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Why Karl Alzner’s signing proves there won’t be offer sheets for Drew Doughty or Steven Stamkos

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When Washington re-signed Karl Alzner to a two-year, $2.57 million deal the most stunning part of the contract was how cheaply it was and with how few years it came attached with it. Capitals GM George McPhee chalked it up as another cap management victory this summer and those watching things around the league were left amazed for a couple of reasons. Not only was McPhee able to keep one of his young stud defensive stoppers, he was able to do it without outside interference in the form of an offer sheet.

Last year we saw one restricted free agent signed to an offer sheet as Sharks GM Doug Wilson tried to take advantage of the Blackhawks poor salary cap situation by signing Niklas Hjalmarsson to a four-year $14 million offer sheet. The Blackhawks didn’t blink at the Sharks move and matched it before they ultimately parted ways with Antti Niemi. While there were no hard feelings between Wilson and Hawks GM Stan Bowman, it makes us wonder why a similar poaching move wasn’t made on Alzner this summer. After all, the Capitals were up against the salary cap and the seemingly small deal they got Alzner locked up to put them over the cap just slightly by over $800,000.

As it turns out, the Caps and Alzner were never too far apart in what they wanted. Katie Carrera of The Washington Post finds out from Alzner’s agent J.P. Barry that the framework was solid between both sides all along.

Barry explained that the team initially cited comparables in a $1.2 million to $1.4 million range for the second year while he sought something in a higher range closer to $1.9 million to $2 million. They ultimately agreed to $1.75 million for the second year, which was combined with the qualifying offer of $826,895 and then spread out over the duration of the deal, Barry said.

“Our valuation of 1.75 puts him in the higher range of guys who have his experience and play those minutes as a shutdown defensemen, so I’m pleased with that,” Barry said. “At the same time, we’re fully aware that we think Karl has an excellent future and if he continues on this path he’ll be in a whole different class” when this contract expires.

Alzner himself said that there were no other teams that made an offer to him. While that’s stunning to hear as Alzner’s a guy with a bright future to go and still just 22 years-old, it leaves us thinking that anyone hoping that either fellow restricted free agents Drew Doughty of L.A. and Steve Stamkos of Tampa Bay will sign offer sheets will be left disappointed.

While Doughty is waiting around for the Kings to make an offer (they reportedly haven’t made an offer to Doughty since June 23) and Stamkos and the Lightning continue to work things out, you have to wonder where other teams are to try and push those teams with offers that could make them face up to difficult salary cap and roster questions of their own. While the Kings have enough cap space to get Doughty taken care of according to CapGeek.com (about $10 million), Tampa Bay could be in a lot of danger if someone ponied up big for Stamkos.

While the Lightning are still about $15 million off the cap with Teddy Purcell yet to re-sign as well, should a monster offer come through to Stamkos the Lightning undoubtedly would match, but owing a ton of money to three players in Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis would make their payroll questions tough ones in the future.

With the possibility of cap roll backs and other new CBA worries next year getting a smart deal done for both players is important for both the Kings and Lightning. For other teams looking to potentially put the screws to them, it’s a missed opportunity that makes you wonder if there’s some kind of collusion going on not to screw each other over with labor peril and new rules to follow on the horizon.

That’s a lofty and nasty allegation, of course, but with prime talent like Doughty and Stamkos there, potentially, for the taking and seemingly no offers coming in for either player it makes you wonder why opposing GMs wouldn’t be huddling with their own capologists to figure something out to land a premiere young NHL star.

The business side of the NHL is obviously not something us couch jockeys are very savvy with, but boiling it all down to seeing two top talents dangling in restricted free agent purgatory belonging to teams with enough cap space to burn to take care of both players and remaining unsigned with no action from other teams is baffling to us.

We’re not sure if that means former Oilers GM Kevin Lowe made it impossible for teams to feel comfortable signing restricted free agents with any tact after his overzealous work in signing Dustin Penner and Thomas Vanek to obscenely large offer sheets in the past, but Doughty and Stamkos are no-brainer superstars and if a team was willing to sacrifice the draft picks necessary to sign them and pay up accordingly with the money, why wouldn’t a team roll the dice and take a shot?

