Wild can survive salary cap crunch, but can they thrive?

Wild can survive salary cap crunch, but can they thrive?
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With a franchise-record (by a lot) 310 goals, and a best-ever 113 standings points, the Minnesota Wild just put together their greatest regular season. Unfortunately, that thought won’t resonate — at least not anytime soon — after the Blues ended the Wild’s playoff run a dull thud.

Normally, the Wild — a team with a lot going for it — would focus on getting better during the offseason. And, sure, that will certainly be the hope.

As the headline indicates, this post’s hypothesis is that the Wild may survive their salary cap crunch, but they’re in a very tough spot to actually thrive.

From Kevin Fiala to Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Dumba, the Wild face key salary-cap-related questions both now, and in the not-too-distant future. Let’s sort a puzzle that has a lot of pieces.

Wild truly start to pay salary cap bill for Parise/Suter buyouts

Around the NHL, we see LTIR “loopholes” and similar salary cap shenanigans. In time, seemingly “untradeable” contracts sometimes get moved (often, but not always, at a price).

Could the Wild somehow have wiggled out of the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter contracts over time? Were the locker room dynamics too sensitive for such an approach?

We can only really guess. Either way, it’s just fodder for side debates, because the Wild made the at-times-still-stunning choice to buy out both Parise and Suter. To review, the Wild received their best savings in 2021-22, and will really start to pay that “salary cap bill” for the next three seasons.

Via Cap Friendly, the Suter-Parise buyouts made this impact on the Wild salary cap situation:

2021-22: $4,743,588 million ($10.3M savings)
2022-23: $12,743,588 million ($2.3M savings)
2023-24: $14,743,588 million ($0.3M savings)
2024-25: $14,743,588 million ($0.3M savings)
2025-26: $1,666,666 million (-$1,666,666 savings)
2026-27: $1,666,666 million (-$1,666,666 savings)
2027-28: $1,666,666 million (-$1,666,666 savings)
2028-29: $1,666,666 million (-$1,666,666 savings)

Knowing about that surge in buyout penalties, Wild GM Bill Guerin made some … interesting decisions around the fringes of their salary cap situation.

While you can explain an extension like Jordan Greenway‘s deal (three years, $3M cap hit), handing a 35+ contract to Alex Goligoski is more of a head-scratcher, thanks in part to healthy scratches.

Cap Friendly projects the Minnesota Wild to have about $3.5M in cap space, but that number gets tricky with many roster spots covered. But the general feeling is that something has to give, and Guerin doesn’t have much room to work with.

Fiala, Fleury, and the most immediate questions for Wild in free agency

Fiala isn’t perfect, but he’d be tough to replace (or afford)

If you’re like me, you can’t help but notice that the combined cost of Greenway and Goligoski ($5M) almost matches Kevin Fiala’s $5.1M cap hit from 2021-22.

While Fiala is a pending RFA, he has salary arbitration rights, and a real case for a significant raise after an 85-point season (bumpy playoffs or not). In April, Daily Faceoff’s Chris Gear went into detail about Fiala’s contract possibilities, with the lowest comparable contract carrying a $5.4M cap hit.

Just about any reasonable estimate would dictate that the Wild would need to clear salary cap space to keep Kevin Fiala. Considering the Wild salary cap situation, his tenuous relationship with coach Dean Evason, and a tough playoff finish, it feels most reasonable to assume Fiala is out.

[From Adam Gretz on April 23: Why Wild need to find a way to keep Fiala]

For every positive the Wild can provide about replacing Fiala (Marco Rossi is indeed very promising), there’s a counterpoint. It would already be a big ask to hope Rossi, Matt Boldy, and others could fill the potential Fiala void. To maintain this current level of play, the Wild would also hope that Frederick Gaudreau and Ryan Hartman wouldn’t regress after career years. Also, how much longer can 34-year-old Mats Zuccarello be a point-per-game player (and can a person who once suffered a fractured skull stay healthy?).

