Next NHL defensemen in line for huge free-agent contracts

Next NHL defensemen in line for huge free-agent contracts
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After the most frenzied part of 2021 NHL Free Agency, there are plenty of takeaways. One of them: so much for that flat salary cap slowing down NHL spending, huh? But, to get more specific, there’s another thought: it’s a great time to be an NHL defenseman.

That goes for mid-grade and depth defensemen, who’ve signed one eye-popping free-agent contract after another.

Most crucially, though, we’ve seen a staggering array of free-agent mega-deals for prominent defensemen. Your mileage will vary based on which defensemen have a prayer of making those contracts worthwhile. But there’s no denying that NHL defensemen, their agents, and accountants got a lot, lot richer lately.

Let’s review some of the biggest recent free-agent contracts for NHL defensemen

Think of some of the NHL free-agent contracts (either for UFAs, or extensions on previous deals) that demanded people to reach deep into the reserves of shocked emojis:

  • We all felt so young-and-innocent when the Stars signed Miro Heiskanen (eight years, $8.45 million cap hit). When the Stars signed that Heiskanen deal on July 17, it seemed steep — even considering the hype he’s generated. Now it looks downright responsible.
  • Things really started to ramp up around Seth Jones. After paying a pretty penny to trade for Jones, the Blackhawks opted to give Jones an eight-year extension with a whopping $9.5M cap hit. That’s before Jones played a single shift for Chicago. If the troubling underlying numbers Jones put up are not an accident, well … too bad. The deal’s already in place.
  • Soon after, the Avalanche swooped in and signed Cale Makar to a contract that’s both big and easy to justify. The supremely talented (and beyond-his-22-years) defenseman signed for six years at a $9M clip. While that price follows a pattern, Makar breaks some of the other trends by being undeniably worth it. In fact, it was almost a trope to see “[Less of a sure thing] is making more than Cale Makar!”

  • Late-ish on the first day of 2021 NHL Free Agency, the Devils landed the big fish in Dougie Hamilton: seven years, $9M AAV. While Jones is the “Hockey Men” choice despite bad underlying stats, Hamilton’s the opposite. His work is off-the-charts, but old-school types tend to sour on Hamilton for a variety of reasons. It’s a big chunk of change, whether it looks smart, foolish, or somewhere in the middle.
  • Finally — for now — the Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world by signing Zachary Werenski to a six-year contract with a mammoth $9.583M million cap hit.

In the span of a couple weeks, the ranks of the hyper-rich NHL defensemen swelled like Werenski’s wallet.

So, to paraphrase poet Bill Goldberg, “Who’s next?”

Between the rest of this offseason, all the way through 2022 NHL Free Agency, we could see more big free-agent contracts for NHL defensemen. Let’s see who’s in line for new deals.

First, we’ll begin with players who don’t have contracts for the 2021-22 season. Then, we’ll move onto defensemen entering contract years, who can sign an extension. (Will it be for Werenski money, though?)

Dahlin, Hughes, could be up for big free-agent contracts, RFAs or not

Quinn Hughes

During this key offseason, Canucks GM Jim Benning faced a difficult balancing act. His goal was to make the Canucks better, while also opening up room to sign star RFAs Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson.

From a making the Canucks better standpoint, it’s been a mixed bag. (Signing Travis Hamonic for nearly $6 million over two years? That’s certainly a choice.)

As far as signing Hughes and Pettersson goes? Also kind of a mixed bag.

Cap Friendly estimates the Canucks’ cap space at about $14.06 million. That’s without signing Pettersson and Hughes, and Jason Dickinson also sticks out as an RFA.

Evolving Hockey’s wonderful contract projection tool estimates the most likely Quinn Hughes contract at six years with a $7.017M. But could Werenski and other extensions raise the bar for Hughes? By certain metrics, Werenski is a more well-rounded player:

Which other NHL defensemen could sign massive free-agent contracts? Hughes Werenski ev comp
via Evolving Hockey

But, as we’ve seen from the Blackhawks defiantly paying Jones before he played a single shift in their uniform, all that really matters is what one team will pay for a player. Both Werenski and Hughes have parallels in the broadest senses: offensively adept, mixed feelings about their defense, young and left-handed. Naturally, it’s not a one-to-one comparison (Hughes is younger; the Blue Jackets were desperate not to lose another big name). Yet, it’s still interesting to wonder if Werenski and other big-money contracts might push Hughes’ asking price above that $7M-ish estimate.

