Mike Halford

David Backes, Victor Hedman

Blues won’t re-sign Backes before deadline

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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.

Rangers get Staal, McDonagh back tonight versus Blues

Ryan McDonagh
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After a disappointing 5-2 loss in New Jersey on Tuesday, the Rangers will look to tighten things up defensively on Thursday when blueliners Marc Staal and captain Ryan McDonagh return to the lineup.

Staal missed Tuesday’s game after  “things locked up” in his lower back, per the Rangers’ website. McDonagh had missed the last two contests dealing with the after effects of a Leo Komarov elbow.

More:

McDonagh–who missed the last two games with a sore jaw and neck–was receiving treatment and unavailable to speak with reporters after the morning skate, but he, like Staal, took part in every drill and seemed without issue out on the ice. He also practiced on one of the power play units alongside Dan Boyle at the point, with J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast up front.

The other power play unit saw Keith Yandle, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.

Head coach Alain Vigneault hoped the return of two of his regular d-men would alleviate some of the mistakes made against the Devils.

Staal did too.

“We gave up a lot of two-on-ones and breakaways (Tuesday), and it was just too wide open for how we like to play,” he said. “We’re going to try and get back on track tonight and play the way we know how to win.”