey highlights in August?

Nashville Predators prospect defenseman  David Farrance went end to end, splitting the Finnish defense to score a beauty on Friday, as Team USA continued its World Junior Summer Showcase with a 4-3 win.

That goal, with 6:10 remaining in the third period, counted as the winner. The Predators selected Farrance in the third round, 92nd overall this year. He’s slated to attend Boston University this upcoming season.

Yes, it’s August. But that’s a terrific goal.