(Shorter, “bridge” deals prompted lower guesses.)

Again, Hughes’ situation is made more complicated by Pettersson being in a similar boat. For what it’s worth, Evolving Hockey leans toward a “bridge” deal for Pettersson, specifically, at about $5M.

If those predictions are correct, then the Canucks could probably make this work.

In a smarter, bolder, more aggressive NHL, someone might swoop in with an offer sheet to make things more uncomfortable. Luckily for the Canucks, Hughes is not eligible for an offer sheet (but Pettersson is).

Rasmus Dahlin

On one hand, hockey analysis — including in NHL front offices — has become a lot more sophisticated.

That said, some of the surprising contracts remind us that reputation and narratives matter a lot. When people decide Seth Jones is a $9.5M defenseman, they’ll ignore any number of charts and footage of mildly troubling tendencies.

Generally, teams still get lured in by big point totals, too. Even if those points sometimes feel like empty calories (sorry, Tyson Barrie and Mike Hoffman).

All of these factors make it difficult to tell what’s going to happen between Rasmus Dahlin and the Buffalo Sabres.

On one hand, Dahlin’s produced some decent counting stats. He generated 44 points as a rookie in 2018-19, and 40 points in 59 games in 2019-20. Last season wasn’t as pretty, as Dahlin produced 23 points in 56 games.

As far as his overall work, though? It’s been a little disappointing — at least for a defenseman who’s been as hyped as any top blueline prospect in recent memory.

Does some of that come down to the Sabres? I’d argue yes. His usage has been a bit erratic, and the team didn’t always play to his strengths.

Still, it’s difficult to shake the impression that expectations are much, much lower for Dahlin. He’s definitely struggled defensively at times.

Evolving Hockey’s contract projection tool forecasts a six-year deal between Dahlin and the Sabres, at about $6M. Would a “prove it” deal be likely? How much are the rebuilding Sabres willing to commit? It could be an interesting situation all-around.

Adam Pelech, plus a few other free-agent NHL defensemen of note

Last offseason, the Islanders struggled with their cap crunch. That pain shined brightest when they had to trade Devon Toews in what ended up being a steal for the Avalanche.

This season, they’re far better positioned to deal with the challenge of signing a defenseman who’s better than most people likely realize.

At 26, Adam Pelech is on the older end of this group of RFA defensemen. He also lacks the flash of Hughes’ and Dahlin’s scoring numbers. Yet, the combination of Pelech and Ryan Pulock quietly gave the Islanders one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL.

If the Islanders manage to land Pelech in the projected four-year, $4.324M cap hit range, it would be a steal. We’ll see if a rabid NHL free-agent market moves the goalposts at all.

Some other noteworthy NHL defensemen in need of new contracts as RFAs:

NHL defensemen entering contract years, who could sign extensions

Naturally, there are a lot of NHL defensemen entering contract years, who could sign extensions. That net could get really wide, then, if we mention a veteran like Mark Giordano.

To keep it simple, let’s consider potential big raises for younger defensemen most likely to sign Werenski/Jones-type extensions.

Adam Fox

Imagine Adam Fox, 23-year-old reigning Norris Trophy winner, watching the big-money deals fly in.

You’ve got to think he could ask for something comparable to what Norris runner-up Cale Makar received, right? Maybe a bit more? Earlier rumors indicated that Fox might want to wait, rather than sign a contract extension. Would an offer be too much to resist if it was in the Makar range? Could he somehow drive his value even higher by playing out the 2022-23 season?

(Good thing he has that Harvard brain to figure this out.)

The Rangers need to be careful here. Like Fox, Kaapo Kakko approaches a contract year. Meanwhile, Alexis Lafreniere has two years left on his ELC. Mika Zibanejad‘s bargain $5.35 AAV runs out after next season. The core of this team could get expensive, quickly, and Fox might be the most expensive piece of them all (outside of Artemi Panarin … we think?).

