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Tavares’ path to free agency is not yet a road for NHL stars

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CHICAGO — When John Tavares decided to pass on signing an extension with the New York Islanders and test free agency, he became the most interesting man in hockey.

NHL stars don’t ordinarily get to that point, and it led to Tavares going home to Toronto to sign a $77 million, seven-year contract with the Maple Leafs. Fellow players were watching closely, too, and wondering what the long-term impact might be.

”Even if we weren’t directly affiliated with it, it would’ve been interesting to follow because you don’t see it that often,” Islanders winger Anders Lee said. ”Who knows if it’s going to set a precedent or not or anything like that.”

The early returns are mixed. Tyler Seguin hopes a long-term deal can get done with the Stars before the regular season begins next month, while Ottawa Senators forward Matt Duchene started wondering about what could be. Seguin said he hasn’t gotten that far to imagine himself in Tavares’ shoes.

”I didn’t look into it really too much because my goal has still been to be a Dallas Star,” Seguin said Friday. ”That plan hasn’t changed.”

A lot of times there isn’t a plan yet. While Seguin said there has been positive dialogue between his agent and the Stars in recent days, Duchene hasn’t talked to the Senators about an extension and Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson is the constant subject of trade rumors with one year left on his deal.

Duchene feels better than at the start of previous seasons when he was less than happy in Colorado and didn’t know where he’d be next. Only this time, his uncertainty doesn’t feel so bad after watching Tavares get to free agency and have the chance to pick his destination.

”It gives you something to think about because you want to make the best decision for yourself,” Duchene said. ”Sometimes the way a team does things can trigger a different response from the individual and vice versa. It’s not a cookie-cutter thing.”

Tavares understands that. He had to weigh nine years with the Islanders against recent struggles to make the playoffs and the potential offered by teams like the Maple Leafs and Sharks.

His situation was so often compared to that Steven Stamkos – who re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning on the eve of free agency in 2016 – that Tavares doesn’t expect Seguin, Duchene or anyone else to feel the same ways he did.

”Once I got through the regular season and kind of decompressing after a while and started kind of getting closer obviously to July 1, I realized that this might be my really only chance to go through something like this and have this opportunity to see what else is out there,” Tavares said. ”It obviously led to me making a change. I think it just depends on the type of person and the situation and I guess kind of the optics or the circumstances in that situation.”

Karlsson could go the Tavares route next summer, though any team that deals for him between now and the trade deadline will likely want to lock him up long term. That could be the case for Duchene, too.

Seguin, who last week expressed concerns that a new contract with Dallas wasn’t done yet, is far more likely to sign in the coming weeks in large part because of the talent the Stars have around him and the potential they have to contend. Captain and linemate Jamie Benn is signed through 2024-25 and doesn’t feel like he has to sell Seguin on staying or give him any advice about going through the negotiation process.

”The contract will sort itself out,” Benn said. ”People think it’s more complicated than it already is … but he’s earned every amount of money that he’s going to get and he’s well-deserving of it.”

Seguin, Karlsson and Duchene are going to get paid by some team over the next 10 months, as Tavares was. Oilers captain and Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid went the more common route signing the longest-possible deal in Edmonton for the highest average salary in the league, and even he was watching the Tavares saga and came away glad it happened.

”Hockey’s kind of always been the ‘I do what I’m told’ and ‘I kind of go where I’m told’ and whatnot, but he was one of the few guys that took his matters into his own hands and you really respect that,” McDavid said.

”He could’ve signed the security deal and signed a long-term deal or a lot of money and never would’ve thought about it again. But he decided that he wanted to go a different route and live out his childhood dream and play in Toronto and you can’t really blame him for that.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Chara’s month-long absence adds to Bruins’ blue line woes

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In a week where NHL injury news was seemingly non-stop, the Boston Bruins suffered another blow with the news that Zdeno Chara would be out indefinitely following a leg injury suffered Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche. According to The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa, the captain is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks.

The continued hits to the Bruins’ blue line saw them dress two players, Connor Clifton and Jakub Zboril, making their NHL debuts Friday during a 1-0 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. Add in rookie Jeremy Lauzon and you had three defenseman on the ice with not even a combined 10 games of NHL experience. Along with Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Urho Vaakanainen, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller and John Moore were also absent.

This is something that head coach Bruce Cassidy has never experienced.

“No. Not this many at the same time,” Cassidy on Friday. “Clearly when you lose guys through the course of the year, five or six, but not at the same time. It will be a challenge, no doubt.”

Lauzon (24:52 TOI) and Matt Grzelcyk (25:27) made up the top pairing with Chara and McAvoy sidelined.

(Let’s also not gloss over that while Patrice Bergeron got banged up against the Stars and returned, there’s still plenty of concern about his status.)

The good news is that the blue line injury list could see fewer faces on it real soon. Cassidy said that Miller could be back Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings. Any of Carlo, McAvoy or Vaakanainen may also be able to return to the lineup that night. The Bruins have three full days off after Saturday’s meeting with the Arizona Coyotes; plenty of time to recoup and possibly piece back together their defense corps.

In the meantime, the Bruins will rely on some of their kids to help them get through this stretch. It’ll be quite a period of evaluation.

