Mike Matheson

PHT Morning Skate: van Riemsdyk can have career year; Point skates with Bolts

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Check out the highlights above from Thursday night’s 4-1 Red Wings win over the Blues in the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville USA game from Calumet, Mich.

• The recent RFA signings won’t bolster Patrik Laine‘s case, per Travis Yost. (TSN)

• The negotiations between Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames turned quickly. (Sportsnet)

Brayden Point skated with the Lightning on Thursday. He’s still recovering from off-season hip surgery. (Tampa Bay Times)

• How the Justin Faulk trade might impact negotiations between Justin Schultz and the Penguins. (Pensburgh)

• It’s time for the Blackhawks to turn their focus to the Robin Lehner era. (the-rink.com)

• The Preds have moved Kyle Turris to the wing. Is that the best decision? (On the Forecheck)

• NHL teams should already be focusing on the 2020-21 salary cap because things are already getting tight. (Featurd)

• Stars forward Roope Hintz wants to build off his strong showing in the postseason. (Dallas News)

• The 2019-20 season should be a career-year for James van Riemsdyk. (Broad Street Hockey)

• Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson and his wife are raising money for Hurricane Dorian relief. (NHL.com)

• Even though Dylan Cozens didn’t make the Sabres squad this year, the expectations will be high for him next year. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Check out these 25 facts about the Albany Choppers hockey team that played 55 IHL games in 1999. (Vintage Ice Hockey)

• The fact that the Pacific Division isn’t very good will help the Canucks’ chances of making the playoffs. (Vancourier)

• Hockey dogs can’t wait for the start of the NHL season! (Dogoday.com)

• There are reasons for the Minnesota Wild to be optimistic about this season. (Gone Puck Wild)

Martin Jones is ready to take the next step for the San Jose Sharks. (Blade of Teal)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Pressure is on Tallon for Panthers to win after big offseason

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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 Florida Panthers. 

Even with their lack of recent success there has still been a lot to like about this Florida Panthers team.

Aleksander Barkov is one of the best all-around players in the world and just now entering his prime years. He is a star and a cornerstone player that you should be able to build a championship contending team around.

Along with him, the Panthers just finished the 2018-19 season as a top-10 offensive team and have a pretty promising core of forwards in Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Mike Hoffman and Evgeni Dadonov. When combined with Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle on defense, there is a foundation here they should be able to compete with. What’s even better is that a lot of those core players (specifically Barkov and Huberdeau) are signed long-term to team-friendly contracts under the salary cap.

The key was going to be for general manager Dale Tallon and the front office to put the right people around them to allow that to happen. That was the mission for this offseason.

[MORE: 2018-19 summary | Three Questions | X-Factor]

The only question that matters for the Panthers — and Tallon specifically — is if he acquired the right people.

Among the new additions to the organization…

  • The hiring of Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup winning and future Hall of Fame coach that has a history of success with Tallon.
  • One of the biggest free agent signings of the offseason in starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky on a massive seven-year, $70 million contract. In the short-term it could be a huge addition and maybe even help put the Panthers back in the playoffs. Given Bobrovsky’s age, inevitable decline, and size of the contract it could also become a long-term headache.
  • The additional free agent signings of defender Anton Stralman (three years, $16.5 million) and forward Brett Connolly (four years, $14 million)

Those are some big contracts, all of them carrying varying degrees of long-term risk. It will probably become very apparent very early in the process if they are going to make a positive impact on getting the Panthers to where they want to be. That means Tallon’s long-term future with the team could be riding on the success or failure of those signings.

Tallon has been in a position of power with the Panthers since 2010 and during that time the team has seen its roster get overhauled, is now on its seventh different head coach, and has just two playoff appearances (and only five playoff victories) to show for that time. Given the talent the Panthers have at the top of the lineup, the high-profile coach they just hired, and the money they handed out this offseason (not to mention the eight-year contract defenseman Mike Matheson just signed a year ago) the expectation has to be for the Panthers to win, and to win right now.

The longer the team goes without winning, the more likely it is more changes get made and the Panthers are running out of people to change before they get to Tallon. You can’t trade every player, and it makes little sense to trade a Barkov or Huberdeau because the rest of the team isn’t good enough.

Quenneville is going to get some kind of an extended leash to start because of his resume and the fact he literally just arrived.

That leaves the person responsible for the final say over what the team looks like.

In the end the Bobrovsky contract will probably be what makes or breaks Tallon’s tenure in Florida.

If the Panthers get the Vezina-caliber goalie he was in Columbus it might be enough to propel them back to the playoffs this season and beyond.

If they do not get that goalie it is probably going to be more of the same for the Panthers on the ice, leaving the team with a pricey goalie on the wrong side of 30. That simply will not be good enough.

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

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.

Kreider fined, not suspended, for elbowing Pettersson

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New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider was ejected from Wednesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks when he caught star rookie Elias Pettersson with a spinning elbow to the head.

Given the nature of the play and the penalty, it was a given that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety was going to take an additional look at the play for possible supplemental discipline. After doing so, it seems that the ejection will be the harshest punishment Kreider receives.

The Department of Player Safety announced on Thursday morning that Kreider has been fined $5,000, the maximum allowed under the CBA, for the play.

He will not be suspended.

Here is a look at the play one more time.

While Pettersson has been a breakout star for the Canucks this season, it has also been a difficult year for him from a physical standpoint as this is already the second time an opposing player has been disciplined in some way for a play against him.

Earlier this season Florida Panthers defender Mike Matheson was hit with a two-game suspension for slamming Pettersson to the ice, knocking him out of the lineup for an extended period of time.

Pettersson was able to eventually return to the game after the hit, logging 14 minutes of ice time in the Canucks’ 4-1 win.

He has 58 points (26 goals, 32 assists) in 59 games this season and is the runaway favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the years.

Related: Rangers’ Kreider ejected for elbowing Pettersson

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.

Panthers’ Barkov explodes for five assists, sets franchise record

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Aleksander Barkov was already having a remarkable season for the Florida Panthers prior to Friday night.

His five-assist effort against the Minnesota Wild just added another chapter to the tale he’ll be able to tell and another passage in the Panthers’ history book.

You see, five assists are the most any one Panther has ever recorded in a game. Barkov was magical, his hands in on five of Florida’s six goals in a 6-2 win, including four primary apples.

Barkov came into Friday with 70 points, eight back of his career-high. He’s now just three off 78-point season he had last year. His 29 goals this season were already one more than his previous career-high, and his 46 assists now are five shy of the 51 he has last season.

The Finn has scored some ridiculous goals this year, too.

The Panthers, nine points out of a playoff spot coming into the night, chased Devan Dubnyk after one period. Jonathan Huberdeau had four points, Evgeni Dadonov had three assists, and MacKenzie Weegar and Mike Matheson each had a brace.

Sam Montembeault, making his second NHL start, picked up his first NHL win after stopping 25 shots.

This weird thing also happened:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Trocheck hasn’t missed a beat for Panthers

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Vincent Trocheck wasn’t even supposed to be playing for the Florida Panthers this soon, let alone seemingly jumping right back to full-strength, as if his ankle was never fractured.

Heading into Friday, the Panthers were on a seven-game losing streak, facing a weekend that sure looked like it would set the stage for one or two additional losses.

Instead, the Panthers now have back-to-back wins, and they’ve done so against two legitimate NHL contenders.

On Friday, the Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1. Trocheck assisted on Mike Matheson‘s game-winning goal, posted highly impressive possession stats, three shots on goal, and seven (!) hits.

That would have already been a highly impressive effort for a player coming off a pretty traumatic injury, but Trocheck was arguably even better during Saturday’s 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators.

While his fancy stats were a little choppier, Trocheck showed up on the scoreboard even more, generating a goal and an assist. He looked awfully spry on that goal, by the way:

That breakaway score ended up being the game-winner, actually.

After generating three points in his two games back, Trocheck now has 17 points in 20 games this season.

Now, the Panthers points as a team? They’re now at 46 points in 47 games played, leaving them at least 12 points behind the Penguins (who have 58 points, and could add more against the Golden Knights during a Saturday game that’s in progress). To put things mildly, the odds are stacked high against the Panthers for a credible push toward a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Then again, the odds were also against Trocheck returning as soon as mid-January, and he’s instead making a big impact for Florida.

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.