PHT Morning Skate: Remembering Stan Mikita

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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.

• A great read on what Stan Mikita meant to the city of Chicago. [Faxes from Uncle Dale]

• “Years before his death, Mikita was recognized with a statue of his own, the captain’s C on his sweater, the puck on his stick, his head up, his body ready to make a move. The sculpture captures Mikita. And it doesn’t. A sculpture couldn’t possibly capture all of that man.” [Chicago Tribune]

• “When Mikita became deeply involved in the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association-he knew no other way than deeply involved-he didn’t have to ask teammates to show up every day for kids who were challenged. The Blackhawks came out of respect for Mikita and a cause that meant so much to him. Stan didn’t just explore or dabble in humanitarian ventures. He surrounded them.” [Blackhawks]

• “Standing five-foot-nine and weighing about 160 pounds, Mikita more than compensated for any size disadvantage with an I’ll-show-you spirit. Though not the strongest skater, he was often the person orchestrating the action, seeing the angles and making the plays, all the while spending his energy efficiently.” [Sportsnet]

• New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris on wanting to sign Taylor Hall longterm: “Taylor is definitely going to be front and center, so it will definitely be a high priority. I hope I’m working with Taylor for a long time.” [NJ.com]

John Gibson signed his eight-year extension with the Anaheim Ducks hours before he got married. [LA Times]

• Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin on playing center this coming season: “I don’t make those decisions, but that’s where I played last year and I feel comfortable coming in this year and knowing that I’m playing centre.” [Montreal Gazette]

Vladimir Tarasenko was back on the ice Monday after undergoing shoulder surgery after the season. “I feel great and I feel stronger. I’m ready for the season.” [Blues]

• How signing bonuses could create a big issue in the NHL. [TSN]

• On Ron Hextall’s preference for having a tandem in goal for the Philadelphia Flyers. [NBC Philadelphia]

Josh Morrissey is a current restricted free agent. Why the Winnipeg Jets should lock him up long-term. [The Hockey News]

• A Vegas Golden Knights museum is coming to the team’s practice facility. [Las Vegas Sun]

• Why William Karlsson’s extension is a gamble for the Golden Knights. [Sporting News]

• After a busy off-season, what can we expect from these Buffalo Sabres? [Yahoo]

• Have the Edmonton Oilers done enough to make a return to the postseason? [Edmonton Journal]

Anton Khudobin over Kari Lehtonen as the Dallas Stars backup goaltender. Is that an upgrade? [Dallas Morning News]

• How Artemi Panarin leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets could benefit Sonny Milano. [The Hockey Writers]

• A quick to the playoffs for the Vancouver Canucks? That’s not in the cards. [Vancouver Courier]

• Why Troy Brouwer’s buyout by the Calgary Flames was necessary for the wrong reasons. [Flame for Thought]

• Five takeaways from the NHL 19 beta. [Operation Sports]

• A look at parity in the NCAA hockey tournament. [USCHO]

• Finally, here’s Nathan MacKinnon trying his hand at juggling:

Expect Blue Jackets to be very glad they signed Duclair

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The Vegas Golden Knights provided a lot of lessons to the rest of the NHL, if teams wanted to listen. One of the key messages many seemed to receive was that the Golden Knights took talented, unappreciated players, gave them great opportunities, and raked in the profits.

When we look back at free agency, John Tavares‘ signing will create the greatest impact (successful or not), but from a value perspective, the Columbus Blue Jackets landing Anthony Duclair for the league minimum will be tough to beat.

Consider the circumstances for a moment. Duclair is just 22. He scored 20 goals and 44 points for the Arizona Coyotes in 2015-16, albeit riding an unsustainable shooting percentage of 19. At just $650K in 2018-19, the intriguing winger will make less money than obscure Blue Jackets such as Markus Hännikäinen and Alex Broadhurst.

The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline sheds some light on why Duclair accepted such a cheap deal with Columbus (sub required), with his reps explaining that the Blue Jackets represent “the best situation, hockey-wise.”

“I’m a bit embarrassed how it happened,” Duclair said to Portzline. “Since my rookie season, the last couple of years have been a bit of a roller coaster. But at the same time, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

“It’s a huge wake-up call to be a free agent at 22 years old, definitely not ideal.”

Much of that article focuses on Duclair hoping to improve, and one can understand why he’d feel that way, especially considering that demand seemed tepid for his services.

The thing is, the Blue Jackets would easily get their money’s worth even if John Tortorella & Co. decide to give Duclair the same limited role he suffered through with the Coyotes and then Blackhawks last season. Consider his successes despite averaging just 13:17 TOI in 2017-18, and generally only getting 13 minutes of ice time so far in his young career.

As much as this seems to be a “prove it” season for Duclair, the Blue Jackets would be wise to keep an eye on his progress. If he reaches the “tremendous potential” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen spoke about with Portzline, then Columbus might be wise to sign him to a team-friendly extension as soon as the CBA would allow it.

It’s fair to wonder if Duclair risks getting lost in the shuffle once again, too.

While Columbus isn’t well-stocked with high-end forwards (making the possible exit of Artemi Panarin, one of their rare premium scorers, that much scarier), the Blue Jackets can be a tough team to deal with when their deep group of attackers gets it going. After also adding Riley Nash to a group that includes Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Pierre Luc-Dubois, Nick Foligno, recently extended Boone Jenner, Alexander Wennberg, and Oliver Bjorkstrand, Duclair is far from guaranteed a big-time role.

(That’s especially true if Columbus’ work is more or less done this summer, if Sonny Milano progresses significantly, and if Brandon Dubinsky is reasonably healthy and on-task.)

Such a scenario makes you wonder if there would have been an even more mutually beneficial situation out there for Duclair. Cap-challenged teams like the Oilers or Penguins could have done worse than to give the intriguing scorer a look, particularly at such a bargain rate. The Montreal Canadiens would have made a lot of sense for the Quebec native, too.

Duclair only signed a one-year contract with Columbus, so for all we know, the above teams may get another chance to land him.

If things are fairer, Duclair would receive far richer offers and greater opportunities next time around. As it stands, though, this is a fantastic, low-risk signing for the Blue Jackets.

More bargains in 2018

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.

PHT Morning Skate: The biggest surprises in the NHL so far

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–Vegas Golden Knights players knew they’d be in for a unique experience heading into this year, but they could have never imagined that they’d be helping a city heal from a significant tragedy. “It’s special to be here and to try to rebuild this city,” said forward Reilly Smith. “We’re trying to be a team that this city can stand behind.” (Miami Herald)

–Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek scored his first two career NHL goals in last week’s game against the Penguins. His mom, Karen, may have given him the nudge he needed to start producing. (Tampa Bay Times)

–ESPN hockey writers make their selections for the biggest surprise of the 2017-18 season so far. Hint: There’s plenty of Leafs and Blackhawks love to go around here. (ESPN)

–The rivalry between Montreal and Toronto is still very alive, but it’s changed quite a bit. As Don Cherry points out, the Habs used to have the skill, while the Leafs used to be the ones to crash and bang. That isn’t exactly the case anymore. (NHL.com)

–Predators defenseman P.K. Subban has started the “P.K.’s Blueline Buddies Program” in Nashville this season. At every home game, he’ll host a member of the police department, an underprivileged youth and a few others. “I think it’s important for athletes to set a tone in a way that we’re looking to build bridges,” Subban said. “That doesn’t take away from anybody’s right to do what they want to do or how they want to exercise their rights as an American citizen, but I think it’s really important for us to be role models in terms of building bridges and being a part of the solution to social issues and different things that go on in our community.” (NHL.com/Predators)

Connor McDavid is already one of the fastest players in the NHL, but his skating coach, Joe Quinn, believes he can get even faster in the future. That should keep a lot of defensemen up at night. (The Hockey News)

–Former NHL goalie Ken Dryden has been looking at ways to prevent concussions in hockey. He wrote a new book about how concussions affected Steve Montador’s life and he also wrote this essay for the Globe and Mail. “It begins with a simple ripple – no hits to the head. This ripple then runs backward, getting bigger, until it becomes a wave. In today’s NHL, a stick to an opponent’s face is a penalty – automatic – no excuses. A puck shot into the crowd in a team’s defensive zone is the same, a penalty – automatic – no excuses. No big deal. Players adapt. The game goes on.” (Globe and Mail)

–USA Today took offence to a series of tweets the Golden Knights Twitter account posted prior to last night’s game against the Boston Bruins. USA Today suggested the tweets were loaded with “sexism”. (USA Today)

–Former NHL enforcer Shawn Thornton’s grandmother dealt with Parkinson’s disease until the day she died in 2008. Now, Thornton is doing his part to raise money for people affected by this dreaded disease. (The Players’ Tribune)

–The Columbus Blue Jackets have been patient with top prospect Sonny Milano. Now, he’s rewarded them with some stellar production early on this season. It looks like he’s finally arrived. (jacketscannon.com)

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.

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Panarin sets franchise record in Blue Jackets debut

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One day after his former team put 10 goals on the board versus Pittsburgh, Artemi Panarin had a memorable game of his own in his regular season debut for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It wasn’t a hat trick of goals like the one Brandon Saad recorded on Thursday. Instead, Panarin had three assists, his first a nifty set up on Cam Atkinson‘s first goal of the season. The Blue Jackets jumped out to a big lead over the New York Islanders and cruised from there to a 5-0 win.

The victory also included Sonny Milano and Pierre-Luc Dubois scoring their first career NHL goals.

The Blue Jackets already had a group of young players that took a step forward last season by contending for the Metropolitan Division against Pittsburgh and the Washington Capitals. They set a new standard for the organization, setting franchise records in wins and points. The play of Sergei Bobrovsky in net played a significant role, too.

They added to their group this summer by acquiring Panarin from Chicago in a blockbuster that sent Saad back to the Blackhawks. In acquiring Panarin, Columbus received a 25-year-old forward with two impressive NHL seasons under his belt, as he reached at least 30 goals in each of those years with the Blackhawks.

He did so playing alongside Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane, who has been a dangerous offensive player throughout junior and throughout his NHL career. That said, there seems to be suggestions that Panarin’s production was boosted by the fact he played as Kane’s linemate.

It’s a point that he has expressed anger toward. Who can blame him? After all, he scored 102 points combined over two seasons in the KHL before joining the Blackhawks and continued to put up good numbers in the NHL.

His time in Columbus is off to a good start. He showed chemistry with Atkinson, a 35-goal scorer last season, on the second goal. Breaking into the zone with speed, Panarin put a beautiful pass across the ice for Atkinson, who re-directed the puck in off his skate.

We’ve seen four hat tricks through the first two days of the new season, marking NHL history in the process.

No hat trick tonight for Panarin, but his three assists in his debut were enough to make Blue Jackets history. On the third night of the new NHL season, no less.

Butchered: Brandon Dubinsky chirps college free agent sweepstakes in NHL

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During these dog days of the hockey summer, small flourishes such as the rush to sign Will Butcher stand as welcome distractions. At least for some of us.

It sounds like Columbus Blue Jackets forward (and occasional bane of Sidney Crosby‘s existence) Brandon Dubinsky is not quite a fan of this process, even if he didn’t name Butcher or, say, Jimmy Vesey by name.

Dubinsky didn’t provide a solution, necessarily, but his tweet will inspire some of us to watch his first encounter with Butcher more intently.

Interesting. Dubinsky followed that tweet up with “I bet teams that make the draft pick would agree with me as well!”

While the process can be tricky, it’s important to note that not every situation is the same.

For every Vesey situation – i.e. the team who drafted a player showing interest in signing him – there are ones closer to Butcher, where the Colorado Avalanche weren’t pretty lukewarm toward handing him a deal.

Things get even messier and more convoluted when you go deeper into why there might be some jealousy toward players enjoying a slice of free agent life before their rookie shifts, as the question of sports drafts can become quite the labor debate. There’s almost a “divide and conquer” feel to Dubinsky griping about the Butchers of the world, and that stuff can get a little nauseating if you really dive into the rabbit hole.

Beyond that more serious stuff, it reminds of a more jovial Twitter moment during Dubinsky’s own contract negotiations, as former teammate Ryan Johansen rattled his cage in a charming way:

One other thought: how might Dubinsky’s teammates feel? It would be especially interesting to find out Sonny Milano‘s reaction considering the development decisions from his own past.

Anyway, sign us up for whenever Butcher and Dubinsky first meet on the ice. Maybe we can even get microphones on both of them?