Joe Yerdon

St. Louis making plans just in case Pietrangelo isn’t signed

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Blues GM Doug Armstrong is confident he’ll get restricted free agent Alex Pietrangelo signed, but he can’t head into training camp without a backup plan.

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch reports the Blues are looking at veterans to bring into camp on a professional tryout agreement in case Pietrangelo isn’t signed soon. Armstrong says he’s just doing what’s best for the team.

“Our focus right now is on Alex, but there are players that do want to get into training camps,” Armstrong said. “We may have an opportunity to do that for someone if we so desire.”

One of those players could be Ryan Whitney, formerly of the Edmonton Oilers. TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.com say the Blues are eyeballing the eight-year veteran for a PTO.

He’s a puck-moving defenseman with a stronger offensive game than defensive which makes him like a discount version of Pietrangelo. That makes him ideal for depth and as a “just in case” option.

PHT Morning Skate: Lightning prospect Drouin ready for next step

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.

Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin comes into training camp with high hopes and he’s ready to get his NHL career off to a roaring start. (The Tampa Tribune)

Speaking of young guys ready to prove something this year, Boston’s Dougie Hamilton wants to do things a bit stronger this year after winding up in the press box for most of the playoffs last season. (CSNNE.com)

Derek Roy wants to deliver what’s been missing in St. Louis recently: Someone who can get their goal scorers the puck. (In The Slot)

Marc Staal is ready to return from an eye injury that nearly cost him his career. (Yahoo!)

The Flames have teamed up with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. (Your Alaska Link)

Finally, the Canucks want to know if prospect Jordan Subban, P.K.’s youngest brother, has a fake laugh. Hmm…. (Canucks twitter)

Nabokov wants in on Russian Olympic team

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Evgeni Nabokov wants back on the Russian Olympic team. He’s been part of their previous teams in 2006 and 2010 and he wants to be part of the 2014 team in his home country.

As NHL.com shares, Nabokov wants to show he can help get his country the gold medal they’ve been longing for and doesn’t like that he’s being put in the backseat behind the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov.

“I do not understand why everyone considers me a reserve player,” he said. “We have a coaching staff, and none of them has said anything about who will be the first goaltender and who will be the second or third. I am happy to be on the national team, and that is enough.”

If that’s all he wants, he may get his wish but the competition will be tough.

Bobrovsky is coming off a Vezina Trophy-winning season that saw him almost single-handedly lead the Blue Jackets to the playoffs. Varlamov has had his ups and downs in Colorado, but he’s had strong performances in recent years at the World Championships.

Meanwhile, Nabokov’s performance in the 2010 games was less-than helpful for his case and how he played against the Penguins in last season’s playoffs for the Islanders was not so hot either.

When you throw in the two KHL goalies who were invited to Team Russia’s camp, Vasily Koshechkin and Kostantin Barulin, things may not pan out at all for Nabokov.

Bruins sign GM Chiarelli to four-year extension

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There’s no point in fixing something that’s not broken and that’s just what the Bruins are doing.

The team announced they’ve signed general manager Peter Chiarelli to a four-year extension to stay with the organization through the 2017-18 season. He’ll also be the team’s Alternate Governor.

Since Chiarelli took over as GM of the Bruins back in 2006, they’ve made the playoffs in six straight seasons including winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, the team’s first since 1972. Getting a team to the postseason in six of your seven seasons at the helm sounds like a success to me.

He’s spent this summer finding ways to re-work the Bruins roster by shipping out Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley for Loui Eriksson and signing Jarome Iginla. His time in Boston has seen its share of ups (Cup win) and downs (Tim Thomas and Marc Savard for very different reasons) but the Bruins have yet to crumble under the drama. That says a lot for the job both he and coach Claude Julien have done there.

Chiarelli has done well enough in his job with the Bruins to earn a spot on Team Canada’s executive staff to choose the 2014 Olympic team serving under Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.

Pittsburgh’s defensive depth is staggering

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One area the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t lacking in is on defense.

That may sound surprising to some who watched the Islanders and Bruins score plenty of goals against Pittsburgh in the postseason, but when you look at the organizational depth on the blue line this is a team that doesn’t need much help. Take a look at what they’ve got headed into this season on the back line.

Kris Letang was a Norris Trophy finalist last season thanks to his offensive production. His defensive play has picked up in recent seasons and if he can cut out his penchant for taking retaliatory penalties, he could be even better. Paul Martin’s play last year showed that his first season in Pittsburgh was just one big slump as he was one of the Penguins’ most consistent players.

Matt Niskanen’s play improved to a point that helps make the James Neal-Alex Goligoski deal look even more lopsided. Brooks Orpik… Could’ve been better, but Rob Scuderi will jump in to help him carry the defensive load. The talent doesn’t stop there though.

Young guys like Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres will push for more ice time in Pittsburgh on their third pairing and Deryk Engelland showed he’s more than a fist-thrower. He has to do that because the skill coming up is strong.

Derrick Pouliot (2012 1st round) was part of Team Canada’s World Junior camp and was excellent last season in the WHL for Portland.

Brian Dumoulin (acquired in Jordan Staal deal), Olli Maatta (2012 first-round), Scott Harrington (2011 2nd round), and Philip Samuelsson (2009 2nd round) round out an exceptional group of kids, some of which will be knocking on the door in the AHL this year.

With this kind of depth, Pens GM Ray Shero was comfortable in moving Joe Morrow in the deal to get Brenden Morrow last season.  It’s also this kind of depth that led to rumors of Kris Letang possibly being moved before he agreed to a monster extension with the Pens.

Say what you will about Pittsburgh’s defense, but they’re not lacking in talent or options. That’s the kind of thing that should make Marc-Andre Fleury a happy guy.