The Predators’ Stanley Cup window is wide open

Getty
6 Comments

This post is part of Predators Day on PHT…

Nashville’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final may have ended in heartbreak — in no small part thanks to a blown call by the referee — but with a young core and no glaring roster weaknesses, this team should remain a contender for years to come.

Among the key pieces locked up: Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm.

Of those seven, the oldest is Subban, and he just turned 28.

Among those seven, there is a legitimate No. 1 center in Johansen, and there are arguably two No. 1 defensemen in Subban and Josi.

And now, not only do the Predators have the talent to compete for a Cup, they’ve gained some valuable playoff experience.

“There are so many good things that we learned as a group,” retired captain Mike Fisher said after falling to the Penguins in six games. “How to play. How to come together as a team and believe in each other. I think there’s only positives that can come out of this. Obviously, losing is never easy, but I think we learned a lot of lessons that guys will carry forward, for sure.”

Of course, the Preds aren’t the only ones with championship aspirations. In the Western Conference alone, there are a handful of teams that think they can win it all. In the long history of the NHL, there has perhaps never been such parity.

That’s why the goal of any general manager should be to open a Stanley Cup window for more than a year or two. Because, let’s face it, a team also needs some luck to hoist the Cup. In the playoffs, one never knows when disaster will strike. Like, say, losing your No. 1 center at the very worst time.

“We have our whole core signed up, and for a lot of guys, for a lot of years,” Preds GM David Poile said, per NHL.com. “I hope we’ve chosen correctly, and I believe we’ve chosen correctly… I think our room is a very close room, so I thought it was in my best interests, and in our team’s best interests, if I could get the bulk of our team locked up for a long time so they could play together for a long time. So here we go.”

There are question marks, to be sure.

How much will Fisher’s leadership be missed?

Can Nick Bonino handle the second-line center role?

And maybe the biggest question of all, can Pekka Rinne keep performing at a high level in goal?

Rinne, who will be 35 by the time next year’s playoffs start, is signed for two more years at a cap hit of $7 million. The past few seasons, he’s battled consistency. But to his credit, he was excellent on the Preds’ run to the final, finishing 14-8 with a .930 save percentage in 22 games.

Still, don’t be surprised if Juuse Saros pushes Rinne for more playing time next season. The 22-year-old may be undersized for a modern netminder, but he managed to post a .923 save percentage in 21 appearances during his rookie campaign.

Given the ages of the two goalies, there’s even the potential for some controversy down the road.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On good teams, there’s internal competition, and the Predators are a good team that’s hoping to be great.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

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

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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.