The Wild also face plenty of questions about goaltending

Going after Marc-Andre Fleury made sense as a medium-risk, potentially high-reward move. Ultimately, it didn’t pay off, though.

Now, it’s hard to imagine the Wild finding the salary cap space to bring back Fleury. In that unlikely event, it would still just be a stopgap answer. Fleury is 37, and Cam Talbot is 34.

It’s absolutely fair to wonder about Talbot’s relationship with the Wild after all that, too. Perhaps the Wild could trade Talbot for cap space ($3.67M cap hit for one more), but as we saw with last year’s goalie free agent market, you’re rarely going to find cheap answers who are reliably better than Talbot.

Now, in the long run, Jesper Wallstedt ranks as one of the most promising goaltending prospects in the league. That said, Wallstedt won’t turn 20 until November. We rarely see goalies jump that quickly, so there’d be a real risk of rushing a promising young netminder.

Wild face questions for 2023 NHL Free Agency, including with Dumba, Boldy

Crucially, the Wild can’t just focus on this offseason. They also need to consider potential costs in the future, especially the most abrasive years (2023-24 and 2024-25) of the Suter – Parise buyouts.

Again, the biggest years there:

2022-23: $12,743,588 million ($2.3M savings)
2023-24: $14,743,588 million ($0.3M savings)
2024-25: $14,743,588 million ($0.3M savings)

At the moment, Matt Dumba, 27, enters a contract year at a $6M cap hit. Between expansion drafts and other shifts, Dumba routinely finds his name in trade rumors.

Could this be the year the Wild finally trade Dumba? They may deem it necessary, as NHL teams go wild for right-handed defensemen, so Dumba could cost quite a bit more than $6M starting in 2023-24.

Importantly, one player will definitely cost a lot more starting in 2023-24: Matt Boldy. If Boldy played a full season (instead of about half of one), he very well could’ve been a Calder Trophy finalist. While RFA status will limit some of Boldy’s leverage, the Wild need to leave themselves some space for a raise. Maybe a big one.

(At least they preserved Marco Rossi’s rookie contract, though there’s a real argument they should’ve thrown caution to the wind.)

If the Wild patch things up with Cam Talbot for 2022-23, he’s still only under contract for next season.

Long story short, the Wild don’t just need to worry about balancing the salary cap for 2022-23. They also need to keep 2023-24 in mind.

Trade possibilities beyond Dumba, Talbot, Fiala

In navigating these salary cap obstacles, the Wild could trade Matt Dumba and/or Cam Talbot. It wouldn’t be shocking if they traded Fiala’s negotiating rights, either.

For the Wild, the dream might be that Rossi, Boldy, and maybe whoever they’d get in a Fiala rights trade would replace that forward. And maybe they’d have similar dreams about Calen Addison replacing Matt Dumba.

Let’s take one more moment to ponder what they’d be losing. Metrics such as Evolving Hockey’s xGAR (expected goals above replacement) point to Fiala arguably being a tougher loss than Dumba. Your mileage — “eye test” or otherwise — might vary:

(The Athletic’s Player Cards estimated Fiala’s value at $10.2M and Dumba at $5.7M, as another way of looking at that.)

So, there’s room to debate the value of both Fiala and Dumba. But let’s say the Wild decide they want to trade someone else to try to make this all fit. Here are a few options, and factors, to consider.

  • First, note that Dumba has a 10-team no-trade clause.
  • Cam Talbot ($3.667M) doesn’t have trade protection.
  • Could they throw a curveball by moving out $6M players Mats Zuccarello or Jonas Brodin? Tough to imagine, especially since Zuccarello has a no-trade clause and Brodin’s NMC lasts through 2024-25.
  • It would be a bit odd if the Wild traded Alex Goligoski or Jordan Greenway so soon after extensions. But note that Greenway doesn’t have trade protection, while Goligoski has a no-movement clause.
  • Marcus Foligno has a nearly identical cap hit ($3.1) to Greenway, also lacks trade protection, and it’s also very difficult to imagine the Wild parting with him. They love his line with Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek.
  • Dmitry Kulikov ($2.25M, expires after 2022-23) has an eight-team no-trade list. Yes, Kulikov.
  • Trading Tyson Jost would amount to chipping away at a problem, much like moving someone like Kulikov. Jost doesn’t have trade protection, though.

