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Salary-cap increase makes for ‘more fun’ NHL offseason

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Thanks, Vegas.

The Stanley Cup Final run of the expansion Golden Knights contributed to what is expected to be a healthy increase for the salary cap, giving NHL teams more freedom to make deals. With elite center John Tavares, top defenseman John Carlson and a strong group of free agents available soon, the ceiling for player spending will rise to between $78 and $82 million from $75 million.

”The higher the better,” said Brian MacLellan, whose Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. ”It makes it a lot more fun.”

Gentlemen, open your wallets – players like Tavares, Carlson and forwards James van Riemsdyk and Paul Stastny won’t come cheap.

With GMs meeting Thursday in Dallas ahead of this weekend’s draft, trade talk is percolating before free agency opens July 1. Ottawa has already traded winger Mike Hoffman, and Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly, Pittsburgh forward Phil Kessel, Montreal captain Max Pacioretty and Washington backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer could all be on the move.

Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson is the star who will go to the highest bidder if the Senators are willing to trade the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman with one year remaining on his contract. GM Pierre Dorion seemed to be in a tough spot after it was revealed last week that Karlsson’s wife had filed an order of protection against Hoffman’s girlfriend, Monika Caryk, alleging harassment and bullying. He solved that issue by acquiring Mikkel Boedker from the San Jose Sharks for Hoffman in the first major trade of the offseason.

San Jose flipped Hoffman to Florida soon thereafter, freeing up salary-cap space to pursue Tavares or Russian standout Ilya Kovalchuk. The Panthers got a 20-goal scorer in Hoffman, who’s just 28.

More immediate decisions await the Islanders and Capitals. New York could make a move to re-sign Tavares before he can begin speaking with other teams on Monday, and recently hired president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello has to hire a new coach.

The Islanders might’ve gotten a fortunate bounce when Barry Trotz resigned from his job with Washington less than two weeks after lifting the Cup. Re-signing Tavares and hiring a replacement for fired coach Doug Weight go hand-in-hand.

If it doesn’t work out and Tavares hits the open market, a contract with an annual salary approaching Connor McDavid‘s $12.5 million isn’t out of the question. Nashville GM David Poile said cap situations put five or six teams in position for top-end free agents – and knock about half the league out of the running.

”We all have different commitments already of contracts,” Poile said. ”Some teams have a lot of room. Some teams don’t have very much room.”

Big-revenue teams with money to spend include the retooling New York Rangers and the rising Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers are among several teams linked to Kovalchuk, the 35-year-old winger who’s looking to return to the NHL after five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who won an Olympic gold medal with Kovalchuk, is back in the U.S. and could be on the way to returning. Voynov was convicted of domestic abuse and is suspended indefinitely by the NHL, which makes it unclear how a team will pave the way for him to play.

”Right now he’s a suspended player, and until anything changes there, I don’t think we’re in a position to comment any further,” Kings GM Rob Blake said. ”A lot of this has to take place between him, his agent and the National Hockey League.”

Dozens of current free agents don’t know where they’ll be playing next season. Beyond Tavares, Carlson is the most in-demand pending free agent after leading all defensemen in regular-season and playoff points.

Carlson plans to have his day with the Stanley Cup in Washington, but because of the uncertainty of the offseason, there’s no guarantee he’ll be there this fall.

”We’ll see what happens,” Carlson said. ”I love it here and all that, I want to stay here, but there’s more to it than that.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Barry Trotz is having too much fun, not thinking about future

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Barry Trotz doesn’t want to make any rash decisions.

And so while the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup-winning head coach was once again pressed about his future with the organization on Saturday, he let reporters probing his contract status (he doesn’t have one for the upcoming season) know that he was still in no shape to speak about the subject.

Per the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan:

“I’m not in any state to talk. I always talked about having really good clarity and calm and all that. I don’t have a lot of clarity right now. That’s self-inflicted.”

Proper hydrating became a bit of a running theme with Trotz during their Stanley Cup run, often telling anyone who would listen to avoid dehydration.

But it sounds like Trotz has been hydrating with more than just water since he led his team to the Cup on Thursday. Apparently, he might be partying just as hard as Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals.

You can’t blame him, of course. It took the man 20 years to win the big one, so he’s going to soak it all in. And there’s lots of time for him and the Caps to consider his future if Trotz wants to keep on keeping on.

There’s a lot of work for the Capitals to do this summer if they want to take a run and a second straight title. Bringing Trotz back would be a wise first step.


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

Pittsburgh funeral home celebrates Flyers’ playoff exit with custom prayer cards

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Any time one of the Battle of Pennsylvania participants can get one up on the other, they celebrate having bragging rights loudly and proudly.

The Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in six games in their first-round matchup and as you can imagine, the Steel City faithful have been enjoying it. On top of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, they’ve also been able to relish winning three of the last four series that these teams have played.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Adding to the chorus of chirps is the Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home and Crematory in East Pittsburgh, who said goodbye to the dearly departed Flyers in their own unique way with prayer cards.

Via Facebook:

Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home & Crematory

“Help us send our condolences to the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans, with these custom prayer cards memorializing their run in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Share for all of our friends in Philly!” read the caption of their Facebook post.