Charlie McAvoy

Slowly, but surely, people are catching on to just how great Charlie McAvoy is. With that in mind, the Bruins might want to bite the bullet and sign the 23-year-old to a contract extension now. If not, it wouldn’t be outrageous to imagine McAvoy having a Norris Trophy on his resume. (Or at least a bullet point about being a finalist.)

Granted, injuries have been an issue at times. Also, with defense being his biggest calling card, he might not have the same selling ability as some of the higher-scoring, more porous comparison points.

Peruse the Bruins ‘roster, and marvel at how often they’ve convinced their best players to accept less than market value. That happened back with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They got a steal with David Pastrnak, and Taylor Hall‘s a pleasant surprise. If the Bruins don’t pay much more than McAvoy’s current $4.9M cap hit on his next deal, then they might be magicians, or wizards. Super powers may be involved.

Pending UFAs who may be in line for extensions and/or big raises

  • Maybe the Islanders should just sign Pulock and Pelech now? While Pelech needs a new deal as an RFA, Pulock enters 2022-23 as a pending UFA. Might be wise to lock them up before people truly catch on to their own-zone dominance.
  • Will the Flyers echo the Blackhawks extending Jones by locking down Ristolainen prior to his contract expiring? They haven’t yet. If they do before learning how Ristolainen fits, there will be plenty of criticisms.
  • Morgan Rielly‘s great offensively, but suspect defensively. That’s the sort of summary you hear about a defenseman who signs a perilous contract. Will that happen with Rielly? What’s his future with the Maple Leafs?
  • Could Darnell Nurse be another quality defenseman whose next contract looks scary?

High risk, mystery rewards

When it comes to big NHL free-agent contracts (and extensions), you don’t always get what you “pay for.”

Just about anyone cringes at Erik Karlsson‘s contract. People should cringe basically just as much at the Drew Doughty deal. Even one people haven’t soured on could quickly turn that way — does it really behoove the troubled Predators to pay Roman Josi $9M per year?

Despite many red flags, and adjacent albatrosses like the Oliver Ekman-Larsson contract, teams clearly believe that risky free-agent contracts are simply unavoidable for NHL defensemen.

Simply put, they’re betting that they’re right. Considering some of the names in this post, that casino will be buzzing with activity during the next year or so.

(Hey, at least it’s not your money, right?)


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

Dellandrea scores twice in 3rd, Stars stay alive with 4-2 victory over Golden Knights

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — With Dallas’ season on the line, the Stars got two critical goals from a player who was a healthy scratch the first two games of the Western Conference Final.

Ty Dellandrea‘s goals came within a 1:27 span midway through the third period, and the Stars beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Florida Panthers.

“He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever played with,” said Stars goalie Jake Oettinger, who made 27 saves. “He deserves every opportunity he gets, and there’s no one happier for him than the guys in this room. It shows how special you are when you get taken out. He didn’t make it about him. He needed the opportunity to step up, and that’s what he did.”

The Stars escaped elimination for the second game in a row and head to Dallas for Game 6 down 3-2. Dallas is attempting to become the fifth team in NHL history to win a series after being down 3-0.

And look who’s back for the Stars? Captain Jamie Benn returns after a two-game suspension for his cross-check to the neck of Vegas captain Mark Stone in Game 3. That was the only game in this series that was decided early, and the Stars hadn’t even had a multigoal lead.

“I know our group, and we weren’t happy about being in the hole we were in, and they decided to do something about it,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “And now we’re rolling.”

The only problem for DeBoer was waiting two days to play Game 6.

“Drop the puck,” he said.

DeBoer said before the game if his team won, the pressure would shift to the Knights. Now it’s up to them to respond after twice being a period away from playing in the Stanley Cup Final and letting both opportunities slip away.

“I don’t think we brought our best the last two games,” Stone said. “We were still in a good spot to win the game. We’ve got to bring a little bit better effort and start playing a little more desperate.”

Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said “it’s a very good question” why his team didn’t play with more desperation, but he also wasn’t thrilled with the Knights’ execution.

