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How do we improve the NHL All-Star Game? (PHT Roundtable)

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NHL All-Star Weekend has come and gone for 2018 and now we count the days until next year’s event at HP Pavilion in San Jose. While we wait, the PHT staff has some ideas on how to improve the event for 2019. Let us know your ideas in the comments.

SEAN LEAHY: The most successful addition to NHL All-Star Weekend was the fantasy draft in 2011. Then we had the 3-on-3 divisional tournament idea in 2016, which injected much needed life into the event (Thanks, John Scott!). The current format doesn’t appear to be going anywhere and has brought some competitiveness to the games, especially with $1 million on the line.

Unfortunately, the fantasy draft went away, but bringing it back would provide added value to the weekend. It’s an event to fill the Friday night slot before the Skills Competition and would allow fans to see even more personality from the players — even if they may be a little sauced up, thanks to an open bar.

Let fans vote for the starting lineup for each of the four divisions with the top-vote getters being named captain. The host team would be one of the four captains regardless of the final tally. Then you get the players on a stage again to hold a snake draft and allow trades to further make things entertaining.

The game itself isn’t often the highlight of the weekend. The Skills Competition has traditionally held that title, and for three years it was the fantasy draft. Let’s see that again.

JAMES O’BRIEN: The fantasy draft is all that really matters to me, preferably with players enjoying “some refreshments.” It’s a glorious occasion, with the Skills Competition also providing oodles and noodles of fun.

Really, the specifics of the All-Star Game itself are mostly immaterial, because do you really want to make that game important? Look at the MLB; they’ve strained a hamstring making theirs waaaay too important. Imagine if the All-Star Game decided who has home ice during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final instead of the better record and feel that vein pumping in the side of your head.

If you must, though: East vs. West, every team represented. 3-on-3 is fine with me if it doesn’t call for more snubs, but again, the other stuff is what makes this weekend fun.

[A simple request for future NHL All-Star Skills Competitions]

ADAM GRETZ: I think the obvious answer here is to blend the two best ideas they have had into one really good idea: The 3-on-3 mini-tournament, with a fantasy draft to build the teams.

Fans vote for All-Stars the way they always do with the top four vote-getters across the league being the captains that will pick their teams.

I think the 3-on-3 idea is the one that produces what has been — by far — the best quality game. Even if the players aren’t going at 100 percent like they would in a regular season or a playoff game or any game that matters, the nature of the 3-on-3 matchup is so wide open and fast paced that it is still exciting. Then you add in the fantasy draft component which was still one of the funniest things the league has done and gave us our best chance to see player’s real personalities. Now you’re just doubling the fun with four captains instead of two.

JOEY ALFIERI: The NHL has changed up the All-Star Game a few times, but they’ve tried their best not to make players get too uncomfortable. One new way to change things up would be to randomly select what position players will play. It might be unrealistic to imagine a forward playing goalie, but they should give it a try.

Have an All-Star draft like they did a few times. Once a player is selected by one of the captains, the player chosen will then randomly be assigned a position. Imagine Brent Burns as a goalie, or Phil Kessel playing goalie. Now that would be awesome. A player could get lucky and get his original position, but imagine if he had to play with someone who was out of position. A defense pairing of Erik Karlsson and Carey Price would be pretty cool.

It might not be a realistic option, but it would definitely get more hardcore hockey fans watching the game because it would take players out of their comfort zone. Let’s make it happen!

SCOTT BILLECK: I like the 3-on-3 format on the ice, but I’d like to see it be a little more meaningful. Money is nice, but these guys make enough money that a little spit in the bucket isn’t going to make a big difference.

The 3-on-3 format has been exciting when something is on the line.

Make a trophy. Engrave the names of the winners. Players are inherently competitive. Give them a reason to compete.

I don’t believe it’s possible to go the baseball route, where the winning conference, in this case, would get home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final. Hockey is a contact sport and no owner is going to sign on off for allowing their players to play a heated game.

As for the Skills Competition, bring back those things that made it fun. Keep Saturday as fun as it can be.

Best shootout goal – kind of like the slam dunk contest. Rate the goals. Let Ovi and Subban dress up. Let it be fun for the fans and the players. Saves are nice and all, but people want to see great goals.

PHT Morning Skate: The hockey world remembers Ray Emery

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Remembering Ray Emery. (TSN.ca)

• A tragic end for Ray Emery, a polarizing figure who led the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Final. (Ottawa Sun)

• After signing a six-year, $37 million contract last week, a look at how an agent change changed the course of Connor Hellebuyck‘s career. (InGoal Magazine)

Logan Couture, who committed the next eight years of his NHL career to the San Jose Sharks on July 1, is ready to pay it forward. (The Hockey News)

• A move out the wing helped Claude Giroux revitalize his career, and helped Sean Couturier to have a career year, but could a move back to center be the best move for the Flyers going forward? (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• A lengthy look at the single best contract for each of the NHL’s 31 teams. (ESPN)

• Vegas’ top line is good, but best top trio hockey? Nope. (Knights on Ice)

Ryan Kesler could miss the entirety of next season and the Anaheim Ducks don’t appear to be worried about it. (Anaheim Calling)

• It wasn’t just New York Islanders fans who felt the sting of his departure on July 1. His own teammates need to pick themselves back up as well. (Sportsnet)

• He’s one the greatest names in Detroit Red Wings history. It’s time to retire Sergei Fedorov’s No. 91. (Detroit Free Press)

• A look at Nathan Walker and the future of international hockey. (Puck Prose)