“It’s the National Hockey League, you can either play in it or you can’t. We’ll find out with some of these guys,” said Cassidy. “Sometimes this is the best way to find out, that’s the positive in it. The negative is we’ve got a lot of good players out of the lineup back there. “If they want to play here it’s a great opportunity to show what they can do right now. That’s the way I look at it. This is kind of their dream to get here. Well, here you are, have at it.”

UPDATE: The Bruins say Chara’s injury is to his left MCL and he’ll be re-evaluated in four weeks. Moore and Bergeron are leaving the road trip and heading back to Boston for evaluation.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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: Petersen gets first win for Kings; Skinner scores again for Sabres

AP
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Three Stars

1. Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings. With injuries to Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell, the Kings have had to resort to their third-and fourth-string goalies Cal Petersen and Peter Budaj. On Friday night in Chicago it was Petersen getting the start and he was absolutely fantastic in a 2-1 shootout win over the Blackhawks stopping 34 shots through regulation and overtime to pick up his first NHL win. This is only the sixth win of the season for a Kings team that has struggled from the start. It also snapped what had been a three-game losing streak. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have now lost nine of their past 10 and have managed just four goals in their past four games.

2. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres. Things are starting to look good for the Buffalo Sabres who have now won four in a row and five of their past six thanks to a 2-1 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night. At the center of this recent surge has been Jeff Skinner, their biggest offseason acquisition. His goal early in the third period on Friday was the game-tying goal and his 14th of the season, which keeps him in second place in the league’s goal-scoring race. He has been especially hot lately with five goals in his past four games and 13 goals in his past 12 games. He has been everything the team hoped he would be when they acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes over the summer.

3. Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues. After his 10-game point streak came to an end on Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, Ryan O’Reilly was able to get back on the scoresheet with a pair of goals on Friday in a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. O’Reilly has been the Blues’ best player by a substantial margin this season and is already up to 10 goals and 23 total points this season in only 17 games.

Highlights of the Night

The Washington Capitals were 3-2 overtime winners in Colorado on Friday night and it was Devante Smith-Pelly getting them on the board by finishing this beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play.

Morgan Rielly continued his incredible season on Friday night with the game-winning overtime goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the win Toronto takes over the top spot in the NHL standings while Rielly continues to pace all defenders with 25 points in 20 games. Ottawa Senators rookie Thomas Chabot and San Jose Sharks defender Brent Burns are the only other players at the position with more than 20 points so far this season.

Factoids

This is a tremendous stat from the Washington Capitals-Colorado Avalanche game, where both Avalanche goalies are former long-time Capitals netminders, and the Capitals two goalies on Friday have barely played for the team.

The Dallas Stars win over the Boston Bruins did not have a lot of offense, but it certainly had a lot of excitement thanks in large part to Brad Marchand. Still, it was the Stars getting the 1-0 overtime win. That is something that had never happened in Stars franchise history.

 

Scores

Dallas Stars 1, Boston Bruins 0 (OT)

Buffalo Sabres 2, Winnipeg Jets 1 (SO)

Los Angeles Kings 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1 (SO)

Washington Capitals 3, Colorado Avalanche 2 (OT)

St. Louis Blues 4, Vegas Golden Knights 1

Toronto Maple Leafs 2, Anaheim Ducks 1 (OT)

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV 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.

Brad Marchand pulls a Roger Neilson, waves ‘white flag’

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It was another eventful for night for Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

After a series of penalties in the second period of his team’s 1-0 overtime loss in Dallas, he decided to pull a Roger Neilson and wave the white flag by sticking a towel on the blade of his hockey stick and … well … waving it from the penalty box. This was presumably a form of surrendering to the referees.

Or simply Brad Marchand doing Brad Marchand things.

His adventure started in the second period when he was given a double-minor for roughing Radek Faksa after Marchand came to the defense of his linemate, Patrice Bergeron, who was sent flying into the boards at the hands of Faksa. Bergeron briefly exited the game before returning.

Here is the entire sequence.

After serving his four minutes for that altercation, Marchand returned to the ice and was almost immediately sent back to the box for slashing stars goalie Ben Bishop.

Nobody from Boston liked the call at all, with Marchand at being at the top of the list.

That was when he waved the white flag and was sent off for 10 additional minutes.

That might look familiar to you because you might recall former long-time NHL coach Roger Neilson doing something similar during the 1982 playoffs when he was coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Marchand has been in rare form this season, even for him. Earlier this month he was given a 10-minute misconduct for mocking Nashville Predators forward Colton Sissons for embellishing a high-sticking call, which came after he bloodied Washington Capitals forward Lars Eller in the season-opener after Eller taunted the Bruins’ bench.

In the playoffs the NHL had to instruct Marchand to stop licking opposing players.

No matter what you think of Marchand as a player you at least have to admit this: It is never boring with him around.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV 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.

Josh Archibald suspended two games for hit on Ryan Hartman

via NHL DoPS
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After holding a hearing with Josh Archibald earlier on Friday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended the Arizona Coyotes forward two games for his “high, hard hit” on Ryan Hartman of the Nashville Predators.

The league’s explanation video explains that Hartman’s head was “the main point of contact” and that contact with the head was avoidable.

During the game itself (a 2-1 win for the Coyotes on Thursday), Archibald received a minor penalty. He doesn’t have a history of supplemental discipline at the NHL level, which may have prompted a lighter punishment. Hartman eventually returned to that loss for Nashville.

Here’s the explanation video via the NHL’s DPoS:

Archibald will be eligible to play for the Coyotes again on Nov. 23.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.