It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the PHT Face-Off. We’ll break down some of the topics and trends around the NHL for the upcoming week and beyond.
• Will Stanley Cup Champions bring back Pietrangelo?
The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins both have free-agent defensemen that they’d probably like to re-sign before July 1st.
For the Blues, that’s captain Alex Pietrangelo. The 30-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and he’s been a key cog for the defending Stanley Cup Champions. He has 13 goals and 49 points in 65 games this year, which puts him on pace for over 60 points.
The veteran also plays key minutes for the Blues, as he’s currently averaging just over 24 minutes per game. One interesting nugget about Pietrangelo is that he’s capable of playing with different partners throughout the season. He’s played at least 220 minutes with Justin Faulk, Carl Gunnarsson, Colton Parayko and Vince Dunn.
Whether they win the cup again or not, losing Pietrangelo to free agency for nothing would be devastating.
The Blues have almost $74 million committed to next year’s salary cap (assuming the upper limit stays at $81.5 million). They still need to fill out the rest of their roster, so that means they’ll have less than $7.5 million to give their captain to stay. Given the numbers he’s put up over the course of his career, it’ll take more than $7.5 million per year anyway.
General manager Doug Armstrong has an interesting problem on his hands. Last week, he mentioned that negotiations wouldn’t start until after the season. Can he make the numbers work?
• What will the Blackhawks do between the pipes?
The Chicago Blackhawks traded Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights last week, which left Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban, who they got in the trade, on their roster.
Crawford has looked relatively good over the last few weeks. He’s managed to keep the opposition to two goals or fewer in four of his last five outings. It’s arguably the best he’s looked all season.
“He’s been excellent,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said, per NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s been good all year but another level the last month or two, and it’s good for our group.”
The fact that they traded Lehner away doesn’t really affect their long-term question marks between the pipes. Like Lehner, Crawford is scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st. With a good showing down the stretch, Subban could become the team’s backup goaltender on a full-time basis next year, but they still need an undisputed starter heading into 2020-21.
Even if Crawford continues rolling down the stretch, you’d have to think that GM Stan Bowman will look for another proven option outside the organization. Crawford is 35 and he’s struggled to stay healthy over the last few years.
Assuming Capitals netminder Braden Holtby makes it to free agency, could he be a fit with the Blackhawks? Could they bring back Lehner once he hits the market?
Bowman can bring Crawford back as a part-time starter if he wants to, but they can’t go into next season with him as an undisputed starter. It’s way too much of a risk for a Blackhawks team that needs to make the playoffs.
• Can inexperienced goalies keep Hurricanes in playoff hunt?
If the playoffs started today, the Carolina Hurricanes wouldn’t be in them. There’s no denying that the ‘Canes have a talented group, but they’re currently facing some adversity in goal. Both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer are out, and now that the Dave Ayres story has cooled off, they’re left with two inexperienced goalies in Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic.
Carolina is three points behind Columbus for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes have three games in hand though. But they’re coming off a 4-3 OT loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. Forsberg got the start in the game, but he was given the hook after allowing three goals on 20 shots before the midway point of the game. They managed to mount a three-goal comeback after Forsberg got the hook, but still ended up falling short.
Since Ayres won that game against Toronto two Saturdays ago, the ‘Canes have gone 0-2-1 with Forsberg and Nedeljkovic.
Can head coach Rod Brind’Amour get enough out of his goaltenders to sneak his team back into the postseason? That’s the biggest question mark right now.
“They’re very capable goalies,” forward Justin Williams said after the loss to Montreal, per NHL.com. “It could easily have been 4-0, then we’d be out of it. So it was an important point, and we dug in the last half of the game.”
• Konecny is flying
The Philadelphia Flyers have rattled off six wins in a row dating back to Feb. 18. They’ve been so good that Money Puck has given them the best odds of hoisting the Stanley Cup:
The Flyers have jumped ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re now just three points ahead of Washington for the first place. Can they do what most of us thought was unthinkable just a few weeks ago?
There’s many reasons why the Flyers are rolling, but one of the key contributors has been Travis Konecny. During this winning streak, he’s picked up four goals and eight assists. The 22-year-old has 23 goals and 60 points in 62 games this season, which puts him on pace for almost 30 goals and more than 75 points.
Check out these five-on-five numbers (originally tweeted on Feb. 26):
That’s some elite company for Konecny to be in. The scary thing is that he’s probably only going to get better from here.
What’s coming up this week
• Jean-Gabriel Pageau plays Sens for first time since trade to Isles – Thu. Mar. 5, 7 p.m. ET
• Panthers will retire Luongo’s No. 1 – Sat. Mar. 7, 7 p.m. ET
NHL on NBCSN
• Bruins vs. Lightning, Tue. Mar. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET
• Ducks vs. Avalanche, Wed. Mar. 4, 9:30 p.m. ET
• Hurricanes vs. Flyers, Thu. Mar. 5, 7 p.m. ET
• Blues vs. Blackhawks, Sun. Mar. 8, 7:30 p.m. ET
• Avalanche vs. Sharks, Sun. Mar. 8, 10 p.m. ET
Wednesday Night Hockey
• Flyers vs. Capitals, Wed. Mar. 4, 7 p.m. ET
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.