Jason Brough

Stars’ Goligoski: ‘It’s not on the goalies’


DALLAS (AP) The Dallas Stars have two of the NHL’s top scorers with young All-Star players Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.

They also have two goaltenders under contract for two more seasons, which may not be nearly as beneficial.

Coach Lindy Ruff routinely switched between Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi during the regular season, when both goalies won 25 games. Things didn’t work out as well in the postseason as the top-seeded Stars were ousted in the second round.

Three times in the seven-game series against the St. Louis Blues, Ruff made mid-game goalie changes. That included Game 7, when Lehtonen was replaced after one period in a 6-1 loss – like Niemi after he started Game 3, another 6-1 loss.

“Obviously you don’t like seeing that. It’s bad on the whole team. It’s not on the goalies,” defenseman Alex Goligoski said. “We have world-class goalies. It’s not like they’re letting in tons of bad goals. It’s breakdowns, all kinds of things.”

Still, among the significant questions general manager Jim Nill and the Stars face this offseason is whether to stick with their two-goalie system. The combined contracts for the two Finnish goalies, both 32, have a salary cap hit of $10.4 million for the Stars – the most for any NHL team when it comes to goalies.

Former Stanley Cup winner Niemi was signed to a three-year deal as a free agent last summer. While the plan was to provide help for Lehtonen, there instead were often questions about who was the No. 1 goalie.

Lehtonen was much improved this postseason over the past, but still inconsistent. He followed an impressive series-extending victory in Game 6 against the Blues by allowing three goals in eight shots in the finale at home, and that doesn’t even count another puck in the net that got overturned because of a delayed offside call prompted by a replay challenge.

“Right now is not the time to assess blame. You got to look at the whole picture,” Ruff said. “You got to take the fact you didn’t score and you had some situations that you needed to score. … Now is the time to look at more of a bigger picture.”

The Stars have four defensemen who can become unrestricted free agents this summer: Goligoski, trade-deadline addition Kris Russell, Jason Demers and Jordie Benn, the older brother of the Stars captain and top scorer.

Benn, the 26-year-old captain, and Seguin will again be the centerpieces of the Stars offense. Among the other forwards under contract are veterans Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp, along with Ales Hemsky, Antoine Roussel and Cody Eakin, along with promising youngsters Radek Faksa and Mattias Janmark.

While the Stars had both goalies throughout the playoffs, they had only half of their young high-scoring duo.

Seguin played only 15 1/2 minutes in Game 2 of the opening series against Minnesota, his only action in the last two months. He missed the last 10 regular-season games after his left Achilles tendon was cut by a skate March 17. He then sustained what the team said was a different but related lower-body injury.

Benn had a NHL-high 15 points in the playoffs when he played his final game, after finishing second in the league with 89 points (41 goals, 48 assists) in the regular season. Even while missing 10 games, the 24-year-old Seguin was 14th in the league with 73 points (33 goals, 40 assists).

“They’re the future of the NHL. That’s what they are. They’re where the NHL is going,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Stars. “They’re really good. They missed their best player, or arguably one of their best two players. … We all recognize that. And they’re going to be a tough opponent for a number of years because of what they’ve got.”

Dallas was the NHL’s highest-scoring team during the regular season (3.23 goals per game) while winning its first division title since 2006, and averaged 3.5 goals in their six-game series over Minnesota. The Stars scored only 14 goals in the seven games against St. Louis, which won three games by at least three goals.

“A lot of disappointment,” Benn said. “I think it’s so hard right now because we have a good team and we had a shot to, I believe, win it this year, and we came up short.”

Related: Are the Stars contenders or pretenders?

Williams: To those who doubt the Caps, ‘Bring it on’


For the Washington Capitals, a big challenge going into next season will be to put this year’s massive playoff disappointment behind them and get properly motivated for another shot at the Stanley Cup.

Just two days after his team’s elimination, Justin Williams was already trying to get psyched up, and he’s using the Caps’ many “naysayers” for fuel.

“Listen, it was a failure,” the veteran winger said, per CSN Washington.

But he added, “I’m certainly not going to say that we can’t do it because we can, and sometimes you want people against you because then you have something united to work for, and we’re going to prove you wrong and tell all the naysayers right now that are saying that we can’t get it done, ‘Bring it on.'”

Williams, 34, is signed through next season, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent, meaning it’s possible he may only have one more chance with the Caps.

“I’m not going to beat around the bush,” he said. “I came here to try to help this team win and I didn’t do it. … So I consider it a failure from that aspect, but a positive that I know this team can do it.”

Related: The Caps’ Stanley Cup window won’t be open forever

A pending RFA, Scheifele wants ‘to be with Winnipeg for a long time’

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)
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One of the NHL’s top pending restricted free agents doesn’t know — and says he doesn’t really care — what’s happening with his contract negotiations.

Instead, Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele is focused on representing Canada at the world championships in Russia.

“I don’t even know what’s going on with (the negotiations),” Scheifele told the Winnipeg Sun. “That’s not my job. My job is to play hockey and I’m over here to win a gold medal. My agent can take care of the rest. Obviously my goal is to be with Winnipeg for a long time. We’ll see what all transpires this summer.”

Scheifele, 23, had an outstanding 2015-16, scoring 29 goals with 32 assists in 71 games. His growth is a big reason to be optimistic about the Jets’ future. (Another reason? The second overall pick they won in the draft lottery, with which they’re expected to get Finnish phenom Patrik Laine.)

As for Scheifele’s next contract, it remains to be seen if the Jets will push for a long-term pact, like the Panthers did with Aleksander Barkov, or if they’d prefer a bridge deal, like the Blue Jackets did with Boone Jenner.

The Jets have another notable pending RFA in defenseman Jacob Trouba, so no shortage of things on GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s plate this summer.

Related: Michigan star Kyle Connor turns pro, signs with Jets

With Stars loss to Blues, the Calgary Flames also lose

ST PAUL, MN - APRIL 20: (L-R) Jason Demers #4, goalie Antti Niemi #31 and Kris Russell #2 of the Dallas Stars celebrate a win against the Minnesota Wild of Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 20, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Stars defeated the Wild 3-2. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars weren’t the only disappointed team when the St. Louis Blues advanced to the Western Conference Final last night.

The Calgary Flames also lost something in the Blues’ victory, since part of the return they got for trading defenseman Kris Russell to Dallas at the deadline was dependent on how the Stars did in the postseason.

If the Stars had advanced to the conference final, the Flames would’ve received Dallas’ first-round pick in this summer’s draft. Instead, the Flames will have to settle for the 55th overall selection, in the latter stages of the second round.

The Stars’ first-round pick will be the 25th overall.

Russell, 29, can become a pending unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t re-sign with Dallas by July 1.

Related: What’s next for the Dallas Stars?

Another bank merger, another name change for Sabres arena

BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 26: Fans of the Buffalo Sabres pose for the camera as they cheer during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center on November 26, 2014 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres home arena is undergoing yet another name change, and will soon be referred to as KeyBank Center.

Sabres President Russ Brandon announced the pending change on Wednesday after federal regulators approved KeyBank’s merger with First Niagara Financial Group.

It’s the latest name change for the downtown arena that was first called Marine Midland Arena when it opened in 1996. The name has since been altered to keep up with a series of bank mergers and takeovers.

The arena eventually became the HSBC Arena in 2000, before becoming the First Niagara Center in 2011.