Not a doomsday scenario for Wild, but not easy, either

The more you work through scenarios, the easier it is to imagine the Wild at least surviving these salary cap concerns.

That’s especially true if you view Dumba, Fiala, and Talbot as not just replaceable, but easily replaceable. It’s possible Wild front office members feel that way, possibly about all three.

That said, amid all of these salary cap constraints, it’s hard to picture the Wild being a better team in 2022-23. It seems more likely they’d take a step back, and maybe a big one. The most likely path is about maintaining, rather than upgrading.

Then again, the Wild seemed like they absolutely had to rebuild not that long ago, only to show renewed promise — at least during the regular season. This franchise has a long time to plan for the larger impact of the Parise/Suter buyouts, and other situations.

Simply put, they may have answers that they’re just not sharing. If they do, it would be impressive, though. Because this situation definitely doesn’t look easy.

Rivals Crosby and Ovechkin relish being All-Star teammates

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SUNRISE, Fla. – Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have played dozens of regular-season and playoff games against each other since breaking into the NHL together in 2005.

The longtime rivals and respective captains of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have also shared the ice at All-Star Games before. But with each superstar in his mid-30s, they know this trip could be their last together.

They took advantage of it, with Ovechkin setting up Crosby for two goals Saturday in the lone game of the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament their Metropolitan Division team got to play.

“I think we have fun to play together, not against each other,” Ovechkin said, flashing his gap-toothed smile. “Right now, we was on the same team, and it was pretty special, pretty good moment.”

Crosby, who also had the secondary assist on Ovechkin’s goal, did not expect to get the puck back. That’s not unreasonable given Ovechkin has built a career on scoring and is only 82 goals back of Wayne Gretzky’s NHL career record.

“I was thinking I just did my job: gave it to him,” said Crosby, whose career numbers are so close to Ovechkin’s that he has just five more points overall. “I thought he was just going finish it, but he was kind enough to send me a couple back. We had some nice goals there.”

Not enough to win the 3-on-3 semifinal against the Atlantic, which beat the Central in the final. Ovechkin lamented not scoring more and took some jabs at his goalie teammates for a day: fellow Russians Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers and Ilya Sorokin of the Islanders.

“Obviously goalie could play better,” Ovechkin said.

Crosby and Ovechkin being together at All-Star weekend for the first time since 2018 was one of the themes of the weekend, given how they shared the stage as faces of the NHL for much of their careers. But they don’t want this to be a Sid and Ovi swan song and could do this again as soon as next year when the festivities are in Toronto.

“You try to go out there have fun and stay in the moment,” Crosby said. “Hopefully, it’s not our last one. That’s the best way to approach it.”


The introductions for Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk were saved for last.

And of course, the two Florida Panthers stars, representing the Atlantic Division, delivered in their home arena.

“We play regular-season and playoff games here, but with this event, it’s even more special to be here representing the Florida Panthers,” Barkov said.

Tkachuk was clearly comfortable playing in the same arena where has amassed 66 points (sixth in the NHL) this season with the Panthers. He was named All-Star MVP after his seven points (four goals, three assists) Saturday, including a goal and an assist in the Atlantic Division’s 7-5 win over the Central Division to take the All-Star game title.

“To be honest, I really didn’t care about anything other than just representing my team,” Tkachuk said, “and it’s a big honor to be one of the representatives, along with Barky, to be the host city. Without everybody saying it, it kind of revolves around us a little bit with having the home crowd on our side and doing the big skills and starting the game having the fans basically just cheering for us.”

Tkachuk had a hat trick and a pair of assists in the Atlantic squad’s semifinal game against the Metropolitan division – tying a single-game points record for the 3-on-3 All-Star format. Two of those goals were assisted by his Panthers teammate to give their squad a win 10-6 and advance to face the Central division the final.

