Jason Brough


NHL GMs discuss evolution of the game


Meeting today in Florida, NHL general managers were asked to gaze into their crystal balls and imagine the league five or 10 years down the line.

It was a brainstorming session, pure and simple. No idea was too radical to propose.

The topics the GMs ended up discussing ranged from awarding three points for a win in regulation to making it illegal for players to slide to block a shot.

“You need an act of God to get a puck through from the point into where a goalie has to make a save,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.

It’s not clear if any idea gained much traction, or if there were really any new ideas. In 2008, then-Canadiens GM Bob Gainey proposed a rule that said players had to have at least one skate on the ice to block a shot. Obviously, that proposal didn’t go anywhere.

At the very least, it’s refreshing that GMs were asked to get creative and come up with ways to improve the game. Traditionalists may balk at some of the proposed ideas, but the action on the ice is constantly evolving. Sometimes, changes are warranted.

Tomorrow it’s expected the discussion will focus on the offside challenge and how the video review process in general can be sped up.

Pre-game reading: Who are the top college free agents?

— Up top, Henrik Borgstrom is a Florida Panthers prospect who’s currently ripping it up for the No. 1-ranked University of Denver. The 19-year-old forward, a first-round draft pick in 2016, has scored a number of spectacular goals for the Pioneers.

— Starting with Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, NHL.com has a list of the top 10 undrafted college free agents that will soon be able to sign with NHL teams. Aston-Reese is a 22-year-old forward who has 30 goals and 32 assists for the Huskies this season. (NHL.com)

Adam Clendening is none too pleased about coming out of the Rangers’ lineup tonight in Tampa. “I’m a little bit surprised, for sure. Just when I thought I was getting my chance and looking to take advantage of my opportunity because of the couple of injuries — that you never want to see, but happen — I had the game Saturday where I think the stat line looked worse than it actually was.” Clendening will be replaced by call-up Steven Kampfer. (New York Post)

— A profile of Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ 20-year-old superstar. Says Bobby Orr: “He’s one of those that comes along every once in a while.” And Orr should know, because he was one of those too. (Sports Illustrated)

— An interview with Golden Knights GM George McPhee, who signed the franchise’s first-ever player today. McPhee has already complete three mock expansion drafts. He called them “time-consuming and intense,” but necessary and useful too. “We’re pretty comfortable with where we are. We’re prepared to do it today if we had to, but we’ll keep working because things continue to change.” (National Post)

— The heart-warming story of 11-year-old Flames fan Olivia Lettich, whose new electronic glasses helped her watch a game on Sunday. “It’s super important because everyone else tells me what they see and sometimes I wish I could see it. These help a lot.” (Calgary Herald)

Enjoy the games!

With growth of Schultz, a ‘tough call’ looms for Penguins


Sunday against Buffalo, Justin Schultz picked up his 11th goal and 33rd assist of the season.

With 44 points, the 26-year-old trails only Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and Duncan Keith in the scoring race among NHL defensemen.

To say the least, that is some fine company to be keeping.

Schultz has seen his career turn on a dime since being traded to Pittsburgh from Edmonton last season. He won a Stanley Cup in June, and now he’s become a “priority” for the Penguins to re-sign this summer.

“I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t get traded,” Schultz told NHL.com recently. “Maybe I’m still there. My confidence was at an all-time low and I needed a change of scenery. I’ve got nothing against Edmonton at all. I enjoyed my time there. It was tough to get traded. I had a lot of good friends there, met a lot of people. But it was time for a change of scenery and it worked out well.”

Schultz’s play may also have changed the Penguins’ plans for the upcoming expansion draft. Obviously, they’re going to protect Kris Letang. And protecting Brian Dumoulin seems an obvious choice too. That means if Schultz is to be protected as well, they’d either have to trade Olli Maatta, leave Maatta exposed, or protect only four forwards (as opposed to seven).

“That’s a tough call,” GM Jim Rutherford said last month, per the Post-Gazette. “We have a bunch of good players at forward, and a bunch on defense. That’s something we won’t decide until after the year.”

Maatta has not played since Feb. 16 due to a hand injury. The 22-year-old has just one goal and six assists in 54 games this season.

A first-round draft pick in 2012, Maatta has struggled to build on the promise he showed as a rookie in 2013-14. He has a $4.1 million cap hit through 2021-22.

Related: The Penguins are playing Schultz to his strengths

A ‘good chance’ Hjalmarsson and Oduya play Thursday


The Chicago Blackhawks could have a new defensive pairing Thursday at home to Anaheim.

New for this season at least.

According to head coach Joel Quenneville, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have a “good chance” of playing against the Ducks.

Hjalmarsson has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, while Oduya (ankle) has yet to suit up for the ‘Hawks since being traded from Dallas.

The two veteran defensemen formed an effective shutdown pair when the ‘Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015.

“They work well together, and around the net they’re extremely capable,” Quenneville said, per NHL.com. “They kill penalties well together, and that familiarity should return quickly.”

“Hammer’s probably the top defensive player league. Any chance you get to play with someone like that, I think that’s a good thing,” Oduya said, per CSN Chicago. “You need to produce the results too. I don’t think you want to live in whatever you think you’ve done before. I think all of us want to move forward. You want to get better. I want to know the guys in the room and kind of fuse into the group as much as I can even though I’ve been here before. It’s going to be a little bit of a learning process, but I want it to be as quick as possible.”

If Quenneville does indeed reunite Hjalmarsson and Oduya, expect Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to form the top duo.

The question then becomes about the third pairing, where options include Brian Campbell, Michal Kempny, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Michal Rozsival.

Still too early to peg Stamkos return date


The Tampa Bay Lightning are going to need a great finish to make the playoffs, but it remains to be seen how much Steven Stamkos will be able to help.

Stamkos again skated with the Bolts this morning, but the captain was not part of line rushes and head coach Jon Cooper said it was too early to estimate his return date.

“We’re not even in a spot to sit here and throw a date on him,” Cooper said, per team beat writer Bryan Burns.

Stamkos (knee) has not played since Nov. 15. He only resumed skating last month.

Lately, the Lightning have been carried by Nikita Kucherov, who was named the NHL’s first star of the week today, and by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped 31 of 32 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 OT victory in Buffalo.

Three points back of the Islanders for the second wild-card spot, and with Toronto and Florida in between, it’s estimated the Lightning will need to go around 11-5-2 in their remaining 18 games to give themselves a chance at making the playoffs.

Tampa Bay hosts the Rangers tonight, the Wild Thursday, and in a big game Saturday, the Panthers pay a visit to Amalie Arena.