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What is the Panthers’ long-term outlook?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Florida Panthers

Pending Free Agents

The Core

Everything about this team in the immediate future is going to be built around the forward duo of Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

They are two of the best and most productive players in the league, while Barkov has developed into one of the NHL’s most complete two-way centers. Barkov is signed for two more seasons after this one, while Huberdeau is locked in for another three. They have matching salary cap hits of $5.9 million per season.

Beyond them, the core gets a little cloudier because all of their long-term investments come with some pretty significant risks.

Starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is signed for another six seasons at a salary cap hit of $10 million per season. They are going to need him to be significantly better than he has been so far if there is any chance of him playing out the remainder of that deal in Florida.

In front of him they have invested heavily in their defense with Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Anton Stralman, and Mike Matheson all signed for at least the next two seasons, while Ekblad, Yandle, and Matheson go for at least the next three years. Ekblad and Matheson are both signed for the next five. They have a ton of money invested in that quartet, but they haven’t really received a great return on that investment at this point.

Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, two of their best forwards, are unsigned beyond this season and eligible for unrestricted free agency. If they can not re-sign one — or both — that would be a significant amount of offense going out the door.

Long-Term Needs

Even though the Panthers have made a huge long-term financial investment in their defense and goaltending, they are still one of the worst defensive teams in the league right now.

Ekblad and Yandle are a solid duo at the top, and maybe even a little underrated. Ekblad’s status as a former No. 1 overall pick definitely raises the expectations around him, but he has been an extremely productive player offensively and shown improvement in his all-around game. He may not win the Norris Trophy, but he’s a good player.

But once you get beyond that top duo there are a lot of flaws and question marks with the defense as a whole, and not a lot of immediate help on the horizon to help fix it. That is one of the things that made the in-season trade of Vincent Trocheck so confusing. It was a deal that did not need to be made, and they did not even use it to address their biggest flaw.

They could also be looking at a depth issue at forward if they can not get Hoffman and Dadonov re-signed.

Long-Term Strengths

The biggest strength for the Panthers is probably the simple fact they not only have two elite players in Barkov and Huberdeau, but that they have them both signed for multiple seasons at a combined salary cap hit of less than $11 million per season. They are exceptional bargains against the cap, they are both elite players, and they are both in the middle of their prime years in the NHL. Having that sort of situation at the top of the lineup should be a massive advantage for a front office to work with. Those are the hardest players to find (the elite, game-changers on offense) and they tend to cost the most money. The Panthers not only already have them in place, they have them for far less than they should ordinarily cost. That is a gift and a bonus you do not want to waste.

It also might seem weird saying this given how much Bobrovsky struggled in his debut season with the team, but they do seem to have a lot of goaltending options in the short-and long-term.

Even if Bobrovsky’s contract turns into a problem in a few years, he should be better than he was this season and at least give them a few seasons of high level play. Chris Driedger has also been a pleasant surprise in net this season and could settle in as a nice back-up option, while they also have one of the top goaltending prospects in the league in Spencer Knight after using a top-15 pick on him in the draft a year ago.

They also have one of the NHL’s best coaches in Joel Quenneville.

More:

• Looking at the 2019-20 Florida Panthers
• Panthers’ surprises and disappointments

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.

Avalanche overcome Kuemper, beat Coyotes in Game 1

Avalanche Coyotes Game 1 Kuemper
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For much of Game 1, it looked like Darcy Kuemper would steal a win for the Coyotes, but the Avalanche eventually broke through. The Avs exploded in the third period to win 3-0 against the Coyotes, giving Colorado a 1-0 series lead.

Avalanche dominated — but the Game 1 score is misleading in some ways for Coyotes

If you look at the final score, you’d get a mixed reading on Game 1 between the Avalanche and Coyotes.

On one hand, the Avalanche dominated possession throughout Game 1. The Avs managed a lopsided 28-7 shots on goal advantage through the first two periods of Game 1, but Kuemper allowed nothing, keeping the Coyotes tied 0-0.

That 0-0 tie lasted quite a while through the third period, too.

