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Marc-Edouard Vlasic still really, really frustrated with NHL’s Olympic decison

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We know that NHL players aren’t happy that they’ll be playing regular season games this month and not participating in the PyeongChang Olympics, which begin next week. (Those who wouldn’t have been going, of course, would have liked the extra vacation time.)

Since the NHL announced in April that it wouldn’t be sending players for the first time since 1994, players have been outspoken in their disagreement with the decision. “As cool as it for players to be a part of the Olympic experience, it’s a missed opportunity to expand our game,” said Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler during last weekend’s NHL All-Star festivities.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who won gold with Canada in 2014, has been the most vocal.

• When a report came out in Nov. 2016 that the NHL had offered the NHLPA Olympic participation in exchange for extending the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, Vlasic responded, “That’s not the way you negotiate things. But, if that is true, all of a sudden they don’t mind having a two-week break in the NHL for a three-year collective bargaining agreement.”

• “It happens once every four years, but now we put in the World Cup, so a condensed schedule happens every two years,” he said via the Mercury News right after the NHL’s decision. “But for the World Cup it’s OK. Guys get injured in the World Cup, but that’s OK. Shorter summers, longer seasons, but that’s OK.”

• “What I’d like is for the NHL to openly give the real reasons for its refusal to go to Pyeongchang,” he wrote last June.

So, yeah, Vlasic is really pissed about not being able to represent Canada again. In a chat with Ross McKeon of SFGate.com, the 30-year-old defenseman detailed the lengths at which he went to get another opportunity.

“I would love to in 2022,” he said. “I’m fighting not only for myself in ’22, but for every other player who gets a chance to do it in 2026, ’30, ’34 and down the road. I’m not just thinking of myself, I’m thinking about all the players who deserve to go.”

That determination is what moved Vlasic to hold a conference call with lawyers and the NHL Players’ Association. Termination of his extension (which was signed July 1) was a possibility. The Sharks could be targeted for a suit, and ultimately Vlasic could be, too, if it could be proved that the product San Jose was putting on the ice during his absence wasn’t as good as if he had been playing.

According to Vlasic, he was told that a court order could be issued if a player still insisted on going. And, ultimately, a player could be arrested for violating the order if he played.

“I don’t think it would have gone that far, but it’s a possibility,” said Vlasic, who noted his initial thought when the league made its decision was to go no matter what.

Vlasic added that players should have Olympic participation guaranteed by putting it in the next CBA, which several players told me they expect to be a topic when negotations begins. He sees the benefits that putting the game on that stage can have, and while he won’t completely ignore the 2018 tournament in PyeongChang, don’t expect him to carve out time in his busy schedule for a game.

“Am I going to watch the hockey? I’ll probably see the highlights,” he told McKeon. “I won’t sit down and watch it.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

A look at the potential suitors for Evander Kane

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Evander Kane‘s time is apparently up in Buffalo.

And on the surface that seems kind of puzzling.

They have a clear asset that likes to score — and can score (because everyone likes to score) — seems invested in the team and the city and has no clear desire to move.

What more could a general manager want?

Apparently four pieces – draft picks and prospects, likely.

Jason Botterill may be asking the world, but as TSN’s Darren Dreger pointed out, you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

Still, it’s just a tad odd from a team that hasn’t drafted or developed all that well to be wanting more things they can use to struggle at drafting and developing. What happens if Alexander Nylander doesn’t pan out? Kane is a proven commodity that would like to see the Sabres grow.

Cap issues are certainly a concern, and it’s likely that Kane will command more than the current $5.25 million that he’s been earning since the days when he was with the Winnipeg Jets.

But you’d think a team looking to build around Jack Eichel would want to keep in place some pieces that make their young superstar better.

Alas.

If Kane is to move at or before the trade deadline, he’s likely heading to a contender as a rental player.

For Kane, this would soften the blow of having to move away from a place he’s happy to be.

Kane has never played in an NHL playoff game before. And for a guy who’s enjoyed the spotlight over his career, he likely won’t have any qualms about playing on hockey’s biggest stage.

So who might be his potential suitors?

The easy guess here would be teams sitting in playoff spots that could use a shot of adrenaline in the scoring column.

Of the 16 teams currently occupying spots, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the San Jose Sharks are the lowest scoring with 126 goals for apiece this season.

The Blue Jackets are getting Vezina-caliber goaltending once again this season from Sergei Bobrovsky and San Jose remains one of the better defensive teams in the league after adopting the age-old policy that defense wins championships.

Whether or not those two teams are willing to make the kind of concessions that Botterill wants will depend, largely, on whether they can make a deep push and if they feel that time is now.

San Jose might even want to retain Kane’s services long-term if the fit is right.

Of the remaining 14 teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins will always be in the mix (even if they actually aren’t).

The Pens are right up against it on the cap and would have to dump something to make room, but it’s no secret they’d like to part ways with defenseman Ian Cole.

Perhaps the Los Angeles Kings would like to throw their hat in the ring.

