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Copley latest young, promising goalie to sign team-friendly deal

It’s been a subtle but important trend in the NHL over the last year — highly-rated, young backup goalies signing very team-friendly deals on clubs that are (or will be) up against the salary cap.

The latest came on Monday when Washington Capitals backup Pheonix Copley inked a new three-year pact with the club to the tune of $1.1 million annual average value.

He became another promising netminder that a team signed a ‘smart deal’ in recent months.

Here’s the list:

Copley has proved he is on the right track as a full-time NHL backup this season. His .903 save percentage in all situations isn’t pretty, sure. But consider his five-on-five is sitting at .921, a very respectable number on a team that leads the league in minor penalties taken this season and has taken a nosedive as of late.

DeSmith, by comparison, is a .925 and Saros is just behind and a .924 in 5v5 situations. All three are in the Top 30 among goalies in goals saved above average, too, with each of them on the positive side of that category.

All three are backups with good-to-great upside and are signed to deals that aren’t forcing the team to choose between them and another roster player.

Copley and Saros project to be future signings, with Saros is the heir to Pekka Rinne’s’ throne and Copley the competent backup behind Ilya Samsonov if the Capitals decide to move from Braden Holtby after next season, or an asset down the line if Holtby re-ups. DeSmith is an excellent insurance policy for the oft-injured Matt Murray in Pittsburgh, having already proved his worth in that role this season.

You can throw another guy like Minnesota Wild puck-stopper Alex Stalock into this mix, too, after he signed late last month.

It’s a trend that could catch on elsewhere, as well.

The Winnipeg Jets would likely love to sign Laurent Brossoit to similar terms, for example. He’s having a stellar season in Winnipeg after escaping from Edmonton.

Los Angeles has decisions to make with Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen, both who have shown promise this season filling in for Jonathan Quick.

And then there’s the not-so-distant aspect of this: they represent expansion draft protection, allowing these teams to expose the mandatory one goalie without having to expose the team’s No. 1 (Saros will be the exception here).

The risk with these deals is low. We’ve already seen high-risk this year, with the Oilers shelling out $13.5 million for Mikko Koskinen, who has similar numbers to Copley but is three years his senior. It’s the above contracts that make that Koskinen extension so perplexing.


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

Saros sets career high with 47 saves as Predators stave off Golden Knights

Associated Press

Try as a team might, sometimes the hot goalie at the other end is just too strong on a given night.

Juuse Saros was that hot goalie, and he stifled the Vegas Golden Knights at nearly every juncture in a 2-1 win for the Nashville Predators on Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN.

Saros made a career-high 47 saves in place of Pekka Rinne, who was given the night off on the last day of hockey before the all-star break. And he was certainly up to the task, stopping 37 straight after allowing his only blemish on the night in the first period.

Ryan Johansen‘s ninth of the season came just 52 seconds into the second period to cancel out Max Pacioretty‘s first-period goal. Johansen returned to the fold on Wednesday after serving a two-game ban for trying to decapitate Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele last week.

Nick Bonino fired home the game-winner past Marc-Andre Fleury 3:01 later. Fleury, to his credit, was his usual self, stopping 25 shots. The run support just never came, despite all of Vegas’ best efforts.

Saros has been on a roll lately, winning four of his past five starts. His season didn’t start the way he would have liked and came into the game with a .908 save percentage. But after Wednesday’s performance, he’ll leave Vegas with a .914.

With the loss, the Golden Knights will have to wait to become the first team in NHL history to reach 30 wins in its first two seasons of existence. Vegas has lost two in a row.

For Nashville, the win puts them level on points (64) with the Jets for the top spot in the Central Division, although the Jets have four games in hand and are currently on their mandated player break. Nashville has won two straight and six of their past 10.

Meanwhile, there was an alleged chomp on the finger(s) of P.K. Subban during the second period. You can read more by clicking the link there, but the quick summary is that Subban accused Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of taking a bite after one of Saros’ saves right at the end of the period. Subban had his hand in Bellemare’s face, and there was no clear angle of the bite, but Subban’s reaction certainly made it seem like something happened.


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

Sabres’ prospect Sam Reinhart scores twice in Canada’s win over Finland

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Sam Reinhart scored twice and Max Domi added a pair of assists as Canada defeated Finland 4-1 at the world junior championship Monday night.

Reinhart, Buffalo’s 2014 first round pick, scored the eventual game winner at 13:34 of the second period giving the Canadians a 2-0 lead.

The 19-year-old opened the scoring at 5:32 of the first period putting home his own rebound.

Finnish captain, and Montreal Canadiens prospect, Artturi Lehkonen had the lone goal for Finland.

Zach Fucale, Montreal’s second round pick from the 2013 draft, made 27 saves for the win.

Per TSN’s Mark Masters, Fucale along with teammate Eric Comrie, a Jets’ prospect, combined for a shutout streak of 158 minutes and 26 seconds passing Jake Allen and Martin Jones’ mark set during the 2010 tournament.

Nashville Predators’ 2013 fourth rounder Juuse Saros made 32 saves in the loss.

Canadian captain, and Ottawa Senators prospect, Curtis Lazar along with Rangers’ prospect Anthony Duclair had Canada’s other goals.

Canada will look to remain perfect and lockup top spot in Group A when they face the U.S. on Dec. 31st while Finland (0-2-1), who won gold at last year’s tournament, will look for its’ first win when they play Germany on Wednesday.

World Juniors: Finland beats Sweden 3-2 in overtime to win gold

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Rasmus Ristolainen’s golden goal in overtime gave Finland a 3-2 victory against rival Sweden and their first World Junior Championships gold medal since 1998.

Ristolainen, a 2013 Buffalo Sabres first-round pick, pinched in deep to deke and beat Swedish goalie, and Blue Jackets prospect, Oscar Dansk for the game-winner. Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen assisted on all three Finnish goals.

Here’s video of the game-winner. Enjoy the Finnish call of the game.

Celebrating victory gets weird when you’re in Sweden though as Ristolainen shows in this GIF courtesy of CJZero.

source:

Pippi Longstocking wigs are so in, you guys. It’s a Swedish thing so that’s just super.

It turned out to be a good tournament for fans of the Sabres and Nashville Predators. Swedish forward Filip Forsberg was named MVP of the tournament as well as Best Forward and was one of the tourney’s all-stars up front. Teravainen and Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha were also named to the all-star team.

Ristolainen won the award for Best Defenseman and he along with Russian defenseman Nikita Zadorov were named to the tournament’s all-star team as was Finnish goalie and Predators prospect Juuse Saros.

Next year’s tournament moves to Canada where it’ll be held in Toronto and Montreal. With Canada not winning a medal the past two years and not having won gold in five years, the pressure will be on.