As it seemed increasingly likely that another Game 1 would enter overtime, Nazem Kadri came up big for the Avalanche once again. Kadri connected on the power play with 6:55 remaining in the third. Then, just 10 seconds later, J.T. Compher increased that lead to 2-0.

Gabriel Landeskog took a hit to make a play, then Nathan MacKinnon sent a nice pass to Mikko Rantanen, who adjusted nicely for the 3-0 goal.

If you merely decided to walk your dog or make a restroom break at the wrong time, you might have missed Avalanche – Coyotes Game 1 breaking wide open. Colorado scored three goals against Kuemper in less than 90 seconds. It was a reminder that, as well as Kuemper played, the Avalanche can threaten with quick-strike offense as much as any team in the NHL.

Rick Tocchet must consider some tweaks. After all, you’re not going to win many games while being outshot 39-14 overall (you also won’t enjoy many easier playoff shutouts than Philipp Grubauer did in Game 1).

Yes, you want to contain that deadly Avalanche offense. And, yes, Kuemper’s been outstanding. But you also have to do something to try to score some goals, right? Then again, trying to win with defense, Kuemper, and some counter-punching might just have to be the way for the Coyotes. (Frankly, it’s generally how they beat the Predators, as they relied upon Kuemper a ton during the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.)

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Arizona Coyotes (Avs lead series 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Colorado 3, Arizona 0
Friday, Aug. 14: Arizona at Colorado, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Colorado at Arizona, 3 p.m. ET – CNBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Colorado at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Arizona at Colorado – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Colorado at Arizona – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Arizona at Colorado – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round 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.

Canadiens-Flyers stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Wednesday’s First Round matchup between the Canadiens and Flyers. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canadiens-Flyers stream at 8 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Flyers were the hottest team in hockey at the time of the pause and they carried that momentum with them in the Round Robin. Philly won all three games in regulation, including Saturday’s game against Tampa, to earn the top seed in the East. Montreal was the last club to make the 24-team expanded playoff field. The Habs had a regular season points percentage of .500 and were awarded the 12th seed in the East. Led by Carey Price, Montreal took down the Penguins in four games to clinch a spot in the First Round against Philly.

Price has been one of the best netminders since making his debut in 2007 and played one of his best playoff series of his career in the Qualifying Round. His 1.67 GAA and .947 SV% against Pittsburgh were both career bests for a single-series in his playoff career, and his Game 4 shutout was the sixth postseason shutout of his career.

After setting an NHL record for most goalies to start a game in a single season last year with eight, Philly has finally found their franchise goalie. Carter Hart will be making his third career playoff start (2- 0) in Game 1 of this series and it will be coming against his childhood idol – Price.

WHAT: Montreal Canadiens vs. Philadelphia Flyers
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Wednesday, August 12, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: John Forslund, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canadiens-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 8 Montreal Canadiens

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Montreal at Philadelphia, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Friday, Aug. 14: Montreal at Philadelphia, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Philadelphia at Montreal, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Philadelphia at Montreal, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Philadelphia at Montreal – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

Islanders score four straight to take Game 1 over Capitals

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A three-goal third period helped the Islanders take Game 1 of their First Round series over the Capitals, 4-2.

Washington had earned a 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of power play goals from T.J. Oshie, but New York’s possession dominance eventually brought the goals.

The comeback began when Jordan Eberle cut the lead to 2-1 late in the second period. The opening 12 minutes of the third continued to be all Islanders. Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, and Anthony Beauvillier all scored, putting the Capitals on their heels.

Bailey’s first of the postseason was an especially tough one for Washington as it came shorthanded following a miscommunication between Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals goaltender caught a Brock Nelson dump in but his pass attempt to Ovechkin didn’t go as planned, allowing Nelson to steal it and find Bailey in front to give New York a 3-2 lead.

Beauvillier continued his hot run with his fourth goal of the postseason five minutes later to double the lead. Washington continued to chase the game, and their efforts came to an end when Tom Wilson took a holding call with their net empty and under a minute to play.