The Flyers have lost six times in the Stanley Cup Final since winning back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975. The Penguins, meanwhile, have won five championships in six Final appearances since 1991, something that’s certainly never been lost on the city in their battles with Philadelphia over the years.

Now Flyers fans can root for their second favorite hockey team: “Anyone playing the Penguins.”

Stick-tap Benstonium

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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.

Humboldt Broncos fundraising campaign ends with $15 million raised

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Almost two weeks after the tragic bus crash that took the lives of 16 players and staff of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, the GoFundMe campaign to help the families of the victims and those who survived has ended after raising over $15 million.

Sylvie Kellington, a Humboldt resident whose son played for the Broncos Bantam A team this season, started the fundraiser the night of the April 6 bus crash. Through word of mouth and the power of social media, support for the team spread and reached people all over the world. Eventually, the goal hit $4 million, but that was quickly surpassed and the total money donated skyrocketed.

The campaign ended Wednesday night with $15,185,700 raised from over 142,000 donations.

“We are all blown away,” Kellington told the Toronto Sun Wednesday. “I keep getting kudos for starting this page. I just want it to be clear that the people who opened their hearts with their generosity are the ones who made it successful. We are moving along one day at a time, one moment at a time. I think the outpour of support our community has received this past week is helping us and will continue to help everyone heal.”

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Earlier this week, Broncos’ President Kevin Garinger shared the next steps in the process:

The funds donated through the GoFundMe campaign will be transferred to a newly created non-profit corporation known as “Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc.” to be allocated for their intended purpose.

An advisory committee is being established to make a recommendation for the allocation of these funds, which will be held in trust until that allocation occurs. Once we have formalized the composition of this committee, we will provide you with an update.

Since the accident, support has poured in for the Broncos. Teams from various leagues, including the NHL, held moments of silence in the days following the crash and made donations to the Broncos’ fund. Driver D.J. Kennington put the Broncos’ logo on his hood for a race at Bristol and will now auction it off for the team. #PutYourStickOut, an idea from a friend of TSN broadcaster Brian Munz, went viral with current and former hockey players ranging from youth to professional taking part.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League resumed play eight days after the crash after a unanimous decision by the board. The Broncos were on their way to Nipawin, Saskatchewan for Game 5 of their series when the crash occurred. The league decided in the aftermath of the accident that Nipawin would play the best-of-seven Canalta Cup Final against the Estevan Bruins. The series is currently tied 2-2 with Game 5 Friday night.

“It really is (theraputic),” said Nipawin captain Carter Doerksen. “It’s getting back to hockey and doing what we love. That’s how we deal with things.”

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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.

GoFundMe campaign for Humboldt Broncos surpasses $2 million

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There are now 15 people dead following a bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos, a Saskatchewan junior hockey team, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Saturday.

The bus, which was carrying 29 players and coaches, along with the driver, was hit by a semi-trailer as the team was on its way to Nipawin for a playoff game Friday night. Fourteen people were injured.

Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz, 20, Adam Herold, 16, Jaxon Joseph, 20,  and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

“Our thoughts are with the players, families, coaches, team management and all those throughout the community who have been affected by the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “The NHL mourns the passing of those who perished and offers strength and comfort to those injured while traveling to play and be part of a game they all love.”

Via the CBC:

Speaking at the news conference on Saturday, RCMP Saskatchewan Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki revealed new details about the crash and the investigation.

He said the male driver of the semi-trailer was not injured and, although he was detained temporarily after the collision, he has now been released.

Zablocki said it was too early to comment on the cause of the collision, but he confirmed the semi-trailer was travelling westbound on Highway 335 when it collided with the bus travelling northbound on Highway 35.

The tragedy hit close to home for many around the hockey world.

“All the best stories are told on the busses, in the locker rooms, in the private areas where it’s just them. It’s contained,” said Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “It’s where the friendships are born, the anticipation builds, the quietness of a bus after a tough loss — all things that you go through when you’re playing a sport. It’s so much a part of sporting life, hockey life, especially at that age. To have it end like that, to have it be a part of all of the survivor’s lives now, it’s just an incredibly difficult thing.”

“It’s huge. You look at all the small towns across Saskatchewan, everyone knows everybody, everyone comes to the games. You look at the support the community has to make sure those teams survive. You’re impacted by some of those victims, whether you billeted them, served them at the restaurants, coached them. Everything is so interconnected there. It’s crazy. It’s a huge loss to the community,” said Jets forward Adam Lowry, an alum of the Swift Current Broncos, who lost four players in a 1986 bus crash, including Brent Ruff, brother of long-time NHL head coach Lindy Ruff.

Moments of silence were held around NHL rinks on Saturday night, including in Winnipeg where players from the Jets and Chicago Blackhawks gathered at center ice while wearing jerseys with BRONCOS on the backs.

Sylvie Kellington, a resident of Humboldt, started a GoFundMe page on Friday night to support the families of the victims and the players and staff who were injured as a result of the crash. Support quickly poured in and as of Saturday night there has been close to $3 million given, which includes donations from the Blackhawks, Jets, Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens, among others.

With files from Scott Billeck and the AP

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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.