SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 10: Dmitry Kulikov #7 of the Florida Panthers prepares for a face-off against the Ottawa Senators at the BB&T Center on March 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Senators 6-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Bruins reportedly want Panthers’ Kulikov, might be out of luck

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Simply put, there’s plenty of demand for quality defensemen, but teams aren’t especially anxious to supply them.

CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Boston Bruins are hoping to trade for Florida Panthers blueliner Dmitri Kulikov. They’re being proactive yet could also be described as merely “kicking the tires.”

There are two pretty big bumps in the road, however.

First, the price would probably be pretty difficult to stomach:

The sticking point with Kulikov is that he’s essentially a rental with one year to go until unrestricted free agency, and the cost would something in the neighborhood of Boston’s 29th pick in the first round and a Frank Vatrano-level prospect. That’s a stiff cost, and it should give everybody the kind of premium price tags associated with defensemen on the trade market for the next few months.

Yikes.

The other consideration is that Kulikov might not even be on the rental shelves, according to the Miami Herald’s George Richards:

As this video illustrates, the Bruins might just be stuck.

The Bruins say they’re being aggressive to improve in this area, but it could really be a sellers’ trade market this summer, especially with the list of targets shrinking with each day.

UFA of the Day: Loui Eriksson

Boston Bruins' Loui Eriksson is congratulated at the bench after scoring during the third period of a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders in an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Loui Eriksson

As of last week, the Bruins were still hoping to re-sign the 30-year-old winger who scored 30 goals for them last season.

“There have been some good discussions,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSN New England. “The onus is on us to display what level we’re willing to commit to Loui, and as he knows on the door to free agency that is important to him. It comes down to how far we want to stretch.”

After missing the playoffs, the Bruins’ decision not to trade Eriksson at the deadline will look especially poor if he walks away for nothing this summer. But Sweeney can’t allow that to affect his thinking. What’s done is done, and if Eriksson wants more than the B’s are comfortable giving him, then both sides will have to move on.

If Eriksson tests the market, Vancouver is expected to be interested. The Canucks intend to sign a top-six winger to either play with the Sedins or provide second-line scoring, and with Radim Vrbata expected to leave, there’s cap space to do it.

As always, the two big questions for any UFA suitor will be how much and how long? The latter will be particularly interesting with Eriksson, who’s already played 725 games in the NHL. On the open market, he could demand in the neighborhood of $30 million over five years. So while signing him could be good for a team in the short term, there’s at least the potential for trouble down the line.

So before July 1, that’s what the B’s have to determine — is he worth it, and what’s the plan if he’s not?

“If we don’t find common ground with Loui then we’re going to have to replace him,” said Sweeney.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

Murray’s ‘calming influence’ on the Penguins hasn’t changed despite Game 5 loss

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PITTSBURGH — Matt Murray‘s slender frame has spent the last two months seemingly impervious to the increasingly massive weight on his shoulders.

Until Thursday. Skating onto the ice at Consol Energy Center with a chance to help the Pittsburgh Penguins raise the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup, the enormity of the moment – however briefly – may have gotten the best of the 22-year-old rookie.

Murray used phrases like “a little bit jittery” and “a little bit nervous” to describe the opening minutes of Pittsburgh’s 4-2 loss to San Jose in Game 5, a stretch when he allowed three goals on five shots as the Sharks earned a return trip to the West Coast for Game 6 on Sunday night thanks to 44 saves from goaltender Martin Jones.

“As a team we really settled down after a tough start but we came back and stayed resilient,” Murray said. “We played the way we needed to to win the game but their goalie stood on his head.”

Related: Pens rally behind Murray after second shaky effort

Something Murray has done at times during Pittsburgh’s run to the final, particularly after a rare bumpy patch. He has yet to drop consecutive starts during the playoffs, going 5-0 with a 1.76 goals against average in games following a loss. Having a team peaking in front of him – one that doesn’t think twice about stepping in front of shots before they ever make it to Murray – helps. So does Murray’s healthy self-confidence.

“I don’t think I played badly by any means,” Murray said.

Maybe, but Murray knows he’s at a portion of the season where being OK won’t be good enough. In the big picture, he has a very real shot at capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy given to the playoff MVP. His 14 wins during the postseason are one away from the NHL record for victories by a rookie.

Still, it’s not the number of goals Murray is giving up but the nature of them that’s a bit problematic.

There was Joel Ward‘s breakaway slap shot from the slot in Game 3 that set the stage for Joonas Donskoi‘s wrist shot from in overtime that gave the Sharks life. There was Brent Burns‘ opening goal on Thursday, a score that in some ways mirrored Donskoi’s winner, zipping past Murray’s right shoulder. There was Melker Karlsson‘s flip late in the first period that went through the same hole between left pad and his glove that Ward found.

