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NHL cracking down on slashing, faceoff violations to begin preseason

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The NHL has made it a point to crack down on slashing for the upcoming regular season. With the preseason underway, the foundation for the new standard is being set.

Dating back to late June, the NHL had vowed to call slashing more closely after a number of incidents last season, including Marc Methot‘s gruesome finger injury, which was the result of a slash to the hands from Sidney Crosby.

Monday’s game between the Islanders and Rangers featured nine slashing minor penalties. The Devils and Capitals were only 41 seconds into their preseason game Monday when Jimmy Hayes was called for slashing. A total of six slashing minors were called in that game — not to mention three faceoff violations.

From the Washington Post:

There’s been talk of being harder on slashing following several wrist, hand and finger injuries last season from dangerous stick work. “Now, as soon as your stick is off the ice and you touch the other players’ stick or hands, it was zero tolerance today,” Eller said. More surprising was the three faceoff violation penalties called in the first period of the game. That also represented a new emphasis from the league. “Cheating” on faceoffs has been commonplace, and for centers who’ve made their name winning faceoffs with a certain style and routine, staying perfectly within the red lines in the circle was an adjustment.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the Senators-Maple Leafs game Monday also featured three faceoff violations. It appears right now there will be quite an adjustment for players across the league to the apparent crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations, especially early on.

However, will this be the standard for the entire season? For the playoffs?

“I have a tough time believing that in the playoffs, in Game 7, that kind of call is going to be made,” Mark Letestu told Sportsnet. “Right now, there’s an overemphasis on it, and hopefully it doesn’t go all the way back to where it was.”

Stars will keep top pick Heiskanen in Finland, not bring him over for camp

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Dallas Stars fans will have to wait another year to get an up close look at their team’s top pick from the 2017 draft, defenseman Miro Heiskanen.

General manager Jim Nill announced on Monday that Heiskanen will remain in Finland with his team (HIFK Helsinki) and not attend training camp this season.

Part of the decision might be related to the fact that Heiskanen is currently injured. It was recently reported in Finland that Heiskanen suffered a concussion, and when the Stars opened training camp this week his name was included on the list of injured players.

His absence from camp this year isn’t a huge deal from a big picture outlook because it was always unlikely that he was going to make the team this season. The Stars’ plan all along was to be patient with him, and while they would have given him an opportunity to make the team it always seemed inevitable that he was going to end up playing back in Finland for the entire season anyway.

He spent the 2016-17 season playing for HIFK Helsinki where he scored five goals and five assists in 37 games.

The Stars selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft and added him to their collection of promising young defensemen.

Dallas is already dealing with a crowded blue line situation this season with eight players under contract for this season, including offseason addition Marc Methot. The Stars loaded up again this summer with big moves, including Methot, starting goalie Ben Bishop and free agent acquisitions Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal.

Hanzal out with ankle injury as Stars open training camp

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The Dallas Stars began training camp on Thursday, however, forward Martin Hanzal will not be taking to the ice — at least not right away.

Signed by Dallas to a three-year, $14.25 million contract on the first day of free agency, Hanzal is dealing with an ankle sprain, per Mark Stepneski of the Stars’ website.

So far, there doesn’t seem to be a specific timeline for when the 6-foot-6 center could return to the ice.

The Stars made a number of big moves this offseason. It started with the hiring of Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, and continued with the acquisition of goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman Marc Methot, and the additions of Hanzal and Alex Radulov in free agency.

Dallas had a disappointing 2016-17 campaign, missing the playoffs after finishing as the top Western Conference team during the 2015-16 regular season.

Signing Hanzal provides the Stars with a versatile center, capable of playing in a shutdown role or perhaps moving into a top-six spot if Hitchcock decides that’s an option.

Prospect d-man Chabot sets sights on making Senators

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With training camps soon opening up, Thomas Chabot is making clear his plan to make the NHL this season.

