James O'Brien

Nashville Predators v Washington Capitals

Quick hits: Caps give Bourque two-year, two-way deal

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Let’s take a look at some of the smaller signings around the league in quick-hit form:

The franchise is familiar with the forward (pictured), as he appeared in 13 of his 51 career NHL games with Washington. Bourque last appeared at the NHL level in 2012-13, when he generated four points in 18 games with the Boston Bruins. He had a productive AHL season in 2014-15, generating 66 points in 73 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The Capitals originally drafted Bourque, 29, with the 33rd pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

The 27-year-old was drafted in the first round (21st overall) by the New York Rangers in 2006. Like Bourque, the defenseman hasn’t played in an NHL game since 2012-13, but both players have been productive in the AHL.

Cundari, 25, has eight career NHL games under his belt, all with the Calgary Flames. Those appearances were spread out as four contests in 2013-14 and four in 2012-13. Like the other guys on this list, he provides his team with emergency injury depth and a solid AHL hand, as the blueliner managed 29 points in 50 games with the Adirondack Flames last season.

Is it too early to get excited about Crosby vs. Ovechkin again?

150703_SidneyCrosbyAlexOvechkin
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Yes, we’ve been in this spot before.

For all the star power that the NHL boasts outside of Pittsburgh and Washington, it’s difficult to resist the siren call of a spike in the Sidney Crosby – Alex Ovechkin rivalry. It’s perfectly plausible that we’ll never get a sequel to that memorable 2009 playoff series.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s be honest: it’s been a while since the Penguins and Capitals were in a better position collectively to pull this off.

Serious firepower

It’s still strange to picture Phil Kessel in a Penguins uniform, firing home well-placed passes from Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin … but would it be that outrageous to imagine Kessel chasing Ovechkin in the Maurice Richard race now? As excited as Crosby and Malkin seem to be about the acquisition, Kessel and hockey fans should be especially thrilled.

Here’s the wrinkle that makes things even more fun: while the Penguins added the biggest name, Washington’s moves likely provide the Capitals with a deeper array of weapons.

Beyond the obvious in Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps now combine seasoned newcomers (Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie) with promising youngsters (Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky) to form a frightening forward group.

Hockey’s a team sport, and Crosby – Ovechkin can only be so riveting on their own … so how about Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Kris Letang vs. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Williams, Oshie and Washington’s bevvy of pricey blueliners? Yeah, that sounds like appointment viewing.

While they’re still young

NHL TV Awards Show
via Getty Images

As strange as it sounds, the window might be closing on this rivalry, at least as a true showcase of two players who are seriously considered two of the best alive.*

Ovechkin will turn 30 on Sept. 17, and his hair is already looking a little grayer these days. Crosby turns 28 in August and people are already wondering if he’s starting to slow down.

No, the Penguins and Capitals haven’t totally mortgaged their futures this summer, yet the complexion of each franchise changed in some resounding ways in the past few days. You never know what might happen – we’ve been fooled before – but it’s tough not to picture an epic 2016 playoff series between these two players (and teams).

If nothing else, it’s fun to think about.

* – One could quibble about where the two rank among the elite, but they’re at least up there, right?

Senators hire André Tourigny as an assistant coach

Los Angeles Kings v Colorado Avalanche

The Ottawa Senators announced that André Tourigny was hired as an assistant head coach on Thursday.

Tourigny (pictured to Patrick Roy’s left) was with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014-15 and 2013-14. He resigned in May, with the reasoning be stated that he was pursuing a head coaching gig. Instead, he’ll serve as Dave Cameron’s assistant.

The Denver Post postulated that Tourigny wasn’t to blame for the Avs’ oft-mentioned possession issues, yet it’s not exactly the greatest calling card, either. That said, he had a lot of success at the QMJHL level and must have made an impression on Cameron while coaching Team Canada at multiple World Junior Championships.

For more on Tourigny, check out the Senators’ release.

PHT Morning Skate: Columnist says Kings should part with Voynov

Slava Voynov
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times believes that the Kings should either trade Slava Voynov or terminate his contract, regardless of how everything ultimately shakes out with the league and law enforcement. (Los Angeles Times)

Speaking of departing Kings, The Royal Half bids Justin Williams a fond farewell. (The Royal Half)

Paul Martin’s heartfelt goodbye letter to the Pittsburgh Penguins (and fans) is a great read. It also might leave you yelling “Spumoni!” the next time you see Martin hemmed in his own zone. (Players’ Tribune)

How much better is Edmonton’s defense, really? (Oilers Nation)

Looking back at Martin St. Louis’ career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Steve Dangle views Phil Kessel’s time in Toronto as “an era wasted.” (Warning: you might want to turn your volume down before watching this.)

Speaking of Kessel, ouch:

Here’s who’s left after Day 1 of free agency

st.louis
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Well, the first day of NHL free agency is over, and some big names were crossed off the board (generally for surprisingly reasonable prices). Even so, there are quite a few significant players still looking for a new contract as of July 2.

Let’s take a look at some of the most noteworthy parties who are still looking for a dance partner.

Martin St. Louis (pictured) – At 40, the pint-sized winger is almost certainly limited to a short-term (probably one-year) deal. His production plummeted in 2014-15, so he likely relates to the likes of Justin Williams in not having a great contract year. Perhaps he’ll end up with a short, cheap deal that will be comparable to that of former teammate Brad Richards? Retirement is always a possibility, too.

Joel Ward – This has not been a great start for players who market themselves as “clutch guys.” Ward doesn’t believe in clutch, yet people who may fall under that perceived category – Antoine Vermette and Williams – either grabbed the same amount of money or less than they made before.

Seriously, Day 1 was weird.

Johnny Oduya – A veteran defenseman with a lot of desirable qualities, although he doesn’t possess the sort of offensive panache as someone like Mike Green. One would assume that his agent would try to use Francois Beauchemin (three years, $13.5 million) and Paul Martin (four years, $19.4 million) as comparables.

Cody Franson – How much did the trade to Nashville hurt his bargaining power? Still, he’s just 27 and already has two 30+ point seasons to his name (plus his possession numbers are solid). Plenty of teams could use defense, yet as you can see from this list, other quality choices might undercut his value a bit.

Christian Ehrhoff – Speaking of rough contract years, Ehrhoff’s was pretty much a disaster. Could he be a nice bargain? Perhaps he’ll opt for another one-year deal to drive up the price of a future contract …

Eric Fehr – He scored 19 goals this season and peaked with 21 in 2009-10. His only sabbatical from Washington (2011-12 with Winnipeg) went poorly, yet he could be a great sneaky pickup, perhaps for a contender?

Alexander Semin – One of the great mysteries of the market. He fits a theme of fading free agents: the once-terrifying sniper’s either like Dany Heatley in 2015 (done) or a resounding reclamation project.

Chris Stewart – Perennially disappointing, yet he almost scored 30 goals once and could be useful at the right price (and in the right situation).

Lubomir Visnovsky – As injury-prone as ever, yet his offensive skills could make him a nice depth find.

Marek Zidlicky – He is what he is: an aging and flawed blueliner who can still be a scoring asset.

***

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it represents some of the bigger remaining names. Which player(s) should your team swipe?