By the time Barkov and Tkachuk came out for the All-Star game final, “Let’s go Panthers!” cheers were being belted throughout FLA Live Arena.

Barkov, the beloved Panther in his 10th season, has 14 goals this year and 33 assists. He has 234 career goals and 600 points.


Brothers Matthew Tkachuk and Brady Tkachuk have played against each other plenty over the years. But with both players starting for the Atlantic division, they got to experience playing together as the 11th set of brothers to be All-Star teammates.

The brothers each had a goal in Saturday’s semifinal game between the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions. And Brady assisted on his brother’s goal in the final against the Central division.

“We’ve always dreamt of playing with each other one way or the other,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “We thought that the best chance would be a Team USA thing at one point because I was in the West forever and he was in the Atlantic, so we never really thought this was a possibility.”

Matthew, drafted in 2016 by the Calgary Flames, is a two-time All-Star with 177 career goals and 448 points.

Brady, the younger Tkachuk sibling, was drafted in 2018 by the Ottawa Senators and has 110 career goals and 243 points.

Both were All-Stars back in 2020 in their hometown St. Louis. Brady represented the Atlantic division, while Matthew represented the Pacific squad.


It was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) outside FLA Live Arena when the All-Star 3 on-3 tournament started – more than 50 degrees warmer than 2024 host Toronto. That doesn’t mean this year’s event didn’t have a weather issue.

The NHL All-Star Beach Festival – which had areas where fans could test their hockey skills, get a photo with the Stanley Cup and check out a Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit, among other things – couldn’t open on Saturday.

Rain in the morning delayed the opening on Fort Lauderdale Beach, and then 40 mph (64 kilometers per hour) wind gusts later in the day forced the NHL into keeping it closed and calling off a watch party for the All-Star Game.

It was open Thursday and Friday.

MVP Matthew Tkachuk lifts Atlantic to NHL All-Star Game win

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SUNRISE, Fla. – Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk was right at home at the NHL All-Star Game.


Detroit’s Dylan Larkin had a hat trick, Toronto’s Mitch Marner had three assists and the Atlantic Division topped the Central Division 7-5 in the All-Star Game final on Saturday.

All-Star Game MVP Matthew Tkachuk – playing alongside his brother Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators – had seven points on the day, after a five-point outburst in a semifinal win over the Metropolitan Division. Larkin had five goals in the Atlantic’s two games.

“We wanted to get a win for the home crowd, the fans,” Montreal’s Nick Suzuki said. “They did a good job of cheering on the Atlantic Division. We just wanted to put on a good show for them.”

And for the MVP, winning in front of Panthers fans meant more than just winning.

“It’s been an honor to play in front of them this whole year and it’s great that the other players in the league can see what a great place this is to play,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “I’m as happy as can be here.”

Arizona’s Clayton Keller, Dallas’ Jason Robertson, Colorado teammates Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen all had goals for the Central in the final. Makar also had two assists.

It was the first time the Atlantic won the All-Star Game, after six previous tries in the divisional format. The 11 players – nine skaters and two goalies – on the Atlantic roster split $1 million for the win.

“It was so much fun,” said Larkin, who had five goals in the two games. “I’m proud of how we won it. What a great group of guys … it was just a great weekend.”

Matthew Tkachuk has now been on the winning team in both of his All-Star appearances, and both times, he enjoyed the comforts of home. He helped the Pacific win the 2020 All-Star title in St. Louis, his hometown and one of the many spots that his father – Keith Tkachuk, who was in the crowd Saturday – played during his career.

“I’ve been very fortunate, the two that I’ve been in that I know the ins and the outs of everything that goes on away from the rink,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “It just made it so much more comfortable for me and extra special.”

And this one truly had home-ice advantage. Matthew Tkachuk – the former Calgary standout who picked Florida this past offseason, despite much speculation that he would be going to St. Louis – had three goals and two assists in the Atlantic’s 10-6 win over the Metropolitan in the second semifinal.

