Patrick Sharp

Kruger wants to sign with Chicago, but isn’t panicking (yet)

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It’s already mid-August, and Marcus Kruger still lacks a new contract from the Chicago Blackhawks.

The team’s salary cap bind remains, so the restricted free agent is still in limbo. He admitted to ESPN Chicago that he wants to get a deal done soon, yet he’s not agonizing over it.

“I want to have it done. I think that’s for everyone,” Kruger said. “But I don’t feel too stressed out about it, yet at least. We have another month until training camp.”

The 25-year-old has professed his patience and flexibility toward the Blackhawks’ situation more than once, and he stood by that, stating “whatever happens, it’s going to be good for me and them.”

It’s plausible that the Blackhawks may ask a little more from the Swede in 2015-16 after some significant departures in the likes of Brad Richards and Patrick Sharp.

His last contract carried a $1.325 million cap hit, while General Fanager pegs the Blackhawks’ cap space at just $231,540 right now.

As Kruger said, the Blackhawks still have time to figure things out, but it’s also true that the clock is ticking.

Poll: Are the Lightning the favorites to win the Stanley Cup?

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Standing still can be better than the alternative. While any improvement the Tampa Bay Lightning see will have to come from within after their quiet summer, they also haven’t endured any major losses.

Chicago was the oddsmaker’s favorites to repeat in mid-June, but since then the Blackhawks have parted ways with Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, and Johnny Oduya. To be fair, Chicago has also gotten some noteworthy additions like Artem Anisimov and they have some promising youngsters that might help fill the gaps like Artemy Panarin and Marko Dano.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the Blackhawks have made some considerable sacrifices this summer in the name of cap compliance and that’s without talking about the elephant in the room.

Tampa Bay finished two wins shy of Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final, so has the uncertainty created by Chicago’s turnover at least made the Blackhawks not quite as good of a bet as the Lightning?

Of course, even if you’re inclined to say that Tampa Bay is now in a better position than Chicago, that’s not the end of the debate. The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens have strong teams led by elite goaltenders and either one is capable of having a standout season. Then there’s the Anaheim Ducks, which came closer to eliminating Chicago than Tampa Bay and the St. Louis Blues, which has fielded a great team for years, but hasn’t been able to put it all together once the playoffs start — yet.

You could bet on a Los Angeles Kings comeback or the Pittsburgh Penguins’ overwhelming squads with Phil Kessel joining Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Even then we haven’t covered all the teams that can legitimately claim to be serious contenders going into the season.

But this isn’t about who could win the Cup, it’s who has the best chance of doing so, even if it is by a narrow margin in a large field. Is Tampa Bay that team?

Dallas has ‘deepest bench of defense prospects in the league,’ says owner

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Though his team’s defensive play left plenty to be desired last season, Stars owner Tom Gaglardi is bullish on the blueline’s future.

“We’ve got the deepest bench of defense prospects in the league quite honestly,” Gaglardi told the Stars website this week.

The remark came during a wide-ranging interview about the club’s offseason moves. It’s certainly an interesting one to make — Dallas allowed the fourth-most goals per game last year (3.13) — though Gaglardi had no issues explaining his thought process:

— John Klingberg “has become the player we thought he might be able to become and maybe even better than that.”

— Patrik Nemeth “is a top four defenseman for a long time in the league.”

— Jyrki Jokipakka, “a seventh-round draft pick, two years ago he is a guy who has a chance and he comes in and plays, and he’s an NHLer.”

Those three, all 23 or younger, make up the core of Dallas’ young defensive prospect pool. But according to Gaglardi, there’s plenty of talent behind them:

“The list of guys back there – [Esa] Lindell is going to be a player, [Mattias] Backman, [Ludwig] Bystrom. In terms of the roster guys, there’s [Jokipakka] and Jordie Benn is capable to playing great hockey and [Jamie] Oleksiak is a first-rounder who is in that group as well. There’s a lot of promise there.

A year or two ago there were guys who were concepts and have now proven they can play at the NHL level and give us lots of options. We’ve got a healthy situation. We’ve got six spots for a game and eight guys on one-way contracts that are going to be battling to play.

And there are some guys coming up that have the capability to knock those guys out in Stephen Johns, Lindell and [Julius] Honka.”

It’ll be interesting to see which of the guys Gaglardi mentioned, if any, will push for minutes this year. Dallas’ top six looks to be comprised of Johnny Oduya, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Klingberg, Nemeth and Jokipakka, with Benn and Oleksiak as the Nos. 7 and 8.

Just don’t set that in stone.

Johns, acquired in the Patrick Sharp trade, said he’s ready for the NHL and Honka, the 14th overall pick in 2014, might be the most promising of the lot.

Guess that’s why Gaglardi’s so excited about what’s on the horizon.

PHT Morning Skate: Crosby, MacKinnon donate 2015 Worlds checks to hometown youth hockey

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon gave their winnings from the 2015 IIHF World Championship to promote youth hockey in their home of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. They were both members of Canada’s gold medal winning team. (NHL.com)

Sun Devil Athletics are teaming up with the Arizona Coyotes to bring college games to Gila River Arena. (Coyotes.nhl.com)

Examining Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek’s contracts. (CSN Philly)

Devin Slawson sees Edmonton, Washington, and Columbus as three teams that have the potential to take a big leap forward this season. (The Hockey Writers)

Speaking of the Oilers, here’s a look at what Connor McDavid means to the franchise in the short and long-term. (CBS Sports)

Patrick Sharp sees similarities between the Dallas Stars and what the Chicago Blackhawks were like when they were on the cusp of breaking out. (Dallas Morning News)

Seguin on 2014-15: ‘We felt we could outscore every team’

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The Dallas Stars already had a dynamic one-two punch in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin when they added Jason Spezza last summer. Having that trio leading the charge offensively created a lot of hype about the team going into the 2014-15 campaign and listening to Seguin, it sounds like they bought into it to their detriment.

“We felt we had all these top players, all this firepower that could score a ton of goals. Automatically in training camp we were scoring a ton, but we weren’t focusing on defense,” Seguin told Sportsnet.

“That’s not the on the coaches or GMs at all. That was all on us. We felt we could outscore every team.”

In their first eight games, the Stars had scored a remarkable 28 goals and yet they were still a so-so 4-2-2 because they had surrendered as many markers. Then their offense trailed off briefly and it became apparent they weren’t ready to win low scoring games. Through Dec. 31, the Stars had a 17-14-5 record, but had only won three times when scoring two or fewer goals. By that point they were ninth in goals scored (106) and the fourth worst team in goals allowed (117).

“We were scoring a lot but not winning games because we can’t play defense,” Seguin said. “Last year, our start was terrible. I don’t think we had the right attitude in training camp, and I think that’s going to be a huge stressing point [this] September.”

Dallas has once again had an active summer, adding forward Patrick Sharp, defensemen Johnny Oduya and Stephen Johns, and goaltender Antti Niemi. This is a team with plenty of potential, but they also have a lot to prove.