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Crosby, McDavid focusing on teams, not 1-on-1 matchup

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — The fan in Connor McDavid comes out whenever he sees Sidney Crosby‘s familiar No. 87 on TV.

”When you’re watching, you’re hoping for him to do something cool,” the Edmonton Oilers star said.

Defending one of his childhood idols is another matter entirely. McDavid will get an up-close look when the Oilers visit Crosby and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.

”If you want to model yourself after someone, I think he’s as good a guy as you can get,” said McDavid, who has three goals and five assists through seven games. ”He’s won just about anything there is to win in hockey: individual awards, team awards. You name it, he’s got it. If you’re a young guy like me, that’s what you want to do with your career.”

While Crosby totally gets why sharing the ice with McDavid is a thing, he’d rather not talk about it.

”I think there’s always matchups, storylines and things like that … but we’re just going to go out there and play,” said Crosby, who has five goals and five assists.

At the moment, Crosby and the Penguins have more pressing matters than the hype that accompanies the biannual meeting between two of the NHL’s brightest lights.

The Penguins placed goaltender Antti Niemi on waivers on Monday just three games into his tenure as Matt Murray‘s backup, called up rookie Casey DeSmith from their AHL affiliate in Wilkes Barre/Scranton and acquired forward Riley Sheahan from Detroit over the weekend to address their need for a third-line center. The Oilers, meanwhile, are off to a slow start following their first playoff appearance in more than a decade.

Pittsburgh swept Edmonton last season, a testament to the depth around Crosby. Crosby was held without a point while McDavid had a goal and three assists in the two games.

”They were two really, really entertaining games,” McDavid said. ”Obviously you hope for that and hope for a better result.”

The 30-year-old Crosby and the 20-year-old McDavid are separated by a decade but little else.

They finished one-two in Hart Trophy voting last year, with McDavid and his league-leading 100 points edging Crosby and his NHL-high 44 goals. For a while last spring it appeared they were on a collision course for the Stanley Cup Final until the Oilers blew a 3-1 lead against Anaheim in the second round.

It’s not unlike the path Crosby and the Penguins followed shortly after he made his NHL debut in 2005. Pittsburgh reached the postseason in Crosby’s second year. The Penguins reached the Cup final in his third year. In his fourth, he raised the Cup with the franchise’s third championship.

”I can only speak of my experience, going to the final and losing was a really good experience for us as a group,” Crosby said. ”Going through that it’s something you learn through.”

The Oilers are hoping last spring can serve as a launching pad for McDavid, whose vision and speed make him a nightmare matchup for anyone tasked with trying to keep up. The responsibility will fall largely on Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang, who should see plenty of McDavid’s No. 97 on Tuesday.

”I just think what’s tough for a defenseman is sometimes a guy can go fast in a straight line and he doesn’t have his head up, he’s just worried about beating you wide,” said Letang, one of the fastest skaters in the league. ”This guy is like looking straight into your eyes and he’s going full speed so you’re like ”Oh (no), what is he going to do?”’

Asked to compare McDavid’s quickness to another player outside his own dressing room, Letang responded: ”No one is near that guy.”

Oilers coach Todd McLellan will try to find a balance between figuring out a way to steer his team out of its early funk while also appreciating the special talent on the ice.

”It will come down to team play but you do appreciate as a coach, a fan, even a player, their skill set and what they brought to their teams and their communities,” McLellan said. ”Even off the rink, both of them are tremendous that way. It’s fun when they’re together.”

John Tavares to explore his options during free agent interview period

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DALLAS — John Tavares may still re-sign with the New York Islanders, but he’s going to at least see what’s out there before making a final decison.

When the interview period for prospective free agents opens this week, Tavares will meet with five teams, his agent Pat Brisson confirmed.

The 27-year-old Tavares said all season long that he wants to re-sign, but as we sit eight days away from the opening of the free agent market, he’s yet to agree to any deal. The Islanders can offer him an eight-year contract, while other NHL teams can only go as many as seven.

“This is where I hope to be. I’ve always stated that,” Tavares said in April. “But obviously I have some time to think about my situation and go from there. I’ve loved it here and people have really embraced me, the team and organization have been first class since I’ve gotten here. Obviously, some great talent and some great things ahead. Definitely a lot of positives and I’ll have to take some time and figure out what I want to do and go from there.”

The Islanders have used their off-season to begin taking the franchise in a different direction. GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight were relieved of their duties and Lou Lamoriello was brought in as the new president and GM. This past week he went out and replace Weight with Barry Trotz, who just won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals.

Those are definitely a pair of moves not only to improve the organization but also show Tavares that ownership is serious about making the team a contender again. Will this work? Only time will tell, but the Islanders are hoping their solid off-season continues with No. 91 back in their lineup next season.

“Right now, until something’s done, it’s not done,” said Lamoriello. “There’s no question that he’s a very important part of this organization. We want him to be here. We’ll just have to wait.”

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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.

Free agency looms for Orpik as Avalanche ready buyout

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When the Colorado Avalanche gave up their 47th pick to land the rights of RFA goalie Philipp Grubauer, they also took on Brooks Orpik and his $5.5 million cap hit. Joe Sakic didn’t play coy about Orpik’s time likely being brief with Colorado, and that appears to be the case.