It was 3-0 Atlantic after the first half of the 20-minute final; all games under this All-Star format are 3-on-3, 20 minutes in length with a brief break after 10 minutes. The lead got to 4-0 early in the second half of the final, giving the Atlantic 10 consecutive goals; it trailed 6-4 in the semifinal before closing on a 6-0 run.

Larkin scored with 1:06 left to make it 6-2, the first of five goals in a frantic finish.

“It’s been a blast,” said Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who scored for the Atlantic with 36 seconds left to make it 7-3. “I met a lot of great people.”

NOTES: The NHL gets right back to play on Monday with six games, including a home game for Florida – meaning it’ll be a quick turnaround for the arena. … The Central Division is now the only one yet to win an All-Star Game in this format. The Pacific has three wins, the Metropolitan has three wins and now the Atlantic has one. … Florida was supposed to host this game in 2021, only to have it canceled by the pandemic. The Panthers hosted All-Star weekend in 2023. … Attendance was a sellout, 19,250.


Keller had two goals and an assist, MacKinnon scored twice and the Central moved into the title matchup. St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and three assists for the Central. Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson had two goals, while San Jose’s Erik Karlsson and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid also scored for the Pacific.


The teams combined for a record-tying – in the 3-on-3 era, anyway – 16 goals. Matthew Tkachuk had three goals and two assists, tying a single-game record for the format. Larkin scored twice and Brady Tkachuk had a goal and three assists for the Atlantic. Columbus’ Johnny Gaudreau had three goals for the Metropolitan. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby had two goals and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin had the other.


The next NHL All-Star weekend is Feb. 2-3, 2024 in Toronto.

Panthers offer Sarah Nurse deal to lead girls hockey program

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are trying to sign a high-scoring forward who has an Olympic gold medal and two world championships, with hopes of getting the deal done in the coming days.

If it happens, she won’t be playing for the Panthers.

Sarah Nurse, the Canadian forward who had a highlight-reel goal against the New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin during the NHL’s All-Star Skills Competition, has the chance to run the Panthers’ new program designed to get more girls playing hockey.

Florida president Matthew Caldwell offered the job to Nurse publicly – very publicly, at a lectern, with a microphone, before a crowd of onlookers. And he was serious.

“I’m going to embarrass you, but we’re going to offer you a job today,” Caldwell told Nurse, who was seated in the crowd. “We want you to be the face of our girls program at the War Memorial. So, are you in? On the spot? We don’t deal with agents, OK. I’m a tough negotiator.”

The idea to hire Nurse was first floated to Caldwell by Melissa Fitzgerald. She’s the general manager for the War Memorial, which is the two-rink facility being refurbished by the team and will become its practice headquarters.

“We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks,” Caldwell told The Associated Press. “Our youth hockey team kind of brought it up as a joke to me, but I said, `Let’s think big. We’re building this huge facility. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.”‘

The only part Caldwell was less than serious about with Nurse was how the Panthers don’t deal with agents. He spoke with Nurse’s representative, Thomas Houlton, after the event.

Houlton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He and Caldwell spoke for about 15 minutes after the event, which was attended by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Panthers stars Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk, and dozens of kids who got to play ball hockey afterward.

Nurse played for Canada’s world-champion teams in 2021 and 2022, along with Canada’s Olympic gold winners at the Beijing Games last year.

She was one of five women’s players from USA Hockey and Team Canada – the two most dominant women’s national teams in the world – who were part of the skills events. She wore custom skates highlighting Black History month and the Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit focused on getting more Black girls and women into the sport.

She used a move made famous by Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg when he helped Sweden win gold at the 1994 Olympics against Shesterkin, a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie.

U.S. star Hilary Knight didn’t think Nurse’s goal should have surprised anyone, saying, “she’s a top scorer.”

Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

ovechkin all star
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SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”


Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

“You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

“It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”


Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.


“The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.


Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.