Mike Halford

Milan Lucic

Report: Kings want to start Lucic extension talks soon

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Brough must have a crystal ball or something, because hours after he wrote how interesting a free agent Milan Lucic will be, there’s news about Lucic’s contract situation.

Per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Kings are interested in re-signing Lucic and want to begin contract talks in the not-too-distant future.

More, from TSN’s Insider Trading panel:

“[Lucic] loves being there, and the Kings recently reached out to Lucic’s camp and said ‘listen, let’s get something going in the new year. We want to keep this guy around.’

“Obviously, they’ve got to get [Anze] Kopitar done first, but they’d like to retain Lucic.”

Lucic, 27, is in the last of a three-year, $18 million deal with a $6M average annual cap hit. His production on a line alongside top scorers Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli has been great this year — 10 goals, 18 points — and while there’s no doubt Kings GM Dean Lombardi would like to keep that trio together, it will financially difficult.

Per war-on-ice, L.A. has just under $50 million committed to only 14 players next year. The Kopitar contract will undoubtedly be huge, and Lombardi also needs to keep some money available for when Toffoli and Tanner Pearson go RFA in ’17-18.

All of this begs the question: Would Lucic take a haircut to stick with the Kings? Because remember, for as much as he’d love to stay in L.A., the lure of Vancouver is there as well.

In August, Lucic called playing for his hometown Canucks “a dream of mine since I’ve been a kid.”

Phillips comeback ‘a longshot,’ says Sens GM

Chris Phillips

Nobody’s played more games for the Senators than Chris Phillips, the first overall pick in ’97 that’s appeared in 1,179 contests wearing an Ottawa uniform.

But now, it’s starting to sound like he might not play another one.

“Chris is a ways away,” Sens GM Bryan Murray told TSN 1200 on Thursday, per the Ottawa Citizen. “He’s trying really hard. He’s in the gym and doing some skating, but I would say, in my estimation, he’s a longshot to come back.”

Phillips, 37, has been sidelined all year with small crack in a disc in his back, after undergoing surgery to correct the problem at the end of last season.

He’d previously admitted to considering retirement during his recovery from surgery — “It got to the point where it goes beyond hockey and whether you can play again,” he explained — and now, given Murray’s analysis, it’s fair to suggest those thoughts might’ve crossed Phillips’ mind again.

In the last of a two-year, $5 million deal, Phillips will be a UFA at season’s end.

He’ll also be a year older — he turns 38 in March — and there probably won’t be a huge market for 38-year-old defensemen with back issues that haven’t played in nearly a calendar year (Phillips’ last game was on Feb. 5).

 

 

Devils put Zajac on IR, recall former OHL sniper Blandisi

Travis Zajac, Mike Hoffman
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The Devils could get a look at an intriguing young prospect tomorrow against Detroit.

On Thursday, the club put veteran center Travis Zajac on injured reserve with an upper-body injury and, in a corresponding move, recalled forward Joseph Blandisi from AHL Albany.

Blandisi, 21, is best known as “the guy that finished second to Connor McDavid in OHL most outstanding player voting” in 2014-15. Blandisi got there by leading the Ontario League in goals, with 52 in 68 games, while finishing with a whopping 112 points.

A late-round pick by Colorado in 2012, Blandisi didn’t sign with the Avs and briefly spent time with Buffalo before catching on with the Devils.

He’s had a very good start to his professional career — in 18 games with Albany this season, he has seven goals and 16 points, good enough for third on the team in scoring.

Blandisi is eligible for selection tomorrow as, when mentioned above, the Devils take on the Wings at Prudential on Friday.

Report: Panthers to unveil new uniforms next season

Derek MacKenzie, Erik Gudbranson, Roberto Luongo
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Per the Miami Herald, the Florida Panthers will change their look next season — dramatically.

According to the Herald’s George Richards, the Panthers are “completely re-branding” themselves for the 2016-17 campaign, complete with a new logo and, potentially, a new color scheme.

More:

Since breaking into the league in ’93, Florida’s been pretty consistent with the “Leaping Cat” logo on the sweater front, though it did alter that design with the now-defunct “JetBlue” jerseys (the Panthers stopped wearing them three years ago).

For those of you not familiar with the JetBlue thing — the story behind the jerseys is they were developed, in part, to lure in the discount airline to become one of Florida’s major sponsors.

Whether or not that’s true is the stuff of urban legend, but JetBlue did sign on… so there’s that.

 

Goalie nods: After getting hooked last night, Jones back in for San Jose

Markus Granlund, Martin Jones

Peter DeBoer is going right back to his No. 1.

Less than 24 hours after giving Martin Jones the hook in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Calgary, the Sharks head coach announced he’ll give Jones another start tonight when San Jose takes on the Oilers at Rexall.

Jones, who allowed three goals on 14 shots last night, has lost three straight games while posting a 3.39 GAA and .882 save percentage.

It’s been an up-and-down campaign for the former Kings backup, as Jones — named the NHL’s first star of the week on Nov. 23 — won his first four games of the year, then lost five of his next seven, then won five straight, then lost four of his next five.

For the Oilers, Anders Nilsson is in goal.

Elsewhere…

Tuukka Rask goes up against Mike Condon as the B’s take on the Habs in Rivalry Night action. Rask is coming off a relatively easy 17-save shutout against Vancouver on Saturday, while Condon allowed three goals on 29 shots in a loss to Carolina that same evening.

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s in for Pittsburgh, while the Avs will go with Reto Berra. Berra hasn’t played since Dec. 1, when he made 27 saves in a 2-1 win in New Jersey.

Henrik Lundqvist goes for the Rangers in Vancouver, while the Canucks counter with Ryan Miller. Lundqvist is on fire at the moment, having stopped 59 of his last 61 shots faced for a .967 save percentage.