• Well, this is interesting: Troy Stecher’s closest comparable as he heads to arbitration is in Jim Benning’s family. (Vancouver Courier)

• A look at how Paul Bissonnette has forged a career in multimedia after forging one as a fourth-liner in the NHL. (Forbes)

• After signing Devon Shore to a two-year, the Dallas Stars are still in decent shape in terms of the salary cap. (Blackout Dallas)

• Oilers Nation is doing a player-by-player review from last season, and this particular review looks at if Edmonton is going to miss Patrick Maroon more than they think. (Oilers Nation)

• When Devils’ head coach John Hynes expects to fill his coaching staff and what he wants in an assistant. (NJ.com)

• How Andrej Sustr found healing through art. (NHLPA)

• The rollercoaster of a ride that was the first season of Fanatics handling official NHL apparel. (Scotty Wazz)


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

Canadiens make a good move: Solid deal for Danault

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Unanimously good moves haven’t happened regularly for the Montreal Canadiens these days, so it’s worthwhile to appreciate even what would seem like easy calls.

With that in mind, signing useful forward Phillip Danault to a nice three-year contract ranks as one of Marc Bergevin’s best decisions in some time, whether you can chalk up the value to RFA leverage or not. The Canadiens confirmed that the cap hit is a reasonable $3.083 million per season.

Danault, 25, has essentially been a point-every-other-game player for Montreal. He scored 25 points in 52 games this past season after a relative breakthrough in 2016-17, when he collected 40 points in 82 contests. Not too shabby.

It’s conceivable that Danault could maybe chip in a bit more if leaned upon in a bigger way, as he averaged 16:35 minutes per game, with a touch less than a minute (56 seconds) of that average happening on the power play.

Now, it’s not as though the Canadiens are being foolish in playing him in his current role, as it’s plausible that he’s best served as a supporting cast sort of asset. The point is that Danault seems to make good use of his time, might be able to do a tad bit more, and tends to check out reasonably well from a possession standpoint. He’s not the type of player who will win you a Stanley Cup, yet he’s also the sort of guy who wouldn’t take much off of the table, either. In other words, this is a justifiable contract and could even be a nifty value.

Faint praise? Pretty much, but it’s better than the usual reaction for Bergevin & Co. (laughter, mockery).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery passes away at age 35

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Terrible news on Sunday: former NHL goalie Ray Emery passed away at age 35.

Toronto photojournalist Andrew Collins first reported the sad news, which was confirmed by Hamilton Police. Multiple reporters, including Collins, indicate that drowning was the cause of death.

The Ottawa Senators drafted Emery in the fourth round (99th overall) in 2001, and some of Emery’s best moments happened with the Sens, including a run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. Emery played in 287 NHL regular-season games and 39 playoff contests, also suiting up with the Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Chicago Blackhawks. Emery last played in the NHL in 2014-15 with the Flyers, while his last hockey season came in 2015-16, when he split that campaign between the AHL and Germany’s DEL.

In 2012-13, Emery and Corey Crawford were awarded the William Jennings Trophy, which is handed to the goalie (or in that case, goalies) who produced the lowest GAA during the regular season. He also enjoyed a moment with the Stanley Cup during his time with Chicago:

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Emery stood out thanks to his personality as much as his goaltending, with his one-sided fight against Braden Holtby ranking as one of his most memorable moments in the NHL.

While his NHL career was brief, Emery made an impact, as you can see from an outpouring of emotion from fans and former teammates, including Daniel Carcillo and James van Riemsdyk. Plenty of people around the hockey world also shared their condolences, including Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, who was familiar with Emery during his stint with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk released a statement in memory of Emery.

“On behalf of the Ottawa Senators, I wish to express my sincere condolences on the passing of Ray Emery. Ray was instrumental in our run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, and at his best he brought a competitive edge and combative mentality to the game. On behalf of our entire organization, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to Ray’s family, friends and loved ones.”

Blue Jackets get nice value with Bjorkstrand; Panarin meeting looms

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With agitating uncertainty surrounding the long-term futures of Sergei Bobrovsky and especially Artemi Panarin, it’s probably wrong to say that the Columbus Blue Jackets wrapped up their “to-do list” on Sunday.

They’ve at least taken care of the matters that are more in their hands this weekend.

On Saturday, defenseman (and potential-gone-wrong) Ryan Murray accepted Columbus’ qualifying offer in something of a shoulder shrug signing. The next day, it was more of a fist bump, as intriguing forward Oliver Bjorkstrand agreed to a friendly three-year deal.

The team didn’t confirm this in its release (because reasons), but the cap hit is a thrifty $2.5 million per season, according to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline and others.

During his first season in the NHL, the 23-year-old showed promise, scoring 11 goals and 40 points despite modest ice time (an average of 14:18 TOI per game). The Athletic’s Alison Lukan notes that Bjorkstrand checks many of the analytics boxes – rarely a bad sign – so there’s some very genuine optimism that the Dane will deliver strong value.

Personally, it’s also nice to see that he’s hungry to score more goals.

Speaking of the to-do list regarding items they might not have the power to address, Panarin announced that he and his agent will meet with Blue Jackets brass on Monday. Maybe a contract extension actually could happen? Maybe a different sort of resolution is coming?

A lot rides on that situation, yet it doesn’t hurt to land good values at a nice price. That’s absolutely the case with Bjorkstrand.

Really, value might be one of the themes of this Blue Jackets summer, as Bjorkstrand joins Anthony Duclair and Riley Nash as potentially wise bets. Cap Friendly notes that Columbus has its RFAs signed with $5.6M in cap space remaining, so perhaps they have more up their sleeves?