Joel Edmundson

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The Buzzer: Streaks end for Capitals and Hurricanes

Three Stars

1. Joel Edmundson, Carolina Hurricanes

Let’s be honest, Edmundson’s start in Carolina has been forgettable at best. He hasn’t been all that effective by any measure, having a negative impact on defense, and failing to score a single point through his first 17 games with the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes have a big edge against the Senators on paper, and that translated to the on-ice product on Monday, and Edmundson took advantage. He scored a goal and two assists for three points, had a +3 rating, fired three shots on goal, and blocked a shot.

As you’d expect Edmundson’s three-point night wasn’t the only strong part of Carolina’s 8-2 win …

2. Sebastian Aho, also Hurricanes

Aho arguably played a bigger role in Carolina ending its four-game losing streak than Edmundson did.

The still-a-bit-underrated star scored the game-winning goal shorthanded (and unassisted), finishing Monday with two goals overall. Aho generated a +4 rating and went 9-6 on faceoffs.

Aho now has eight goals and 13 points in 18 games in 2019-20. This has been a slightly slow start for Aho so far, judging by a low on-ice save percentage (81.9 at even strength versus career average of 90.2 before Monday’s game) and so-so offensive numbers by his high standards. Maybe a hot game will get the ball/puck rolling in the right direction?

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals

While the Hurricanes’ losing streak ended, the Capitals’ winning streak closed off at six on Monday.

Kuznetsov is the main reason Washington was able to continue Arizona’s run of blown leads, even though the Coyotes eventually won in a shootout. He showed plenty of speed and skill, collecting two goals and coming one attentive T.J. Oshie swipe from having three.

That two-goal output extended Kuznetsov’s point streak to four games, giving him three goals and six assists for nine points during that span, and 18 points in 16 games overall. Kuznetsov also logged 23:28 TOI. While that total was inflated by the two teams getting through a full overtime period, that’s still quite a strong night of work — but not good enough for another Capitals win.

Highlights from both games

With there only being two games, why not enjoy the best of both?

First, the Coyotes beat the Capitals in a shootout:

Meanwhile, there weren’t many twists and turns to the Hurricanes blowing out the Senators:

Brawlin’ Bobby

Bobby Ryan delivered a big hit, and then seemed to win his fight with Brock McGinn. Maybe not the greatest idea for a player who’s been doomed by hand injuries, but then again, Ryan didn’t have much of a choice:

Factoids

  • Rod Brind’Amour has had quite the start to his coaching career. NHL PR notes that his 56 wins is the most for any coach through their first 100 games. If “Rod the Bod” is as good as “Rod the Coach” as he was at winning faceoffs, then watch out.
  • John Carlson generated an assist, so his 29 points ties Brad Marchand for fourth in league scoring. The Caps are 10-0-2 in their last 12 games.
  • Dougie Hamilton has 26 goals through his first 100 games with the Hurricanes. That’s the second-best start for a defenseman in franchise history, according to NHL PR.

Scores

ARI 4 – WSH 3 (SO)
CAR 8 – OTT 2

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV 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.

Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene among many on the move in NHL

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The St. Louis Blues will look a lot like the team that won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup when the puck drops for the NHL’s season-opening game against the 2018 champion Washington Capitals.

Ryan O'Reilly, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, knows the season won’t be quite the same even if many of his teammates are still together.

”It’s going to be very different,” O’Reilly said.

St. Louis held onto much of its roster during a quiet offseason, hoping it will be enough to compete for another title. The Blues will raise their championship banner during a pregame ceremony Wednesday night.

But the Blues made one major move last week, acquiring offensive-minded defenseman Justin Faulk from Carolina for Joel Edmundson and a prospect. The team then signed the 27-year-old Faulk to a $45.5 million, seven-year extension, banking on him being a key part of its future.

Here’s a look at some of the other major moves in the offseason on the ice, behind the bench and in the front office:

BYE, BLUE JACKETS

Columbus lost a trio of stars in free agency, the only unrestricted free agents to sign seven-year contracts with other teams.

Dynamic forward Artemi Panarin received an $81.5 million deal from the New York Rangers. Two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky took his talents to the Florida Panthers for $70 million after Roberto Luongo retired. And two-time All-Star center Matt Duchene signed a $56 million deal with the Nashville Predators.

Columbus has a lot of cap space, perhaps planning to make a splash next summer, because it didn’t spend a lot of money chasing success with free agents. The Blue Jackets did add 30-year-old winger Gustav Nyquist with a $22 million, four-year contract after he had a career-high 60-point season.

SAVVY STARS

The Dallas Stars have built a Cup-caliber team and know now is the time to spend in free agency. They added a pair of veterans motivated to prove they can still play after spending their entire careers with one team.

The Stars lured three-time All-Star forward Joe Pavelski away from the San Jose Sharks with a three-year deal worth $21 million. They made a much smaller investment in 34-year-old winger Corey Perry, whose contract was bought out by the Anaheim Ducks. Perry’s $1.5 million, one-year contract could be quite a bargain if he can provide more scoring depth for Dallas.

TAKING A FLYER

Minnesota missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years and made an aggressive move to pay 32-year-old Mats Zuccarello $30 million over five years even though he has only one 20-goal season and that was three years ago. Vancouver gave 29-year-old defenseman Tyler Myers a $30 million, five-year deal after he had consecutive seasons with 30 points for the first time since his first two years in the league. The Canucks are trying to avoid the first five-year playoff drought in franchise history.

FOLLOW THE LEADER

Shortly after Florida’s season ended, the Panthers hired three-time Stanley Cup winning coach Joel Quenneville to take perhaps the top leader in the league off the market.

Three former Edmonton coaches Todd McLellan (Ottawa), Dallas Eakins (Anaheim) and Ralph Krueger (Buffalo) are getting another shot to lead teams.

The Oilers, meanwhile, are hoping former Adams Award winner Dave Tippett can get the most out of Connor McDavid‘s supporting cast and guide them into the playoffs for the just the second time in 14 years. Alain Vigneault, another former NHL Coach of the Year, landed a job in Philadelphia.

The rebuilding Ottawa Senators are taking a chance on former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant D.J. Smith, giving him his first opportunity to be a head coach in the NHL.

UPSTAIRS

The Detroit Red Wings brought Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman back to be their general manager. The former Tampa Bay Lightning general manager replaced Ken Holland, who later left to lead the Oilers’ front office. The Wild are giving two-time Stanley Cup winner Bill Guerin his first opportunity to run an NHL front office after he helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win two Cups as assistant general manager.

Blues want to find new ways to win during Stanley Cup defense

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season begins with Wednesday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals when the Blues raise their 2019 Stanley Cup banner. Coverage begins at 6:30p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Ryan O’Reilly walked into the room where his trophy bounty from the 2018-19 NHL season was being held and stopped to process the moment. A year ago at the time he was a member of a Buffalo Sabres team that lost so frequently he told the media the season had caused him to question his love of hockey.

Now there he stood eyeing his trophy haul — Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy, Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, Selke Trophy — from the past season and couldn’t help but say to himself, “Pretty good year.”

The St. Louis Blues’ summer of celebrating comes to an end Wednesday night when they raise their Stanley Cup banner to the rafters of Enterprise Center ahead of their opening night matchup against the 2018 champion Washington Capitals (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; live stream).

The parades are over. The celebratory singing of “Gloria” has come to an end (for now). The beverage intake has gone from various alcohols to protein shakes. The rings have been handed out. And it’s time to go through the grind all over again.

“I think [the banner raising is] the last reflection before you start the journey again to the next one,” O’Reilly told NBC Sports. “Not changing a lot on our team, having a lot of the same guys, looking up [at the banner], it’s going to be cool. It’s going to be an electric night. 

“Once it’s up, it’s back to work to do it again. I’m excited for that. The best part of the journey is playing the game and being together as a group.”

One year before the Blues won the first Cup title in franchise history, Vladimir Tarasenko watched as his best friend, Dmitry Orlov, celebrated the Capitals’ championship win back home in Russia, along with fellow countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Tarasenko wanted to experience that for himself after years of disappointment in St. Louis and was inspired by what the Capitals had done.

“It shows if you follow your goal you can make it happen,” said Tarasenko.

Now that they’re champions and coming off the short summer that comes with that achievement, the Blues realize they will have a target on their backs. The roster will be just about the same as it was that glorious night in Boston, outside of Patrick Maroon and Joel Edmundson. That’s one reason why O’Reilly and Tarasenko feel they can repeat, something only the Pittsburgh Penguins have been able to achieve in the last two decades.

[PHT PREDICTIONS: EAST / WEST / STANLEY CUP]

“It’s never easy because every team is gunning for you,” O’Reilly said. “I think a good lesson for us, and we’ve talked about it with guys, is that we’re not going to do it the same way. We’re going to have to do it a completely different way; still keep the staples and the things we learned throughout last year, but we’re going to have to find a new way. We’re going to have to come out in games and jump on them right away, we can’t wait a bit until we find it. We have to be more aggressive in situations. There’s going to be that adjustment, too, of us finding new ways to have success.”

The way the 2018-19 Blues found success is something no team wants to repeat, of course. Crapping the bed in the first few months of the season, firing your coach in November, and finding yourself 31st in a league of 31 teams in early January, and turning to an unknown goalie isn’t a recommended approach if you have Stanley Cup dreams.

***

So what challenges lie ahead for the Blues, aside from the usual injuries and cliche’d “Stanley Cup hangover”? Getting your opponent’s best, for one.

“Every team’s going to play against you a little bit differently because you’re Stanley Cup champions and everybody wants to prove that they can beat the Stanley Cup champion when they have the chance to do that,” Ovechkin told NBC Sports.

For some teams, they can start to feel the effects of a short summer and the compact schedule.

“I don’t know if it was so much the start but once the heaviness of the season starts to set in in December, January that’s when reality sets in, that’s when those dog days of the year are tough, when teams start to feel the schedule a little bit and some teams fall off,” said Jonathan Toews, whose Chicago Blackhawks had to defend three Cup titles. “That’s a time when you run on fumes a little bit and you’ve got to catch yourself and say Hey, we’ve got to do our job, we’ve got to stay with it.”

The first half schedule for the Blues isn’t too bad, but following their January bye week and the NHL All-Star Break, which St. Louis is hosting, that’s when it gets tough. 

In February, the Blues are playing practically every other night with 15 games in 29 days, including six away from home, four of which come against Central Division opponents. In a division that is promising once again to be highly competitive, those will be vital points on the line during a grinding portion of the schedule.

All the Blues can do is try to best prepare themselves for another 82-game slog towards the playoffs. It will be a learning experience no matter how this season ends for them.

“I guess once you’ve been through it once you definitely figure out what you could’ve done better the next time around,” said Toews. “Every situation is different depending on how many guys you lost in the offseason. The bottom line is you want to get back to the playoffs, you don’t want do make excuses. It’s always nice to acknowledge what the difficulties actually are so you can find ways to deal with it.”

It remains to be seen if Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” will return as the Blues’ post-win anthem, or if the shelf that held pucks from their 61 wins will be back, empty and ready to be filled again. Those are memories from last season and the time has called for the page to be turned. 

While the roster is nearly the same, and head coach Craig Berube no longer has “interim” attached to his title, the Blues are ready to go again. Just drop the puck.

“It’s funny, the best thing about the whole winning the Stanley Cup was playing the games,” said O’Reilly. “Those were super intense games, just so much fun. No one’s out there thinking I’ve gotta do this, I’ve gotta do that, you’re just doing it. That’s something I crave again, being in that situation and having those amazing opportunities to do great things. That’s what excites me. 

“For me, it was kind of an easy transition. It’s our Cup and we’re going to keep it. It goes in a case and we’re going to get it again at the end of it. I can’t wait to play in the games and compete for it again.”

Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN with a special 90-minute edition of NHL Live, as host Kathryn Tappen, analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp, and NHL insider Bob McKenzie preview the evening’s doubleheader and the upcoming 2019-20 season. Jeremy Roenick will be on-site in St. Louis to capture the scene outside Enterprise Center prior to the raising of the Blues’ first-ever Stanley Cup championship banner.

Mike Emrick, who returns for his 15th season as NBC Sports’ lead NHL play-by-play commentator, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call Capitals-Blues from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo.

MORE:
2019-20 NHL Power Rankings
PHT’s 2019-20 season previews
• 2019 NHL free agency tracker
NHL on NBC television 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.

Trade: Blues get Faulk from Hurricanes, sign him to big extension

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After years of rumors about the Carolina Hurricanes shopping defenseman Justin Faulk, the team finally traded him away. His destination is a surprise, though, as he’ll be a big part of the future for the defending champion St. Louis Blues.

In a truly resounding move, the Blues traded for Faulk and handed the defenseman a hefty seven-year, $45.5 million extension. Faulk was entering a contract year, so that $6.5M AAV will kick in starting in 2020-21.

[MORE: How the Blues might be able to keep Alex Pietrangelo even after Faulk signing.]

Here are the parameters of the trade itself …

Blues receive: Faulk, 2020 fifth-round pick.

Hurricanes get: Defenseman Joel Edmundson, forward prospect Dominik Bokk, and a 2020 seventh-round pick.

Blues go bold, open up some questions

Once the shock from this trade fades, it’s inevitable to wonder what this all means for Alex Pietrangelo‘s future. The Blues were almost on the nose about it, as Pietrangelo’s contract is about to expire with a $6.5M AAV, which matches what Faulk’s extension will carry. There have been some surprises when it comes to free agent signings lately – including new Hurricanes defenseman Jake Gardiner – but the smart money is on Pietrangelo costing a lot more than $6.5M starting in 2020-21.

Does this mean that those discussions weren’t going well? Could it even forecast a preemptive move with Pietrangelo?

It’s oddly fitting that Faulk goes from one logjam of right-handed defensemen in Carolina to another potential logjam with the Blues. Not only is Pietrangelo a fellow right-handed defenseman (and a superior one to Faulk in that), but you can say the same for Colton Parayko.

Faulk has some use, especially if the Blues can use him in a protected role, but I’m personally not so sure he’s worth $6.5M per year.

 

Faulk is 27.

Hurricanes save money, get a prospect

Carolina will no longer enter the season with the Faulk question lingering.

They save some money, and also get an intriguing prospect in Dominik Bokk, who the Blues traded up to select 25th overall in 2018. During the summer, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman rated Bokk as the Blues’ second best prospect (sub required).

Edmundson, 26, enters the season on an expiring contract with a $3M cap hit. With Faulk gone, it will be intriguing to see if top power-play duties fall to Dougie Hamilton, Jake Gardiner, or perhaps a dark horse option. On paper, Edmundson seems like a downgrade from Faulk, but Carolina does save some money and cuts down on some uncertainty.

***

Frankly, I don’t love the long-term investment from the Blues’ perspective, and it felt like Carolina might get a little bit more for Faulk.

That doesn’t mean that this trade can’t benefit both sides. How do you feel about the move for both teams?

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV 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.

It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

2018-19 

45-28-9, 99 points (3rd in the Central Division, tied for fourth in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup

IN:
Nathan Walker
Derrick Pouliot
Jake Dotchin
Andreas Borgman

OUT:
Jordan Schmaltz
Adam Musil
Nikita Soshnikov
Jakub Jerabek
Patrick Maroon

RE-SIGNED
:
Jordan Binnington
Joel Edmundson
Jordan Nolan
Samuel Blais
Zach Sanford
Robby Fabbri
Oskar Sundqvist
Carl Gunnarsson
Nolan Stevens

[MORE: Three questions | Under Pressure | X-Factor]

2018-19 Summary

Well, that went pretty well, didn’t it?

No matter how many times you hear it, it’s still unbelievable to see the NHL standings on Jan. 3, 2019 and the Blues at the very bottom — 31st overall. Fast forward 160 days and they were hoisting the Stanley Cup celebrating the franchise’s first championship.

It was quite a season for the Blues, who fired head coach Mike Yeo on Nov. 20 after a 7-9-3 start. General manager Doug Armstrong turned to assistant coach Craig Berube to right the ship as the organization planned for a coaching search that would go far and wide.

Under Berube, the Blues didn’t improve much, going 9-10-1 in their first 20 games under the interim bench boss. But then came Jan. 7 and a game at Philadelphia featuring goaltending Jordan Binnington making his first NHL start, which ended with a shutout. Two weeks later they began a franchise-record 11-game winning streak that powered them up the Central Division standings. The winning ways continued through the end of the regular season as St. Louis earned 65 out of a possible 90 points in their final 45 games to finish tied for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference.

Riding their red-hot goaltender and being led offensively by their summer acquisition in Ryan O’Reilly, the Blues took care of the Winnipeg Jets in six games, then the Dallas Stars in a memorable seven-game series before topping the San Jose Sharks in six games to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Their final foe, the Boston Bruins, needed seven games to be defeated, with O’Reilly winning Conn Smythe Trophy honors.

Through the unforgettable ride, the Blues adopted the 1981 Laura Branigan song “Gloria” as their theme after several players heard it in a Philadelphia bar in January. The DJ kept playing the song at the request of a customer and the players decided it would be played in the dressing room following wins.

“Play Gloria!” soon became the rallying cry and took over the city. Also becoming an important part of the Blues’ season was retiring anthem singer Charles Glenn, who continued performing as he battled multiple sclerosis, and 12-year-old Laila Anderson, who was diagnosed with a rare disease called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocystosis. She became friendly with several players and was well enough to attend several games during the season and playoffs, including the team’s Game 7 victory over the Bruins in the Cup Final.

It’s interesting to think what would have happened had Armstrong not had the patience with the roster that he did and chose to blow up the team’s core before things changed. He stayed the course, chose the right coach to replace Yeo, and rode a hot Binnington to an unforgettable finish.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV 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.