Mike Halford

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Report: Jackets have deal in place with Vegas to avoid Hartnell headache

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Last month, we wrote about how Columbus’ expansion draft plan hinged largely on one player — Scott Hartnell.

Now, it looks like the Jackets might’ve finagled their way around it.

From the Dispatch:

Speculation is that the Blue Jackets already have a deal in place with Vegas, that the sides have agreed to some form of mutual back-scratching that will steer the Golden Knights toward taking a player on their roster who will cause only a minor wince.

The Jackets will send Vegas a prospect and/or a draft pick to take player “A” instead of player “B,” and Vegas will agree to future considerations to make the deal conform to NHL guidelines.

Such a move would prevent Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen from having a potentially awkward conversation with Hartnell.

The veteran forward, who was made a healthy scratch in the playoffs, just wrapped the fourth of a six-year, $28.5 million deal. That contract carries a $4.75M cap hit and, more importantly, a no-movement clause.

That NMC means Columbus is required to protect Hartnell for expansion purposes.

If Hartnell is protected, the club risks losing one of Josh Anderson, Matt Calvert or William Karlsson. Of the three, Anderson would appear the most likely to be Vegas-bound — the 23-year-old is coming off a breakout campaign, in which he scored 17 goals and emerged as a big, fast and physically imposing power forward.

Unless, of course, Columbus has a deal in which Vegas wouldn’t take Anderson. The club would then avoid the risk of causing friction with Hartnell, and still retain a good young asset.

Columbus has until Monday to ask Hartnell to waive his NMC.

Cogliano: No extension talks with Ducks, expansion draft ‘could be weird’

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Andrew Cogliano‘s in a bit of an odd position with the expansion draft just days away.

And he knows it.

“It could be weird,” Cogliano said of his situation, per the O.C. Register. “I haven’t talked to Bob [Murray, Ducks GM] and I don’t think he’s said anything on that.”

Cogliano, who turns 30 this week, has one year left on a four-year, $12 million deal with a $3 million average annual cap hit. It’s a decent value figure for a guy that never misses games — 786 in a row, the NHL’s longest active ironman streak — scores fairly consistently, and is regarded as a good defensive forward.

Those reasons are why Anaheim would probably like to keep him.

But it might not be feasible.

Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs and thereby require protection. What’s more, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

Then there’s the back end, where the club has a myriad of assets.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, the blue line will definitely be worth watching. Hampus Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson. So Murray could go with eight skaters, regardless of position.

Whatever the case, the possibility of Cogliano being exposed is out there. It’s also somewhat telling he’s had no discussions with Murray about a contract extension.

Ellis skates, but status still unclear for Game 6

NASHVILLE — Will he or won’t he?

That’s the big question surrounding Ryan Ellis‘ playing status for tonight’s Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the first time Nashville’s faced elimination this postseason.

Ellis left a blowout Game 5 loss Thursday with an undisclosed injury in the second period. On Sunday morning, he skated individually prior to his teammates taking the ice. It didn’t look as though he could put much power on his shot, and he didn’t stick around for the club’s optional skate.

Whether he goes or not is truly up in the air. Opinions were mixed among his teammates, though fellow blueliner Matt Irwin said the Preds “fully expect” Ellis to play.

If Ellis can’t go, Anthony Bitetto or Brad Hunt would draw into the lineup. Bitetto’s played 27 and 28 games for Nashville in each of the last two seasons, spending the majority of his time in AHL Milwaukee. He hasn’t played this postseason.

Hunt, who also has yet to dress these playoffs, has bounced around over the last few years, playing in Edmonton and St. Louis before landing with Nashville. The Preds claimed him off waivers in January, and he proceeded to play in three games.

Fellow blueliner Roman Josi spoke highly of both options.

“Every time [Bitetto and Hunt] have stepped in, they’ve done a great job,” Josi said. “They’ve been working hard the whole playoffs, and they’ve been skating a lot. We have a lot of confidence in those two guys.”

Despite that glowing review, there’s no sugarcoating the potential loss of Ellis. It would be a big blow, and the domino effect could be severe. Ellis and Josi have spent much of this series against the Sidney Crosby line, so it would put serious pressure on Preds head coach Peter Laviolette to devise new pairings — or, perhaps, just move Irwin up to play alongside Josi.

“Matt has been terrific. He’s moved around the lineup,” Laviolette explained. “Back when we were coming off of November and we went into December and half of January there, we had different defensemen going out for different reasons, and Matt was excellent at moving up.”

On Rinne, his road struggles, and the Luongo dynamic

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NASHVILLE — The statistical splits are eye-popping, and hard to ignore.

Pekka Rinne at home during the Stanley Cup Final: 2-0, .962 save percentage, 1.00 GAA.

Rinne on the road: 0-3, .756 save percentage, 5.40 GAA.

It’s as if two different goalies show up at the rinks.The good one makes his appearances at Bridgestone Arena. The bad one surfaces at PPG Paints.

But to hear Rinne’s teammates and coach explain it, there’s no such thing as Home Pekka or Road Pekka.

“He’s the same every day,” head coach Peter Laviolette said on Saturday, ahead of tomorrow’s Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena. “He works hard every day. His habits seem to be the same, his demeanor seems the same to me.

“We’ve got to do a better job in front of him. You go back and you watch the game and the way it was played, and we made mistakes in front of him. There are things that we can do to support our goaltender better.”

The Preds were poor in Game 5, no doubt. Sidney Crosby stamped his authority just seconds in, knifing through the Nashville defense to ring the post on a backhand chance, drawing a penalty in the process. The Pens converted with the man advantage, the first of three goals scored on Rinne on just nine shots.

After that, he was done.

Laviolette parked Rinne in favor of Juuse Saros, a move that might pay off in the long run. Just ask Alain Vigneault and Roberto Luongo.

Back in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Vancouver’s head coach infamously kept his No. 1 netminder in for all eight goals in an 8-1 blowout at TD Garden in Game 3.

More, from NHL.com:

“Alain asked me with eight minutes left and I said I wanted to stay in,” Luongo answered while standing in front of a huge media scrum in a dwarfed visitor’s dressing room at TD Garden. “I didn’t really want to leave the crease.”
 
Vigneault said the timing was slightly different, that he actually confronted Luongo about coming out after Jannik Hansen scored to bust Tim Thomas’ shutout in the other crease with 6:07 remaining. Nevertheless, he confirmed Luongo’s answer.
 
“He said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out,’ so that’s what I did,” Vigneault said.

That decision was arguably Vigneault’s most polarizing during his time in Vancouver. It’s been argued Luongo was mentally frayed following the incident, to the point where playing at TD Garden was in his head.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it.

Luongo was ventilated in his next two games in Boston, including a pivotal Game 6 in which the Canucks had their first chance to win the series. He was hooked less than nine minutes in, after allowing three goals on eight shots.

All told, Luongo finished the Cup Final with an 0-3 record, .773 save percentage and 8.05 GAA in Boston.

Rinne talked about the psychology of getting pulled from Game 5. Remember, the decision to go to Saros wasn’t a layup for Laviolette. Nashville trailed 3-0 in Game 1 too, but rallied — with Rinne in goal — to even things up.

“You’re not happy, obviously, but I never take it personally,” Rinne said. “It’s not about me, it’s all about us. I try not to take it personally, and [think] the reasoning behind it is it tries to wake up the team. If I’m not getting the job done, we put the other guy in. And we have a great young goalie in Juuse Saros.

“I was angry after the first period, but that’s just the nature of being a competitive guy.”

Combined, all of this — the home-road thing, the hook in Game 5, the Bridgestone effect — makes for a fascinating situation heading into Sunday’s tilt.

Because now, everybody’s watching to see which Pekka shows up.

Williams meets with Caps GM, will meet again

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Perhaps Justin Williams‘ return to Washington is more likely than first thought.

Williams, an unrestricted free agent come July 1, looked like he’d head to market after the Caps crashed out of the playoffs. He turns 36 this fall and, given GM Brian MacLellan has a number of other important signings this summer, many though bringing Williams back would be difficult.

But maybe not.

Per CSN Mid-Atlantic, Williams has already met with MacLellan this offseason, and the pair will soon meet again.

The timing of these meetings is curious. Following the aforementioned playoff exit, Williams said he’d like to be back with the Caps but suggested any sort of negotiation would happen well down the road.

“Saying something doesn’t mean it’s just going to happen,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of things that go into the offseason here, which I’m sure is not going to be too quiet.

“So there’s a lot of factors that go into everything, and I’ll probably have a clearer picture in a couple of months.”

Williams just wrapped a two-year, $6.5 million deal with a $3.25M average annual cap hit. It’s fair to say he was good value for the money. He finished 24 goals and 48 points in 80 games, and that that goal total was his highest since 2006-07, when he potted 33 in Carolina.

Given his scoring ability and vast postseason experience — three Stanley Cups, and a Conn Smythe — Williams could probably score a nice deal in free agency, possibly from a team on the cusp of contending that wants to add experience.

That said, the dollars might not be out there. It’s possible the NHL has a flat salary cap for next season, which could limit summer spending across the league. And the Caps could decide that retaining Williams might be more feasible than, say, trying to re-up with T.J. Oshie, who is five years younger and likely looking for a longer-term deal.