“We had 24 giveaways,” Cassidy said. “I’m not sure you’re beating the Arizona Coyotes in January with 24 giveaways. That’s no disrespect to Arizona, but it’s not the right way to play.”

Dellandrea found the right way to play and put together the first multigoal playoff game of his career. Jason Robertson and Luke Glendening also scored, and Thomas Harley had two assists.

Chandler Stephenson and Ivan Barbashev scored for the Knights, and Jonathan Marchessault had two assists to extend his points streak to four games. Adin Hill made 30 saves.

Dellandrea scored from the right circle to put Dallas ahead, the puck deflecting off Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo with 9:25 left for a 3-2 lead. Then, Dellandrea scored from the slot with 7:58 remaining.

Dellandrea said the older players kept him motivated when he was temporarily sidelined.

“There’s no denying it’s hard,” he said. “I’m thankful for a good group of character guys, and you’ve just got to stay ready.”

The teams traded goals in the first two periods.

Jack Eichel battled two Stars players for the puck in Vegas’ offensive zone, and then Barbashev swooped in and made a fantastic move to glide past Oettinger and score with 6:24 left in the first period. The Stars wasted little time in answering when Glendening scored on a deflection less than two minutes later.

Dallas was robbed of what looked like a sure goal when Hill snagged a point-blank shot from Roope Hintz, who then threw his back in disbelief.

Like in the first period, the Knights had a goal in the second quickly answered by one from the Stars. Stephenson scored from the left circle at 16:40 of the period, and Robertson knocked his own rebounds 2:09 later to make it 2-2. Stephenson tied the Knights’ record with his eight playoff goal this year, and Robertson had his fifth of the series.

Sabres sign Minnesota defenseman Ryan Johnston to 2-year rookie contract

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres ended a lengthy wait by signing Ryan Johnston to a two-year, entry level contract more than a month after the defenseman completed his senior college season at Minnesota.

Johnston will report immediately to the Sabres’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, whose best-of-seven Eastern Conference final playoff series against Hershey is tied at 1.

From Southern California, Johnston is listed at 6-feet and 170 pounds and was selected 31st in 2019 draft.

His puck-moving skills fit Buffalo’s style of play, Johnston finished his college career with nine goals and 59 points in 143 career games, including four goals and 18 points in 40 games this year. He reached the NCAA’s Frozen Four in each of his final two seasons, with the Gophers losing in the semifinals last year, followed by a 3-2 overtime loss to Quinnipiac in the championship game last month.

He also had a goal and three assists in seven games representing the U.S. team that won gold at the 2021 world junior championships.

Johnston, who turns 22 in July, had the option to wait until August when he would’ve become an unrestricted free agent and eligible to sign with any team. Because Johnston was first-round pick, the Sabres would’ve been compensated with a 2024 second-round selection had he signed elsewhere.

Both sides are banking on the player’s age and college experience to enable Johnston to make the jump to the NHL within the next two seasons. The Sabres will still control Johnston’s rights as a restricted free agent once his entry-level contract expires.

Joe Pavelski scores on OT power play, Stars beat Golden Knights 3-2 to avoid West sweep

stars golden knights
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DALLAS — Joe Pavelski admits that he probably appreciates the big playoff goals more the later he gets in his career. But they all still feel just as good, and his latest kept the season alive for the Dallas Stars.

“Just really living in the moment,” Pavelski said. “A tremendous feeling for sure, and glad we could play another game, and go from there and try to extend it.”

The 38-year-old Pavelski scored on a power play at 3:18 of overtime – a one-timer from the middle of the left circle to the far post – and the Stars avoided a sweep in the Western Conference Final with a 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.

Jason Robertson scored twice for his first career multigoal playoff game for Dallas, which played without suspended captain Jamie Benn.

“We’re looking for goals and that’s kind of my responsibility I put on myself,” Robertson said. “I know these playoffs have been tough. … I was able to get the bounces that we needed tonight.”

Jake Oettinger had 37 saves, two nights after the 24-year-old Stars goalie was pulled 7:10 into Game 3 after allowing three goals on five shots.

