CHICAGO — In a Stanley Cup Final where injury updates have been extremely hard to come by, Monday bucked the trend.
Following the morning skate, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said injured forward Nikita Kucherov — who exited Game 5 in the first period after crashing into the Chicago net — was “probable” for tonight’s Game 6 at the United Center.
Opting to speak in traditional NFL parlance — “what to they use in football?” Cooper joked — the Bolts bench boss decided to reveal Kucherov’s status, a far cry from what he’s done with the health of starting netminder Ben Bishop. To be fair, things were trending in this direction yesterday, when Cooper said Kucherov was “in considerably better shape” than on Saturday night.
Having the Russian sniper available is huge. Kucherov currently sits second in playoff scoring with 22 points, and Tampa Bay is struggling to score goals right now; they’ve only put two past Corey Crawford in the last two games and sniper Steve Stamkos has gone cold, having failed to find the back of the net since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against New York.
The Washington Capitals locked up one half of their future goaltending tandem on Monday, inking Philipp Grubauer to a two-year, $1.5 million deal.
The contract is of the one-way variety and carries an average annual cap hit of $750,000. Per Caps GM Brian MacLellan, Grubauer will earn $650,000 in the first year of the deal, and $850,000 in the second.
The 23-year old German has appeared in 20 career games with the Capitals, going 7-6-5 with a 2.44 GAA and .924 save percentage. While the club signed Justin Peters last year to serve as Holtby’s backup, it was clear the organization was higher on Grubauer when, during the playoffs, he got the call to replace an under-the-weather Holtby in Game 2 of the Islanders series.
With today’s deal, it’s all but guaranteed Peters is done in D.C. — but since he has one year left on his deal, he’ll likely spend next season in AHL Hershey.
The next bit of goaltending business for MacLellan and the Caps will be to get Holtby signed. A pending RFA, Holtby is coming of a career-best year and will probably get a sizable raise off the $1.85M he made annually on his last deal.
The Washington Capitals could be without their No. 1 center to start next season.
Per a report from Swedish news outlet Gefle Dagblad, Niklas Backstrom could miss up to the next five months of action recovering from arthroscopic hip surgery, a procedure he underwent in late May.
Per a (admittedly rough) translation, Backstrom said the hip had been giving him issues since early last season, and that he’s been told recovery can last up to five months. That would be at odds with what the Capitals said following surgery:
“Based on the nature of this procedure we are confident that Nick will be completely healthy prior to the start of the 2015-16 regular season.”
As for where he’s currently at, Backstrom said he’s primarily working on getting movement back in the hip.
Should rehab go five months, Backstrom would be on target for a late-October return. Though the Caps’ 2014-15 schedule has yet to be released, NHL usually begins play the first week of October and clubs often play around 10 games in the opening month.
Last year, the Caps played nine.
Sounds like Detroit is on the verge of signing another potential late-round draft steal.
Axel Holmstrom, taken in the seventh round (196th overall) at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is reportedly close to inking his entry-level deal with Detroit, according to Swedish news outlets Norren and Aftonbladet.
Holmstrom, 18, has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success since being selected. He was a point-a-game player for Sweden at the World Juniors and the second-highest U19 scorer in the SHL last year — his 20 points were more than Kings prospect Adrian Kempe, who went in the first round (29th overall) of the ’14 draft.
While the plans are for Holmstrom to put pen to paper, it’s expected Detroit will let him continue to play for Skelleftea next season, where he’ll look to build on his success from this year’s playoffs — this spring, Holmstrom broke Daniel and Henrik Sedin’s record for most points by a junior-aged player in a single postseason.
Mark Guy, the agent for Vancouver center Brad Richardson, said talks are still ongoing with the Canucks about a contract extension for his client, who’s set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1.
Reports of the talks, per News 1130, come roughly one month after Richardson underwent ankle surgery — a procedure that came on the heels of a season in which he scored eight goals and 21 points in 45 games, good for a career-high 0.47 points-per-game average (over 82 games, that works out to nearly 40 points.)
That production came after an equally solid 2013-14 campaign, in which Richardson scored 11 goals and averaged a career-high 14:54 TOI per night.
Richardson, who missed extensive time with the aforementioned ankle injury but returned for the playoffs, wrapped the last of a two-year, $2.3 million deal. In May, he told The Province he’d like to re-sign in Vancouver.