Would Murray have liked to be sharper just three periods from a championship, a victory that would allow him to tie the NHL record for wins by a rookie goaltender in the playoffs? Of course. It didn’t happen, so the Penguins keep playing. He hasn’t lost much sleep since taking over in Game 3 of the opening round against the New York Rangers. He’s not going to start now.

“I thought they had a couple of lucky bounces,” he said.

Bounces he insists will not affect the way he approaches his job. He spent the first portion of the postseason in an odd sort of limbo while Marc-Andre Fleury recovered from a concussion. He surrendered the starting gig to Fleury for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, only to get it back immediately after Fleury was less than crisp in defeat. Murray was hardly rattled by the brief demotion, and ripped off four straight victories.

“One of the things we love about him is his demeanor,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He has a calming influence on the group.”

A sense of ease that belies the fact Murray has made all of 33 starts in the NHL. Unlike the emotive Fleury – who is not above good-naturedly giving the posts a grateful kiss when a puck caroms out of harm’s way – Murray is decidedly chill regardless of the circumstances.

He spends his down time at the driving range or scrolling through Netflix looking for something that catches his eye. He has a rule for what happens when he hits “play.” If he doesn’t like the first 10 minutes, he hits stop and moves on. It’s the same when things don’t go his way during a game. Though he prides himself on his ability to “turn it off” once he leaves the rink, if he finds his mind fixated on a certain thing, he’ll go for a walk to clear his head.

Maybe that’s why a cross-country flight to California isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a guy who had a neighborhood street named after him – for a day anyway – before Game 5. Given an extra day of rest, he’ll hit the reset button, probably see what’s on Netflix and take a deep breath.

The adrenaline will flow on Sunday night, just like it always does. If he can keep it under control, particularly early, he likes his chances.

“It’s just learning how to handle it the right way,” he said. “If you can kind of harness that and use it for the right reasons. Use that energy and feed off the crowd and stuff like that you’re going to be in good shape.”

Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky: A legendary bond

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When it came to No. 9 and No. 99, the bond between Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky spans most of Gretzky’s life.

“The Great One” noted to ESPN that he initially met “Mr. Hockey” when he was about eight or nine years old, the first of many instances in which the two legends crossed paths.

“It was the greatest day of my life,” Gretzky said on the Dan Patrick Show today while discussing Howe’s passing.

Gretzky volunteers as much time and time again: he believes Howe is the best hockey player of all-time.

“I’m impressed by Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, Toews — those guys do such great things for our game today,” Gretzky told ESPN in February. “But Gordie Howe is the greatest player who ever lived. There’s not even a question about it. Imagine scoring 20 goals at 50 years old? Jonathan Toews might be the greatest athlete in the game today. He’s not playing at 50 and he’s not scoring 20 goals. Nobody ever will again. It’s a fact.”

One of their early meetings spawned this iconic image, via Sports Illustrated’s Vault:

It was far from the last, however, as the two became intrinsically linked as Gretzky eventually passed Howe for the NHL’s all-time points lead.

They even apparently ended up recreating that photo:

Remarkably, Howe and Gretzky crossed paths on the ice during Howe’s incredibly lengthy, one-of-a-kind playing career:

Gretzky noted on the Dan Patrick Show that people sometimes feel disappointment when they meet their idols, yet Howe lived up to lofty expectations.

In this great Sportsnet interview, Gretzky explained the rather simple way that Howe became his favorite player. He also steadfastly sticks to his belief that Howe was the greatest.

“Don’t look at this as I’m breaking your records, look at it as the game’s changed,” Gretzky said when explaining why he asked Howe to be on hand for some of those record-breaking moments.

More than a few people from around the hockey world either agree or at least understand the argument.

In the grand scheme of things, those debates aren’t particularly important. It seems pretty clear that Howe and Gretzky formed a bond that transcended the sport, and they knew it.

Update: Gretzky posted this two-part statement on Twitter:

More on “Mr Hockey.”

The hockey world mourns Howe

Dan Patrick reflects upon Howe’s legacy

The NHL pays tribute to No. 9

Video: NHL shares first episode of Showtime’s playoff coverage

TAMPA, FL - MAY 18:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins slides in the Tampa Bay Lightning net after a play during the second period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 18, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Have you ever watched an episode of the 24/7-style series of hockey documentaries – on HBO, Epix or otherwise – and thought, “How cool would it be if they did this for the playoffs.”

Well, the NHL is doing just that for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In this case, it’s partnering with Showtime. The league shared the first episode of “ALL ACCESS: Quest for the Stanley Cup.” Enjoy it in the video below and feel free to get pumped for the remaining games, including Saturday’s Game 4 contest between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.