James O'Brien

Arizona Coyotes v St Louis Blues
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Advantage Elliott? Back spasms sideline Jake Allen

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It’s way, way too early to get too worried or excited about anything in training camps.

That doesn’t mean that the pre-season exists in a bubble, so when someone gets hurt, the situations should be monitored. The St. Louis Blues are doing just that with Jake Allen, who’s dealing with back spasms, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports.

Again, Blues fans shouldn’t freak out; Ken Hitchcock said he’ll “keep an eye on” Allen.

St. Louis is also in a solid position if back issues become a persistent headache for their hopeful-goalie-of-the-future. Brian Elliott sporadically distinguishes himself as a legit No. 1 goalie, albeit not frequently enough to really earn total trust from management.

Whether it’s been Jaroslav Halak or Ryan Miller or now Allen, Elliott seems constantly on the verge of being phased out.

This seems like a good time to ask this question, actually: which goalie would the Blues be better off leaning toward?

Report: Oilers, Klefbom zero in on seven-year deal

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The Edmonton Oilers and defenseman Oscar Klefbom are working on a seven-year extension that could be cemented in the next day or two, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reports.

Klefbom, 22, is currently in the final year of a deal that carries a $894K cap hit. The extension would be worth “north of $4 million per season,” according to Rishaug.

If this comes to fruition, the Oilers’ defensive future would revolve around Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse and, to some extent, Mark Fayne.

Klefbom has 77 NHL games under his belt, including 60 with the Oilers in 2014-15. He was the 19th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft.

Oilers Nation discussed the pros and cons of various Klefbom extension scenarios, leaning toward a lengthier deal.

In (Peter) Chiarelli’s shoes, I’d probably wait until November, and if Klefbom continues as he’s started I’d sign him for as long as possible. Cap pressures are already a bit of a concern, and two-to-three years from now they could be really bad; if this team develops as hoped, having Klefbom signed long-term at a reasonable dollar figure could go a long way towards keeping Edmonton’s core together.

Keep in mind that a deal could fall through or be put on hold for a bit.

Rangers coach: Kreider could become elite

Chris Kreider
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The New York Rangers are going to need guys like Chris Kreider to step up if they hope to take another swing at a Stanley Cup run.

With the retirement of Martin St. Louis and trade that sent Carl Hagelin away – among other moves – the spotlight is set to shine brighter on Kreider and a few others (such as Derek Stepan and his big, new contract).

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault thinks Kreider has what it takes, as he told reporters including Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record.

“I believe he can become an elite player in the league,” Vigneault said. “He’s got everything to become a dominant power forward. It’s his time to shine now, be a go-to guy on this team.”

Wow, that’s some strong praise.

The 24-year-old is going great lengths to get better. Back in June, he basically told the New York Post that he won’t leave a stone un-turned.

“I’m going to reach out to people and I have already reached out to people who I believe can help me improve and get to the level I want to reach,” Kreider said. “I’m going to work with a skills coach, I’m going to continue to work with my conditioning and skating instructor, I’m probably going to take some boxing lessons and I’m going to consult with a sports psychologist.”

“Whatever resources are there, I’m going to use.”

As of this moment, Kreider is set to become an RFA after next season. It’s up to him to generate a huge upgrade from his current cap hit of $2.475 million.

If nothing else, it seems clear that Vigneault will give him every chance to wring the maximum amount of cash out of this contract year (and help his team along the way).

Isles give Zidlicky a one-year deal

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The New York Islanders inked offensive defenseman Marek Zidlicky to a one-year contract on Friday.

The Isles didn’t confirm this, but multiple reporters place the value of the deal at $1.5 million.

He has some added incentive to perform well, too, apparently. HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the seasoned veteran could earn bonuses:

That affordable contract leaves New York with some flexibility going forward; Hockey’s Cap pegs their space at $6.6 million after Zidlicky’s contract.

No one will confuse Zidlicky, 38, with a Norris Trophy candidate. Still, he has 783 regular season games and 44 playoff contests under his belt.

Obviously, at his age, he’s likely best off as a power-play specialist who receives protected minutes.

The Islanders serve as a nice landing spot for Zidlicky, as he can more or less transition into Lubomir Visnovsky’s vacated role.

Deep Wild D could mean fewer minutes for Suter

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Even Ryan Suter‘s critics must wonder: do his stats dip because of his resounding workload?

The 2015-16 season may provide that answer, at least based on the beginning of Minnesota Wild training camp.

Head coach Mike Yeo plans on playing Suter about 24-26 minutes per game, which is a significant drop from his run of playing almost half of every contest, as the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff notes.

A few days ago, Yeo gave Suter the vote of confidence in a Q & A with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, although his praise also gives the impression there’s room for improvement.

“He had statistically maybe not his best year, but he did a lot of really good things,” Yeo said. “Second half of the year we were the best team in the league, and he was our leader on the back end. I don’t think he deserves to beat himself up, especially given the circumstances of the passing of his father and the mumps. He’s motivated, he’s excited to have a good year.”

There’s no response from Suter just yet, but if he feels the same way as fellow workhorse Drew Doughty, then he’s eating hockey Brussels Sprouts on Friday:

This is less about Suter being put in timeout and more about other defensemen joining “the grown-up table.” Just ponder Minnesota’s impressive depth:

Mathew Dumba said he “isn’t taking anything for granted,” and with good reason. Despite receiving plenty of offers, Mike Reilly isn’t necessarily guaranteed a spot on the team heading into next season.

Suter probably wants to be on the ice as much as possible, yet this situation bodes well for the Wild overall. Perhaps we’ll even see the end of (some) “overrated” debates in the process?