Barret Jackman

Boston signs former Blues captain Backes — five years, $30 million (Update: re-signed Liles, too)

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Boston wasted little time finding a replacement for Loui Eriksson.

The B’s have landed former St. Louis captain David Backes with a five-year, $30 million extension — one that carries a $6 million average annual cap hit, per Sportsnet.

Backes, 32, had previously spent his entire 10-year career with the Blues and is coming off a pretty solid ’15-16 — 21 goals and 45 points during the regular season, seven goals and 14 points in 20 playoff games.

A big, physical and tough forward that can play both center and wing, Backes checks a lot of boxes for Boston. He definitely fits the “Big Bad Bruins” mold, and has some good leadership qualities, having worn the “C” in St. Louis for the last five years.

As mentioned above, the Bruins needed to fill a gap in the top six forward group with the exodus of Eriksson, who signed with Vancouver to kick off free agency.

Speaking of exoduses, this is a significant one for the Blues. Backes had been the face of the franchise over the last few seasons but, with the team now being turned over to youngsters like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri, Backes was allowed to leave.

His exit came after two other highly visible Blues — Barret Jackman and T.J. Oshie — also departed.

UPDATE: Boston has also re-upped with veteran d-man John-Michael Liles, who they acquired from Carolina at the deadline. It’s a one-year, $2 million deal, per Cap Friendly, and shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Last night, we passed along word the Bruins were having “very productive talks” with Liles. Makes sense, given how badly the B’s need help on defense.

Preds continue to overhaul, buy out Jackman

AP
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David Poile continued his aggressive remodel in Nashville on Thursday by buying out the remainder of Barret Jackman’s contract.

Jackman, 35, signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Preds last summer and proved to be a useful depth defenseman for the club, appearing in 73 regular season games and all 14 playoff contests. As such, today’s move caught some by surprise.

But in the wake of yesterday’s Shea Weber-for-P.K. Subban blockbuster, it’s clear Poile is shaking things up.

With Subban’s $9M cap hit now on the books, Nashville has a pretty healthy payroll — $63 million, per General Fanager — and still has some business to take care of. RFA forward Calle Jarnkrok needs a new deal, and Poile said he’s already begun negotiations on a new deal for No. 1 center Ryan Johansen, who’s in the last of a three-year, $12 million contract.

It also stands to reason that, given what he’s done already, Poile could be aggressive in free agency.

Jackman’s buyout will give the Preds roughly $1.3 million in cap relief. And it’s important to remember this is Poile’s second such move of the buyout period, having previously parted ways with Eric Nystrom.

Not old news: Artemi Panarin wins 2016 Calder Trophy

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Jacob Tremblay announced that Chicago Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin won the 2016 Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year for 2015-16.

The other finalists were Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) and Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia Flyers).

Panarin scored 30 goals and his 77 points topped all rookies by a healthy margin. His strong season generated bonuses that are putting quite the squeeze on the Blackhawks.

“Ghost” didn’t win, although he did get a boost at the bank:

As expected, it was a pretty close race. Panarin is the first Blackhawks player to win the Calder since Patrick Kane:

2015-2016 Calder Trophy Voting

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)
1. Artemi Panarin, CHI 1258 (88-41-16-3-2)
2. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI 955 (33-53-42-12-8)
3. Connor McDavid, EDM 858 (25-45-48-15-8)
4. Jack Eichel, BUF 449 (2-9-25-72-25)
5. Dylan Larkin, DET 170 (1-0-8-23-51)
6. Max Domi, ARI 92 (0-2-2-12-32)
7. John Gibson, ANA 62 (0-0-5-9-10)
8. Colton Parayko, STL 52 (1-0-4-4-10)
9. Sam Reinhart, BUF 2 (0-0-0-0-2)
10. Anthony Duclair, ARI 1 (0-0-0-0-1)
Jaccob Slavin, CAR 1 (0-0-0-0-1)

Calder Trophy Winners Since 1990

Year Winner Runner-up
2016 Artemi Panarin, Chi. S. Gostisbehere, Phi.
2015 Aaron Ekblad, Fla. Mark Stone, Ott.
2014 Nathan MacKinnon, Col. Ondrej Palat, T.B.
2013 Jonathan Huberdeau, Fla. B. Gallagher, Mtl.
2012 Gabriel Landeskog, Col. R. Nugent-Hopkins, Edm.
2011 Jeff Skinner, Car. Logan Couture, S.J.
2010 Tyler Myers, Buf. Jimmy Howard, Det.
2009 Steve Mason, CBJ Bobby Ryan, Ana
2008 Patrick Kane, Chi. N. Backstrom, Wsh
2007 Evgeni Malkin, Pit. Paul Stastny, Col.
2006 Alex Ovechkin, Wsh. Sidney Crosby, Pit.
2004 Andrew Raycroft, Bos. Michael Ryder, Mtl.
2003 Barret Jackman, St.L Henrik Zetterberg, Det.
2002 Dany Heatley, Atl. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atl.
2001 Evgeni Nabokov, S.J. Brad Richards, T.B.
2000 Scott Gomez, N.J. Brad Stuart, S.J.
1999 Chris Drury, Col. Marian Hossa, Ott.
1998 Sergei Samsonov, Bos. Mattias Ohlund, Van.
1997 Bryan Berard, NYI Jarome Iginla, Cgy.
1996 Daniel Alfredsson, Ott. Eric Daze, Chi.
1995 Peter Forsberg, Que. Jim Carey, Wsh.
1994 Martin Brodeur, N.J. Jason Arnott, Edm.
1993 Teemu Selanne, Wpg. Joe Juneau, Bos.
1992 Pavel Bure, Van. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det.
1991 Ed Belfour, Chi. Sergei Fedorov, Det.
1990 Sergei Makarov, Cgy. Mike Modano, Min.

What if the Blues lose tonight?

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Three years ago, they had a 2-0 lead over the Kings, then lost four straight and were eliminated.

Two years ago, they had a 2-0 lead over the Blackhawks, then lost four straight and were eliminated.

One year ago, they never had a 2-0 lead, but they did get eliminated by Minnesota, a good team, but not great.

Now consider what the St. Louis Blues are facing tonight at Scottrade Center. Not only the specter of a fourth consecutive first-round exit, but also another blown series lead.

This time, the Blues had the Blackhawks down 3-1, plus they had Game 5 at home. Then, after losing Game 5 in overtime, they had a two-goal lead in Game 6. They lost that, too.

Lose tonight and it’s hard to imagine there won’t be significant consequences for this franchise.

Certainly, the consequences will be more significant than last year, when GM Doug Armstrong decided to “live to fight another day” and come back with essentially the same core, minus T.J. Oshie and Barret Jackman.

Most notably, Armstrong retained head coach Ken Hitchcock.

“This is unfinished business for me,” Hitchcock said. “This is a really good team trying to become a great team. I think I have the tools and the expertise to help them along the way.”

Lose tonight and the Blues will have a new bench boss in 2016-17. That’s pretty much for sure.

“Hitch, this is it, man,” wrote the Post-Dispatch’s Benjamin Hochman. “For Kenneth Sanford Hitchcock, his legacy in St. Louis comes down to Monday night. … Lose Game 7 and you’re the coach who infamously had four consecutive first-round-series losses. Lose Game 7 and you’re the ex-coach.”

Lose Game 7 and there will be some ex-players, too.

David Backes is a 31-year-old pending unrestricted free agent; he could be allowed to walk this summer, regardless of what happens tonight.

Kevin Shattenkirk has one year left on his deal; a loss tonight will only intensify the speculation that he’ll be traded.

What of 31-year-old Brian Elliott? He’s only got a year left on his contract before he can go UFA. He was brilliant in Games 1-4, but less so in 5 and 6. What if it goes badly tonight? The Blues don’t exactly have a long, happy history of playoff goaltending.

Now, granted, there is another way all this could go.

The Blues could actually win.

They could exorcise the demons and catapult themselves into the second round, with the knowledge they just knocked off the defending champs, in a Game 7 that everyone was watching for them to lose, with all that pressure on their shoulders.

So, that’s what’s at stake tonight.

Whatever happens, it’s sure going to be something.

Preds ink d-man Bitetto to two-year, $1.225M extension

Teams continued to lock in their defensemen on Friday — after Pittsburgh re-upped with Olli Maatta and Tampa Bay locked in Braydon Coburn, the Preds announced they signed Anthony Bitetto to a two-year, $1.225 million extension.

Bitetto, 25, will now carry a $612,500 cap hit through 2018.

Having come into this season largely as a depth defenseman, Bitetto’s become a lineup fixture in the wake of Seth JonesRyan Johansen trade, and the Victor Bartley move to Montreal. The spots vacated have allowed Bitetto to appear in each of Nashville’s last 11 games — all told, he’s appeared in 17 contests this season, averaging 12:03 TOI per night.

Bitetto usually appears on Nashville’s third pairing alongside Barret Jackman, though he has platooned in and out with Petter Granberg, who the Preds acquired off waivers from Toronto earlier this season.