The Stars had the man advantage in overtime after Brayden McNabb‘s high-sticking penalty on Ty Dellandrea. Fifty seconds into the power play, Pavelski scored on a pass from Miro Heiskanen. They won for the first time in their five OT games this postseason – Vegas won the first two games of this series past regulation.

It was only the second Vegas penalty of the game, both high-sticking calls against McNabb. His penalty on Pavelski late in the first period set up the power play when Robertson scored his first goal with some nifty stickwork.

Pavelski, in his 15th NHL season and still looking for his first Stanley Cup, scored his ninth goal in 12 games this postseason, but his first in five games. He has 73 career postseason goals – the most for U.S.-born players and the most among all active players.

“He’s ageless. … I’ve seen that movie over and over again. Never gets old,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “He lives for those moments and he wants to be in those situations. Always has, and delivers almost every time.”

Benn was suspended two games by the NHL on Wednesday for his cross-check with his stick landing near the neck of Vegas captain Mark Stone in the first two minutes of Game 3 on Tuesday night. Benn also will miss Game 5 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault scored for Vegas. Adin Hill had his five-game winning streak snapped. He made 39 saves, including a game-saver with his extended left leg without about two minutes left in regulation on rookie Fredrik Olofsson’s swiping try in his first career playoff game.

“Our effort wasn’t good enough. Closing a series is probably the hardest game in a series, right, so it just wasn’t good enough from our group,” Marchessault said. “It was still a one-goal game in overtime. It was right there for us.”

Karlsson and Marchessault are among six of the original Vegas players still on the team from the inaugural 2017-18 season that ended with the Knights playing for the Stanley Cup, though they lost in five games to the Washington Capitals after winning the first game.

Vegas missed a chance to complete a sweep, a night after the Florida Panthers finished off a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.

Vegas took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period when Marchessault, after whacking his stick on the back of Ryan Suter in front of the net, scored on a pass between the Stars defenseman’s legs from McNabb, another original Golden Knight.

Robertson’s tying goal late in that period came on a ricochet off the back board just seconds after he had another shot hit the post. That was the fourth goal of this series, and sixth in the playoffs, after this regular season becoming the first Dallas player with a 100-point season.

On his first goal late in the first that tied it 1-1, Robertson deflected Heiskanen’s shot from just inside the blue line up into the air. As Hill was trying to secure the puck into his glove, Robertson knocked it free and then reached around and swiped the puck into the net with his stick parallel to the ice.

With former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and wrestling great Ric Flair both in the building wearing Stars jerseys Dallas was avoided being swept in the playoffs for the first time since 2001 against St. Louis in the second round. This was the Stars’ 21st playoff series since then.

The Golden Knights scored first again – though not like those three quick goals in Game 3 that led to the earliest exit ever for Oettinger.

Karlsson pushed the puck up and skated to the front of the net after passing to Nicolas Roy, whose pass through traffic went off a Dallas stick before Reilly Smith got it just inside the right circle and took a shot. Karlsson’s deflection past Oettinger only 4:17 into the game was his eighth goal this postseason.

“There were a lot of rush chances,” said Smith, also with Vegas since the beginning. “I don’t think we did a good enough job of making it difficult on them. So we get another opportunity in two days.”

Tkachuk sends Panthers to Stanley Cup Final, after topping Hurricanes 4-3 for sweep

panthers stanley cup final
Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

SUNRISE, Fla. — Matthew Tkachuk delivered for Florida, again. Sergei Bobrovsky denied Carolina, again.

The wait is over: After 27 years, the Florida Panthers – a hockey punchline no more – are again going to play for the game’s grandest prize.

Tkachuk got his second goal of the game with 4.9 seconds left, lifting the Panthers past the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 and into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996 after sweeping the Eastern Conference final.

The Panthers will play either Vegas or Dallas for the Stanley Cup starting sometime next week; Vegas currently leads the Western Conference title series 3-0.

“This was pure joy,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.

Bobrovsky stopped 36 shots to cap his stellar series – four games, four one-goal wins, three of them basically in sudden death, a .966 save percentage after stopping 174 of the 180 shots he faced. The first two wins were in overtime, and this one may as well have been.

The Panthers scored 10 goals in the series, and Bobrovsky ensured those were all they needed. They were the No. 8 seed, the last team in, the longest of long shots – which is consistent with their history, after not winning a single playoff series in 26 years, a drought that ended last season.

And now, beasts of the East. Tkachuk arrived last summer saying he wanted to bring Florida a Cup. He’s four wins away.

“It’s amazing,” Bobrovsky said. “We showed the resilience … and we’re lucky to have Chucky on our side. He knows how to score big goals.”

NHL Senior Vice President Brian Jennings was the one tasked with presenting the Prince of Wales Trophy. After some photos, Aleksander Barkov – the captain who had two assists, one of them on the game-winner – grabbed it, and skated it away. Some teams touch it. Some don’t. A few of the Panthers did, but Barkov didn’t pass it around.

That’ll wait for the big prize.

“It’s hard to explain right now. Everything just happened so quick,” Barkov said. “It means a lot. It definitely does. … It hasn’t been easy and nobody said it’s going to be easy.”

Added Tkachuk: “We earned that thing, and definitely didn’t do it the easy way. We earned it.”

Ryan Lomberg and Anthony Duclair had the other goals for Florida, which swept a series for the first time in franchise history.

Jordan Staal – his brothers Eric and Marc play for the Panthers – took a tripping penalty with 57 seconds left in regulation, setting up the power-play that Tkachuk finished off after getting into the slot and beating Frederik Andersen to set off a wild celebration.

“Eastern Conference champions,” Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “It’s really cool. No doubt about it. But you know, at the end of the day, we have our eyes on something different.”

Toy rats – the Panthers’ tradition, a nod to the unwanted locker room guests from Florida’s old arena in 1996 – sailed down from the stands, and the goal needed to survive an official review. But the rats were picked up, the goal was deemed good, and 27 years of waiting was officially over 4.9 seconds later.

Jesper Fast seemed like he might have saved the season for Carolina, getting a tying goal with 3:22 left in regulation. Paul Stastny and Teuvo Teravainen had the first two goals of the night for the Hurricanes, while Brady Skjei and Jordan Martinook each had two assists. Andersen stopped 21 shots.

“Everyone’s going to say, ‘You got swept.’ That’s not what happened,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I watched the game. I’m there. I’m cutting the games. We’re in the game. We didn’t lose four games. We got beat, but we were right there. This could have went the other way. It could have been four games the other way.”

That wasn’t sour grapes. He was right. A bounce here, a bounce there, a Bobrovsky not here, a Bobrovsky not there, and this series could have gone much differently.

But Bob was his best. Tkachuk was clutch, over and over. And Florida is as close to a Cup as it has ever been; the Panthers were swept by Colorado in the 1996 final.

Towels waved, strobe lights flashed, and the fans wasted no time letting the Panthers know that they were ready to a clincher.

Tkachuk made it 2-0 on the power play midway through the first. Carolina – a 113-point, division-championship-winning team in the regular season – made it 2-1 later in the first on Stastny’s goal, and Teravainen tied it early in the second.

Lomberg’s goal midway through the second gave Florida the lead again. It stayed that way until Fast got the equalizer with 3:22 left, and then Tkachuk finished it off – getting the Panthers to the title round in his first season.

“It’s been unbelievable since July since I got here,” Tkachuk said. “And hopefully we can cap off this amazing year.”


Panthers general manager Bill Zito was announced earlier Wednesday as a finalist for NHL GM of the year. … Tkachuk’s two goals gave him 21 points in the playoffs – extending his Florida single-season postseason record, which was 17 by Dave Lowry in 1996. … Slavin was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game after Bennett’s hit, with what the Hurricanes said was “an upper-body injury.” Slavin wobbled as he tried to get to his feet. … Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel – who has also been a regular at Miami Heat games during their playoff run this spring – banged the drum before the game. When done, without a mic to drop, he simply dropped the mallet instead.


Tkachuk’s goal midway through the opening period put Florida up 2-0 – and marked the first time, in nearly 14 periods of play to that point, that a team had a two-goal lead in this series. Every bit of action came with the score tied or someone up by one in the first 272 minutes (including all the overtimes) of the series.