Mark Letestu

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NHL Awards: Bobby Ryan, Oskar Lindblom among 2020 Masterton nominees

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Now that the 2019-20 NHL regular season is officially over, it’s awards season.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association were sent their ballots for the Hart, Norris, Calder, Lady Byng, and Selke Trophies, as well as the the NHL All-Star and All-Rookie Teams on Monday. (General managers vote for the Vezina Trophy and the NHL Broadcasters’ Association votes on the Jack Adams Award.)

The finalists and results will be announced at some point this summer on a date to be determined by the NHL.

On Monday, the PHWA announced the 31 nominees for the 2020 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The award is given to the players “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

The 31 nominees are selected by each PHWA chapter.

Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Miller
Arizona Coyotes: Conor Garland
Boston Bruins: Kevan Miller
Buffalo Sabres: Curtis Lazar
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
Carolina Hurricanes: James Reimer
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan Graves
Columbus Blue Jackets: Nathan Gerbe
Dallas Stars: Stephen Johns
Detroit Red Wings: Robby Fabbri
Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid
Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick
Minnesota Wild: Alex Stalock
Montreal Canadiens: Shea Weber
Nashville Predators: Jarred Tinordi
New Jersey Devils: Travis Zajac
New York Islanders: Thomas Hickey
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan
Philadelphia Flyers: Oskar Lindblom
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin
St. Louis Blues: Jay Bouwmeester
San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton
Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Killorn
Toronto Maple Leafs: Zach Hyman
Vancouver Canucks: Jacob Markstrom
Vegas Golden Knights: Shea Theodore
Washington Capitals: Michal Kempny
Winnipeg Jets: Mark Letestu

Robin Lehner of the Rangers — sorry, Islanders — won the 2019 award after sharing his struggle with alcohol and mental illness.

There are a number of good cases to be made for players. Johns missed 22 months due to headaches and returned this season to play 17 games; Fabbri suffered two major knee injuries, returned, moved on to Detroit and had a nice season with 14 goals and 31 points; Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac event during a February game; Lindblom has not played for the Flyers since December as he fights Ewing sarcoma; and Ryan stepped away from the Senators to deal with an alcohol problem and netted a hat trick in his first home game back.

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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.

Looking at the 2019-20 Winnipeg Jets

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Winnipeg Jets.

Record: 37-28-6 (71 games), fourth in the Central Division, sixth in the Western Conference.
Leading Scorer: Tie between Kyle Connor (38 goals, 73 points) and Mark Scheifele (29 goals, 73 points)

In-Season Roster Moves
• Claimed Luca Sbisa off waivers from Ducks.
• Claimed Nick Shore off waivers from Maple Leafs.
• Acquired Dylan DeMelo from Senators for a 2020 third-round pick.
• Acquired Cody Eakin from Golden Knights for 2021 conditional fourth-round pick.
• Reached agreement to mutually terminate Dustin Byfuglien‘s contract.

Season Overview

Before the Jets even played a 2019-20 preseason game, they lost a big piece. Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to take a leave of absence to contemplate his future ended seven months later with a mutual agreement to terminate the defenseman’s contract. Having already traded away Jacob Trouba and letting Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers walk in free agency, the blue line took a hit before the puck even dropped.

There were also losses up front when Mark Letestu was ruled out for six months with heart muscle inflammation and Bryan Little suffered a perforated ear drum.

That set a tone for the season as the Jets streaked their way — good and bad — to the first Western Conference wild card spot  at the time of the NHL pause. How much of a roller coaster has it been? The Jets took 28 out of 36 points from November to early December, and then squandered that gained ground with a five-game losing streak and a 3-8-1 skid in January.

Their biggest weapons — Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers — have all led the way offensively. Neal Pionk, who was acquired from the Rangers in the Trouba trade, impressed on defense with positive possession numbers and 45 points. Then you have Connor Hellebuyck, a heavy Vezina Trophy frontrunner, who also deserves some Hart Trophy consideration. The netminder leads the league in shutouts (6), even strength save percentage (.927) and 5-on-5 shots against (1,530).

Entering the NHL break on a four-game winning streak gave the Jets hope that they were peaking at the right time. They’re two points behind the Stars (Dallas has two games in-hand) and were doing a good job of staving off teams like the Predators, Canucks, and Wild, who are right on their heels.

Highlight of the Season

A new extension and on the verge of 40 goals — it’s been a pretty good season for Kyle Connor:

MORE JETS:
Biggest 2019-20 surprises, disappointments
Long-term outlook

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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.

Jets’ Letestu shut down for 6 months due to myocarditis

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Some scary news from the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday as coach Paul Maurice revealed that forward Mark Letestu will be shut down for the next six months due to a virus called myocarditis.

It is an inflammation of the heart muscle that forces it to work harder to pump blood throughout the body.

He is expected to make a full recovery, but will be limited to only very light activity — and no hockey — for at least the next six months. That timeline will pretty much end his 2019-20 regular season.

The 34-year-old Letestu is in his first year with the Jets after signing with the team in free agency over the summer. He has played in seven of the team’s games so far this season but has been out of the lineup for more than two weeks.

Originally signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins as an undrafted free agent, Letestu did not make his NHL debut until age 24  and has managed to carve out a strong career for himself as a role player for four different teams. In 567 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, and Jets he has scored 93 goals and 210 total points, while scoring at least 10 goals in a season six different times.

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.

Jets come to short agreement with Patrik Laine

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Apparently Mark Letestu eating mustard on the bench isn’t the biggest Winnipeg Jets-related news of the week. The team came to terms on a deal with star winger Patrik Laine on Friday, signing him to a two-year deal that carries a $6.75 million AAV.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun indicates that the two sides had been batting around different two-year arrangements for at least one week.

A two-year deal with Laine is interesting because he’ll remain an RFA once this is up after 2020-21. The Jets aren’t out of the woods when it comes to RFAs just yet, as Kyle Connor remains a prominent one, but this is a pretty nice break for Winnipeg in the short term. Laine gets to prove himself, but a $6.75M cap hit is team-friendly … for now.

(For what it’s worth, the price tag is high by some estimations.)

The Athletic’s Craig Custance reports the structure as such:

Young players often get an unfair reputation for being all-offense, no-defense, yet that label might be somewhat fair for Laine. The 21-year-old scored 30 goals and 50 points last season, and had 44 goals and 70 points in 2017-18, yet some of his work is offset by all-around struggles. Evolving Hockey’s multiple-season RAPM chart captures a winger who sometimes gives off an “all-or-nothing” feel:

 

Still, goals are valuable, and Laine could easily be worth more than $6.75M per year if he rounds out his game. That also would make his next contract a potential bombshell.

Connor isn’t the only noteworthy RFA who still needs a new contract. Mikko Rantanen could end up with a whopper of a deal with the Colorado Avalanche, while Julius Honka has a very different, interesting situation trying to solidify his career with (or without) the Dallas Stars.

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.

Mark Letestu’s mid-game mustard snack is gross, engrossing

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When you play 560 regular-season games despite going undrafted, you might just pick up a few tricks.

In the case of Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Letestu, apparently one thing he’s learned is to use mustard to treat/prevent cramps. He was seen consuming a mustard packet on the bench during Thursday’s 5-3 preseason loss to the Edmonton Oilers. You can watch that appalling spectacle in the video above this headline.

As you enjoy that clip, slather on a few thoughts:

  • It’s especially admirable that Letestu just goes for it, efficiently eating the mustard as if he was eating Go-Gurt. You can’t coach that level of sticktoitiveness; you either have it, or you don’t.
  • That said, I think it’s pretty clear that Letestu didn’t enjoy the experience. Allow us to take the Zapruder route and capture him wincing:

That’s the reaction most of us had to watching the clip, so that’s a mood.

Apparently the sharp flavor might explain why the mustard works, along with other initially baffling remedies.

  • Huge bonus points to whoever put that NHL.com video together for using the same stock music that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” uses between certain scenes. Does this make Letestu a McPoyle, or would he more appropriately fit in with Frank and Charlie, who are known for unorthodox cuisine?
  • I don’t know about you, but I’ve long been more familiar with players chugging pickle juice to ward off cramps. NBC Sports Philadelphia chronicled how pickle juice saved the day during a ridiculously hot Dallas Cowboys – Philadelphia Eagles game back in 2000, while New Jersey Devils forward Blake Coleman drew enough attention consuming pickle juice that he claimed that he might endorse his own stuff, according to SI’s Mike Blinn in 2018.
  • This is all a helpful reminder that we’re almost at the point where we’ll see Alex Ovechkin and others using smelling salts on the bench. That’s usually a treat.
  • If Letestu’s warrior-like consumption of mustard leaves you wanting to root for his career, there’s a cause. The good news for the 36-year-old is that he is on a legitimate contract, rather than a PTO. The bad news is that he’ll have to show that Eye of the Mustard Tiger, as it’s a two-way contract that pays him $700K at the NHL level and $350K at the AHL level.

Sometimes you show you “want it” by blocking shots; sometimes you show it by decisively downing mustard on the bench.

All of that said, there’s evidence spotted by Deadspin of a 2014 Alabama high school football player drinking mustard as if it was Gatorade, so Letestu does have some competition.

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.