Kessel will always ‘consider Toronto home’

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Nearly two months after his trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Phil Kessel took to Twitter to show his appreciation for Leafs’ fans and the city of Toronto.

The 27-year-old, who spent six seasons with the Leafs, had the following message for fans:

Kessel was dealt to the Penguins along with Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs and a conditional second-round draft pick on July 1 in exchange for Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, a conditional first-round draft pick, a third-round draft pick and Nick Spaling.

The former Boston Bruins’ first-round pick appeared in 446 games with the Leafs scoring 181 goals and 213 assists.

Photo courtesy of @Penguins

Kings ink Ehrhoff to a one-year, $1.5 million deal

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Christian Ehrhoff is headed to Los Angeles.

GM Dean Lombardi confirmed to Rich Hammond of The Orange County Register that the Kings have inked the unrestricted free agent blue liner to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

Last month Ehrhoff’s agent, Rick Curran, told PHT that his client “doesn’t mind having the flexibility of a single year commitment. He’s confident in his ability to provide a valued role to the right team. If there’s a mutual fit, an extension will likely follow.”

As a result of multiple concussions, the 33-year-old appeared in just 49 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season scoring three goals and 11 assists while averaging 21:46 in time on ice.

Ehrhoff joined the Penguins on a one-year, $4 million deal after being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres following the 2013-14 season.

Habs’ biggest question: Scoring

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Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien seem pretty low-key about their team’s underwhelming offense.

Therrien: “We scored just eight fewer goals than the Chicago Blackhawks.”

Bergevin (paraphrasing): “Hey, the New York Rangers were winning a bunch of 2-1 games, so let’s keep doing what we’re doing.”

Yes, the NHL is a league where defense and goaltending are highly important facets of the game, but at what point does the balance go off?

There are plenty of warning signs that the Canadiens could face a severe dip if the current “Carey can handle it” plan falls through.

They’ve been a weak possession team. Spin goal totals whichever way you’d like, but the bottom line is that their 221 goals for tied the Pittsburgh Penguins for the least of any playoff team last season.

While the Penguins acquired in-his-prime polarizing sniper Phil Kessel this summer, the Canadiens didn’t do much beyond adding fading polarizing sniper Alexander Semin and polarizing pest Zach Kassian to the mix.

Yes, Max Pacioretty deserves the accolades heaped upon him from sources including Jonathan Quick. It’s true that P.K. Subban can lead the charge on offense to an often dazzling degree. Semin could regain his self-confidence and upstarts like Alex Galchenyuk could make significant strides in their game.

Still, Therrien is considered a taskmaster and defense first-second-and-third sort of coach, so it wouldn’t be prudent to expect him to implement changes that would drastically boost offense.

If goals come, it will be in some combination of better shooting luck, nice work from the likes of Semin and improvement from within.

When you take everything under consideration, it’s tough to shake the impression that Montreal is more or less asking Price to repeat his all-world work from 2014-15.

Blues’ biggest question: Are they good enough down the middle?

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Jonathan Toews. Anze Kopitar. Jeff Carter. Patrice Bergeron. Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik Zetterberg.

Teams that win the Stanley Cup almost always have an elite center. As you can see, some of them even have two.

Do the St. Louis Blues?

The answer to that will depend on your definition of elite. If it’s a generous one, then maybe Paul Stastny gets the nod. Otherwise, it’s hard to answer yes.

Next season, the Blues’ top two lines could look something like this:

Alex Steen – Paul Stastny — David Backes
Jaden Schwartz — Jori Lehtera — Vladimir Tarasenko

If one of Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie or Robby Fabbri can step into a top-six role, coach Ken Hitchcock has said that Backes could be moved to the third line.

Regardless of how the lines shake out, it’s no surprise that the Blues were left wanting more from Stastny, their big free-agency signing from last summer.

“Paul Stastny needs to be a bigger part of our group,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “We need him to be a bigger and better part of our team.”

Stastny had 46 points in 74 games last season. He then managed just one goal, with no assists, in the Blues’ six-game playoff loss to the Wild.

Not enough from a player who was supposed to be a difference-maker in the tough Western Conference.

“I think in every sport if you’re strong up the middle you’re usually a strong team,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per Yahoo Sports. “The center icemen seem to be the catalyst, usually offensively. They’re the guys who have the puck the most and make maybe the most decisions on the ice based on the number of touches they have in a game.”

Which is why there’s so much excitement in Washington about young Evgeny Kuznetsov.

But we digress.

The Blues are obviously a strong team. Their regular-season record is proof of that. But they haven’t been able to win that elusive Cup, so it’s only natural to pore over their roster in search of why.

Their lack of a truly elite center — and this goes for good teams like the Wild, Predators, Canadiens, Rangers, and Jets — may be as good an answer as any.

Related: Doug Armstrong is under pressure

My, Adidas: Company will reportedly design NHL jerseys in future

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It sounds like shoe company adidas will design NHL jerseys instead of Reebok in the near future.

The details get a little hazy beyond that, which makes sense, as the league and outfitter didn’t confirm anything to TSN’s Rick Westhead (who broke the news).

Westhead reports that the new deal will kick in during the 2016-17 season, but it might begin in 2017-18 instead, according to Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski.

adidas owns Reebok, the current designer of NHL sweaters, so you’d assume it would be a smooth transition. Instead, Westhead reports that there may be some pretty “radical” changes. Here are some of the key ways things might be different:

  • There are no details regarding how it might happen, but this may open the door for advertisements on jerseys.
  • Granted, sweaters already have a key “ad” on them beyond a team logo: the brand name for whoever makes the jersey. It sounds as though adidas may want to implement its iconic three-stripe trademark in some form. Westhead reports that the deal could double the NHL’s takeaway compared to its current agreement, so that would likely dull the sting of controversy over such an implementation for the league.

“If you’re already deciding on a major NHL jersey overhaul, maybe with adidas striping on the jerseys, then it seems like it would be a good time to introduce the ads, if you plan to do it anyway,” a league source told TSN.

  • It sounds as though Connor McDavid will be featured heavily in ads, while Sidney Crosby may transition from his Reebok pitching.

There are plenty of other interesting details in Westhead’s report, so give it a full look.

Please note that this hasn’t been confirmed by the league, even if there were some murmurs dating back to February. Even so, it may be wise to consider upcoming changes if you were originally planning on buying a bunch of sweaters for the holidays.

Side note: PHT isn’t alone in making Run DMC jokes.

Go ahead, listen to the song, you know you want to.