Pittsburgh Penguins

Ducks begin extension talks with leading goalscorer Beleskey


One thing Anaheim GM Bob Murray probably didn’t expect this season was negotiating new deal for his top sniper.

Under normal circumstances, that guy would be Corey Perry, who’s locked in through 2021. But this year, Anaheim’s leading goalscorer is an unlikely individual — Matt Beleskey — who’ll be a UFA at season’s end. Beleskey’s agent, Murray Kuntz, has already started negotiations with the Ducks.

“You do think about the future,” Beleskey said, per the O.C. Register. “I want nothing more than to stay in Anaheim. I’ve never been anywhere else and I don’t think there’s a reason to go anywhere else.

“This is where I’d like to be. Hopefully we’ll see what happens.”

We’ve written about Beleskey’s breakout campaign already, but a quick refresher: The 26-year-old, a career checking forward that’s never scored more than 11 goals in a single season, currently sits tied for ninth in the NHL (17 goals) with the likes of Evgeni Malkin, James van Riemsdyk and John Tavares.

What’s more, Beleskey sits tied atop the league in game-winning goals, with five.

Translation: He’s about to get paaaaaaid.

The question now is, how much? Ducks GM Bob Murray isn’t commenting on negotiations and one has to think that, at the bargaining table, Murray will mention that Beleskey’s greatly benefited from playing with Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

(One also wonders if Murray will do something similar to what Brian Burke did with Brendan Morrison in Vancouver a few years ago. During an arbitration hearing, Burke used a parable about “a mouse crossing a river on the back of an elephant, then taking equal credit for the crossing.” Morrison, who racked up career-best numbers playing alongside Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, was the mouse.)

One thing seems for certain: Beleskey will get a raise on the $1.35 million he’s currently making.

Contract year or not (or, sustainable metrics or not), GMs cannot ignore stats or try to downplay production; just ask Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who shelled out $33 million over five years for Nick Foligno, who’s currently in the midst of a career-best campaign in his UFA year.

“The way contract negotiations go in this league, it’s impossible not to take into consideration how guys are producing in the statistics,” Kekalainen explained, per the Boston Globe. “If you don’t put enough weight in them, the other side will make sure you’re aware of the statistical side of the negotiation.”

Have you noticed? All three Vezina finalists have been pretty average this season


Barring a dramatic turnaround, we’ll not only have a new Vezina Trophy winner in 2015, we’ll have three new finalists.

If you’ll recall, the finalists for last season were Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, and eventual winner Tuukka Rask of Boston, thanks in large part to save percentages of .927, .924, and .930, respectively.

This season, however, those save percentages are .911, .911, and .911, respectively. (Yep, all three are the same.)

In a related story, the Avalanche and Bruins are currently on the outside of the playoff picture after winning their divisions last season, while the Lightning are fortunate to have the league’s top offense to outscore their 22nd-ranked team save percentage.

According to online bookmaker Bovada, Pekka Rinne (3/2), Carey Price (7/2), and Marc-Andre Fleury (7/2) are the favorites to win the Vezina this season.

Related: A brief post on the unpredictable nature of goaltending

Oilers return Leon Draisaitl to juniors


The Edmonton Oilers announced Sunday afternoon that forward Leon Draisaitl has been returned to the Western Hockey League.

They took him with the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and the Oilers had hoped that he would be able to serve as their second-line center this season, in part due to how thin they are up the middle. Draisaitl ended up scoring two goals and nine points in 37 contests. He also won just 40.6% of his draws and ranked near the bottom of the team with a minus-17 rating.

By allowing him to play in at least 10 games, this will still count as the first season of Draisaitl’s entry-level contract. However, he would have been eligible to become an unrestricted free agent a year earlier had he reached the 40-contest mark.

With their hopes of making the playoffs a distant memory, the Oilers have been making changes lately. GM Craig MacTavish has fired head coach Dallas Eakins, claimed Matt Fraser off of waivers, acquired Derek Roy from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Mark Arcobello, and shipped David Perron to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Rob Klinkhammer and a 2015 first-round pick.

Edmonton will play against the New York Islanders at 9:30 p.m. ET tonight.

Video: Perron scores in Penguins debut


Upon realizing that he’d join the Pittsburgh Penguins, David Perron remarked that he grew up idolizing Alex Kovalev. His debut with the team was more like a different memorable Penguins scorer, however, as he scored on his first shot with Pittsburgh (like Mario Lemieux):

Talk about a change of fortune: Perron goes from slumming it with the Edmonton Oilers to skating on a line with Sidney Crosby. It remains to be seen if the 26-year-old will stick with Crosby once players like Patric Hornqvist come back, but either way, he’s likely delighted to be in this situation.

So far, it looks like he might make the most of his opportunity, too.

Here’s Perron’s press conference from before today’s game:

Goalie Nods: Reimer returns home

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Reimer looks to get the Leafs back in the win column

The Toronto Maple Leafs have just one win in their last four and are heading into a back-to-back situation tonight when they visit the Winnipeg Jets. Manitoba native James Reimer, who is 6-6-0 with a 3.39 G.A.A and a .905 save percentage, is expected to get the start in goal for the Leafs. Reimer allowed three goals on 41 shots in the Maple Leafs’ 3-2 loss to the Lightning on Monday. The 26-year-old allowed four goals on 19 shots in his only start at MTS Centre last season.

Michael Hutchinson gets the start in goal for the Jets.


Canadiens at Penguins: Carey Price vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

Sabres at Rangers: Jhonas Enroth vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Flyers at Devils: Steve Mason vs. Cory Schneider

Wild at Stars: Darcy Kuemper vs. Kari Lehtonen

Blue Jackets at Coyotes: Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Mike Smith

Red Wings at Canucks: Jimmy Howard vs. Ryan Miller

Blues at Sharks: Brian Elliott vs. Antti Niemi