Getty

Maybe Penguins should listen to Malkin about Zaripov

10 Comments

The Pittsburgh Penguins bummed out Evgeni Malkin a few years ago when they traded James Neal.

Of course, things worked out quite well for Malkin and the Penguins since then – sometimes to Neal’s chagrin – but maybe the team should throw Malkin a bone this time around?

As Josh Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, Malkin continues to promote the idea of the Penguins signing Denis Zaripov.

“ … If coach talks to me a little more, I would say more. I like [Zaripov] so much,” Malkin said. “Of course I want to see his face in the locker room. We see what’s going on, but we have time. It’s a hard situation to talk about him.”

At 36 years old and with a ban from the KHL in mind, there are some hang-ups about Zaripov, especially from a long-term perspective.

Still, the Penguins probably wouldn’t lose much in rolling the dice with a one-year deal. And while Zaripov is about a decade older than Artemi Panarin, let’s not forget that the St. Louis Blues ignored Vladimir Tarasenko‘s praise of Panarin, only to see him star for the Blackhawks.

Sure, there’s an element of stumping for your buddies here, but sometimes it works out well. Even after all these years, Matt Moulson stands as one of John Tavares‘ better linemates, and their bond helped Moulson get his foot in the door with the Islanders many years ago.

Just a thought …

… especially since the Penguins seem so open-minded about taking fliers on players with some upside.

Not long after grabbing a goalie who impressed at the Prospects Challenge, Pittsburgh handed a three-year, entry-level contract to forward Jordy Bellerive after impressing in that format.

Now, we’re talking about different types of upside here (young players vs. a veteran who put up nice KHL numbers for years and might convert them to the big time), but maybe the Penguins should listen to Malkin on this one?

If nothing else, it would cut down on one “I told you so.” Just saying.

Islanders want to avoid another ‘terrible’ start to season

Getty
1 Comment

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (AP) The New York Islanders got off to a slow start last season and, despite a strong second half that followed a midyear coaching change, finished a point out of a playoff spot.

Now, Doug Weight has promised a hard camp as he heads into his first full season at the helm, hoping that will help the team get off to a better start.

“We know camp is going to be tough,” forward Casey Cizikas said. “Dougie’s been telling us that from the get go. … We gave away a lot of games last year where we could have got points and that’s what kind of impaired us at the end.”

The Islanders had just six wins in their first 20 games, and had stretches of improved play but struggled with consistency when Weight replaced Jack Capuano on Jan. 17 with the team last in the Eastern Conference at 17-17-8. The Islanders closed the season with six straight wins to finish 24-12-4 under Weight, who was hired on a permanent basis days after the season ended.

Missing the postseason by a point after the slow start stuck with the players in the offseason and many pointed to it as a motivating force.

“You think about it all summer,” veteran defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Our start last year, it was terrible and we know that, and that’s why we weren’t in the playoffs.”

Captain John Tavares was looking forward to a full training camp after missing out last year while helping Canada win the World Cup of Hockey. With the departure of several longtime teammates and the additions of free agents Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera, the team struggled to develop chemistry and was juggling lines combinations through much of the first half of the season.

With the addition of forward Jordan Eberle in a trade with Edmonton, Tavares is looking forward to having the extra time to develop chemistry with his new teammate this year.

“Certainly it’s great to be here with your teammates that you’re going to be with all year from Day 1,” Tavares said. “Start the grind and build the camaraderie, that closeness you need to have success.”

Some other things to know as the Islanders head into their first day of practice Friday:

CAPTAIN’S CONTRACT: Tavares is still not signed beyond this season, but said he has not ruled out ongoing talks between agent Pat Brisson and team management during the season.

“I’m open to anything,” he said. “Communications are great. We’ll continue to keep that open, let the process continue to move along.”

The face of the franchise since he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft, Tavares is heading into the final season of a six-year, $33 million deal. He has averaged 33 goals and 41 assists the last three seasons, and his goal in the second overtime of Game 6 of the first round against Florida in March 2016 gave the franchise its only postseason series win since 1993.

LINING UP: Much of the focus in the offseason was on adding offense around Tavares. Though General Manager Garth Snow was unable to pry Matt Duchene from the Avalanche, Eberle should provide a big boost. The 27-year-old right wing has averaged 24.3 goals and 32.3 assists the last four years.

Though Weight hasn’t given any indication, the expectation is Eberle could replace Josh Bailey on the top line with Tavares and Anders Lee, who is coming off career highs of 34 goals and 52 points. The trickle-down effect will result in other lines being shuffled as well.

BETWEEN THE PIPES: Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak should give the Islanders a strong goaltending duo. Greiss took over as starter when Halak was waived and sent to minors on Dec. 31, but struggled down the stretch. Halak was called up and finished 6-1-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average as the Islanders made their late playoff push.

It’s unclear if Weight will name either the starter.

“Depends, too, on whoever plays good will play, I guess,” said Greiss, who was 26-18-5 with a 2.69 GAA while appearing in a career-high 51 games. “So just make sure you play well.”

YOUTH ON D: After trading longtime defensive stalwart Travis Hamonic to Calgary in the offseason, the Islanders will be turning to their farm system to fill the void. Adam Pelech, who appeared in 44 games last season, will likely get more playing time, and Ryan Pulock, who played in 15 in 2015-16, will get an extended look.

Scott Mayfield will be in the mix, too.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Islanders’ long-term arena situation remains unclear as they head into the third year at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center while eyeing the possibility of building a new home near Belmont Park.

However, they will be returning to their former home – the Nassau Coliseum, where they spent the franchise’s first 43 years – for the preseason opener Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen so many veterans say they want to play the first preseason game,” forward Cal Clutterbuck said.

Islanders expect Alan Quine to miss 4-6 weeks

Getty
1 Comment

The New York Islanders announced that forward Alan Quine is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with an upper-body injury.

(You might say that their injury descriptions are already in regular-season form.)

The Isles didn’t specify how Quine was hurt, but this puts his timetable somewhere between the early part of the 2017-18 or possibly close to November. If the upper-body injury is code for a concussion or some other more serious ailment, perhaps that six-week maximum would stand as a touch optimistic.

Either way, this opens the door for other Islanders hoping to make the club, even if it ends up being for little more than a “cup of coffee” in the NHL.

After playing two games in 2015-16, Quine appeared in 61 contests for the Islanders in 2016-17 season. During that time, the 24-year-old generated five goals and 18 points.

Quine is no stranger to setbacks in his NHL career. He was originally a third-round pick (85th overall in 2011) by Detroit, only needing to re-enter the draft in 2013, where the Isles snatched him up at 166th overall.

More:Islanders signed Quine to two-year deal in mid-July .

Maurice sees Scheifele as future captain of the Jets

Getty
1 Comment

Over the past two seasons Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele has developed into one of the best offensive players in the NHL.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season his 61 goals and 143 total points place him 15th in the NHL, ahead of superstars like Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, and Ryan Getzlaf. Along with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, he is one of the young players that is giving Jets fans a little bit of hope that the team might one day be able to climb out of the depths of mediocrity.

Coach Paul Maurice, who just signed a new contract extension to remain with the team this past week, sees more than just a great offensive player. He sees a future captain.

“Mark Scheifele is going to be the captain of this hockey team at some point in his career for sure,” said Maurice on Prime Time Sports this past week, via Sportsnet. “He is, in so many ways, the driver of that offense. Blake is a big part of it; Mark, as a centreman, certainly drives it.”

Here is more from Maurice:

“If you get a chance to spend some time with this guy, this is the guy you want your kids to grow up to be — he is that good a person,” Maurice said of Scheifele. “He does everything he possibly can to become a better hockey player and then does it with a smile on his face. There’s lots of those guys who grind through their life and kind of grumble about how hard they’ve got to work — Mark does all that, and enjoys every minute of it.”

Blake Wheeler is currently serving as the Jets’ captain after taking over the rule during the 2016-17 season. He replaced Andrew Ladd who was captain for six years before being traded during the 2015-16 season. Wheeler is under contract for two more seasons and will then be eligible for unrestricted free agency following the 2018-19 season.

Even with Maurice and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff getting new contract extensions this week the pressure is going to be on for the Jets to make some real noise this season in the Western Conference. They have a lot of talent throughout the roster and finally attempted to address their goaltending issues by adding veteran goalie Steve Mason in free agency. There is a lot of promise with this team when looking at the roster on paper. But there has to come a point where that promise turns into results. The Jets have qualified for the playoffs just one time since relocating to Winnipeg seven years ago.

The organization (even dating back to the Atlanta Thrashers days) is still looking for its first ever playoff win having been swept in the first round in its only two playoff appearances.

Islanders arena mess update: Bettman again shoots down Nassau talk

Getty
4 Comments

The NHL held a Friday press conference to hype up the 2018 Winter Classic between the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers, but the most interesting comments had little to do with an outdoor game.

(Although Jack Eichel watching the first-ever Winter Classic at age 11 is enlightening, and for most of us, a punch in our aging guts.)

While contract talks regarding Eichel came up – he again stated that playing out his contract year is no big deal – the other intriguing subject was not related to the Rangers or Sabres. Newsday’s Steve Zipay and Jim Baumbach report that, once again, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that he doesn’t think Nassau Coliseum would make sense for the New York Islanders, even as merely a temporary venue.

“Ultimately, whether or not the Islanders want to consider that and bring it to the league or something, you’ve had to ask them about it,” Bettman said. “But my gut reaction is it’s not a viable option.”

Before we try to dig through some of the dizzying aspects of the Islanders’ current situation, note that Bettman said that this is his gut reaction. He didn’t mark the situation downright as impossible altogether. Perhaps there would be room for convincing, though it sounds like it would be an uphill battle.

Even with that slightly optimistic aside in mind, it’s worth noting that it takes a lot of wind out of sails for Bettman to seem disinterested in the idea of merely having a few games at Nassau, as Baumbach also highlights. Such a thought makes Bettman’s latest comments that much more troubling than what he said back in April.

It’s no secret that the Islanders’ shaky arena situation is making a contract extension more difficult to work out with John Tavares. How many star players want to be a part of a team that resembles a struggling college student bouncing among friends’ couches?

As with many ownership and arena situations, things can be tricky. Getting a few positive breaks doesn’t necessarily guarantee that all will work out, especially with the scary timeline of Tavares only having one season remaining on his current contract.

Some dates to remember

It wasn’t all about killing hope for the Islanders fans back in April, as Bettman gave a tentative thumbs up to two possibilities: an arena on land near Belmont Park or one next to Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.

The array of possible deadlines and hiccups can be confusing, but a few dates stand out as of today.

For one thing, a Belmont proposal would need to happen soon, as Sept. 28 could be an informative date in the process.

Zipay and Baumbach’s Newsday report notes that the state doesn’t have a timeline for a decision, and a Jan. 30 date that might sound far-off today could come frighteningly soon for the Islanders:

If either the Islanders or Barclays Center want to opt out of their 25-year license agreement, they are contractually obligated to do so by Jan. 30. That means that the Islanders may not know their longterm future when that deadline arrives.

In an ideal scenario where the Islanders get an arena plan in full motion, they’d likely still need to spend a significant chunk of time playing somewhere else as that arena is built. More realistic situations could call for increased certainty well into 2018.

With that in mind, two other key dates could be the 2017-18 trade deadline (usually late February/early March) and the summer of 2018, when Tavares’ current contract expires.

If they don’t know where they’re playing by the trade deadline, would that prompt them to avoid losing Tavares for nothing? Would they be able to move enough in the right direction to buy time in one way or another?

***

The Islanders’ arena situation is becoming winding and frustrating enough to feel in some ways like the Coyotes’ seemingly eternal issues. The added wrinkle for the Islanders is the threat of it scaring away Tavares.

This story is by no means over, but Bettman’s comments once again make it seem like the big events won’t take place on Long Island.

Check out that Newsday story for more details on this confusing and rather nerve-wracking situation.