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Golden Knights get good value in Miller extension

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Talented right-handed defenseman seldom come cheap in the National Hockey League these days.

So, Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee did well on Saturday when he locked up Colin Miller on a four-year, $15.5 million extension.

That’s great value for Miller and the Stanley Cup finalists. The deal makes Miller the team’s top paid defenseman with an annual average value of $3.875 million per annum and the contract doesn’t make McPhee look bad if Miller decides to regress in the future.

Miller certainly earned the extension with his play on the puck and away from it this past season.

The Sault Ste. Marie native led all Golden Knights defenseman in scoring during the regular season with 10 goals and 41 points, career highs for Miller, who was taken by Vegas from the Boston Bruins in the expansion draft last summer.

Miller was also effective for the Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, recording three goals and seven points in 20 games.

Beyond his point production, Miller was near the top of the league in puck possession metrics, ending the season in which he played all 82 games with a 55.63 CF% and had 1.6 points per 60 minutes played.

His off the puck helped Vegas get into the top 10 in terms of fewest goals allowed.

Gerard Gallant rolled Miller out extensively throughout the season boosting his time-on-ice by nearly four minutes (19:21 per game) than his previous year in Boston (15:49). He also got a minute more on the power play per game (2:27) and

The deal avoids arbitration with Miller and will put the Golden Knights counting close to $65 million against the salary cap for this upcoming season, which is locked in at $79.5 million.

Vegas can now start sorting out what they’re going to pay William Karlsson, who elected for salary arbitration last week.

Fellow restricted free agent Shea Theodore also needs a deal.


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

Five logical landing spots for Erik Karlsson

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The fire’s been turned up on Erik Karlsson trade speculation in the last few days. After the Sens made their franchise defenseman a contract offer on Sunday, the team allowed interested teams to speak to him about a potential trade/extension, too.

Assuming they trade him, the Senators should be able to get a strong return for Karlsson, but who’s going to give them the best offer? And who is the 28-year-old willing to sign an extension with?

Let’s take a look at the five logical landing spots for the Sens captain. There are more than five, but these are the teams that stand out for various reasons:

• Vegas Golden Knights

It’s been reported over and over again that the Golden Knights made a strong push to acquire the Swedish blueliner at the trade deadline, but that didn’t end up working out. Now, they’ve got more time to get something done. GM George McPhee still has to sign RFAs William Karlsson, Colin Miller and Shea Theodore, but he has over $18 million at his disposal.

Looking at what Vegas has to offer, it would seem logical to think that the Sens would want Cody Glass, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The Golden Knights aren’t loaded with high-end prospects, so they probably won’t want to part ways with Glass, especially after he posted a 102-point season in the WHL. Will the Sens be willing to accept a Glass-less package?

• Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bolts would have to create some cap space to make this happen because they only have $4.446 million left to spend, but that shouldn’t be a problem if the Sens are willing to ship them Karlsson.

Things could get really tricky if the Sens insist on Tampa Bay taking Bobby Ryan‘s $7.25 million cap hit as part of the deal, too.

The Lightning have some good prospects like Cal Foote, Taylor Raddysh and a few others, but the Sens will likely want immediate help, too. Would the Lightning give up a Brayden Point or a Mikhail Sergachev? Probably not. So is there enough there for these two sides to make a deal? It’ll be up to GM Steve Yzerman to get creative.

• San Jose Sharks

The Sharks whiffed on their attempt to land John Tavares, so they can now shift their focus to Karlsson. This summer, general manager Doug Wilson has proved that he’s capable of thinking outside the box when it comes to acquiring players and creating cap space. If he can pull this off, it would be huge for the organization.

San Jose already has Brent Burns, so a one-two punch with him and Karlsson would be devastating to face for the rest of the league.

Wilson has over $8 million to spend and he only has one RFA (Chris Tierney) to lock up. One of the issues though, is that the Sharks don’t have a first-rounder, as they traded it to Buffalo for Evander Kane (the Sharks could keep their pick if they finish in the bottom 10 of the league).

• Philadelphia Flyers

Here’s a team that hasn’t necessarily been linked to Karlsson in the mainstream media, but they could be a fit for his services.

