Chara, Dunn join jaw-dropping club of playing through pain


BOSTON (AP) — Barry Melrose strapped on a fiberglass contraption that made him look like Hannibal Lecter. Rick Tocchet figured he looked more like Darth Vader.

Zdeno Chara resembled Batman villain Bane with his full face shield when he played Thursday night, 48 hours after the Boston captain took a puck square to the face. The same thing happened to Vince Dunn and he has so many wires in his mouth during the Stanley Cup Final that the St. Louis defenseman would probably set off a metal detector.

Playing through a severe injury is something of a hockey tradition, but the jawbreakers’ club is a smaller group. Four decades after Melrose did it, 27 years since Tocchet and 20 years since Jeremy Roenick gritted their teeth through broken jaws in playoff hockey, Chara and Dunn offer a fresh reminder of how much players will sacrifice for a chance to lift the Stanley Cup.

”Pain is temporary and pride is forever,” Roenick said. ”They’ll remember you for what you did. The pain is going to go away, and you’re going to forget that you even had that pain.”

Chara is still unable to talk much after taking the puck off the stick of the Blues’ Brayden Schenn on Monday night. Through the Bruins, Chara said he didn’t think about making it worse or consider himself any different from teammates with other injuries. He played 16:42 in Boston’s Game 5 loss that left the Bruins a game from elimination in the final.

Tocchet empathizes with Chara after an errant shot by Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux in 1992 cracked him in the jaw. He decided to keep playing rather than sit out the projected six weeks.

”I knew the ramifications, but I knew the reward if I could get through this thing,” Tocchet said. ”Obviously we won the Cup, so it was a great move by me.”

Had the ’92 Penguins not won? Tocchet simply said: ”No regrets.”

Dunn missed almost three weeks after taking a puck to the mouth from San Jose’s Brenden Dillon in the Western Conference final and dealing with concussion symptoms.

After coming back in Game 4 – the same game Chara went down – Dunn feels like he has a mouth guard in at all times and hasn’t been able to eat much solid food. Keeping weight on and digesting enough nutrients is something the jawbreakers’ club knows all about.

Tocchet’s mom came down to Pittsburgh after he broke his jaw and made all his meals in a blender.

”The first two weeks, 10 days, it was hard to chew,” Tocchet said. ”You couldn’t really move your jaw.”

Dunn felt like that. Asked recently if Dunn was talking any better, captain Alex Pietrangelo flashed a smile and said: ”Yeah. His teeth are coming in.”

Those teeth aren’t all in the right places, so Dunn’s smile was a little broken but beaming after his return. Even if he keeps getting smacked in the mouth.

”I got a stick in the face second shift again,” Dunn said Monday following Game 4. ”Nothing is going well for my face right now. It’s whatever right now. It’s an amazing time of the year. Things are going to happen that way.”

Things happen, go play hockey. That was Melrose’s approach back in 1979 when he played for Winnipeg two days after breaking his jaw in three places.

”When I got hit, all my teeth were shoved under my tongue and the doctor had to pull the teeth out,” Melrose said, explaining his four-hour tour in a dentist’s chair. ”As long as you can’t hurt it, it can’t hurt you, and you just play with the pain.”

Tocchet missed nine days after the misfire from ”Super Mario.” He came back and even fought Kris King and Kevin Hatcher with his jaw in pieces.

”Scotty Bowman wasn’t too happy with me,” Tocchet said. ”It’s not that I didn’t care. It’s the heat of the moment. You’re just doing it.”

Roenick sat out three weeks in 1999 after a check from Derian Hatcher gave him three ”clean” breaks in his jaw during a playoff game. That was the easy one. Five years later in a regular-season game, a shot from Boris Mironov shattered his jaw in 23 places.

”That is a totally different kind of one to have to come back from,” said Roenick, who’s at the final as an NBC Sports analyst.

The players say one of the toughest parts of playing through a broken jaw is not being able to breathe correctly. Tocchet said it’s more difficult to get back to a regular heart rate and catch your breath after a shift.