The Kings are sitting on a six-game losing streak where they’ve scored very little and could use the shot in the arm to regain a playoff spot in a Pacific Division where it’s up for grabs.

Could Kane and the money phone make a splash in Vegas for a couple months? The Golden Knights have cap room, and if they’re going to turn into buyers ahead of their playoff push, Kane could boost an already high-scoring offense. But Vegas isn’t jeopardizing its future to meet Botterill’s demands.

Hell, it’s unlikely any of these teams meet that asking price. It simply needs to come down (perhaps a first-rounder and a prospect with a pick that has conditions strapped to it?).

Regardless of the return, the process will be interesting over the coming weeks.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Tavares gets back to scoring ways

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Players of the Night: 

Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche: Bernier made quite the save on Ryan Kesler, using his paddle to stop a backhand shot after sprawling across his crease in an attempt of desperation. He also stopped 33 pucks and won his sixth straight game in the process.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones made 29 out of 30 saves in the second and third periods in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. His 35-save effort was a nice rebound after allowing three goals on six shots and getting yanked on Saturday.

John Tavares, New York Islanders: Tavares scored a shorty in regulation on an unassisted breakaway and then the game-winner in overtime to lead the Isles past the Habs in Montreal.

Highlights of the Night:

Tyler Seguin provided some matinee magic with this overtime winner in Boston. What a goal:

Bernier made this incredible paddle save on a poor Ryan Kesler:

MISC:

Scores:

Stars 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

Avalanche 3, Ducks 1

Sharks 4, Kings 1

Islanders 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sharks take playful jabs at city of Winnipeg, draw response (Update)

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The San Jose Sharks are probably very happy to have their only visit to Winnipeg this season over and done with. While they may have lost 4-1 to the Jets on Sunday night, some players were probably feeling like it was a bit of a win not to have to worry about staying there again until 2018-19* (*barring a playoff meeting, of course).

Prior to Sunday’s game, NBC Sports California Tweeted a video featuring Tomas Hertl, Justin Braun and Tim Heed expressing their thoughts on the city of Winnipeg — thoughts that won’t be featured on any tourism brochures.

If they wanted to add one final zinger they could have asked Ilya Bryzgalov for his updated thoughts on Winnipeg’s park situation or caught up with Altitude TV’s Kyle Keefe about the weather.

CBC News went and asked Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, her thoughts on what the Sharks players said and she threw some shade their way.

Via CBC:

“Given that the Jets beat the Sharks 4-1, I can understand that they don’t like Winnipeg. It’s never fun to lose,” she said, offering to help them see the city in a better light.

“Once the NHL playoffs get into full swing and the Sharks have some more time on their hands I’d be happy to tour them around and show them all that Winnipeg has to offer — festivals, food trucks, sunshine, world-class attractions and one of the best culinary scenes in the country.

“If they want to take me up on my offer, we could even invite them to a Jets playoff game.”

As Jets fans like to do to certain opposing players, Bryzgalov was serenaded by them when he played there a few years after his comments. You can be certain they won’t forget next time those three players are in town.

UPDATE: Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister weighs in:

UPDATE #2: As you can see, NBC California has since deleted the controversial Tweet. Tueday has been an eventful day of responses. First, Jets head coach Paul Maurice spoke out, and now Sharks GM Doug Wilson said this to the Mercury News:

“It’s disappointing that our broadcast partner would put our players in that position. First of all, by even asking that question, then putting it on our broadcast. That was a question that was one of 30 that were asked earlier in the year. To me, it was an inappropriate question that should not have been asked. Whether it was an attempt at humor, it was not appropriate.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Marleau continues to turn back the clock; Vegas continues to rewrite record book

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Players of the Night: 

Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs: Marleau scored two more goals, his 13th and 14th goals of the season. It was the 67th multi-goal game of his long career. It’s been a great season for the former Sharks forward. The man is timeless, everyone. Timeless.

James Reimer, Florida Panthers: Reimer stopped 29 of 31 shots for his fourth consecutive win. Reimer has put up a .935 save percentage or better in each of those four games.

Sam Gagner and Thomas Vanek, Vancouver Canucks: Each player had a pair of goals to their respective names in a 5-2 win for the Canucks over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Highlights of the Night: 

Marleau’s second goal of the game came off a pretty slick deke after getting the puck alone in front:

Derek MacKenzie goal finished off this slick cross-ice pass. It was a short-handed goal to boot.

Nikita Kucherov‘s no-look pass found Steven Stamkos for some Sedin-like magic:

Joonas Donskoi in a short film that needs no explanation:

Factoids of the Night: 

James Reimer is doing things in Florida:

Brock Boeser is re-writing the Canucks’ rookie record book:

MISC: 

Scores:

Lightning 3, Canadiens 1

Capitals 4, Bruins 3 (SO)

Panthers 3, Flyers 2

Maple Leafs 7, Coyotes 4

Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

Golden Knights 3, Kings 2 (OT)

Sharks 3, Flames 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck