Bargains in Murray, Guentzel could extend Penguins’ contending window


Jake Guentzel and Matt Murray played big roles in the Pittsburgh Penguins winning (some might say “stealing”) Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators.

Opponents might need to get used to players like Murray and Guentzel making a difference for Pittsburgh.

When you look at the Penguins’ salary structure for 2017-18 and beyond (for example, at Cap Friendly), there is a lot of uncertainty.

  • How are they going to figure out Marc-Andre Fleury‘s situation and how it pertains to the expansion draft?
  • What will happen with Justin Schultz, a reclamation project who could command a mighty raise from the $1.4 million he signed for another run with Pittsburgh?
  • Will Nick Bonino be worth the price for another deal? How fat are they willing to leave Trevor Daley‘s wallet? There are some veterans to figure out.
  • How much will RFAs such as Conor Sheary cost?

So … yeah, GM Jim Rutherford & Co. won’t rest on their laurels this summer. Good thing his previous work – not to mention some strong scouting, in hindsight, by Ray Shero and/or his staff – will give the Penguins some enviable flexibility.

Without going too deep into their cap situation, the deals for Guentzel and Murray could be especially helpful.

At 22, Guentzel will only burn the first season of his entry-level deal in 2016-17, so the Penguins reap the rewards of a ludicrously cheap $734K cap hit. Now, Blackhawks fans will note Artemi Panarin‘s performance bonuses in trying to ruin the party, but that isn’t the case with Guentzel; even if he maxes out his bonuses, his AAV will be under $1 million by Cap Friendly’s numbers.

Reminder: Guentzel has 17 points in 20 playoff games after generating 33 points in 40 regular-season games.

Matt Murray’s contract isn’t as blinding of a steal … at least on first blush. Still, the Penguins enjoy the luxury of a $3.75 million cap hit from 2017-18 through 2019-20.

His NHL-level sample size is still pretty small, but with a .925 save percentage for his regular-season career and a .926 mark in 27 postseason games (including a whopping .936 save percentage in six 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff games), Murray could round out to the best goalie bargain this side of Devan Dubnyk.

The Penguins’ cap space might be misleading with so many decisions to make, but with likely strong performances coming from Guentzel and especially Murray at such a cheap rate for a nice chunk of time, Pittsburgh boasts the sort of flexibility to make the Blackhawks and Kings of the world very jealous.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.