”When you’re wired and your teeth are slammed shut, it’s really hard to get air in between your teeth,” Roenick added. ”There’s little breathing ways that you can do when you’re slammed shut – breathing like Popeye breathing, breath inside the back of your mouth and not through the front of it. But to get oxygen, it’s really hard. You find yourself sometimes gasping for as much air as you possibly can.”

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Golden Knights sign defenseman Engelland to one-year deal

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LAS VEGAS (AP) The Vegas Golden Knights signed defenseman Deryk Engelland on Tuesday to a one-year deal for the upcoming season.

The contract includes a $700,000 base salary and incentives that could bring the total value of the deal to $1.5 million.

The 37-year-old Engelland played in 74 games last season and finished with 12 points and 18 penalty minutes. He set career-marks with 152 blocked shots and 165 hits.

The Knights took Engelland during the 2017 expansion draft.

The team also acquired goaltender Garret Sparks from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward David Clarkson and a fourth-round selection in the 2020 NHL entry draft.

Trade: Clarkson contract back to Toronto; Vegas opens up space

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Nostalgia is in the air, as “The Lion King” remake is in theaters, so maybe it’s time to cue “The Circle of Life.”

In a peculiar bit of salary cap management, David Clarkson – er, David Clarkson’s contract – and the Toronto Maple Leafs are back together again. While Garret Sparks goes to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Maple Leafs receive a fourth-round pick for their troubles.

Maple Leafs get: Clarkson’s contract ($5.25M for one more season), Vegas 2020 fourth-round pick.

Golden Knights receive: Cap relief even though they were going to send Clarkson to LTIR; a decent goalie consideration with Garret Sparks.

This is all about cap and asset management for both teams.

Clarkson was headed to LTIR whether his contract stayed in Vegas or matriculated to Toronto, and now his deal can be neighbors with Nathan Horton after they were exchanged. The Maple Leafs still have some work to do, naturally, as they need to fit Mitch Marner into the mix. The numbers might melt your brain a bit.

The Golden Knights still need to sort out their own issues with Nikita Gusev lingering as a fascinating RFA, and that resolution hasn’t come yet. In the meantime, or maybe instead, the Golden Knights took advantage of extra wiggle room to bring back veteran (and Vegas-loving) defenseman Deryk Engelland for a cheap deal.

Depth goaltending also buzzed around these moves.

Again, Sparks represents an interesting consideration for Vegas, as Malcolm Subban hasn’t been an unqualified solution as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup. Perhaps Sparks would end up prevailing after both of their contracts expire following the 2019-20 season?

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs opened up room for a depth option as well, as they confirmed that Michal Neuvirth has been invited to training camp on a PTO.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

It kind of makes you want to dig up that Charlie Kelly mailroom conspiracy board to try to cover all the ins and outs, but the bigger picture takeaway is that the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights continue to work on their cap conundrums, and this trade was really just another step in the process.

At least it was a pretty odd and funny step, though.

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

Predators are being bold with term; are they being smart?

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If nothing else, the Nashville Predators aren’t afraid to be bold.

In a vacuum, the Colton Sissons signing isn’t something that will make or break the Predators’ future. That seven-year, $20 million contract has inspired some fascinating debates, but the most interesting questions arise around GM David Poile’s larger team building, and his courageous decisions.

As we’ve seen, Poile doesn’t just lock up obvious core players to term, he frequently gives supporting cast players unusual security, too.

This signing seems like a good excuse to dive into the Predators’ biggest offseason decisions, and also ponder maybe the biggest one of all: what to do with captain Roman Josi, whose bargain contract will only last for one more season.

The interlocking P.K. Subban, Matt Duchene, Roman Josi situation

By any reasonable estimate, the Predators got hosed in getting such a small return for Subban in that deal with the Devils.

Of course, the Predators’ goal wasn’t necessarily to get a great return for Subban, but instead to get rid of Subban’s $9M to (most directly) sign Matt Duchene, and maybe eventually provide more leeway to extend Josi.

There was some argument to trading away Subban, as at 30, there’s a risk that his $9M AAV could become scary.

