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Ducks add more to best thing they have going by signing Montour

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The Anaheim Ducks’ long-term outlook provides plenty of cause for concern, but worries morph into optimism when you consider the team’s bounty of young defensemen.

Consider that, for all of the teams who were lampooned as former players thrived in Vegas, the Ducks didn’t really absorb a lot of mockery as Shea Theodore looked great with the Golden Knights. If you’re being fair, it’s kind of tough to beat up on a franchise so well-stocked with defensemen.

(Granted, you can nitpick exposing Theodore instead of a lesser option, but the point generally remains.)

Anaheim’s defensemen aren’t just young and promising, either. Many of them are also signed on the dotted line for the near future, a trend that continues as the Ducks avoided salary arbitration with Brandon Montour. GM Bob Murray signed Montour to a two-year “bridge deal.” The team didn’t provide financial details, but the Athletic’s Eric Stephens reports that the cap hit is $3.388 million.

With help from always-handy Cap Friendly, take a look at the contract terms and ages for Ducks defensemen signed for at least two seasons:

Cam Fowler, 26, $6.5M through 2025-26
Hampus Lindholm, 24, $5.21M through 2021-22
Josh Manson, 26, $4.1M through 2021-22
• Montour, 24, $3.388M through 2019-20

Now, the individual contracts vary in quality (personally, Fowler’s risk factor is a little scary, while Lindholm stands as a phenomenal bargain), but the point remains that the Ducks are loaded with reasonable investments in defensemen who are reaching their primes or already there.

With Montour, it’s easy to anticipate bigger and better things.

After appearing in just 27 games as a rookie in 2016-17, Montour broke through with nine goals and 32 points in 80 contests last season. The former second-rounder (55th overall in 2014) averaged 20:28 TOI per night and enjoyed respectable possession stats during that breakthrough 2017-18 campaign.

If Montour sees even more opportunities going forward, his next contract could be awfully pricey. That’s especially true if he makes significant all-around strides. As is, he can be an effective point producer while flourishing as the sort of transition-driver teams crave in the modern NHL.

When you add Montour to Fowler, Lindholm, and Manson, you see a defensive group that’s the envy of most of the league. It’s difficult to think of many more complete D corps beyond the truly brilliant, such as the Nashville Predators. Anaheim may also have some gems waiting in the pipeline, too.

That youthful, stacked group also stands in contrast to other elements of the Ducks’ roster.

On one hand, you have a potentially Vezina-caliber goalie in John Gibson. While injuries and a former crease battle with Frederik Andersen have limited the 25-year-old’s opportunities to prove he’s truly elite, he’s frequently looked that way when healthy.

Gibson’s contract is a good news/bad news situation, however. On the bright side, his $2.5M cap hit is a ludicrous bargain, particularly for a team with an internal budget like the Ducks. That said, his price could really inflate if he combines the quality of his work with the quantity of a workhorse goalie.

(If I were in Murray’s shoes, I’d dust off a barstool and try to sign Gibson to an extension earlier rather than later.)

Assuming Gibson signs to a fair-enough deal, the Ducks seem nicely equipped in their own zone. Things get a little wackier on the attack.

Both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are 33, and each player carries a cap hit exceeding $8M for three more seasons. Ryan Kesler might be described as “an even older” 33, making his $6.875M cap hit look frightening (considering that it runs through 2021-22, one more season than Getzlaf and Perry). Adam Henrique signed a risky extension, too, considering that he’s not exactly a spring chicken at 28.

Sure, there are some young forwards in the mix, with Rickard Rakell leading the pack. Anaheim also must strike new deals with 22-year-old forwards Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie.

Overall, though, it’s a strange dichotomy. Few teams have placed themselves in a better position when it comes to prime-age defensive depth, yet the Ducks also carry an aging core of forwards whose contracts could serve as monstrous anchors.

Then again, it’s better to excel in some areas than none, and the Ducks justify their goofy ‘D’ logo scheme by being masterful at identifying and retaining defense. Maybe to the point that they’ll stack up a few more key W’s.

More on the Ducks:
They’re bringing back the Mighty Ducks look as their third jersey.
Significant changes coming?

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.

‘Wild’ NHL playoffs move into next stage with final 16 teams

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Derek Stepan gave some words of advice to his Arizona Coyotes teammates not used to the bright lights of playoff hockey.

”It’s the best time of the year to be playing,” he said.

The time of year is different than usual, but the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs haven’t lost any of their luster or penchant for surprises.

After a qualifying round full of upsets, overtime heroics and comebacks, the traditional first round that starts Tuesday with 16 teams left is primed to feature even more entertainment and unpredictability.

”It’s wild,” said Barry Trotz, whose New York Islanders will next face the Washington Capitals he coached to the title in 2018.

”It’s made for TV, really. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We knew that there was going to be some strange things happen in this strange, unusual time and format. But it’s captivating.”

The Chicago Blackhawks that ranked 23rd out of 31 teams in the regular season are still playing, along with the Montreal Canadiens, who were 24th and not given much hope of moving on.

Chicago has a tough task against the Western Conference No. 1 seed Vegas, and Carey Price‘s Canadiens face the Philadelphia Flyers that earned top billing in the East by going 3-0 against Boston, Tampa Bay and Washington.

”It was a tall task to get that No. 1 seed and we did it,” Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. ”We came in here and have been strictly business. I think for us to go out there and get three big wins in a row and get that No. 1 seed is huge for us.”

In a very 2020 turn of events, the Bruins that won the Presidents’ Trophy as the top regular-season team went winless since the restart and now must take on the Carolina Hurricanes that swept their way to this point. It’s a rematch of the 2019 East final but with Carolina looking more prepared for this showdown.