Apparently these days if you’re not going to take a shot at a guy destined to make up to $2 million per season, going after guys set to make up to or more than $7 million a year is an absolute non-starter. After the kinds of stupid money we’ve seen thrown around all summer, it leaves our heads shaking at the insanity of it all around. With this sort of craziness, the only people that are happy about it are Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Kings GM Dean Lombardi.

Mrazek vs. Reimer and other Hurricanes lineup questions readying for Rangers

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Beyond obvious outliers like the Penguins, the Hurricanes rank among the most legitimate of the NHL’s Qualifying Round teams. Yet as stable as the Hurricanes are compared to a field full of erratic teams, Carolina faces many of the same lineup questions as the Rangers, the team they’d face in a best-of-five series.

Some might argue that the Hurricanes face tougher questions than the Rangers. (Though, the Rangers aren’t off the hook in that regard.)

In particular, the Hurricanes may need training camp to find answers in net and on defense. For all we know, Hurricanes lineup questions could even persist beyond “Phase 3.”

Let’s glance at both the goalie and defense questions for the Hurricanes.

Who should start in Hurricanes playoff lineup: Mrazek or Reimer?

Reimer, Mrazek, Hurricanes Rangers lineup questions NHL playoffs
(Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With Henrik Lundqvist jousting with two young upstarts, some might wonder if the Rangers have too much of a good thing in net. The Hurricanes don’t enjoy quite the abundance of options.

Even so, coach Rod Brind’Amour faces a decision, as they lack a clear No. 1. Should the Hurricanes go with Petr Mrazek — who helped them during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs — or James Reimer (who boasts superior numbers this season)?

If Brind’Amour knows, he’s putting on a poker face.

“It’s easy to say right now, ‘OK, I’m going to go with Petr,’ but I don’t know,” Brind’Amour said in a recent interview, via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “He may be in rough shape. I don’t know until I get to see them and see what they’re like.”

It’s unclear if that last playoff run explains why Mrazek would be the “easy” choice, or if that came down to Reimer entering the pandemic pause with injury issues. (The Hurricanes may also be concerned about Reimer’s rather lengthy run of injury hiccups, too.)

Because, again, Reimer performed at a higher level than Mrazek in 2019-20. Reimer boasts a better save percentage than Mrazek this season (.914 to Mrazek’s .905) and over their careers (.914 to Mrazek’s .910). Reimer takes most/all goalie “advanced stats” between the two this season, as well. Generally speaking, we’ve seen more from Reimer over the past few seasons than Mrazek, whose career was teetering on the edge here and there.

(But, to be fair, Reimer’s had his issues, too.)

Regardless, just about every team should take a long look at how their goalies are performing during training camps. Even teams with clearer No. 1 options.

Honestly, with the NHL not expected to limit the number of goalies at training camps, maybe the Hurricanes should even look at options like Anton Forsberg or Alex Nedeljkovic?

An unexpectedly crowded defense

Dougie Hamilton Hurricanes Rangers lineup decisions playoffs
(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

During the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, the Hurricanes acquired Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen. As you may remember, those moves hinged at least partially on injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce. After the twists of those bad-luck injuries, the pandemic threw off Carolina’s rhythm once more.

The best news is that it sounds like Hamilton will be available. Don’t let the museum talk fool you. If Hamilton maintained his hot pace and didn’t get injured, he would have been a go-to choice for those making arguments against John Carlson‘s Norris credentials. Either way, Hamilton provides an enormous boost to the Hurricanes lineup — one they weren’t expecting during the deadline.

On the other hand, Brind’Amour told NHL.com’s Rosen that Pesce remains unlikely to return. However …

“It’s going to be a long shot, but the longer this goes the shot gets a little shorter,” Brind’Amour said.

(Anyone else visualizing that after that rather literal description from Brind’Amour? No? OK.)

So, Hamilton stands as probable while Pesce looks unlikely. Beyond that, the Hurricanes have two still-new faces in Skjei (just seven not particularly impressive games played) and Vatanen (who was injured and didn’t even get to suit up). Let’s say that represents three defensemen for the Hurricanes. Here are the other contenders for spots in the Hurricanes defensive lineup:

  • Jaccob Slavin, a lock.
  • Jake Gardiner, who dealt with a tough season, averaging only 16:40 TOI. Still, Gardiner is experienced, played in 68 games this season, and may have benefited from the break.
  • Joel Edmundson (68 GP like Slavin and Gardiner, averaged more TOI than Gardiner with 18:27 per contest).
  • Trevor van Riemsdyk (49 GP, less than 15 minutes per night; still, Hurricanes are very familiar with TVR).
  • Haydn Fleury (45 GP, averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game).

Realistically, Brind’Amour could have eight options on defense, and possibly nine if Pesce makes unexpectedly rapid progress. Being that some of those options are quite good, there are worse problems to have.

But it still adds to the notion that training camp could be quite important for Hurricanes lineup decisions. With both goalies and defense, Brind’Amour emphasized a wait-and-see approach. So … we’ll see?

More on the Hurricanes, Rangers, return to play, and similar subjects:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Flyers’ Oskar Lindblom rings bell after final cancer treatment

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A week after hitting the ice with his teammates for the first time in six months, Oskar Lindblom got to ring the bell marking the end of his chemotherapy treatments.

The 23-year-old Flyers forward was diagnosed in December with Ewing sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, and played only 30 games this season.

On Thursday, Lindblom walked down the hall at Abramson Cancer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to ring the bell and celebrate with the nurses who took care of him.

“I can’t even explain how I feel,” he told the Flyers website. “It feels I’m having a birthday, Christmas and all those holidays at the same time. It feels awesome to be done. I can’t wait to just get back to normal life again and start feeling like I’m living.”

(Lindblom will not play for the Flyers later this summer if the NHL resumes the 2019-20 season.)

Since being diagnosed, Lindblom received support from all over the hockey community. Players from the Flyers and around the NHL wore#OskarStrong” shirts and he was given a standing ovation when shown on the Jumbotron during a January game.

“From family to friends to fans, I can’t explain how much they’ve meant to me,” said Lindblom, who is the Flyers’ Masterton Trophy nominee. “Especially at the start when it was a rough time and I got all those kind words. It just made me feel so much better, calm, and it really helped along the way.”

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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Top free agents; O’Reilly up for ‘unique’ challenge

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• A look at the top 50 free agents who could hit the market at some point in the next few months. [TSN]

• Which UFA moments have defined the NHL’s salary-cap era? [Sportsnet]

Ryan O'Reilly is up for the “unique” challenge of helping the Blues defend their Stanley Cup title. [NHL.com]

• “There are health risks for the players who will be quarantined in hub cities for the Stanley Cup playoffs, but their concerns don’t end there. It’s possible the players will be paying for the lost revenues caused by COVID-19 for years.” [The Hockey News]

• On players potentially opting out of playing if the NHL resumes this summer. [NBC Sports Washington]

• It’s not looking good for Alexander Romanov, Kirill Kaprizov, and Ilya Sorokin in their attempts to play this season. [Hockey Wilderness]

• The NHL should thank college hockey for producing so many impactful young defensemen. [Grand Forks Herald]

• What Alexis Lafreniere would mean to the Blackhawks. [NBC Sports Chicago]

• Why Shane Doan should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. [Five for Howling]

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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.

Hurricanes losing Dudley, still in talks with TV’s Forslund

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell said Wednesday that executive Rick Dudley won’t return and the team is still in talks with longtime TV play-by-play announcer John Forslund on a new deal.

The 71-year-old Dudley had worked as Carolina’s senior vice president of hockey operations since 2018, part of nearly five decades in professional hockey. That included serving as general manager for four NHL franchises, and he also played and coached the Buffalo Sabres.

“Rick and I talked months ago and he said that at the end of his contract, he was going to move on,” Waddell said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Waddell said the team has reached agreements with all employees whose deals expired Tuesday so far except for Forslund, who is in his 25th season with the franchise and also does national broadcasts with NBC.

“We’ve had multiple talks: I’ve talked to the agent numerous times, I’ve talked to John a couple of times,” Waddell said. “We’ve laid it out. They didn’t yesterday ask for anything other than some time.”

Reached by the AP on Wednesday evening, Forslund said: “I’ve said it (before), the door’s always open until it’s completely closed. And as of right now, that’s where it stands.”