Sidney Crosby

With an agent in place, Habs and Galchenyuk set to resume contract talks

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Contract talks between the Montreal Canadiens and Alex Galchenyuk were temporarily put on hold after the forward fired his agent Igor Larionov.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that Galchenyuk has hired super agent Pat Brisson to represent him in contract talks with the Habs.

Brisson represents several high profile players including Sidney Crosby and John Tavares.

Galchenyuk’s three-year, entry-level deal is set to expire making him a restricted free agent.

The 21-year-old set career highs for goals (20) and points (46) during the 2014-15 season.

PHT Morning Skates: Stars weigh in on offensive decline, possible solutions

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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, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, and Alex Ovechkin offered their thoughts on why we’ve seen a decline in scoring in the NHL since the cap era’s 2005-06 debut season and what might be done to help bolster the game offensively. (Toronto Sun)

For those interested in what could have been, here’s a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup champion memorabilia that never was. (The Hockey News)

While we’re on the subject of champions, here’s an interactive timeline of how the 2014-15 Chicago Blackhawks were built. (Puck Junk)

Should Buffalo Sabres fans temper their short-term expectations for Jack Eichel? (Buffalo News)

Tyler Seguin is set to be the 11th hockey player to be included in ESPN’s ‘Body Issue’. (TSN)

Here’s Puck Daddy’s Top 20 UFA list. (Puck Daddy)

UFA of the Day: Justin Williams

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Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Justin Williams

If you look at his regular season numbers, Williams’ career has been fine, but hardly unique. But of course, Williams isn’t known for what he does in the regular season.

He is a three-time Stanley Cup champion that’s scored 30 goals and 78 points in 115 playoff games. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014 and has been called Mr. Game 7 for scoring seven goals and 14 points in his seven career Game 7s, per ESPN.

That has to be balanced against the fact that he scored a comparatively lukewarm 18 goals and 41 points in 81 contests in 2014-15, but certainly any team that’s been struggling to live up to expectations in the playoffs would have to be intrigued by the possibility of signing Williams on the open market.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, are looking to bolster their supporting cast as they try to capture a second Stanley Cup championship during the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin era.

That’s assuming of course that he doesn’t re-sign with the Kings first. Los Angeles doesn’t appear to have the cap space at the moment to re-sign him, although depending on what happens with Mike Richards in terms of a possible trade or buyout, that could change.

“At this point, I love L.A. If I re-sign here, great. I’ll be part of a great team moving forward,” Williams told Sportsnet.

“But if not, I’m going to try to restart my career somewhere else, turn the page and try to win as many hockey games as I can. I’m at a point in my career where it’s not all about money, it’s about winning for me.”

Click here for more UFAs.

Rutherford: Pens need a better ‘supporting cast’ for core

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Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is more than comfortable with the core of his roster.

And no, he has no plans to trade Evgeni Malkin, despite the speculation.

It’s the “supporting cast” — beyond Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury — that Rutherford is taking it upon himself to improve.

For good reason, he sees Chicago as the blueprint for success in the salary-cap era.

“The Blackhawks’ core group have risen to the occasion over the span of these last three Cups,” Rutherford told the Post-Gazette. “Clearly Kane and Toews and Crawford and Keith and some others have been really key players, but all three times they’ve had a different supporting cast.

“The conclusion I draw from that is that 1, we have the core guys to win a championship and 2, it’s my job and the job of everyone in hockey [operations] to try to get the right supporting cast so that we can build enough balance, speed and youth to have a complementary group that allows us to make the same run.”

One of the areas where the Penguins have fallen short is player development. Case in point, Rutherford admitted at the end of the season that Beau Bennett hasn’t been brought along properly.

Bennett was the Penguins’ first-round draft pick (20th overall) in 2010.

That was also the year Los Angeles took Tyler Toffoli, one of the leading scorers for the Kings in their second Cup run, with the 47th overall pick.

The next year, the Blackhawks drafted Brandon Saad in the second round and Andrew Shaw in the fifth.

To stay competitive in the salary-cap era, teams need that constant “support from the bottom.”

The Penguins haven’t received that. We mentioned Bennett’s failure to develop into an impact player. Well, at least he’s still with the organization. Pittsburgh traded the first-round picks that came before and after him. Simon Despres (2009) went to the Ducks to get Ben Lovejoy; Joe Morrow (2011) went to Dallas to get Brenden Morrow.

The Pens do have some good prospects in Derrick Pouliot, Kasperi Kapanen and a few others. The key for Rutherford will be to develop those prospects properly, while also acquiring the right veterans, for the right price, to fill out the rest of the roster.

Related: Rutherford insists Pittsburgh is ‘very appealing’ for free agents, even with ownership situation

Have we seen the Blackhawks at their highest point?

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The Chicago Blackhawks have already been named as an early favorite to win the 2016 championship. That would be their fourth in seven years.

As good as the Blackhawks have been, with Patrick Kane just 26 years old and Jonathan Toews only two months removed from his 27th birthday, is it really a stretch to say that Chicago’s run has plenty of strong years left in it? Maybe not, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion.

The single biggest roadblock at this point is the Blackhawks’ cap situation. In the short-term, Chicago is likely going to have to make some sacrifices as it has about $64 million committed to 14 players, per General Fanager.

That’s not including 22-year-old Brandon Saad, who has now completed his entry-level contract and is in line for a considerable raise. Chicago also has to prepare for the fact that Brent Seabrook, who only has one year left on his contract, will likely demand more than his current $5.8 million annual cap hit.

Perhaps Patrick Sharp will be moved to give the Blackhawks the flexibility that they need. Maybe Chicago will find a way to keep him, although doing so would likely come at the expense of the Blackhawks’ depth.

Which brings us to the other part of their cap situation. While Kane and Toews just demonstrated once again — as if further proof was required — why Chicago had to re-sign them at any cost, in the salary cap era it’s the team that gets the best value that has the edge. Having Kane and Toews at $6.5 million cap hits each was a big part of the Blackhawks’ strength as it allowed them to support a rather large core, making the burden on the supporting cast somewhat less. The duo will continue to be enviable players, but their days of being under market value are over.

Now Chicago might find itself in a similar situation to Pittsburgh, which has struggled to build around Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby since they starting making what they’re worth (when the Penguins won the Cup, Malkin was still on his entry-level contract).

Then there’s the matter of Marian Hossa, who has had a tremendous career, but will be 37 in January. He nevertheless comes with a roughly $5.3 million annual cap hit through 2020-21. If Sharp gets traded away and Hossa declines, then suddenly Chicago starts to look a little thin offensively after Kane and Toews.

That’s not to suggest that Chicago’s decline is inevitable. Just because Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to make its cap situation work doesn’t mean that Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman can’t. After all, he’s been dealing with ceiling issues since he took over and they’ve stayed competitive. In part that’s because they’ve been able to draft and develop talent like Saad to help fill the gaps while keeping costs down. It’s also possible that Hossa has several good years left in him.

The salary cap by its nature pushes great teams down. Chicago has been remarkable in its ability to work around it. Time will tell if the Blackhawks will eventually succumb.

source: AP
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane