Dustin Penner

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NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour: Kings clinch West vs. Coyotes in 2012

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(Hockey Happy Hour will be joined in progress following Commissioner Bettman’s announcement on the NHL Return to Play plan.)

This week’s Hockey Happy Hour on NBCSN will feature four notable milestone and record performances.

Dustin Penner’s overtime winning-goal gave the Kings a 4-3 victory to capture the series. With the win, Los Angeles became the first team to ever eliminate the one, two and three seeds en route to the Stanley Cup Final as well as start the postseason with an 8-0 record on the road.

The late, great Dave Strader, Brian Engblom and Darren Pang called Game 5 from Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

Tuesday, May 26 on NBCSN
NHL’s Who Wore It Best? (Episode 2) – 5 p.m. ET
• Kings vs. Coyotes (2012 Western Conference Final, Game 5) – 5:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday, May 27 on NBCSN
#HockeyAtHome: Meet & Greet – 4 p.m. ET
Men in Blazers On Ice – 4:30 p.m. ET
• Flames vs. Avalanche (2019 Western Conference Round 1, Game 3) – 5 p.m. ET

Thursday, May 28 on NBCSN
• Blackhawks vs. Ducks (2015 Western Conference Final, Game 5) – 5 p.m. ET

NHL’S WHO WORE IT BEST? – TUES., 5 P.M. ET
NHL’s Who Wore It Best? will feature hockey writers, broadcasters and insiders debating the best players to wear each jersey number in NHL history. The five-week series will air on NBCSN every Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET. The second episode features NBC Sports’ Keith Jones who takes part in debating the following jersey numbers: 55, 40, 34, 32 and 31.

#HOCKEYATHOME: MEET & GREET – WEDS., 4 P.M. ET
NBC Sports’ Kathryn Tappen co-hosts a 30-minute program that features Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel and Matt Duchene of the Nashville Predators meeting fans and answering their questions virtually during the league’s hiatus.

MEN IN BLAZERS ON ICE – WEDS., 4:30 P.M. ET
Roger Bennett, co-host of “Men in Blazers,” hosts an interview series featuring stars from around the NHL. Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews headline this episode.

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour can be found here.

Brian Burke, Mike O’Connell feud over claims about Joe Thornton trade talks

Burke, O'Connell feud over Thornton trade
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Hockey fans have fond memories of Brian Burke’s feud with Kevin Lowe, and now it seems we have a sequel. Burke and former Bruins GM Mike O’Connell are in a war of words over alleged Joe Thornton trade talks. The biggest winners? Us.

Consider it a very short three act play or … boxing match, maybe more appropriately?

Round 1: Burke recalls trying to bring Thornton to the Ducks, “babysitting” O’Connell

Burke provided refreshingly candid answers to fan questions during an April 2 Twitter Q&A. The thread is worth your time, as Burke discusses the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Phil Kessel, Roberto Luongo, and Gary Bettman.

But it was a two-part bit about Burke trying to bring Thornton to the Ducks that got the ball rolling.

Burke explained that he’s “still bitter” that the Ducks didn’t land Thornton, and believes he offered O’Connell a better deal than the Bruins ultimately received from the Sharks.

Most fascinatingly, Burke even gave specifics about what he was willing to offer. Now, one can speculate about who would have been in the Ducks top five in 2005. Would Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry possibly been available for Thornton?

But either way … wow.

As a reminder, the Bruins ended up receiving Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart for Thornton. As Bruins fans would like to forget, Thornton continued to be a star for the Sharks, including winning the 2005-06 Hart Trophy.

[PHT Time Machine: The Eric Lindros trade that didn’t happen.]

Round 2: O’Connell says Burke’s Thornton claims were a “fabrication”

Things got juicier between O’Connell and Burke on Tuesday.

O’Connell told The Athletic’s Joe McDonald (sub required) that Burke’s hypothetical offer didn’t happen, and that the details were a “fabrication.”

“The details surrounding this story are fabricated and I can confirm that no such offer was made to me as I never informed Anaheim of my intentions to trade Joe Thornton,” O’Connell said. “Unfortunately, certain personalities never let the truth get in the way of their ultimate goal, self-promotion.”

Whew! (Shakes hand to indicate serious heat emanating from this rivalry.)

Round 3: Feud sizzles to a new level as Burke counters

Not to be outdone, Burke responded to O’Connell’s claims in a fiery appearance on ESPN on Ice with Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski. Burke made a key point by noting that current Ducks GM Bob Murray was in Burke’s office when he made the offer(s).

Burke also revived memories of wanting to battle Kevin Lowe in a fabled barn over the Dustin Penner offer sheet, saying “I wish we were in the same room, if you’re calling me a liar.” You really need to hear the entire clip, which Wyshynski posted:

*Ponders putting on oven mitts, this is all too hot to handle*

So obviously, this is a he-said, Burkie-said situation. We can only take each hockey executive’s word for it, and one could even argue that Murray might feel loyal to Burke.

But, considering the specifics of Burke’s claims, it seems feasible that the Ducks made some sort of offer for Thornton.

Theories

Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.

It’s also crucial to realize how much a person’s memory can be altered by time. This happened in 2005, and sometimes the seeds of trades are planted far before a deal is consummated. It’s possible that O’Connell flat-out doesn’t remember Burke’s offer(s).

Not only has time passed, but O’Connell also took a ton of heat for the trade. McDonald notes this anonymous reaction from a Bruins player at the time of the trade:

“Are you kidding me? We traded Joe Thornton for three guys who can’t tie their skates.”

The Bruins fired O’Connell in March of 2006, and the Thornton trade undoubtedly served as a catalyst. Such events can leave you a bit scarred, and maybe even prompt you to forget certain details. Maybe phrasing like “babysitting” bothered O’Connell, even if I took it to mean that Burke was checking up on the situation quite often.

Or maybe O’Connell is right in claiming that Burke is making those Thornton trade claims with the “ultimate goal” of “self-promotion?”

One thing’s clear: this is fun

We can only really guess, and perhaps spend this coronavirus quarantine time imagining “What if?” scenarios. Could Thornton have pushed the Ducks into mini-dynasty status, as this was during their Chris Pronger – Scott Niedermayer era? Would the Bruins have landed blue chips rather than “guys who can’t tie their skates?”

(That’s totally unfair to Primeau, Sturm, and Stuart, as they all had lengthy NHL careers. Though I admit I have not received definitive proof of how adept they are with laces.)

The one thing we do know is that Thornton landed with the Sharks and had a great run. And that O’Connell (currently director of pro development for the Los Angeles Kings) and Burke (Sportsnet personality) probably aren’t best buds.

Hey, it’s a lot more fun than talking about escrow though, right?

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.

UFA Day 3 — The ‘most’ and ‘highest’ players left

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Most points in 2013-14 — David Legwand, who had 51 points (14 G, 37 A) with Detroit and Nashville. Apparently Buffalo and Ottawa may be interested.

Most goals in 2013-14 — Daniel Alfredsson, who had 18 goals for Detroit. At 41 years of age, he may choose to retire.

Most PIMs in 2013-14 — Dan Carcillo, who had 100 PIMs for the Rangers and Kings. He also scored twice for New York in the postseason.

Highest average ice time in 2013-14 — Chris Butler, who logged 20:16 per game on Calgary’s blue line.

Most points by a defenseman in 2013-14 — Andre Benoit, who had 28 points (7 G, 21 A) for Colorado.

Highest Corsi in 2013-14 — Andrei Loktoniov, at 55.1% for Carolina and New Jersey. Was not given a qualifying offer by the ‘Canes after getting hurt at the Worlds.

Highest plus-minus in 2013-14 — Dustin Penner, who was a plus-25 with Washington and Anaheim. Also scored 14 times. And, in a related story, had the highest PDO (105.5), too.

What lies ahead for new Caps GM MacLellan?

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On Monday, the Washington Capitals promoted Brian MacLellan to general manager, inheriting the role of the man he previously assisted — George McPhee, who was dismissed last month after 17 seasons on the job.

Needless to say, MacLellan has a big job in front of him.

The Capitals are coming off a year in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and an offseason in which McPhee and head coach Adam Oates were swiftly shown the door. Former Nashville bench boss Barry Trotz will replace Oates behind the bench — a hire that’s chock full of storylines itself — but for the immediate future, all eyes will be on MacLellan.