“In the third period we can’t start like that,” Ovechkin said. “We get the lead, we just have to play our game. We stop playing and you can see result.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Capitals may have won Game 1, but they did suffer a loss as well. Nicklas Backstrom took a hit from Lee just two minutes into the game. He played 7:21 in the first period, but did not return to the game. That hit led to Lee dropping the gloves with both John Carlson and Wilson on separate occasions.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz defended his player.

“Anders is making a hockey play,” he said. “I don’t know if Nick [Backstrom] was ready or not. Anders is a strong guy. The hit was made and they responded. He and Wilson fought and that was probably the end of it. We’ll see.”

The Capitals were obviously not happy with Lee’s hit and the outcome.

“It was a late hit on a player who wasn’t expecting it. It was predatory,” said head coach Todd Reirden, who did not have an update on Backstrom.

“It looked extremely late,” said Oshie. “In the frame I saw there wasn’t even a puck and it still looked late.”

“It looked real dirty to me,” said Carlson.

Game 2 is Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (NYI lead 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Islanders 4, Capitals 2
Friday, Aug. 14: NY Islanders at Washington, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Washington at NY Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – USA Network
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Washington at NY Islanders, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Thursday, Aug. 20: NY Islanders at Washington – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Washington at NY Islanders – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: NY Islanders at Washington – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round 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.

NHL fines Rod Brind’Amour for ‘crime scene’ officiating critique

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The NHL fined Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour $25K after Brind’Amour blasted officiating from the Bruins’ 3-2 double OT win in Game 1 on Wednesday. Echoing what they did with John Tortorella before, the NHL also hung a conditional additional $25K fine over Brind’Amour that “will be collected, in addition to any subsequent discipline, in the event of similar inappropriate behavior through Aug. 12, 2021.”

Odd? Draconian? Yeah, but the NHL — and other sports leagues, to be honest — tend to go to great lengths to defend officials. Tortorella kept his mouth shut, even after his Blue Jackets maybe should’ve gotten a power play or penalty shot during the fifth OT of their epic loss to the Lightning in that Game 1. We’ll see if the $25K (and a threat of another $25K) might inspire “Rod the Bod” to censor what comes out of his mouth.

If you missed the Bruins 3-2 double OT win against Brind’Amour’s Hurricanes in Game 1, you might want some added context. Let’s take a look.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

NHL fines Brind’Amour; The plays and comments in question from Game 1 Bruins – Hurricanes

As you can see starting at the 1:10 mark of the video above, a Charlie Coyle 2-1 goal counted despite what could have been either a hand pass or goalie interference call. The Bruins received a power play after a failed challenge — amid serious confusion from Brind’Amour and the Hurricanes — but Carolina responded with a shorthanded goal.

After the game, Brind’Amour vented about the call, and the entire process.

“This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things,” Brind’Amour told The News & Observer’s Luke DeCock, among other media members. “That one is a crime scene.”

The Athletic’s Sara Civian transcribed some passionate quotes from Brind’Amour as well. Some are flat-out NSFW:

Wow.

On one hand, you can see where the NHL is coming from. Officiating isn’t easy, and saying this shows an area where the league is a “joke” won’t do Brind’Amour any favors.

But, at the same time, the NHL demands that coaches and players make themselves available to the media. Sometimes when their blood is still boiling after losing a game. And more than a few people will agree that Brind’Amour has a point, not to mention Tortorella and others before Brind’Amour.

As difficult as it must have been for Tortorella to bite his tongue, it’s easy to see why. Sadly, it seems like you can only make these sort of comments behind the scenes.

Maybe some public pressure may eventually lead to a smoother and/or more transparent process? Who knows. Meanwhile, Brind’Amour must contemplate other questions.

” … I know we weren’t the better team, but if that goal doesn’t go in, do we win that game?” Brind’Amour said, via DeCock. “I don’t know.”

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes (BOS leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Carolina at Boston, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Boston at Carolina, 12 p.m ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Boston at Carolina, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Carolina at Boston – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Boston at Carolina – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Carolina at Boston – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round 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.