James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Flyers re-sign Raffl to reported three-year, $7.05M extension


Trade deadline talk was interrupted, at least briefly, with a wave of bad puns.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed winger Michael Raffl to a three-year contract extension on Sunday, allowing people to make unimaginative raffle jokes.

(OK, some of them were probably pretty solid. Not enough of them are David Bowie related, however.)

The contract totals $7.05 million, which entails a $2.35 million cap hit, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

With this addition, the Flyers have $62.97 million in cap space devoted to 17 players, according to Cap Friendly’s numbers.

Of course, that number could go down if the Flyers, ugh, raffle off a few players during the trade deadline.

Not much progress between Bruins, Eriksson (so stay tuned)


There are plenty of other trade deadline scenarios to follow,* yet the situation between Loui Eriksson and the Boston Bruins is especially captivating.

One obvious reason is that Eriksson ranks among the best players available and may just be the gem of the potential trade targets list as of today.

The other plays into the drama: it seems like this scenario features quite a few twists and turns. The drama may ratchet up a notch on Sunday, too.

TSN’s Darren Dreger painted a dire picture for Bruins fans hoping that Eriksson sticks around:



That’s not to say that every report indicates a lack of any progress:

If you’re hoping that Eriksson will spoil the surprise … well, you’re out of luck.

Of course, sometimes the off-the-ice stuff feels like just as much of a game. With that in mind, there might just be some “momentum shifts” today, so keep your eyes peeled.

* – Two examples: Dan Hamhuis and the Canucks along with Brandon Pirri‘s future in Florida …

How the Penguins aim to fix Justin Schultz


Remember when Justin Schultz came into the NHL riding tidal waves of hype?

The Edmonton Oilers went all-out in courting him; even Wayne Gretzky called him to cajole Schultz into joining the cause.

The Oilers gave him ample opportunities to make things right, pointing out his Norris potential and giving him more power play time than anyone else.

After even Schultz acknowledged recent struggles, the Oilers sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a third-round pick, and many jeered at an offensive defenseman whose stats have often been disappointing.

So, the question is: how are the Penguins going to approach the 25-year-old defenseman who often receives derisive jokes about not being a defenseman?

If nothing else, Schultz told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he’s excited to join the Penguins, and how to find/rekindle his game.

“Really excited. Really excited to come to Pittsburgh. I think it will suit my game well,” Schultz said. “I got to the NHL by being a good offensive defenseman. That maybe got away from me a little bit this year. Hopefully, I’ll get it back and not be a liability defensively but want the puck and go.”

GM Jim Rutherford believes that a change of scenery “is going to be good,” but TSN’s Darren Dreger laid out more specifics about how the team actually aims to get the most out of Schultz.

Gonchar may relate to at least some of what Schultz is going through as an offensive defenseman.

Perhaps Schultz will also benefit merely from being less of a go-to guy with the Penguins, as Kris Letang will continue to shoulder far more of the scoring expectations.

Maybe the biggest factor of all is motivation: as a pending free agent, Schultz has a lot of money to gain in nailing this opportunity.

Fight video: Matt Martin battles Brandon Bollig twice


Enforcers are scarce these days, so it’s pretty rare to see the same guys fight twice.

That happened during the New York Islanders’ eventual 2-1 overtime win against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, as Matt Martin and Brandon Bollig engaged in two bouts.

You can watch the first one above and the second below.

According to Hockey Fights’ listings, the two hadn’t fought before. They might just start a rivalry at this rate.

Lundqvist reminds us how special his career has been in win vs. Blues


ST. LOUIS (AP) New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist celebrated a milestone night in style.

Chris Kreider and Tanner Glass scored and Lundqvist made 35 saves as the New York Rangers beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 on Thursday night.

Lundqvist got his 30th victory of the season, joining Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy as the only goalies in NHL history to have at least 30 wins in 10 different seasons.

“Growing up, those guys were guys I was watching and now I’m up there with wins,” Lundqvist said. “To me, it’s just a sign of I’ve been given a chance for a lot of years. I’ve been lucky to play with a lot of good players and been able to have a competitive team every year.”

Lundqvist also passed Mike Richter as the team’s all-time regular season saves leader with stop on Vladimir Tarasenko‘s wrist shot late in the first period.

“Every game you know that you’re going to get his best effort and you’re going to get great preparation and he’s going to give you a chance to win and that’s what you want from your goaltender,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

Fittingly, Lundqvist’s save on Scottie Upshall‘s breakaway led to the game-winning goal. Seconds after the pad save, Oscar Lindberg found Kreider in the slot to make it 2-1 at 4:18 of the third period.

“That’s a big moment and gives us a lot of confidence,” Lundqvist said. “I think they’re a heavy team, they’re a good team and I thought we did a really good job of defending.”

Upshall thought Lundqvist was going into a butterfly on the breakaway so he tried to beat him high.

“Those are plays in the game that are momentum changers,” Upshall said. “That play ends up being the play of the game and when you are on the other side of that it’s tough.”

Kreider gave Lindberg the credit for the game-winner.

“It was an effort play,” Kreider said. “He had a guy on his back basically the entire way up the ice, got dragged down and is still able to make the play.”

Glass put the Rangers up 1-0 with 6:46 to go in the first after tipping a shot by Dan Girardi from the point over Jake Allen‘s right shoulder. It was Glass’ second goal of the season and first in 29 games.

Blues forward Jori Lehtera was hit in the face with the puck with just over a minute left in the first and didn’t return.

Brouwer’s power-play goal for the Blues with a little more than 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the second tied the game at 1-1. It came 55 seconds after Girardi received a double-minor for high-sticking Tarasenko.

Brouwer’s goal extended the Blues’ power-play scoring streak at home to six games, the longest streak for St. Louis since a six-game span from Dec. 31, 2005, to Jan. 26, 2006.

Lundqvist kept the game tied with several tough saves, including gloving Colton Parayko‘s wrist shot in the second period and stopping Dmitrij Jaskin on a point-blank chance early in the third.

“We had an empty net three times in the second period and didn’t bear down,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You only get so many cracks at it. We’ve got to see change here.”

Allen made 22 saves in his first start since suffering a lower-body injury on Jan. 8.

The Rangers now have a four-game points streak against the Blues (3-0-1) and 14 of the last 17 meetings between the teams have been decided by two goals or fewer.

“I thought the third period was our best tonight,” Vigneault said. “We made a couple of mistakes early there, a couple of turnovers that led to grade `A’ chances, but we were able to make a couple of grade `A’ saves and we were able to counter.”

NOTES: Blues F Ryan Reaves served the first of a three-game suspension for a hit on San Jose’s Matt Tennyson on Monday. … Blues placed G Brian Elliott (lower body) on long-term injured reserve Tuesday and recalled G Pheonix Copley and F Ty Rattie from Chicago of the AHL. … Rangers assigned D Brady Skjei to Hartford of the AHL on Wednesday. … D Marc Staal (lower body) and D Ryan McDonagh (jaw contusion/neck spasms) returned to the Rangers’ lineup.