‘Nothing better than playoffs in a big market,’ says Martin St. Louis

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Go ahead and accuse me of reading too much into a quote, but I found this one from Martin St. Louis (courtesy NHL.com’s Tal Pinchevsky) rather interesting…

Ever since St. Louis demanded and got his trade out of Tampa Bay, the conversation about playoff opportunity has been prevalent. He left a Bolts team to join very similar a Rangers team, at least in terms of standings — Tampa has 95 points to New York’s 93, both are going to finish either second or third in their respective divisions, and both are within striking distance of the 45-win plateau (the Rangers need one more, the Lightning two.)

Prior to the Ben Bishop injury, you’d be hard pressed to say the Rangers were an overwhelming Cup contender compared to Tampa Bay…which could lead you to speculate that, just maybe (and for lack of a better explanation), St. Louis thought it’d be cooler to win a Cup in New York than win another one in Tampa Bay.

Since neither St. Louis nor the Lightning would divulge reasons as to why he wanted out — the rift with GM Steve Yzerman over the Canadian Olympic snub was the prevailing thought, but never confirmed — many were left to speculate. Sure, St. Louis referenced the desire to play closer to his home base in Connecticut (“I always felt as my kids got older, I would try to come here,” he said). But after 13 seasons in Tampa, he could’ve waited until the offseason to demand a trade if that was the case — what would’ve a few extra months been?

Well, they might’ve been a lot for someone that had been thinking about leaving for quite some time.

Per the Tampa Bay Times:

St. Louis said he considered leaving years ago, especially after then-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie traded defenseman Dan Boyle in July 2008.

“But I’ll be honest with you,” St. Louis said. “(Steven Stamkos) comes along (in the 2008-09 season) and it’s a lot of fun playing with Stammer. There were things pulling me in, but every year the equation changes. There are moving parts. You assess.”

The most recent assessment:

“One of my biggest things, honestly, is I never see my kids play hockey,” St. Louis said. “Just, for instance, my oldest has gone, since September, to Detroit three times, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Rochester, Atlanta. You’ve got to go outside the state to play pretty good competition. My wife and dad flies with him. I’m not saying Florida hockey is no good, but if you want to play against good competition you have to go outside.”

There are more opportunities in the Northeast, St. Louis said.

“It’s easier,” he said. “With the things between me and Steve [Yzerman] and you put in my kids, this was the best thing for everybody.”

A legit explanation. But hard to imagine Lightning fans agree with the last part.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.