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Under pressure: Tyler Toffoli

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This post is part of Kings Day on PHT…

Tyler Toffoli‘s place in his NHL career right now can be illustrated by his recently signed three-year, $13.8 million contract: He’s already established, but still has something to prove before he can land a big long-term deal.

Toffoli set career-highs in 2015-16 with 31 goals and 58 points in 82 contests, but he took a step back offensively last season and missed some time due to a lower-body injury. Of course he was far from the only Kings player to have a disappointing 2016-17 campaign as the team at large can’t be happy with how last season went, but Toffoli is also part of their future.

The Kings are hoping that Marian Gaborik, for example, can stay healthy and become the player he once was, but at the age of 35, their hopes for Gaborik are largely in the short-term and what’s at stake there is avoiding a potential contract buyout down the road. By contrast Toffoli is just 25-years-old and consequently could be one of the pillars this team is rebuilt on.

It does help that his strong 2015-16 campaign isn’t the only bright point on his resume. While that was Toffoli at his best thus far, he also did well in the 2014 playoffs when the Kings most recently captured the Stanley Cup and he followed that up with a 49-point 2014-15 season.

It’s also worth noting that even though his production took a dip last season, Toffoli did look more encouraging when considering his puck possession numbers. He had a 56.9% Corsi and 56.5% Fenwick at even strength, which were favorable when compared to the Kings at large. Agent Pat Brisson also suggested that Toffoli played a large chunk of the season hurt.

“He missed 21 games, and I would say, honestly, I think he played probably another 20 on one leg,” Brisson said, per LA Kings Insider.

Toffoli underwent knee surgery after the season, but should be ready for training camp.

So there are reasons to believe that it was 2016-17 that was the anomaly and that Toffoli should bounce back this season, but the burden is still on him to prove that by delivering in 2017-18.

Unsigned Upshall remains focused on staying in NHL

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Scottie Upshall, 33, is still unsigned with just weeks left before training camp, but he isn’t giving up on the prospect of playing in the NHL next season.

“There’s a hunger with staying in the NHL and winning a Stanley Cup, helping a team get to the next level. I’ve done that my whole career,” Upshall said, per the Toronto Sun.

He didn’t sign in 2015 until after joining St. Louis for training camp on a tryout basis, so it wouldn’t be surprising to find that he’s unfazed by the fact that he still hasn’t landed a contract for 2017-18. He added that there’s been some talks lately with NHL clubs, so perhaps an agreement will soon follow.

There’s also the possibility of playing in Europe as he’s gotten some “pretty good offers” on that front. That’s always been the alternative, but because of the NHL’s decision not to participate in the Olympics, this season signing with a European club would come with the added bonus of potentially representing Team Canada.

Assuming that he does stay in the NHL anyways, the team that inks him will be getting a defensive forward with 696 games worth of experience under his belt. He had 10 goals and 18 points in 73 games while averaging 10:59 minutes with St. Louis last season.

Looking to make the leap: Pierre-Luc Dubois

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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

Columbus surprised people when they took Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi with the third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Now Dubois is tasked with showing that they made the right call.

While Puljujarvi did get his first taste of the NHL last season with Edmonton, Dubois spent the full campaign in the QMJHL. However, Dubois is entering training camp with a real shot of landing a job with Columbus.

His versatility should work in his favor throughout his battle for a roster spot. Dubois is capable of serving as a winger or center and while he’s offensively gifted, he’s also a physical force.

It doesn’t hurt that he took his additional season at the junior level as a learning experience. He was able to play a full campaign at center and work on his positioning. He was also dealt from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada during the season, which gave him the benefit of experiencing a different system.

“It was a little more of a defensive (style),” Dubois said of Blainville-Boisbriand’s system, per NHL.com. “That’s how we won our games, by scores of 2-1. It was a more pro-style game. I learned a lot from that.”

All that being said, he still has an uphill battle ahead of him. There’s a potential opening for him, but it’s not a given that he’ll secure that job and even if he does get a chance with Columbus, he’ll have to work hard to make his stint with them be more than just a nine-game trial.

The 19-year-old can’t play in the AHL yet either, so if he doesn’t find a role with the Blue Jackets then he’ll have to play in the QMJHL again. By contrast, Puljujarvi was able to be sent to the AHL last season and if he doesn’t play for Edmonton in 207-18 then he’ll at least be able to get ice time against men in the minors.

When PHT asked the question last year if the Blue Jackets were right in selecting Dubois over Puljujarvi roughly two-thirds of voters said no. Perhaps Dubois will be able to change some minds this season.

Related: Getting sent to junior made Blue Jackets prospect Dubois a ‘more mature’ player

Callahan (hip) will be fine for start of training camp

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Ryan Callahan could only play in 18 games last season and underwent two hip surgeries, but perhaps 2017-18 will be different. The news is certainly good so far.

“I’m full go, right from Day One,” Callahan told the NHL.com. “It’s going to be nice to be able to do a hard training camp this year.”

His statement was reinforced by the fact that he participated in the first day of voluntary workouts on Monday.

Tampa Bay signed him to a six-year, $34.8 million contract in the summer of 2014 and while he was great for the first year of the deal, he declined in 2015-16 and then of course barely played last season. That’s led to concerns that the 32-year-old’s contract might prove to be disastrous in its back half.

“I know there’s chatter and people doubt me — if I can come back and what I’ll be like when I come back,” Callahan said. “I’ve always tried to use it as motivation. That’s how they propelled me to the place I am right now in my career. I’m looking at this the same way. I’m excited to get going this year. I think it’s going to be one of the best years I’ve ever had.”

Tampa Bay could certainly use the help. The Lightning fell short of the playoffs last season, but also missed Steven Stamkos for much of the campaign as well as Callahan. If those two stay healthy and if Callahan bounces back then Tampa Bay could be one of the major contenders in 2017-18.

Report: Flames might have interest in Jagr

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We’re mere weeks away from the start of training camp, but Jaromir Jagr remains unsigned. Even at the age of 45 he can still contribute as he did last season with Florida, but is there a team out there that ultimately will pay the future Hall of Famer to extend his NHL career?

That remains to be seen, but it sounds like there is some interest out there for his services.

“I know some teams that have kind of talked and taken a look at it,” said Elliotte Friedman on the NHL Network (H/T to FanRag Sports). “I think Calgary has been one that has kind of looked at it. One of his former coaches, Glen Gulutzan, is coaching up there.”

Friedman also heard teams suggesting that Anaheim might be interested in Jagr, but based on his own investigation that doesn’t appear to be the case. Ultimately Jagr might end up starting the season in the Czech Republic and would have the option of playing in the Olympics if that happens, but even if he does begin the year in Europe, he could still re-sign with an NHL squad later on in the 2017-18 campaign.

Jagr is the second all-time player in terms of total points and third in goals behind Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. If he did play another season, the main statistical achievement that he could chase would be fourth place on the assists list as he’s 20 behind Ray Bourque.

He finished the 2016-17 campaign with 16 goals and 46 points in 82 contests.

Related: The case for Hurricanes signing Jaromir Jagr