[Get the lowdown on the trade here]

The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers with a buyout in mind, according to reporters including Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

Via Cap Friendly, a buyout would mean a $2.5M cap hit in 2018-19 and a $1.5M cap hit in 2019-20 for Colorado. Between the buyout, 47th pick, and Grubauer’s eventual contract, Colorado is clearly making a significant investment in the former Capitals goalie.

As TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported on Friday, this situation shouldn’t be a surprise for Orpik.

“I told him I owed him the respect to let him know that the plan is to buy him out and let him be a free agent,” Sakic said. “I’m sure he’ll have a lot of teams that’ll want to add him to their group.”

Is it possible that Orpik, 37, could be back with the Capitals? The team kept the door open.

Considering that Orpik is essentially double-dipping here, it wouldn’t be shocking if the rugged defenseman came at a reasonable price. Then again, some teams might (over-)value a hard-hitting, veteran blueliner who’s won a Stanley Cup with two different squads.

After a 2018 NHL Draft loaded with modern-style, fleet-of-foot, smaller defensemen, it should be interesting to see how an old-school guy like Orpik will fare during free agency.

Chances are, there will be room for someone like Orpik somewhere, possibly even Washington.

2018 NHL Draft Tracker: Rounds 2-7

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After a lengthy first round on Friday, NHL teams are tearing through rounds 2-7 in a blur on Saturday. Not every name will stand out as of this writing, but GMs often unearth their biggest, franchise-turning bargains when they get in the weeds.

Before we get to today’s picks, let’s review some of the earlier action revolving around the top 31 selections.

This post will be regularly updated with picks coming in rapidly.

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Round 2

32. Buffalo – Mattias Samuelsson, D, NTDP
33. Detroit (from OTT via NYR) – Jonatan Berggren, W, Sweden
34. Florida (from ARI) – Serron Noel, W, OHL
35. Montreal – Jesse Ylonen, W, Finland
36. Detroit – Jared McIsaac, D, QMJHL
37. Vancouver – Jett Woo, D, WHL
38. Montreal (from CHI) – Alexander Romanov, D, Russia
39. NY Rangers – Olof Lindbom, First Goalie Taken, Sweden
40. Edmonton – Ryan McLeod, C, OHL
41. NY Islanders – Bode Wilde, D, NTDP
42. Carolina – Jack Drury, C, USHL
43. NY Islanders (from CGY) – Ruslan Iskhakov, C, Russia
44. Dallas – Albin Eriksson, W, Sweden
45. St. Louis – Scott Perunovich, D, NCHC
46. Washington (from FLA via NJD) – Martin Fehervary, D, Sweden
47. Colorado – Kody Clark, W, OHL
48. NY Rangers (from NJD) – Jonathan Tychonick, D, BCHL
49. Columbus – Kirill Marchenko, W, Russia
50. Philadelphia – Adam Ginning, D, Sweden
51. Los Angeles – Akil Thomas, C, OHL
52. Toronto (from SJS) – Sean Durzi, D, OHL
53. Pittsburgh – Calen Addison, D, WHL
54. Anaheim – Benoit-Olivier Groulx, C, QMJHL
55. Arizona (from MIN) – Kevin Bahl, D, OHL
56. Montreal (from TOR) – Jacob Olofsson, C, Swden
57. Boston – Axel Andersson, D, Sweden
58. Pittsburgh (from COL, NSH) Filip Hallander, C, Sweden
59. Tampa Bay – Gabriel Fortier, W, QMJHL
60. Winnipeg – David Gustafsson, C, Sweden
61. Vegas – Ivan Morozov, C, Russia
62. Edmonton (from WSH/MTL) Olivier Rodrigue, G, QMJHL

Round 3

63. Minnesota (from BUF) – Jack McBain, C, OJHL
64. Colorado (From, Pittsburgh, from OTT) Justus Annunen, G, Finland
65. Arizona – Jan Jenik, W, Czech
66. Montreal – Cameron Hillis, C, OHL
67. Detroit – Alec Regula, D, OHL
68. Vancouver – Tyler Madden, C, USHL
69. Chicago – Jake Wise, C, NTDP
70. NY Rangers – Jacob Ragnarsson, D, Sweden
71. Montreal (from Edmonton) Jordan Harris, D, USA
72. NY Islanders –   Jakub Skarek, G, Czech
73. Arizona (from CAR) – Ty Emberson, D, NTDP
74. Chicago (From Arizona/CGY) – Niklas Nordgren, W, Finland
75. Dallas – Oskar Back, C, Sweden
76. Toronto (From St. Louis) – Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, C, Russia
77. Boston (from FLA) – Jakub Lauko, C, Czech
78. Colorado – Sampo Ranta, W, USHL
79. Anaheim (from NJD) –  Blake McLaughlin, W, USHL
80. Columbus – Marcus Karlberg, W, Sweden
81. Detroit (from PHI) – Seth Barton, D, BCHL
82. Los Angeles – Bulat Shafigullin, W, Russia
83. Toronto (from SJS) – Riley Sotts, C, WHL
84. Detroit (from PIT) – Jesper Eliasson, G, Sweden
85. Anaheim – Lukas Dostal, G, Czech
86. Minnesota – Alexander Khovanov, C, QMJHL
87. San Jose (from Chicago/TOR via NJD and WSH) – Linus Karlsson, C, Sweden
88. NY Rangers (from BOS) – Joey Keane, D, OHL
89. Florida (from Nashville) – Logan Hutsko, C, Boston College (HE)
90. Tampa Bay – Dmitri Semykin, D, Russia
91. Winnipeg – Nathan Smith, C, USHL
92. Minnesota (from VGK) – Connor Dewar, C, WHL
93. Washington – Riley Sutter, W, WHL

Round 4

94. Buffalo
95. Ottawa
96. Carolina (from ARI)
97. Montreal
98. Detroit
99. Vegas (from VAN via PIT)
100. Dallas (from CHI)
101. NY Rangers
102. Montreal (from EDM)
103. NY Islanders
104. Carolina
105. Calgary
106. Dallas
107. St. Louis
108. Calgary (from FLA)
109. Colorado
110. New Jersey
111. Nashville (from CBJ)
112. Philadelphia
113. Los Angeles
114. San Jose
115. Vegas (from PIT via TBL)
116. Anaheim
117. Buffalo (from MIN)
118. Toronto
119. Boston
120. Chicago (from NSH)
121. Tampa Bay
122. Montreal (from WPG)
123. Florida (from VGK)
124. Washington

Round 5
125. Buffalo
126. Ottawa
127. Philadelphia (from ARI)
128. Montreal
129. Pittsburgh (from DET)
130. Vancouver
131. Nashville (from CHI)
132. NY Rangers
133. Edmonton
134. NY Islanders
135. Vegas (from CAR)
136. New Jersey (from CGY via ARI)
137. Dallas
138. St. Louis
139. Florida
140. Colorado
141. New Jersey
142. Chicago (from CBJ)
143. Philadelphia
144. Los Angeles
145. San Jose
146. Pittsburgh
147. Anaheim
148. Minnesota
149. Toronto
150. Winnipeg (from BOS)
151. Nashville
152. Tampa Bay
153. Winnipeg
154. Vegas
155. Minnesota (from WSH)

Round 6
156. Buffalo
157. Ottawa
158. Arizona
159. Detroit (from MTL)
160. Detroit
161. Vancouver
162. Chicago
163. NY Rangers
164. Edmonton
165. Los Angeles (from NYI)
166. Carolina
167. Calgary
168. Dallas
169. St. Louis
170. Florida
171. Colorado
172. New Jersey
173. Columbus
174. Philadelphia
175. Los Angeles
176. San Jose
177. Pittsburgh
178. Anaheim
179. Minnesota
180. Vegas (from TOR)
181. Boston
182. San Jose (from NSH)
183. Tampa Bay
184. Winnipeg
185. Vegas
186. Washington

Round 7
187. Buffalo
188. Ottawa
189. Arizona
190. Philadelphia (from MTL)
191. Detroit
192. Vancouver
193. Chicago
194. Ottawa (from NYR)
195. Edmonton
196. NY Islanders
197. Carolina
198. Calgary
199. Dallas
200. St. Louis
201. Florida
202. Colorado
203. New Jersey
204. Columbus
205. Philadelphia
206. Tampa Bay (from LAK)
207. San Jose
208. Pittsburgh
209. Toronto (from ANA)
210. Minnesota
211. Toronto
212. Boston
213. Nashville
214. Tampa Bay
215. Winnipeg
216. Carolina (from VGK)
217. Washington

Ilya Kovalchuk, LA Kings agree to three-year deal

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DALLAS — The Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes has come to an end and the Los Angeles Kings are the big winners.

As the second day of the 2018 NHL Draft got under way, the Kings announced they’ve agreed to terms on a three-year contract which carries a $6.25 million cap hit per season.

“We are excited to add Ilya to the LA Kings organization. He gives us an added element of skill and scoring along with a desire to win. We will withhold further comment until July 1,” said Kings general manager Blake.

Kovalchuk last played in the NHL during the 2013 season before retiring to go play in the KHL. While he was “retired” the Devils still held his rights until his 35th birthday this past April. Any attempts to make a comeback prior to turning 35 meant that teams would have had to go through the Devils to make a deal.

After leaving New Jersey, Kovalchuk spent the last five seasons with SKA St. Petersburg helping them win two Gagarin Cups. This past February, he lead the Olympic Athletes From Russia to a gold medal at the Olympics in Pyeongchang.

It was eight years ago that the Kings tried to acquire Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers before the Devils stepped in with a better offer. According to ESPN, the Thrashers GM wanted Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds in return, but then-Kings GM Dean Lombardi refused to give up those young pieces in return.

There were a number of teams in the Kovalchuk hunt this time as well, with many pegging the San Jose Sharks as favorites. GM Doug Wilson did a good job of clearing cap space in order to present an enticing offer for the Russian forward, but now the can shift their focus to John Tavares, if he decides to explore the market.

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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.