Mike Halford

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From doghouse to desert: Pens trade Plotnikov to Coyotes

The Sergei Plotnikov era in Pittsburgh is over.

And it was short lived.

On Monday morning, ESPN reported that Plotnikov, in his first year with Pittsburgh after a lengthy pro career in Russia, had been sent to the Coyotes.

UPDATE: Per the Post-Gazette, the Pens are getting a 7th-round pick in ’17 and Mattias Plachta, a 24-year-old German League power forward the Coyotes signed as a free agent this past summer.

Plotnikov, 25, signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Pens this summer after spending the last three seasons with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. His time in Pittsburgh didn’t go especially well, though — he scored just two points (no goals) in 32 games, and has frequently been a healthy scratch as of late.

Last week, Pens GM Jim Rutherford admitted the team — most notably head coach Mike Sullivan — became irate after Plotnikov reportedly expressed an interest in returning to Russia.

“Sergei wants to play in the NHL as evidenced by the amount of money he paid to be excused from the last year of his KHL contact,” Plotnikov’s agent Mike Liut told the Post-Gazette.

“He understands that this will not happen in Pittsburgh and the Penguins have been attempting to trade Sergei, albeit, a difficult task when a player is a healthy scratch for two months. If a trade is not available, he will have no choice but to return to Russia.”

In a neat twist, Plotnikov could face his former team tonight, as the Coyotes are in Pittsburgh to take on the Pens at Consol.

Goalie nods: Streaking Rask starts for B’s in Carolina

Dennis Seidenberg, Tuukka Rask

After making 41 saves in a 5-1 win over Pittsburgh last time out, Tuukka Rask will get another start tonight when the Bruins take on the ‘Canes in Carolina.

Rask’s been on a pretty nice run of late, having won four of his last six starts. It began back on Feb. 11 with a 34-save win over the Jets and carried over to Wednesday’s big win against the Pens, which marked the first time this season Rask make 40-plus saves in a single game.

Overall, it’s hardly been a banner year for the Finnish netminder, but his numbers are slowly rounding into form. With just over six weeks left in the regular season, it’s likely his GAA (2.53) will drop and save percentage (.917 will rise), assuming he continues to play as well as he has over the last 14 days.

The ‘Canes haven’t announced a starter yet. Cam Ward played last night versus Toronto, so this could be an Eddie Lack game.


— Potential All-Star matchup in New Jersey tonight: Ben Bishop is in for the Bolts, while Cory Schneider should go back in for the Devils after getting an early hook against Columbus last night.

Braden Holtby, who was hooked against Montreal in his last outing, is in for Washington as the Caps host the Wild. No confirmed starter for Minnesota yet, as Devan Dubnyk played last night versus Philly. So this could be a start for Darcy Kuemper.

Cam Talbot versus Frederik Andersen as Edmonton plays in Anaheim.

Chad Johnson gets the nod for Buffalo as the Sabres take on San Jose. Martin Jones will start for the host Sharks.


After ‘yet another medical procedure,’ Torres won’t play again this season

San Jose Sharks' Raffi Torres shouts after scoring during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

On Friday, Toronto Maple Leafs property Raffi Torres — still a member of San Jose’s AHL affiliate, despite being traded earlier this week — announced he wouldn’t be playing “professional hockey for the remainder of the season,” in order to rehab from “yet another medical procedure.”

More, from the Barracuda website:

“Up to this point in my career, I have always aggressively pushed my recovery timelines to come back as quickly as possible from injury.  However, after this most recent procedure, I want to give myself the proper amount of rest and recovery time so that my body can completely heal.  I believe that this approach is the best course of action at this point in order to attempt to resume my career.”

“I want to thank the Sharks and Barracuda organizations, along with all of my teammates, for their support during my time with the Club.”   

While he didn’t specify the injury or specific procedure, it’s fair to assume both are in relation to Torres’ troublesome right knee.

Back in early December, Sharsk head coach Peter DeBoer admitted the veteran forward was having issues with a surgically repaired ACL that’s undergone a variety of procedures over the last two years, costing Torres all of the ’14-15 campaign.

Upon being activated following a 41-game suspension for a headshot on Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg, Torres was sent to the AHL on a conditioning stint. His knee “didn’t react well” after his first two games played and, subsequently, appeared in just four more contests for the Barracuda.

Torres, 34, is in the last of a three-year, $6 million deal. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Roundup: ‘Hawks waive Sekac, Leafs waive Cowen, Malone clears

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 11: Jiri Sekac #34 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks to pass against the Dallas Stars at the United Center on February 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Stars defeated the Blackhawks 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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A few notable transactions to pass your way in advance of Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline…

— Chicago has waived Jiri Sekac, just one month after acquiring him from Anaheim in exchange for Ryan Garbutt. Sekac, 23, appeared in just six games for Chicago, registering one assist while averaging 10:04 TOI per night.

It’s worth noting Chicago is Sekac’s third team since breaking in with Montreal during the ’14-15 campaign. He’s currently in the last of a two-year, $2.7M deal with a $1.35 average annual cap hit.

— Toronto has waived Jared Cowen, just two weeks after acquiring him from Ottawa in the Dion Phaneuf trade. Cowen, who’s dealing with a hip injury, has yet to play for the Leafs and it’s widely assumed the club is looking to get out of his contract (a four-year, $12.4M pact with a $3.1M average annual cap hit, and one year remaining.)

— Carolina forward Brad Malone, put on waivers yesterday, has cleared.

Malone, 26, has five points through 37 games this year but has been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions. Prior to getting parked in the press box, he was best known as a physical, hard-hitting presence that drew the ire of Columbus captain Nick Foligno for a big hit back in early January.

Malone is in the second of a two-year deal worth $1.3 million. It carries an average annual cap hit of $650,000.


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.