Mike Halford

Preds ink d-man Bitetto to two-year, $1.225M extension

Teams continued to lock in their defensemen on Friday — after Pittsburgh re-upped with Olli Maatta and Tampa Bay locked in Braydon Coburn, the Preds announced they signed Anthony Bitetto to a two-year, $1.225 million extension.

Bitetto, 25, will now carry a $612,500 cap hit through 2018.

Having come into this season largely as a depth defenseman, Bitetto’s become a lineup fixture in the wake of Seth JonesRyan Johansen trade, and the Victor Bartley move to Montreal. The spots vacated have allowed Bitetto to appear in each of Nashville’s last 11 games — all told, he’s appeared in 17 contests this season, averaging 12:03 TOI per night.

Bitetto usually appears on Nashville’s third pairing alongside Barret Jackman, though he has platooned in and out with Petter Granberg, who the Preds acquired off waivers from Toronto earlier this season.

 

 

Blues won’t re-sign Backes before deadline

David Backes, Victor Hedman
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One pending UFA that hasn’t gained much attention this season — partly due to the other high-profile UFAs around the league — is St. Louis captain David Backes.

Backes, in the last of a five-year, $22.5 million deal with a $4.75M average annual cap hit, is slated to hit the open market in July, which would be a fairly significant move given he’s spent his entire 10-year career in St. Louis.

So where are the Blues and Backes with regards to a new contract?

Not anywhere, really.

From the Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford:

And from his subsequent print piece:

The Blues, whom Armstrong acknowledged will not be re-signing pending unrestricted free agents David Backes or Troy Brouwer before Monday’s deadline, may look the same come Tuesday.

While there have been rumblings about the Blues potentially trading Backes, Armstrong all but shot them down in late January, telling the Post-Dispatch moving Backes would be the “least likely scenario,” noting that a “first-round pick does us no good when we’re going to this year’s playoffs.”

Which makes you wonder what the future has in store.

St. Louis has been gradually moving away from the “old guard,” trading T.J. Oshie to Washington last summer while allowing Barret Jackman to leave via free agency. But it would seem difficult to do the same with Backes, who’s been the club’s longest-serving captain since Chris Pronger.

Bolts sign Coburn to a three-year, $11.1M extension

Braydon Coburn
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Busy day for defensemen re-upping with their respective clubs.

Not long after the Pens gave Olli Maatta a six-year, $24.4 million extension, Tampa Bay announced it had signed veteran Braydon Coburn to a three-year pact worth $11.1 million, per TSN.

The former eighth overall pick was set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. Coburn’s currently in the last of a four-year, $18 million deal with a $4.5M average annual cap hit — so he takes a bit of a haircut with this extension, which carries a $3.7M AAV.

The 30-year-old is in his second season with the Bolts, having been acquired from Philadelphia at last year’s deadline. Coburn’s scored nine points through 60 games — hardly elite offensive production — but does sit third on the club in hits (90) and blocked shots (69).

At 6-foot-5, 226 pounds, Coburn is an imposing presence on the Lightning defense, though he’s not an especially nasty or physical guy. He’s often paired with a young, raw d-man in Andrej Sustr, and has provided a stabilizing presence at times.

Finally, it’s worth noting that with this extension, Coburn will become the fourth highest-paid Bolts blueliner in terms of cap hit, behind Matt Carle ($5.5M), Anton Stralman ($4.5M) and Victor Hedman ($4M).

Decimated defense: Habs lose Beaulieu (lower body) for 2-3 weeks

Nathan Beaulieu
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This is getting ridiculous.

Having already lost defensemen Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry for the remainder of the season, Montreal will now be without a third blueliner — Nathan Beaulieu — for the next 2-3 weeks due to a lower body injury.

Montreal made the announcement on Friday, roughly 24 hours after revealing that Petry would be done for the year following sports hernia surgery, and that Gilbert would miss the next six months recovering from a left knee procedure.

Beaulieu hasn’t played since getting hurt against Nashville on Monday, which means Wednesday’s game win over Washington gave a good idea of what the Habs’ blueline will resemble moving forward, without the aforementioned three available:

P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Mark Barberio, Greg Pateryn and Victor Bartley.

It’s a pretty thin defense, to say the least.

A former first-round pick, Beaulieu certainly would’ve been in line for an expanded role with Gilbert and Petry gone for the season. The 17th overall pick in 2011 had been enjoying a nice offensive campaign, with two goals and a career-best 17 points through 56 games.

Penguins sign Maatta to six-year, $24.4M extension

Olli Maatta
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The Pittsburgh Penguins locked in an important piece of their defense on Friday, agreeing to a six-year extension with Olli Maatta, one that carries a $4.083 average annual cap hit.

Maatta, 21, is in the midst of a nice bounce-back season, following a disastrous ’14-15 campaign in which he missed time to thyroid cancer, mumps and shoulder surgery. He’s spent most of this year as Kris Letang‘s defensive partner and has produced well offensively, with six goals and 16 points in 53 games.

Maatta is also averaging just under 20 minutes per night.

If the Finnish blueliner can overcome last year’s health hurdles — and it certainly looks like he’s on the way to doing that — this contract could be a real home run for the Penguins. At just a shade over $4 million annually, Maatta could emerge as one of the most cost-effective top-four defensemen in the league.

The 22nd overall pick in 2012, Maatta was set to become a restricted free agent this summer. He’s in the last of his three-year, entry-level deal.

Finally, it’s worth noting that in addition to his fine play with Pittsburgh, Maatta has also been a standout player internationally, having helped Finland capture bronze at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He finished second on the team with three goals in that tournament, despite the fact he was only 19 years old at the time.