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Mark Stone among 44 players to file for arbitration, removing offer sheet possibility

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If you’re one of the small handful of people still holding out hope for a restricted free agent offer sheet, Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone was probably your best hope this summer.

The combination of the Senators being a mess in every possible way, the fact they seem to be determined to keep salaries down, and the fact they could probably use some additional draft capital after having to send their 2019 first-round pick to Colorado, made Stone an intriguing possibility to get signed to an offer sheet and perhaps even sent to a new team as a result.

Now, there is no way that can happen.

Stone was one of 44 restricted free agents to officially file for salary arbitration on Thursday before the 5 p.m. ET deadline, meaning that he — along with the other 43 players to do so — is no longer eligible to sign an offer sheet with another team.

Offer sheets are incredibly rare in the NHL as one has not been signed since Ryan O'Reilly inked a two-year contract with the Calgary Flames back in 2013. That contract was matched by the Colorado Avalanche.

Before that you have to go back to the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers signed Shea Weber too. That, also, was matched.

The last time a restricted free agent was signed away from a team you have to go all the way back to the Edmonton Oilers getting Dustin Penner away from the Anaheim Ducks in 2008, resulting in Edmonton having to give up their first, second and third-round picks. That also led to a pretty massive feud between then-Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe and then-Ducks general manager Brian Burke. That was also the only successful restricted agent offer sheet in the salary cap era and the only since 1997 when Chris Gratton moved from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Philadelphia Flyers. That offer was supposed to result in the Lightning getting four first-round draft picks, but they were sent back to the Flyers for Mikael Renberg and Karl Dykhuis.

Even though he appeared in only 58 games during the 2017-18 season Stone still finished tied for the team lead in points (alongside Erik Karlsson) with 62.

According to CapFriendly, because Stone is 26 years old he can only be awarded a one-year contract if his case reaches arbitration. If that happens he would be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of that one-year contract.

Among the other notable players to file for arbitration ahead of Thursday’s deadline:

Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames

Mattias Janmark, Dallas Stars

Mathew Dumba, Minnesota Wild

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

Brock Nelson, New York Islanders

Kevin Hayes, New York Rangers

Brady Skej, New York Rangers

Ryan Spooner, New York Rangers

Jimmy Vesey, New York Rangers

Jamie Oleksiak, Pittsburgh Penguins

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

The full list of players to file can be found at the NHLPA website.

All arbitration hearings will be held in New York City between July 20 and August 4. Most players will be able to agree to contracts with their team before they have to actually get to an arbitration hearing.

One notable RFA that did not file for salary arbitration: Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson. The team hopes to sign him to a long-term contract extension soon, though.

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.

Kempny re-signs, Capitals keep top defensive duo intact

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Here’s a three-step formula to getting paid:

1. Play well.
2. Play well with the $64 million defenseman you just signed.
3. Profit.

That’s exactly what Michal Kempny did on Friday, putting pen-to-paper on a shiny new four-year, $10 million deal with the Washington Capitals. The average annual value on the deal will hit the Caps for $2.5 million per annum.

Not bad for a guy who was ready to pack his bags and head to Europe to play not long ago.

The move keeps Washington’s top pair intact after John Carlson was re-signed on Monday.

Kempny and Carlson formed a formidable partnership after Kempny was acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks. The move was supposed to find the Capitals some depth on the backend for the playoff run. What they got for the third-round pick they shipped back to the Blackhawks was much more.

Kempny and Carlson gelled as a pairing, one that eventually helped the Capitals for their first Stanley Cup, where Kempny had one goal and two assists in the Finals against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Washington’s top four defenseman — including Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen — are now all locked up for the foreseeable future. Their Cup-winning Top 9 are also returning.

The deal comes a day after Washington locked up forward and playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly to a one-year, $1 million deal.

According to CapFriendly, Kempny’s signing puts the Caps just under $10 million shy of the $79.5 million cap for this upcoming season.

They still have five restricted free agents that they signed to qualifying offers last week that need contracts, including Tom Wilson, Madison Bowey and Travis Boyd.

Washington could look now to adding a veteran depth guy on defense, perhaps bringing back Brooks Oprik, who was traded along with Philipp Grubauer to Colorado to make cap room for the Carlson 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

Only one team has erased 3-1 Final deficit, and it was madness

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If the Vegas Golden Knights are going to complete this improbable storybook season and win the Stanley Cup they are going to have to make some more history and do something that only one other team in NHL history has ever done: Overcome a 3-1 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Final.

While several teams have overcome such a deficit in the playoffs (including, improbably, five teams against the Washington Capitals!) only one team has actually done it in the Stanley Cup Final series.

It has not happened since 1942 when the Toronto Maple Leafs did it against the Detroit Red Wings.

Since then teams that have faced such a deficit in the Final series are holding an 0-31 record when it comes to winning the series. Obviously, history is not on the Golden Knights’ side. But Vegas has been making history all year and doing things that no other team has ever done.

[Related: Golden Knights hoping to learn from mistakes and mount Cup comeback]

So what is one more improbable accomplishment to add to the list?

If they are going to do it they are probably going to need Marc-Andre Fleury to return to the form he displayed in the first three rounds. They are going to need their top-line to get back on track and get some secondary scoring from pretty much any other line. They have to put the puck in open nets when they have the chance. They are going to have to find an answer for Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

All of those are tall tasks.

Given what Vegas has to do let’s hop in a time machine and take a look back at the only team to actually complete such a comeback — the aforementioned 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs — because it might be one of the wildest Stanley Cup Final series in league history.

First, it was an historic accomplishment because it was the first time a Stanley Cup Final series had ever gone to a seventh game. It was not just that the Maple Leafs overcame a 3-1 series deficit, they overcome a 3-0 series deficit becoming the first team to ever do it in any sport.

It was in Game 4 of that series in Detroit where everything started to shift in Toronto’s favor, and it was in that game where all hell broke loose.

The Maple Leafs won that game by a 4-3 margin thanks to a late goal from Nick Metz.

But that goal was probably not the series-altering moment.

The game ended in a near riot thanks to some controversial officiating and then-Red Wings coach Jack Adams getting into a literal physical altercation with referee Mel Harwood, resulting in league president Frank Calder suspending him for the rest of the series.

Don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it, take the Canadian Press’ word for it.

From the April 13, 1942 edition:

“The game ended in a near-riot, when manager Jack Adams of the Red Wings ran across the ice at the final whistle and started trading punches with referee Mel Harwood. Other players joined in and Harwood was escorted out of the rink by police.”

Madness!

What prompted Adams’ meltdown? In the closing minutes of the game Harwood issued consecutive penalties to Red Wings players Eddie Wares and Don Grosso, infuriating the team and Adams. It all started when Wares was issued a misconduct penalty and refused to leave the ice in protest.

At that point Harwood dropped the puck with Wares still on the ice, resulting in him promptly calling a too-many-men on the ice penalty and sending off Grosso.

Let’s go back to the CP for the full play-by-play:

The final-whistle blowoff started with a last-minute faceoff when Wares was handed a misconduct penalty, and then a $50 fine for repeated arguments and refusal to leave the ice. When the faceoff came, Wares was still on the ice and Detroit drew another penalty. With Grosso also sent to the bench, Grosso threw down his stick and gloves and promptly drew a $25 fine from referee Harwood.

That ended the game on a wild note, and the excitement flared again when Adams rushed on the ice and started swinging with Harwood. It was then that Calder jumped from his box to get the referee’s report on the incident.

Calder’s statement said: ‘For an attack on officials at the Stanley Cup game between the Detroit Re Wings and the Toronto MAple Leafs at Detroit Olympia April 12 of which I was an eye-witness, manager Jack Adams of Detroit is indefinitely suspended and prohibited from taking any further part in the bench management of the Detroit Red Wings. For their part in the affair, players Wares and Grosso are each fined $100.”

The Canadian Press report also included the nugget that The Olympia crowd had shown a dislike for the officiating by “constant booing and littering the rink with everything from paper and peanuts to a woman’s shoe.”

So much to take in here.

First, how crazy is it that on-ice officials could just hand out fines to players during games?

Then the fact that a coach actually raced across the ice and literally traded punches with an official!

Try to imagine that scene unfolding today.

Try to imagine Tom Wilson taking a penalty in the final minute of a game, refusing to leave the ice as he argues with Wes McCauley, then McCauley getting all sorts of petty and dropping the puck with Wilson still on the ice just so he could assess a too many men on the ice penalty to Jay Beagle, and then Barry Trotz storming across the ice to punch McCauley in the face. All while peanuts and women’s shoes rained down from the stands.

It was a different time, I guess.

After the game Wares told the CP, “You know what’s going to happen. It is going to go seven games.”

He was right.

With Adams suspended for the remainder of the series the Maple Leafs came out flying in Game 5 and routed the Red Wings 9-3 thanks to an unlikely hat trick from Don Metz (a player that had scored just 20 goals in 170 career games).

That was followed by Maple Leafs goalie Turk Broda recording a Game 6 shutout to send the series to a decisive seventh game where the Maple Leafs would take it 3-1, completing the comeback.

Nobody has ever done it in the Stanley Cup Final since.

Maybe it will happen this year?

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

Should Golden Knights have pulled Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 4?

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Golden Knights netminder Marc-Andre Fleury came into the Stanley Cup Final with a .947 save percentage. Pretty good, right? Well, let’s just say that number has gone down thanks to the Washington Capitals, who have scored at least three goals on him in each game.

Fleury’s save percentage has now dropped to .929. That’s a great number, but not when you were 18 points higher just four games ago.

Game 4 was particularly rough for Vegas, as they allowed six goals in their 6-2 loss in Washington. Many wondered whether or not head Gerard Gallant should have pulled Fleury in the first intermission when the team was down 3-0 or even in the second intermission when they were trailing by four. In the end, Gallant decided to stick with his starting goalie.

When asked if he ever considered it, Gallant had this to say, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“No. I think at least five of the six goals were wide-open nets. There was nothing he could have done.”

It’s a fair point. Of the six goals the Caps scored on Fleury, how many could he have stopped? There’s no way he’s coming up with the Oshie power-play goal (1-0), Tom Wilson was left totally alone in the slot (2-0), Devante Smith-Pelly made a great play to get the puck from his skate to his stick (3-0), no goalie is coming up with the John Carlson rocket one-timer (4-0), Kempny had all the space in the world on his one-timer (5-2) and Brett Connolly cashed in on a 5-on-3 power play (6-2). There’s not much Fleury could have done on any of those goals.

Another reason people may have wanted to see Fleury come out of the game was so that he could get additional rest ahead of a do-or-die Game 5. Sure, extra rest couldn’t hurt, but there’s still two full off days between the last game and the one coming up (they don’t play again until Thursday). If Game 5 was on Wednesday night, maybe that changes things. The fact that there’s an extra day is probably one of the reasons why he stayed in there.

Upon further review, there’s nothing wrong with the way the Golden Knights handled their goaltending situation in Game 4. Fleury played the whole game and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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

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.

Evgeny Kuznetsov’s impact on Capitals, Stanley Cup Final grows

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WASHINGTON — The messages to Tom Wilson have been short and to the point from Evgeny Kuznetsov: keep your stick on the ice and I’ll find you.

Late in the first period of the Washington Capitals’ 6-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4, Kuznetsov and Wilson did a little cycling in the corner to the right of Marc-Andre Fleury. Wilson dropped the puck to Kuznetsov, who then started driving toward the Vegas net before firing off a pass to Wilson, who buried his opportunity to make it 2-0.

This is the Kuznetsov we’ve grown to appreciate. The one with 185 career assists. The one who can find seams between sticks and skates and hit your tape to create a scoring chance.

During these playoffs, however, we’ve seen a different Kuznetsov of sorts. He’s been shooting more, having fired off 87 shots in 23 games. Those shots are going in, as evidenced by his 12 goals. And his passes are still finding the tapes of his teammates, which resulted in four assists in Game 4 and a playoff leading 31 points, which is also a Capitals franchise record.

[Why Kuznetsov has been a nightmare to stop during playoffs]

“He’s a pretty dynamic player. He’s one of the best players in the world,” said Wilson. “He finds guys like no one else really does. He has a huge affect on every game.”

As you might expect from a guy who’s always had a “pass first” mentality, he’s more satisfied handing out assists than scoring goals. Whatever helps the teams.

“I can shoot a couple times, but I saw a couple guys were open,” Kuznetsov said about his four-assist night. “I really feel that keeps the goalie a little bit in a tough situation when guy is in a good position, but he’s still looking for the pass.”

His four assists Monday night made him only the fifth NHL player in the last 31 years to do so in a Stanley Cup Final game, and the first since Joe Sakic in 1996. With his 31 playoff points, he’s also only the sixth player since 1996 to reach that mark. His Conn Smythe Trophy resume is looking quite good.

Kuznetsov has grown into a focal point of the offense, having finished in the top three in scoring on the team in each of the past three seasons. The Capitals drafted him in the first-round in 2010, but had to wait until late in the 2013-14 season before he made his NHL debut. He spent those years in the KHL developing into an all-star, winning gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship and IIHF World Championship before finally arriving in North America.

It didn’t take long for Kuznetsov to prove his worth on the Capitals and show that he was really worth the wait. 

“People don’t really know him as well as Ovi and you’re seeing the talent of Kuzy,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. “You’ve seen the greatness of Ovi over the course of his career to this point. I think Kuzy’s just getting better and better. He’s taken a bigger piece of this team. He came year one when I was here and was just learning to play the North American game, how important it was to keep pucks alive. It’s a different game. It’s small space. You have to do that. Over in Europe, it’s a little bit more of a regroup, sort of a soccer mentality, if you will. It’s a little slower pace and he’s learning to adjust. 

“As he’s grown as player in North America, he’s gotten better and he’s taken a bigger piece of our team every year. I think he’s one of the top centermen in the league now.”

Stanley Cup Final schedule
Game 1 Monday, May 28 – Golden Knights 6, Capitals 4
Game 2 Wednesday, May 30 – Capitals 3, Golden Knights 2
Game 3 Saturday, June 2 – Capitals 3, Golden Knights 1
Game 4 Monday, June 4 – Capitals 6, Golden Knights 2 (Capitals lead series 3-1)
Game 5 Thursday, June 7 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 6* Sunday, June 10 – Golden Knights at Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 7* Wednesday, June 13 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
* = If necessary

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.