With 172 goals in his first 318 career regular season games, 22-year-old star Steven Stamkos seems primed to finish his career among the NHL’s greatest goal scorers. He already grabbed a piece of Tampa Bay Lightning franchise history in the process.
After fanning on a shot, Stamkos made no mistake about his second attempt, beating a hopeless Ilya Bryzgalov with just .6 seconds left in the second period of tonight’s 5-3 win to earn his league-leading 53rd goal of 2011-12. Stamkos isn’t just beefing up his Maurice Richard Trophy lead, though, as that tally gave him the Lightning’s single season goal-scoring record.
It seems fitting that Stamkos broke Vincent Lecavalier’s record (52 goals set in 2006-07) because in many ways, the 22-year-old has been the kind of player worthy of the hype that Lecavalier carried into the NHL.
That’s not to take away from Lecavalier’s own work, but Stamkos is shaping up to be the best center the club’s ever employed. (Beating out Martin St. Louis as the best overall forward would be an even bigger challenge, however, as the small winger has put up fantastic seasons even when Vinny and the rest of the team has been disappointing.)
Stamkos’ 53rd tally came on the power play, yet he’s made it clear that he can score more than just the faceoff circle one-timer that admittedly remains a fearsome play. Only 11 of his tallies have come on the man advantage this season, which provides evidence that Stamkos’ offensive game has plenty of dimensions.
That’s great news for a Bolts franchise that needs it and a scary thought for all the teams who must fathom the thought of dealing with 10 or more years of dangerous Stamkos snipes.
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at email@example.com.
• Sportsnet tackles the eight biggest questions heading into tonight’s NHL Entry Draft. What will the Habs do with the third overall pick? Will anything happen with Columbus’ Artemi Panarin? (Sportsnet)
• Former NHL defenseman Nick Boynton has decided to join the NHL concussion lawsuit. He’ll also be donating his brain to science. Boynton has been battling substance abuse and depression. (TSN)
• There’s no denying that Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds could be on the move in the next hours/days, but will the team actually pull the trigger on a deal involving their talented forward? (Philly.com)
• The Canadiens will have an early selection in tonight’s draft, but will they hit a home run or swing-and-miss again? The Montreal Gazette looks at the Habs’ inability to develop their first-rounders over the last 33 years. (Montreal Gazette)
• Over the course of their history, the Sabres have done pretty well when they’ve selected defensemen in the first round. That run of success should continue on Friday night with Rasmus Dahlin. (WGR550)
• Stars GM Jim Nill confirmed that he expects to sign forward Valeri Nichushkin on July 1st. He’s been in the KHL for the last two years. (NHL.com/Stars)
• Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty has been one of the best bargains in the NHL over the last few years (he’s been making $4.5 million per year). Now that he’s in the final year of his contract, expect him not to leave any money on the table even if it means changing addresses. (Sportsnet)
• You can now check out each PHWA voter’s ballot from this year’s NHL Awards. There’s some head-scratchers on there. (PHWA)
• And we have our first buyout of 2018, as the Edmonton Oilers decided to put an end to their relationship with Eric Gryba. That means that the Oilers will be carrying almost $2 million in dead money next season. (Edmonton Sun)
The 2018-19 NHL schedule has arrived and the 1,271-game journey to the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins Oct. 4 and ends April 6. We’ll have banners being raised, old friends being reacquainted, outdoor games, games in Europe and nearly a full slate on the season’s final day.
Here’s a look at a dozen notable dates on this coming season’s schedule:
Oct. 3, 2018 – Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals
It’s not the Penguins like we all wished, so the Capitals will have to raise their first Stanley Cup banner against the Bruins. They’ll also be playing for a new head coach before traveling to Pittsburgh for a visit with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins the next night.
Also on Opening Night, we’ll get to see the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the Montreal Canadiens, the Calgary Flames visiting the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks playing host to the Anaheim Ducks.
Oct. 4, 2018 — Philadelphia Flyers at Vegas Golden Knights
An historic inaugural season ended in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. But despite the tough defeat, there was plenty for the Golden Knights and their fans to be proud of. When fans return to T-Mobile Arena for their 2018 home opener, there will be a nice celebration with a banner or two going up in the rafters.
Boston Bruins at Buffalo Sabres
Sabres fans get a first glimpse of Rasmus Dahlin in action when they take on the Bruins in the home opener. The expected 2018 No. 1 overall pick brings plenty of hope to Buffalo as the fanbase prays hard that he, Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt can end their years of misery.
Oct. 6, 2018 – Nashville Predators at New York Islanders
Trotz makes his debut as Islanders head coach against one of his old teams. And no matter how free agency goes, this will be an interesting night at Barclays Center. Either John Tavares will be in the Islanders lineup, having committed to the franchise with a long-term extension and thereby garnering a huge ovation, or he’ll be wearing another jersey and the mood in Brooklyn will be quite glum.
This day will also see the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils facing off in the NHL Global Series in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Oct. 10, 2018 – Vegas Golden Knights at Washington Capitals
A rematch of the Stanley Cup Final that saw the Capitals victorious in five games. Maybe by Oct. 10 Alex Ovechkin will have been separated from the Cup.
Oct. 26, 2018 – Ottawa Senators at Colorado Avalanche
Matt Duchene has been a visiting player against the Avs, but that game actually took place in Sweden last season, so he’s yet to return to Pepsi Center as a Senator. Now, given the state of the Senators, we may get to late October and Duchene could be on a different team. But if he’s still with Ottawa, the reception he gets upon coming back to Denver should be interesting considering how his time with the franchise ended.
Dec. 1, 2018 – Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders
As the Islanders prepare to leave Barclays Center in a few years, this game will be the first of 20 this coming season at their former home of Nassau Coliseum, now known as NYCB Live. The team will play games there over the next few seasons as a new arena gets built by Belmont race track in Elmont.
Nov. 1-2, 2018 – Florida Panthers vs. Winnipeg Jets
Jan. 1, 2019 – Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins
Hey, what do you know? An outdoor game featuring the Blackhawks. After taking a year off, the Blackhawks are back outside for the Winter Classic and will take on the Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium. There will be plenty of shots of Touchdown Jesus and lots and lots of stories of Vinnie Hinostroza’s time in South Bend.
Jan. 18, 2019 – New York Islanders at Washington Capitals
Trotz returns to D.C. where he’ll get some very, very long ovations from the crowd and enjoy a tribute video ending with him raising the Stanley Cup.
Jan. 25-26, 2019 – All-Star Weekend, San Jose
A bit of a change this year as the Skills Competition has been moved to Friday night of All-Star Weekend and the 3-on-3 divisional tournament taking place on Saturday.
Feb. 23, 2019 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The home-and-home Battle of Pennsylvania outdoor series concludes this February when the Penguins visit the Flyers at Lincoln Financial Field for a Stadium Series game. The Penguins were 4-2 victors when the two met in 2017 at Heinz Field. Hopefully the jersey choices are a little better than what they wore in their previous meeting.
April 6, 2019 – Super Saturday
The final day of the 2018-19 regular season will see 30 teams in action, with hopefully some playoff seeds and spots still up for grabs before we get to the postseason.
“The league has never been healthier,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman said at December’s Board of Governors meeting. “The game has never been healthier. Our franchises have never been healthier.”
Important news for teams like Ottawa and Arizona, the salary cap floor for next season will be $58.8 million, which means it’s time to prepare those Marian Hossa trade proposals!
The ceiling increase is also good news for those teams that regular spend to the limit. Now they have some more breathing room to either bring back some unrestricted or restricted free agents they want to sign or allow them to add a bit more salary under their cap if they want to go shopping this summer.
Barry Trotz wasn’t divulging details — such is the life of working for Lou Lamoriello. But the New York Islanders head coach did say he’d already spoken with captain John Tavares within hours of officially being hired.
We’re still to reach a resolution on that front, and as far as Trotz’s resignation after leading the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup two weeks ago, he said it was out of “principle.” The Cup victory meant a clause in his contract activated giving him a two-year extension and a $300,000 raise. He wanted a longer term and a richer deal, but the Capitals weren’t willing to go down that route.
“When it came to the business aspect, I was willing to listen,” Trotz said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “From my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere what we did together. I decided it was better to just move on.”
Not long after he parted with the Capitals, Trotz’s agent got a call from Lamoriello expressing interest. Trotz flew in and met with the Islanders president and GM earlier this week and talked about a vision for the team. That’s when the head coach got excited about coming on board.
“If you know anything about Lou Lamoriello and his background and what he does, he’ll do what it takes to win,” Trotz said. “That got me excited right away.”
As for a staff, Trotz said Lane Lambert, his longtime assistant in Nashville and Washington, would be his “No. 1 choice” if he chooses to come to New York. Goaltending coach Mitch Korn could also be in the mix to follow Trotz.
With two straight seasons of playoffless hockey, Trotz understands that there’s work to do with the team, even beyond what happens with Tavares. But having coached against the Islanders for years, he knows there are some good pieces on the roster that could help in a turnaround.
“If we can get our structure right and we get our pace right, we’ll be able to score, we’ll be able to defend much better and we’re going to fix up some holes,” he said.