On the free agent front, two veteran presences are twisting in the wind: UFA forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Dustin Penner, representing two of McPhee’s last acquisitions on the job. Grabovski sort of fell into Washington’s lap, inking with the club for a reasonable one-year, $3 million deal after getting bought out by Toronto last summer; he had a solid campaign, scoring 35 points in 58 games, but missed a good chunk of the season nursing an ankle injury that limited him down the stretch.

Penner also fell into Washington’s lap — Anaheim appeared to be clearing space for a bigger move that never came to fruition, and moved Penner for a fourth-round pick — but failed to find similar success. The big winger had just three points in 18 games in his first-ever stint in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Penner was allowed to test free agency again.

In goal, MacLellan has more questions than answers as the only two netminders with NHL pedigree are Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. Holtby struggled to hold onto the No. 1 gig last season and while Grubauer has impressed in stints, his resume still only consists of 19 big-league contests. One would think Washington’s in the market for a veteran presence to at least compete for the starting gig, and there are those types available (Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller, most notably.)

At the draft, Washington will select 13th overall, marking just the second time in six years the Caps have picked inside the top-15. It’ll be interesting to see what MacLellan does here — a former pro scout that used to work in the Caps’ player personnel department, he could be keen to select a player at 13…but it’s also possible he’ll look to move the pick in the hopes of acquiring a roster player for a team that, despite last year’s poor performance, is built to win now.

Finally, there’s what MacLellan plans to do with that roster, one he helped construct as McPhee’s right-hand man. Jettisoning players by conventional methods may be tough, as seven core players carry either full or partial no-movement clauses, so it’ll be interesting to see if he uses the club’s remaining compliance buyout (McPhee used one on defenseman Jeff Schultz last year.) Center Brooks Laich, who’s been chronically injured over the last two years, turns 31 in June and still has three years left on his deal at $4.5 million per and is the most likely candidate.

So yes, there’s plenty to be done in Washington. Promises to be a busy summer for the new guy in charge.

Ducks to revisit trading for Kesler?

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Interesting tidbit here from the L.A. Times on Anaheim GM Bob Murray’s plans for the offseason:

Murray said he might revisit his trade-deadline attempt to acquire Vancouver center Ryan Kesler, or pursue other upgrades.

“I don’t think I’ll offer as much as I did at the trade deadline,” Murray said, without naming Kesler. “There’s [other] things I might like to do and I would spend — I’m deep enough in players — to do so.”

Following the deadline, Murray essentially confirmed the club’s interest in Kesler, saying he put both of his first-round selections at the draft in play — which would later turn into the No. 10 and 24 picks overall — and was “confused” as to why he came away empty-handed.

At the time, Anaheim was keen to add to the center group of Ryan Getzlaf, Nick Bonino, Mathieu Perreault, Saku Koivu and Rickard Rakell. With Koivu now uncertain to return, the need to add centers remains — and what’s more, both Murray and Ducks players suggested roster shortcomings cost them this postseason.

“Obviously, we’re missing a little bit of something,” Andrew Cogliano told the Times.

“We’re not as close as everyone thought we were,” Murray added.

Which brings us back to Kesler.

There’s no denying the Ducks were angling for something at the deadline — Murray shipped out Dustin Penner and Viktor Fasth in what appeared to be cap-clearing moves — and, after failing to land the Vancouver center, players spoke openly about the opportunity missed.

“You think about it for sure because you hear the rumors and you hear people talking about it,” Cogliano said on Mar. 31, per the O.C. Register (paywall). “I think you envision a little bit of a scenario if he did come.”

“When you get those kinds of rumors and the opportunities that a guy like Kesler is available, you get pretty excited,” Teemu Selanne added.

The lingering issue here is the value of Murray’s offer. He thinks it’s high — evident by the fact he plans to offer less this summer — whereas the feeling around the league is that two first-round picks (both outside the top five) in a relatively weak draft isn’t enough to land Kesler, a former 40-goal scorer and Selke winner.

Murray will also contend that at the deadline, he was getting Kesler for at least three postseasons (he’s under contract ’til 2016) whereas now he’d only be guaranteed two.

It’s also worth noting that another talented center — Ottawa captain Jason Spezza — is believed to be available via trade, and that Anaheim is reportedly interested.