He has one game experience at the NHL level, before getting sent back to juniors last season. Now, he’s positioned to make the jump to the Ottawa Senators lineup, particularly with the departure of Marc Methot in the offseason. Erik Karlsson also hasn’t started skating following his offseason foot surgery and his status for opening night is right now in jeopardy.

That may mean another opportunity for Chabot to get into the lineup — at least at the beginning of the season.

“They know I can skate and I can do things with the puck, but I just want to show that I can play real well and solid in my own zone,” Chabot told NHL.com.

“That’s what it is, that’s what it’s all about nowadays in the NHL. Everyone is just so good, you have to watch everyone, so to be a good defenseman in the NHL you have to be good in your own zone. That’s what I’m focusing on going into main camp, but obviously my goal is to have a spot for the season with the Senators.”

Chabot is now 20 years old. His lone NHL contest last season came in October against the Arizona Coyotes. He played just over seven minutes. It wasn’t until November, however, that he was sent back to the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs. Back in junior, he put together a solid season and had an impressive showing for Team Canada at the world juniors, as well.

The Senators believe, however, that his brief time spent in Ottawa early last season should benefit Chabot now as he looks to make the club on a full-time basis this year.

“I think he’ll be more ready to step into our lineup this year, in whatever the role might be, than if we wouldn’t have kept him around for a month,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion told the Ottawa Citizen.

David Pastrnak is a star and the Bruins should be willing to pay him like one

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As training camps draw closer all eyes in the NHL are starting to turn to the situation in Boston where restricted free agent David Pastrnak remains unsigned.

According to general manager Don Sweeney, there is no timetable on when a deal is going to be reached and there seems to be a bit of a gap between the two sides when it comes to the type of contract Pastrnak is going to get.

The Bruins have reportedly offered a seven-year deal worth around $6 million per year, while Pastrnak would reportedly prefer a deal closer to the eight-year pact Leon Draisaitl received from the Edmonton Oilers. Given their ages and overall production to this point, as well as the market for RFA’s of that skill level, it is not a completely unreasonable ask.

There are a couple of problems for the Bruins here, and a big one is simply the optics of the situation.

The Bruins have a 21-year-old player that appears to be on the verge of stardom in the NHL. He not only can be a young, cornerstone offensive player, he already is one. They also have more than enough salary cap room to fit him in.

What keeps the Bruins from getting the benefit of the doubt in this situation (at least from this perspective) is the track record they have in dealing with young, cornerstone offensive players. They tend to toss them aside, having traded Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Tyler Seguin and standout defenseman Dougie Hamilton all within the past 12 years (and with three different general managers completing those trades). It creates the perception that the organization as a whole doesn’t properly value high end talent and would rather trade it away — often times for pennies on the dollar — than pay market value to keep it.

The argument against paying Pastrnak a deal similar to the one Draisaitl received, for example, is that the team is paying for potential. He might not pan out. It might not be a great value.

Pastrnak at this point in his career has one monster season and a couple of half seasons where he flashed star potential.

But his production puts him in some pretty rare and special company when it comes to impact players.

Over the past 20 years there have only been 10 players that have appeared in at least 170 games and scored at least 59 goals by the end of their age 20 season: Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Steven Stamkos, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Skinner, Evander Kane, Jordan Staal, Vincent Lecavalier, Nathan MacKinnon and … David Pastrnak. The only player on that list that really didn’t continue on the same path that they showed early on has been Kane, and a lot of that has been due to injury and health.

What stands out about Pastrnak on that list is how little ice time it has taken him to reach that level compared to some of the others. Via Hockey-Reference.

On a per-minute basis his production is off the charts for someone his age.

Players that produce at this level at this age tend to be good enough to sustain it.

It’s not paying for potential. It’s paying for what a player will do for you instead of what a player has done for you.

The Bruins have been fortunate to get some tremendous bargains with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron over the years, and giving Pastrnak $7-8 million per season right now might look like a little bit of an overpay. But not every contract has to be below market value. Plus, if Pastrnak continues on his current path — and there is every reason to believe that he will given what he has done so far, his ability to generate shots and his possession numbers — that contract, too, could look like a bargain in the near future.