”They swept us last year, which definitely is going to be good opportunity for us to kind of give back what they gave us last year,” Hurricanes forward Nino Niederreiter said.

The Hurricanes, Islanders and Golden Knights look scary, the Lightning could be without top players Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman for at least the start of their series, and the Bruins and Blues that met in last year’s Cup Final haven’t recaptured the dominance they showed until the season was halted in March and combined to go 0-6.

”It doesn’t matter what seed you’re in because you’ve got to beat every team anyways if you want to advance,” Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said. ”It’s over now and start real hockey.”

Half of the remaining field has been playing real hockey for more than a week now. After knocking off the Nashville Predators, captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said the Coyotes are ”up for the challenge” of taking on the Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks and Flames should also be feeling good after emotional series victories, though Vancouver must face an angry St. Louis bunch that blew leads in all three games.

”We’re not playing aggressive enough in my opinion,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. ”Getting the real thing going here will be important, for sure.”

It’s all best-of-seven until the Stanley Cup is handed out in late September or early October, though the prospect of playing in quarantined bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton could change the psychological dynamic of the playoffs.

”It’s one of those years it’s easier once you’re down to say, ‘Well, I do miss my kids, it’s not our year,”’ Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. ”You can sort of have that in the back of your mind and certainly some players are going to go through it, and that’s why I feel that maybe some series will be closed out quicker than previous years.”

Only one qualifying round series went to a deciding Game 5: Columbus-Toronto, which also featured two shutouts and each team erasing a 3-0 deficit and winning in overtime. Over nine days, 44 games showed why the league and NHL Players’ Association worked hard to resume the season, and that was just the start of summer hockey madness.

”I’m sure it’ll continue,” Flames coach Geoff Ward said. ”Everybody’s healthy and there’s been extreme parity, but all the teams are playing extremely, extremely hard and that makes for whoever you play a very tough out and a very tough opponent. And I think as these playoffs go on, you’re just going to see more of the same.”

NHL Draft Lottery: No. 1 pick to be awarded Monday night

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The No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft will be announced Monday night during Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream)

All eight teams that were eliminated in the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round are eligible and each have a 12.5% chance of winning the No. 1 pick. Rimouski forward Alexis Lafreniere is expected to be chosen with the first overall selection.

Phase 1 of the draft lottery was held in June and won by a team involved in the NHL’s Return to Play. That means that one of the Rangers, Predators, Panthers, Wild, Penguins, Jets, Oilers, or Maple Leafs will pick first when the draft is held Oct. 9-10, 2020.

According to the NHL, since the 1995 draft, no team has held the No. 1 pick finishing better than 26th in the standings.

Here’s a look at the order of the first 15 picks:

ROUND 1 ORDER
1. Placeholder team
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Ottawa Senators (via San Jose)
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Ottawa Senators
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres
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9. Placeholder team
10. Placeholder team
11. Placeholder team
12. Placeholder team
13. Placeholder team
14. Placeholder team
15. Placeholder team

The seven losing teams from the First Round who do not win the No. 1 pick will fill out spots 9-15 by reverse order of their regular season points percentages. The remaining 16 Round 1 draft picks will be determined by the results of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

WHAT: 2020 NHL Draft Lottery – Phase 2
WHEN: Monday, August 10, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the draft lottery stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

The prospects

Lafreniere will be the No. 1 pick. That’s been settled. After that? It could go a lot of different ways. Quinton Byfield (Sudbury – C- OHL), Tim Stutzle (Adler Mannheim – C/LW – DEL), Lucas Raymond (Frolunda – LW/C – SHL), Jamie Drysdale (Erie – D – OHL), Marco Rossi (Ottawa – C – OHL), Cole Perfetti (Saginaw – C – OHL), Jake Sanderson (D – USNTDP) are among the top prospects expected to be selected early.

Check out Ryan Wagman’s midseason mock draft to further educate yourself on these players.

MORE:
Top NHL Draft Lottery memories

Hockey Hall of Fame postpones 2020 induction

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The Hockey Hall of Fame has postponed its 2020 induction because of the pandemic. The ceremony was to have taken place Nov. 16 in Toronto.

The 2020 class was announced in June and featured forward Jarome Iginla, winger Marian Hossa, defensemen Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson, Canadian women’s goaltender Kim St. Pierre and longtime general manager Ken Holland.

The Hall said Monday it will discuss rescheduling plans on Oct. 29. Chairman Lanny McDonald said the most likely scenario is to have the ceremony in November 2021, either by waiving the 2021 election or combining the 2020 and 2021 classes. He said a virtual induction ceremony was ruled out.

NHL reports second straight week of zero positive COVID-19 tests

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For the second week in a row the NHL has announced that it had zero positive COVID-19 tests during the Phase 4 portion of its return to play.

The league resumed the 2019-20 season and playoffs in late July with 24 teams playing within two hub cities (Toronto and Edmonton).

Since the participating teams entered their respective bubbles on July 25 they have reported zero positive tests during that time.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The league announced on Monday that it conducted 7,245 tests between August 2 and August 8. Previously the league reported 43 positive tests during the Phase 2 portion of the return (small group workouts at team facilities) and two positive tests during the first week of Phase 3 (return to training camp). But since then the league has reported zero positive tests through the remainder of training camps and, to this point, during the return to play in the hub cities.

The NHL just completed the Qualifying Round and Round-Robin portion of its return to play and will begin the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday afternoon in Toronto and Edmonton.

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.