Crosby, Toews, Weber, Price lead pack in NHL 16’s ratings

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After unveiling the top 10 goaltenders for the upcoming video game NHL 16, EA Sports has done the same for every other position.

As was the case last season, Sidney Crosby has the highest overall rating at 96, but there are some alterations after that. In 2015, Steven Stamkos ranked second overall with a 93 rating and he kept that rating for 2015-16, but he’s been leapfrogged by Jonathan Toews (94), Shea Weber (94), and Carey Price (94).

Pavel Datsyuk (93) and John Tavares (92) round out the top-five among centers. Both Detroit and Pittsburgh have two players in the top-10 with Henrik Zetterberg (92) and Evgeni Malkin (92) securing eighth and sixth place respectively.

As previously established, Weber leads the pack among defensemen and is followed by Duncan Keith (93), Drew Doughty (93), Ryan Suter (93), and Erik Karlsson (91). Nashville is the only team with two defensemen in the top-10 as Roman Josi (90) ranks ninth.

When it comes to right wingers, Corey Perry (92) got the top position, although he’s closely followed by Patrick Kane (92). Vladimir Tarasenko (91), Jakub Voracek (90), and Marian Hossa (90) make up the remainder of the top-five. Phil Kessel, who was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh over the summer, saw his rating slip from 90 in 2014-15 to 89 following a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs.

When it comes to left wingers, it won’t surprise many to learn that Alex Ovechkin secured the top rating at 93. He’s followed by Jamie Benn (92), Taylor Hall (90), Zach Parise (90), and Max Pacioretty (89). The Dallas Stars’ acquisition of Patrick Sharp means that they now have two players in the top-10 as Sharp took the final place on that list with his 89 rating.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe. If you want to see each position’s top-10 list, you can view them here.

Kings, Kopitar ‘not even in the ballpark’ on new contract

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Anze Kopitar is heading into the last year of his deal, and eligible to sign an extension at any time.

Just don’t expect that “any time” to be “anytime soon.”

From LA Kings Insider:

The Kings and Kopitar are are “not even in the ballpark” in their discussions, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi told LA Kings Insider over email when asked whether the two sides were “close” to reaching an agreement.

Kopitar, 28, is making $6.8 million annually on his current deal, which expires next July. Given his status as one of the NHL’s elite centers, it would stand to reason his camp’s initial ask is sky-high; he’s big, he’s strong, he’s won a pair of Stanley Cups, been a Selke finalist two years running, topped 60 points in each of the last two seasons and, for his career, has 60 points in 70 playoff games.

Bottom line? Kopitar is going to get paid.

The question is how much.

One would think the bar’s been set by Chicago’s Jonathan Toews who, starting next year, will pull down $10.5 million annually. Another comparable would be Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, who pulls in $9.5M per season.

The hangup, of course, is that Los Angeles might not have a ton of financial flexibility in the future. Dustin Brown’s deal, a $5.875M cap hit that runs through 2022, gets more onerous by the day and there’s still no clear picture if the termination of Mike Richards’ contract will hold up after the NHLPA’s grievance is heard.

Still, it’s hard — impossible even — to envision a scenario where Kopitar doesn’t get extended. Top-line centers are some of the most coveted entities in the NHL and, in a Western Conference featuring the likes of Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and Tyler Seguin, Kopitar carries immense value.

The real question now, it seems, is if the Kings and Kopitar can avoid the distraction of entering the season without a new deal in place.

Lucic jokes about running through Rask ‘like I did (to) another goalie’

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Milan Lucic won’t get a chance to play against his former teammates in Boston until Feb. 9, but when that game finally happens, it should be a fun one to watch. If Lucic ends up delivering a big hit in that game, it will get plenty of attention.

The question is who would be the player unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of such a blow? In reality, it will be dictated by circumstances, if it happens at all. While the Boston Bruins decided to part ways with Lucic this summer by shipping him to the Los Angeles Kings, he certainly has no ill will towards the Bruins players. In fact, when pressed on TSN 1040 in Vancouver to pick someone he would want to target, he was reluctant to do so.

Finally he offered up his friend, goaltender Tuukka Rask by jokingly saying that he would “maybe run through him like I did (to) another goalie that I ran into before.”

It seems fair to assume that he was referencing his hit on Ryan Miller back in 2011:

Of course, Miller now plays for the Canucks, giving the fact that he brought it up on a Vancouver radio station another dimension. Lucic, who is from Vancouver, is used to being part of the rivalry between the Bruins and Canucks. Now that he’s no longer part of that, his games against his hometown team might have a different feel to them.

You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawks’ biggest question: What happens with Patrick Kane?

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There’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty regarding the future of Patrick Kane.

As it stands today, Kane remains under police investigation for an alleged incident in early August, in which he’s accused of raping a woman at his Buffalo-area home. He hasn’t been charged but, per the Buffalo News, has met with both the Hamburg Police Department and Erie County District Attorney.

Kane also hasn’t spoken publicly or issued a statement since the alleged incident.

That silence, though, hasn’t stopped various entities from cutting ties with the Chicago star. EA Sports dropped him from the cover of the NHL ’16 video game and Kane’s former OHL team, the London Knights, removed his eponymous moniker from its annual training camp routine.

Needless to say, the optics surrounding Kane aren’t good right now.

Which is why the ‘Hawks are facing a difficult set of circumstances less than three weeks out of their own training camp. Publicly, the club has said little about the investigation — “We’re disappointed but hopeful,” club owner Rocky Wirtz said in mid-August, per the Tribune — while the NHL said it was monitoring the situation.

“You can assume we are doing everything we need to be doing from the league’s perspective,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Sun-Times in an email earlier this month.

The situation is filled with unknowns.

It’s unknown if Kane will ever be charged by the Erie County DA and, if he is, when it will happen. It’s unknown if the league will intervene — like it did with the LA Kings during Slava Voynov’s domestic assault incident, suspending the Russian defenseman indefinitely — and it’s unknown if, should Kane be charged, he’d be allowed to continue playing, like Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was after being charged with assault in 2013.

It’s also unknown if Chicago could — or, would — discipline Kane internally, or what role the NHLPA would play in all of this.

Right now, it’s all speculation until the Blackhawks descend on the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 18 for training camp. By then, the picture should be clearer.

Unless, of course, it isn’t.

Wild’s biggest question: Who will step up at center?

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In addition to whether Devan Dubnyk can replicate his 2014-15 season, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Minnesota Wild heading into this season is at center.

According to NHL.com, Wild centers were amongst the least productive in the league last season combining for 49 goals. Captain Mikko Koivu led the way with 14 goals while Mikael Granlund accounted for just eight goals.

In order to improve in this area they’ll need more from Granlund – the 23-year-old, who centered a line with Jason Pominville and Zach Parise last season, will be expected to contribute more offensively.

“I don’t think anybody anticipates Granlund to be an eight-goal, 40-point guy for the rest of his career,” GM Chuck Fletcher said after signing Granlund to a new two-year, $6 million deal in July. “He is going to take off here over the next two years.”

The Wild also believe Charlie Coyle can be a full-time center. Speaking with Mackey and Judd on ESPN radio in Minnesota last week, Mike Yeo said Coyle would start the season at center.

Coyle scored 11 goals and 35 points in 82 games last season.

“You look at a guy like David Backes, for instance, he’s a centerman, he’s pretty much a fulltime centerman right now, but he spent a lot of time bouncing around,” said Yeo. “I like (Coyle’s) improvement at center last year, in particular, in his defensive game, I know he’s a real reliable guy especially to have a big body like that. You can throw him out there against an Anze Kopitar, who is (6-foot-3) and (225-pounds), you know he’s not going to get out-muscled down low. That’s a real valuable thing to have.

“What’s important for him now is if he can take another step offensively playing that position.”

More will also be expected of Erik Haula. The 24-year-old, who signed a two-year extension earlier this month, took a step back last season. Haula scored six goals and 15 points in 46 regular season games during the 2013-14 season. He added four goals and seven points in 13 playoff games.

Last season, Haula managed to score just seven goals and 14 points in 72 games.

“Just because he had a bit of a down year last year, we’re certainly not ready to give up on him because we’ve also seen the flip side,” said Yeo. “We’ve seen what he’s capable of and it’s just a process that these young kids have to go through.”

The Wild also lost Kyle Brodziak in free agency. The 31-year-old was amongst the top-scoring centers in Minnesota last season with nine goals.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Mike Reilly