Nick Foligno is having himself quite the contract year

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During the contentious Ryan Johansen negotiations, Columbus president John Davidson said the following:

“We understand the make-up of our team, we understand the CBA, we understand players deserve money and players deserve to be paid the way they should be paid and we’ll continue to do that.”

With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Nick Foligno.

The 27-year-old is a pending UFA and playing the best hockey of his life. Through 28 games he leads the Blue Jackets in scoring with 14 goals and 27 points, is getting a boatload of ice time (19:10 per game, up from 16:04 last season) and sits sixth in the NHL with seven power-play goals.

It is, as many have pointed out, quite the contract year.

There’s no denying Columbus wants to keep Foligno and Foligno wants to stay in Columbus. Per the Dispatch, agent Pat Morris has started negotiations with GM Jarmo Kekalainen.

“I’m happy that they’re talking,” Foligno said. “Hopefully they can get something done in a timely manner.”

But two key questions remain: 1) What can Foligno get from Columbus, and 2) What can he get on the open market?

The first question is interesting. For all their bickering with Johansen and Kurt Overhardt, the Jackets do have a history of rewarding players that have, for lack of a better term, “earned it.”

Brandon Dubinsky’s a good example. Viewed as a heart-and-soul guy, he netted a six-year, $35.1 million extension this summer, one Kekalainen called a “well-earned contract,” adding that Dubinsky “plays like we want every Blue Jacket to play.”

Is Foligno held in the same regard? One would think he’s close. He’s been a good foot soldier since coming over from Ottawa in the Marc Methot trade of 2012, and actually played more games in a Blue Jackets uniform (144) than Dubinsky (109).

It’s also worth noting Foligno returned from a knee injury during last year’s playoffs to score this huge OT winner in Game 4 versus Pittsburgh, one of the biggest goals in franchise history:

The open market, though, will be tantalizing.

Foligno’s in the last of a three-year, $9.25 million deal that carries a $3.08M cap hit. It makes him the sixth highest-paid forward on the team; one expects all those figures will rise if he’s back next season.

Columbus shouldn’t have any issues paying Foligno. Even if it needs to break the bank for pending RFA goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, there still would be plenty of money left over — and there’s no telling what additional financial relief could come on the Nathan Horton front if he’s unable to return from a severe back injury.

On the open market, though, Foligno could also score huge.

There just aren’t many guys going to market anymore. Depending on what happens with Chris Stewart and Mats Zuccarello, Foligno projects to be one of the premier forwards under the age of 30 and given some of the deals from last summer — like the $20M Benoit Pouliot got from Edmonton, or $27.5M Florida paid for Dave Bolland — well, the idea testing waters has to be tempting.

And make no mistake, Foligno has value. Aside from career-high offensive numbers, he’s also showcased his versatility over the last few years, frequently shifting between wing and center.

“There have been a lot of times the last three seasons where Nicky has ended up down low in coverage playing the wing,” head coach Todd Richards said, per the Dispatch. “He’s comfortable down there.

“We need that depth down the middle.”

There is a final option to consider here, of course. If Columbus can’t strike deal with Foligno and the trade deadline draws close, would it be willing to risk losing an asset for nothing in free agency? Remember, this is the same club that traded away Marian Gaborik at last year’s deadline — in a year where it made the postseason.

Rangers’ Kreider fractures foot vs. Flyers

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New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider suffered a fractured foot against the Philadelphia Flyers Friday.

The alternate captain blocked a shot from Philippe Myers with 7:40 remaining in the opening period. He played one more shift for 10 seconds before heading to the locker room. The Rangers have not provided a timeline for the injury.

New York signed Chris Kreider to a $45.5 million, seven-year extension prior to the trade deadline. The 28-year-old power forward has 24 goals and 21 assists in 63 games this season.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Robin Lehner to make Golden Knights debut; Mark Stone injured

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The Vegas Golden Knights have been one of the league’s hottest teams over the past month and will be looking to extend their current winning streak to eight games on Friday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Coach Pete DeBoer had some significant lineup news ahead of the game on Friday afternoon, including a potentially significant injury.

First, is the news that big trade deadline acquisition Robin Lehner will be making his first start in goal for the team. The Golden Knights acquired Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks just ahead of the NHL trade deadline on Monday for a draft pick and a prospect. Lehner has been one of the league’s best goalies for the past two years and alongside Marc-Andre Fleury should give them one of the league’s best goaltending duos.

The far more serious news, though, was the announcement that forward Mark Stone will not play on Friday due to a lower-body injury.

DeBoer had no immediate information on how long Stone could be out, only to say that he is still being evaluated.

When asked if it could potentially be a long-term injury DeBoer said “There’s always fear. We don’t know, but we’ll see,” via NHL.com.

Stone is one of the league’s best all-around forwards and has not only been a point-per-game player for the past three seasons, he is also one of the best defensive forwards in the league. He finished the 2018-19 season as the top runner-up for the Selke Trophy, something that has become almost unheard of for a winger.

The Golden Knights enter Friday’s game in first place in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

Related: Blackhawks trade Robin Lehner to Golden Knights

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Oilers’ Mike Green to miss 3-4 weeks with sprained MCL

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Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland was busy at the NHL trade deadline adding Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Ennis to his roster in an effort to improve its depth. But just two games later his team has already lost one of those new players to injury.

The Oilers announced on Friday that Green, acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for Kyle Brodziak and a draft pick, will be sidelined for the next 3-4 weeks due to an MCL sprain.

That is the way things seem to be going for the Oilers right now as injuries keep adding up throughout their roster.

Green joins an injury list that already includes the team’s top defenseman (Oscar Klefbom), as well as James Neal, Kailer Yamamoto, and Kris Russell.

Green played 19 minutes in the Oilers’ 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Athanasiou was also injured in that game, but is expected to play on Saturday when the Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets.

The Oilers enter the weekend in third place in the Pacific Division with 74 points, four points back of Vegas and only two points ahead of the non-playoff teams in the Western Conference.

Related: Red Wings send Mike Green to Oilers

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Islanders will play all home games at Nassau Coliseum in 2020-21

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March 22 will be the final Islanders’ game at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, according to Newsday.

Randi Marshall reports that New York governor Andrew Cuomo will announce on Saturday that the Islanders will play any home playoff games this season and all of their 2020-21 home schedule at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders are currently building a new arena by Belmont Park race track which is expected to be ready in time for the 2021-22 NHL season. The franchise played all of its home games at the Coliseum from 1972-2015 before moving to Brooklyn full-time in 2015. That lasted until 2018 when they split home games at both arenas, with Nassau Coliseum playing host to their Round 1 matchup against the Penguins and Barclays for their second round series against the Hurricanes.

While Barclays Center helped keep the Islanders in New York, it has not been the easiest arena to travel to for fans. The ability to get there via mass transit was a positive that the Coliseum doesn’t have. Yet when the Islanders returned back to Long Island last season, there was plenty nostalgia over the building that was home for the franchise’s glory days.

In September the Islanders broke ground on the new 19,000-seat arena by Belmont Park which is less than 10 miles from Nassau Coliseum.

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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.