The Flyers have money to spend right now, as they have $14.7 million in cap space. Yes, they’ll have to start paying Ivan Provorov big money next season, but you can worry about that later. Talents like Karlsson aren’t made available very often, so you have to make it work.

Philadelphia has plenty of quality prospects at their disposal and the roster is young enough that they can afford to move some of them away.

A blue line of Provorov, Shayne Gostisbere and Karlsson would be one of the best in the entire NHL. Now they only need to find a goalie.

• Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche and Senators made a blockbuster deal last season when Matt Duchene moved to Ottawa, so we know that they’ve worked together before.

The Avs have just under $14.5 million to spend on the cap and they don’t really have any significant players to re-sign this summer. There’s plenty of room for them to fit Karlsson under the cap. Would they be willing to take Ryan, too?

The big thing Colorado has going for them, is that they currently own Ottawa’s first-rounder in 2019. The Sens can say whatever they want about being competitive in 2018-19, but if they lose Karlsson, their lottery odds will likely increase next season. Imagine finishing in the lottery and missing on a chance at Jack Hughes?

Right now, there’s pressure on the Sens to be good because they don’t have that draft pick. If they use Karlsson to get that pick (and other stuff), that would take away the pressure to be good. They could just opt for a quick rebuild because they’d own their own top selection, again.

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.

Senators face long odds in ‘winning’ Erik Karlsson trade

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The Ottawa Senators needed to get rid of Mike Hoffman as soon as possible, even if they took a loss, which the Sharks and Panthers made sure of on Tuesday.

Maybe it’s a product of the bar plummeting incredibly low, but at least the Senators pulled off the Band-Aid quickly, by their poor standards. Losing the trade is akin to pulling off more skin than expected when removing that bandage.

[Senators land poor deal for Hoffman; Sharks then move him to Panthers]

On the scale of roster triage, the Hoffman situation was certainly important, but making the best of the Erik Karlsson situation is as close to “life or death” as it gets for an NHL franchise (beyond more straightforward issues such as bankruptcy and arena deals).

In virtually every situation, a team giving up a star player ends up losing a trade by a large margin. History frequently frowns on that side, even if context points to it being a no-win situation for the unfortunate GM in question.

Infinite crisis

This would be a desperate situation for any team, but the stakes seem downright terrifying for GM Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators. Just consider the short version of their profound, gobsmacking organizational dysfunction.

  • They lost Mike Hoffman for quarters on the dollar, and he’ll still be in the Atlantic Division after the Sharks flipped him to Florida. The indication is that Ottawa was unwittingly part of a “three-team trade.”
  • Senators fans might become allergic to the phrase “three-team trade,” as the Matt Duchene swap looks awful already. Colorado made the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, got a first-rounder, and an intriguing player in Sam Girard. The Predators added Kyle Turris. Ottawa may only have Duchene for about a season and a half, as he’ll be up for a new contract after 2018-19. If you were Duchene, would you want any part of the Senators?
  • Assistant GM Randy Lee was suspended as a harassment investigation is underway. That story surfaced mere weeks before the Hoffman/Caryk/Karlssons fiasco forced Ottawa’s hand.
  • Fans really want Melnyk out as owner. Franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson feels the same way.
  • After an unlikely run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, the Senators endured a brutal season, and their future outlook is grim. Not great when you consider that the team is likely to send its 2019 first-rounder to Colorado.

Again, that’s the back-of-the-box summary of Ottawa’s woes. It doesn’t even touch on Guy Boucher’s strangely harsh treatment or the fairly reasonable worries that someone might actually send a rare offer sheet to excellent forward Mark Stone.

Amid all that turmoil, it’s well known that the Senators are in a bind with Karlsson, as it’s very difficult to imagine the superstar relenting and re-signing with Ottawa. They’re at a serious risk of losing him for nothing as he approaches UFA status next summer, and he’s under no obligation to sign an extension if a team trades for him. Karlsson also has some veto power via a limited no-trade clause.

So, while the Senators gain some advantages that come with trying to trade Karlsson during the off-season (possibly as soon as this week with the 2018 NHL Draft approaching), his trade value suffers because a team would only get one guaranteed run with the Swede rather than the two they would’ve landed via the trade deadline.

No doubt, Dorion balking during the trade deadline will be mentioned if this goes sour.

The Senators certainly could’ve landed a better package for Hoffman during that time, and Karlsson’s value may have been higher then, too.

Ryan only makes things more difficult

For those who scoff at there being any doubt at all about the Karlsson point, don’t forget just how much of a star he really is. Contenders may go all-out for Karlsson now that they have the room to work with, and maybe someone could even convince him to agree to terms (official or tentative) in a hypothetical deal. In that scenario, the Senators might actually land a strong deal for their crucial blueliner.

Much like during the trade deadline, there’s a major stumbling block beyond the other context clues: Bobby Ryan‘s contract.

TSN’s Frank Servalli ranks among those who report that a Karlsson deal may still need to include Ryan’s albatross deal ($7.25M cap hit through 2021-22).

No doubt, the Senators would like to get rid of Ryan’s lousy contract, but that’s where this situation could really get awkward. Ottawa could severely limit the returns for Karlsson if they attach the Ryan mistake to it. Would the Vegas Golden Knights even give up a package such as Shea Theodore plus “picks and prospects” at this point, as Servalli points to, especially if it includes Vegas’ original first-rounder Cody Glass? Is Theodore + Glass + picks good enough if it even landed Karlsson?

From a PR standpoint, the Senators would likely be wiser to get the best-looking deal for Karlsson, and then move some futures to a rebuilding team to house Ryan’s contract. One might “or they can just suck it up and deal with Ryan’s contract,” but … Melnyk.

Ultimately, it was almost inevitable for the Senators to “lose” in some way regarding Karlsson, unless they beat the odds and convinced him to sign an extension.

There are degrees of losing when it comes to managing these assets, though, and the Senators face a real risk of turning a tough situation into a full-fledged disaster. Dorion is in an extremely difficult spot here, and the Senators’ recent history points to more heartache and aggravation.

One way or another, we may find out soon if they can salvage this situation.

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.

Life as a Golden Knights player is pretty good in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — It took 112 years for the city of Las Vegas to finally get a major sports team, and its first year couldn’t have gone any better. 

An NHL expansion team in the Stanley Cup Final? No one was thinking that in the first year, not even Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, who famously aimed for “playoffs in three, Cup in six.”

The excitement about the team coming to town was evident in the build up to the their first game. Around 5,000 fans showed up outside T-Mobile Arena in Nov. 2016 to learn the team’s nickname and see the logo. Every game night has been a sellout and winning helped create an even bigger buzz around the city. Life has been pretty good for the players.

“Winning helps, sure. But for it to grow as quickly as it has it’s a surprise,” said defenseman Deryk Engelland, who played parts of two seasons with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers from 2013-2015. “You knew it was going to take some time to grow but you didn’t think it was going to be this quick.”

Go to any Golden Knights practice at City National Arena and you’ll find a packed house. The interest became so great during the playoffs that attendance was eventually limited for their skates, with lines forming outside the rink hours before the players took to the ice. Merchandise sales? Well, just add that to the long list of things tied to this team that went above and beyond.

“It’s crazy to think that there wasn’t any franchise here before,” said defenseman Shea Theodore, “and the love we’re getting from the city and the fans, we’re going out to eat, people are coming up to us and taking pictures.”

Speaking of meals, there have been those times that players have been out to eat and the bill was picked up by a fan. Or, if you’re general manager George McPhee, you’ll get a standing ovation when you walk in somewhere to grab a bite.

“Reap the benefits while you can, someone said,” said defenseman Colin Miller. “They like taking care of us and we try to do the same for them.”

For many of the players, their perception of Las Vegas from the outside — the bright lights, the celebrities, the gambling — changed after they settled in their new homes.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize the sense of community there really is in Vegas,” said Miller. “I know I didn’t realize it until I got there. It’s been awesome. The fans are behind you there. It seems like they’re everywhere. Everyone’s got a t-shirt or a hat or something like that. It’s a pretty fun place to call home.”

Ryan Reaves wasn’t a member of the “Golden Misfits” until late February. While with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this season, he played a game in Vegas against the Golden Knights and echoed a lot of the same sentiments that had been felt around the league.

“At the beginning of the year, you don’t know how it’s going to work. A lot of tourists going to Vegas. It’s a hot place,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s going to go sit in a rink for that long when it’s that hot outside, but you get here and everybody was dead-wrong, that’s for sure.”

Some members of the Golden Knights, like head coach Gerard Gallant, like to keep things low-key, so you won’t find him on the strip bumping into any celebrities. Then there’s Cody Eakin, who’s taken advantage of his new city since coming over from the Dallas Stars in the expansion draft. From dining at different restaurants to catching the latest show to go-karting in the desert to hiking and biking, the 27-year-old forward has gotten out to experience much of what Vegas and its surrounding areas have to offer.

“The opportunities are almost endless around here,” Eakin said. “I don’t think you can do them all in one season.”

It’s clear that the love affair between the community and team didn’t take long to get off the ground, and that support has paid off with this fairy tale of a season.

“It’s a lot of fun and there’s a lot of recognition in the community right now,” said Eakin. “Guys are going out and you see the signs and Vegas Golden Knights flags flying in the wind attached to cars. It’s pretty special. 

“The community’s happy. The community’s excited. The community’s passionate about it and it translates into us playing for them, playing hard and having fun with it.”

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub
• Stanley Cup Final Guide

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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.

Theodore’s struggles have Golden Knights in Cup Final hole

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Gerard Gallant made Shea Theodore skip a shift. He’s not making him walk the plank for two rough games.

Theodore’s struggles are a major reason the Golden Knights trail the Capitals 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final going into Game 4 on Monday night in Washington. The talented, young defenseman has been on the ice for four of the Capitals’ past six goals in the series and was primarily responsible for two in Vegas’ Game 3 loss Saturday night.

”Did Shea do something real bad? He plays the game like everybody else,” Gallant said Sunday in a passionate defense of Theodore. ”He made a couple mistakes, they ended up in the back of our net. A lot of guys make mistakes in hockey games and they don’t end up in the back of the net. Shea’s a 22-year-old kid who I love. He’s a great player. He’s going to be a star in this league.”

Theodore doesn’t need to be a star, but he needs to be better for the Golden Knights to have a realistic chance of coming back in the Cup Final. In Game 3 alone, he made an ill-advised decision that sparked an odd-man rush on Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s goal, and committed a brutal turnover that led to Devante Smith-Pelly‘s goal that sealed it for Washington.

Trailing by two in the third period, Gallant sat the offensively gifted Theodore for more than three minutes after that giveaway. Gallant expects his whole team to be better with the puck, and Theodore knows that certainly includes him.

”Personally, not a good game,” Theodore said. ”I’ve got to be better all over the ice and definitely recharge tomorrow and get back at it. You have to have a short memory on these type of things, and it’s a seven-game series.”

The series won’t get to seven games if Theodore’s mistakes continue to haunt the Golden Knights. In addition to the blunders that cost them two goals, arguably Theodore’s worst play Saturday night came when he lollygagged down the ice on the power play and got outraced by Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen so badly goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had to come out of his net and wound up taking a tripping penalty.

That cost Vegas a big opportunity to score on the power play and cut the deficit in half.

”We all make mistakes,” Fleury said in French. ”He must forget it.”

That’s the message from veteran defense partner Deryk Engelland, who teammates notice has been a calming and positive influence on Theodore. Engelland talked to Theodore after the loss and again the morning after to reassure him and reinforce some positive thinking.

”He’s young, you’re going to have mistakes,” Engelland said ”It’s a new day. We’ve got to get ready for Game 4 and you’ve just got to tell him to simplify, make the simple, easy play that he’s done all year for us, and just get back to our games.”

Teammates have been just as quick as Gallant to praise Theodore for his strong play this season, and there’s no doubt he’s a factor in the expansion team getting this far. But at the most critical stage of the Golden Knights’ journey, he has been close to his worst and knows it.

”I just have to be much better than I was,” Theodore said.

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub