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Red Wings’ free agent plan at odds with rebuild

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When it comes to putting together their team, the Detroit Red Wings seemingly still believe they can eat their cake and have it too.

It’s fantastic if you can accrue futures and ice a competitive team, but GM Ken Holland’s plan hasn’t exactly worked like gangbusters lately. The Red Wings have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for two straight seasons, and before that, they were dispatched in the first round three seasons in a row.

PHT readers have generally disagreed with this one foot in, one foot out style of management.

In August 2017, 70.36 percent of PHT readers voted in favor of a long rebuild for Detroit. Then, in late March 2018, about 73.36 percent of PHT readers believed that Ken Holland wasn’t the right choice to lead a rebuild.

So … yeah, that’s a pretty strong majority of people who questioned the Red Wings’ direction.

Still, there had been promising signs lately. Holland showed some serious aptitude in a key rebuild area by landing a bounty of draft picks for Tomas Tatar. Between deals for Tatar and Petr Mrazek, Holland loaded up on five draft picks.

Better yet, the consensus is that Detroit landed one of the best hauls of the 2018 NHL Draft, including a strong first round where they landed Filip Zadina with the sixth pick and expected mid-first-rounder Joe Veleno with the 30th choice. It seemed like the rest of the weekend went swimmingly, a notion that Detroit Free-Press chronicles here.

This is all fantastic stuff, and Zadina wasted little time in delighting Red Wings fans.

So, the signals are all there, right: the Red Wings are finally turning the page?

Eh, maybe not completely. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan provided a detailed free agent update for Detroit on Thursday, and if most of those situations come to fruition, there’d be some mixed signals. In particular, the belief that the Red Wings might not just give contracts but term to aging veterans is more than a little troubling.

Via Khan, here are some possibilities:

  • The Red Wings seem close to bringing Mike Green back with a two-year deal.

Now, that’s not the end of the world. Green continues to provide offense from the blueline (exactly a point every other game in 2017-18 with 33 in 66 contests), and the Red Wings aren’t exactly teeming with quality defensemen. At 32, Green isn’t ancient, and he wouldn’t rank as a scary 35+ contract.

Green probably qualifies as “an old 32,” though. Injuries have frequently been an issue for the scoring defenseman, and his neck issues are a significant concern. The 2018-19 season will already mark his 14th NHL season.

It’s not as though Green would be the only “seasoned veteran” on defense. Niklas Kronwall is 37 and hurting. Both Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley are 34, and each are signed through 2019-20. As of this writing, Danny DeKeyser is the baby of the non-prospects group at 28, and Detroit probably wishes he wasn’t signed at $5M clip through 2021-22.

Woof.

  • Detroit appears to be one of the frontrunners for goalie Jonathan Bernier, who is no spring chicken himself at 30.

Again, term is where you furrow your brow a bit. Khan reports that the Red Wings might offer Bernier a three-year contract.

That’s quite a bit of term for an aging backup. Now, there’s the possibility that the plan could be to transition the starting job from Jimmy Howard to Bernier, as Howard is entering a contract year. Maybe the Red Wings envision a platoon situation both now and in the future.

Look, Bernier is one of the better goalie options in a shallow market for netminders … but what’s the upside here, really?

  • Finally, Khan reports that the Red Wings might make the nostalgic decision to sign Valtteri Filppula.

For one year, you could make that argument, but Khan reports that a potential deal would be for two seasons instead. For a marginal forward who is already 34 years old.

(Yes, Filppula really is 34 already. Life moves fast, gang.)

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It’s possible that none of these situations work out. For one thing, Khan reports that Green is hoping for someone to offer up three years.

Loading up on middling veterans would be fine if the gameplan was to give a bunch of players one-year deals as stopgaps while prospects marinate in junior, the NCAA, and the AHL. There’s no denying that the Red Wings like to bring their blue chippers along gradually.

Possibly handing out two or three years of term inspires some discouraging thoughts, however.

Will these veterans serve as an excessive barrier to up-and-comers gaining valuable NHL experience? The Red Wings run the risk of locking themselves into purgatory with moves like these: being too competitive to land more high first-rounders, yet not good enough to contend.

Now, the painful truth is that someone must fall in that range in any given season. The Red Wings are just increasing their odds of being stuck in limbo.

At least there’s still time for them to change their minds, or for those free agents to do it for them by signing elsewhere.

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.

Skinner focused on present in Buffalo rather than future

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By John Wawrow (AP Sports Writer)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Jeff Skinner knows how much the Sabres and their playoff-starved fans want him to stay in Buffalo beyond this season.

”Ha, ha, I’ve heard,” the forward memorably said with a laugh in December. ”I’m having a lot of fun, too.”

And yet, two months later, Skinner is nowhere closer to providing anything resembling a definitive answer regarding where he’ll be playing once his contract expires after this season.

”The present is still where we are, and that sort of thing will play itself out,” he said Thursday. ”I think there’s no point in really talking about it now because there’s nothing really to talk about from me on my end.”

Skinner, however, can’t hide his emotions when asked how much he enjoys Buffalo.

His eyes brighten and he breaks into wide, toothy smile in saying: ”I like it here. Yeah, I like it.”

Cast off by Carolina as part of the Hurricanes’ latest rebuilding plan, the three-time 30-goal-scorer and 2011 NHL rookie of the year is approaching career-best numbers since being traded to the Sabres in August.

He has a team-leading 34 goals – three short of matching a career high – and is second in the NHL behind Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin (38). His seven game-winning goals are second in the NHL and most in Buffalo since Derek Roy had nine in 2008-09. Skinner has been so consistent, his longest goals drought was four games to start the season.

And he and captain Jack Eichel have been inseparable on a top line that’s played a significant role in keeping Buffalo in playoff contention in a bid to end a seven-year postseason drought, and on a team that finished last in the overall standings in three of the previous five years.

Despite going 11-15-5 since a 10-game win streak in November, the Sabres (28-21-7) already have 63 points – one more than they had last season – and sit 10th in the Eastern Conference, four points behind eighth-place Pittsburgh.

The topic of Skinner’s future is once again rising to the forefront with the NHL’s trade deadline looming on Feb. 25, and after Skinner was spotted having a lengthy conversation with his agent, Don Meehan, following a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

”To me it was just checking in,” Skinner said, referring to the meeting. ”No details to discuss. Nothing really to report.”

As for the approaching trade deadline, Skinner shrugged and said: ”I don’t think about it at all.”

It remains unlikely the Sabres will consider trading Skinner by Feb. 25.

General manger Jason Botterill told The Associated Press in December he didn’t consider that date as being a deadline for contract talks. And there has been no indication – publicly or privately – that Botterill’s stance has changed since.

Botterill has maintained regular contact with Meehan, and has said he wants Skinner to focus on playing and familiarizing himself with his new surroundings. What bolsters Botterill’s hopes is noting how Skinner chose to play in Buffalo by waiving his no-trade clause in a deal the Hurricanes acquired prospect forward Cliff Pu and three draft picks.

Eichel laughed when asked if he’s aware of Sabres fans campaigning for Skinner to stay.

”He has how many goals, 34?” Eichel said. ”I’m sure Sabres fans want him to stay. I mean, would they want him to leave?”

Eichel’s certainly on board, too.

”I’m not Skins’ agent. I’m not our GM, but he’s been a big part of our team this year,” he said. ”You could probably say we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

It will ultimately be up to Skinner to decide.

One positive is how much the Toronto-born player has enjoyed playing closer to home, and having his family attend games in Buffalo (essentially a two-hour drive) as opposed to Raleigh, North Carolina (roughly a two-hour flight).

Coach Phil Housley noted Skinner’s proximity to home and family has provided incentive. And it helps playing alongside Eichel.

”Jeff finds that open area, he’s a positional player, and Jack seems to find him in those areas,” Housley said. ”They just seem to have a great chemistry together.”

Skinner must also weigh what offers he might command in free agency at a time more teams are spending less in free agency and committing more salary cap-space to re-signing their own players.

All that can wait.

”As a player, you can only sort of control a small number of things,” Skinner said. ”For us right now, that’s moving on to tomorrow’s game and getting ready for that.”

More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/NHL and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

What’s better than a goalie goal? A double OT goalie goal

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Everyone loves a goalie goal — a true goalie goal. Not one of those bad passes that turns into a goal and the netminder gets credit because they touched it last.

Goaltender Anthony Hurtubise scored a goal Friday night for his St. Thomas Stars of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. But it wasn’t just any goalie goal. The 20-year-old scored his in double overtime. Yes, double overtime. It was the only tally in the 1-0 win over the Komoka Kings.

Here’s Hurtubise describing how it went down inside the Joe Thornton Community Centre via Instagram:

We were tied 0-0 with about a minute and a half left in the second over time (3 on 3, if no one scores it’s a tie game, each team gets a point). Other team pulled their goalie to try and get two points as there are only a few games left before playoffs. I saw the goalie go to the bench while they were on the rush, made a glove save and took my shot.

(Komoka has already secured a playoff spot but clearly were trying to make up ground on fifth-place LaSalle.)

And not only did Hurtubise score the game-winning overtime goal, he also stopped 27 shots to record a shutout. Pretty nice way to spend a Friday night.

Stick-tap Chris Peters

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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.

The Buzzer: Schneider snaps winless run; Halak posts fourth shutout

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Three stars

1. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils

He didn’t start the game, and coming into it, he hadn’t won since December 2017. But when Nico Hischier‘s shot off a rebound crossed the line in overtime, Schneider’s nightmare run between the pipes was over.

Schneider made 15 saves in relief of Keith Kinkaid, who allowed four goals on 17 shots. The Devils trailed 4-1 at that points but rattled off three unanswered to force overtime. Schneider did his job, making a couple great saves to give New Jersey a chance.

And that’s all they needed as Schneider stopped his winless streak at 21 games.

This is what relief looks like:

2. Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins

Beating the Anaheim Ducks these days isn’t much of a feat. That said, shutting out any team in the NHL most certainly is.

Halak has his fourth shutout of the season, tying him for third most in the NHL, after stopping all 30 shots sent his way in a 3-0 win.

The Bruins have now won four straight and have points in nine of their past 10. They’re just a point back of second place in the Atlantic, currently occupied by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and more importantly, five points up on the Montreal Canadiens, who are in the first wildcard spot.

3. Nino Niederreiter, Carolina Hurricanes

Niederreiter had himself an interesting night. He scored twice in a 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers to push his goal total to eight in 12 games since joining the Hurricanes from the Minnesota Wild.

He’s been a point-per-game player in Carolina, adding four assists in that span. The scoring has been a welcomed addition for the Canes.

Niederreiter was also on the receiving end of a hit from behind, and on the giving end of one, too:

Highlights of the night

Bat flip, run the bases:

Tic-tac-goal:

Factoids

Scores

Rangers 6, Sabres 2
Hurricanes 3, Oilers 1
Devils 5, Wild 4 (OT)
Bruins 3, Ducks 0


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

Trade: Flyers add Talbot, Oilers open up space for Sekera

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Cam Talbot is lucky No. 8.

The Philadelphia Flyers added Talbot to the fold late Friday night, acquiring the 31-year-old goaltender from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Anthony Stolarz.

Should Talbot get into one of the Flyers’ final 25 games — which he likely will — they will be the first team in NHL history to use eight goalies in a season. That just shows how weird this season has been on Broad Street. After some early season struggles, which saw general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol fired within a 21-day span, they’ve ripped off a run that has seen them take 23 points from their last 14 games, putting them eight points out of an Eastern Conference wild card place and the third seed in the Metropolitan Division.

Emerging from the goalie carousel has been Carter Hart, the franchise’s goaltender of the future up until Dec. 17. He’s assumed the title of “goalie of the now” since after helping the Flyers win eight starts in a row and being a vital part of their recent run.

Talbot, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, comes to Philadelphia with an established relationship with Hart. The two have worked out together in the summer. “He’s a good mentor, a great guy, a good goalie,” Hart said on Thursday, adding that he called Talbot the night before his NHL debut for some advice.

This stablizes the goalie situation for the moment as Brian Elliott works his way back from injury down in the AHL on a conditioning stint and Michal Neuvirth is currently on injured reserve. In net had been Hart and Stolarz, the 25-year-old who was their second-round pick in 2012. Mike McKenna‘s been in the mix as well, but he’s only played twice since Dec. 28.

GM Chuck Fletcher will now get a good couple of months to see up close if Talbot, who’s posted a .909 even strength save percentage in 31 appearances with the Oilers, should be considered for an extension beyond this season and possibly act as a veteran backup/1B to Hart going forward.

This move for the Oilers helped them shed salary in order to have room to activate defenseman Andrej Sekera, who had surgery in August to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Stolarz can be a restricted free agent this summer, while they already have Mikko Koskinen locked up after extending the netminder for three years in January.

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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.