The thing is, the Predators only seemed to expose themselves to greater risks. It remains to be seen if Matt Duchene will be worth $8M, even right away, and he’s already 28. Roman Josi turned 29 in June, so if Josi’s cap hit is comparable to Subban’s — and it could be a lot higher if Josi plays the market right — then the Predators would take even bigger risks on Josi. After all, Josi’s next contract will begin in 2020-21, while Subban’s is set to expire after 2021-22.

So, in moving on from Subban to Duchene and/or Josi, the Predators are continuing to make big gambles that they’re right. Even if Subban really was on the decline, at least his deal isn’t going on for that much longer. Nashville’s instead chosen one or maybe two even riskier contracts at comparable prices, really rolling the dice that they’re not painting themselves into a corner.

There’s also the scenario where Josi leaves Nashville, and things could get pretty dizzying from there.

Even if you look at it as a Matt Duchene for P.K. Subban trade alone, that’s not necessarily a guaranteed “win” for Nashville. It’s all pretty bold, though.

[This post goes into even greater detail about trading Subban, and the aftermath.]

Lots of term

Nashville doesn’t have much term locked in its goalies Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, which is wise, as goalies are very tough to predict. Those risks are instead spread out to a considerable number of skaters, and Poile’s crossing his fingers that he’s going to find the sweet spot with veterans, rather than going all that heavy on youth.

The long-term plan has frequently been fruitful for the Predators, as Viktor Arvidsson ($4.25M for five more seasons) and Filip Forsberg ($6M for three more seasons) rank as some of the best bargains in the NHL. Josi’s $4M is right up there, though that fun ride ends after 2019-20.

Your mileage varies when you praise the overall work, though, because some savings are offset by clunkers. It stings to spend $10.1M in combined cap space on Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino, especially since $16M for Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen ranks somewhere between “the price of doing business” and “bad.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

So that’s the thing with locking down supporting cast members. It’s nice to have a defensive forward who seemingly moves the needle like Colton Sissons seems to do …

… Yet is he a bit of an extravagance at $2.857M per year? Again, that’s a matter of debate.

The uncomfortable truth is that, if the Predators are wrong about enough of these deals, then it’s that much tougher to wiggle your way out of mistakes. Yes, maybe the Predators can move Sissons if he slides, but you risk falling behind the pack if you lose value propositions too often.

Will that be the case with the Predators? We’ll have to wait and see, and the most fascinating test cases come down the line. If it doesn’t work out next year, in particular, then things could pretty uncomfortable, pretty quickly.

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

Sissons, Predators agree to seven-year, $20 million deal

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We see long-term deals with high annual average values.

We see short-term deals with lower annual average values.

But rarely do we see long-term deals with low annual average values. Like less than $3 million low.

Yet, despite the rarity of such a pact, David Poile and the Nashville Predators have become some sort of trendsetters in getting plays to sign lengthy deals worth a pittance annually.

Colton Sissons becomes the second in the past three years to sign on with the Predators long-term at a small AVV. Sissons new deal, avoiding arbitration, is a seven-year contract worth $20 million — an AAV of $2.85 million.

“Colton will be an important part of our team for the next seven seasons, and we are happy he has made a long-term commitment to our organization and the city the Nashville,” Poile said. “He’s a heart and soul player who is versatile and can fill many important roles on our team, including on the penalty kill and power play. His offensive production has increased each season, and he remains an integral part of our defensive structure down the middle of the ice. Colton is also an up-and-coming leader in our organization, which is something we value strongly.”

Poile seems to have no issue signing depth guys to lengthy deals. In 2016, he signed Calle Jarnkork to a six-year deal worth $12 million. In fact, he’s the only general manager to pull of such moves.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Both players have chosen security over maximizing earning potential.

Sissons, 25, had a career-year last season, scoring 15 goals and 30 points in 75 games.

His AAV is in the ballpark of what was projected. Evolving Wild’s model had him making $2.65 million. What wasn’t foreseen is that term.

EW’s model projected a three-year contract for Sissons with a 30.2 percent probability of coming to fruition. But what percentage of chance did EW give a seven-year contract? 0.4 percent.

Anything is possible, kids.

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