Martin St. Louis

Nikita Kucherov somehow already has 71 points

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Even in the stunningly score-happy 2018-19 season, 71 points would be fantastic work for, you know, mere mortals.

After generating a goal and an assist in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, Nikita Kucherov already has that many points in just 43 games. Yeah.

Along with getting a primary assist on a Brayden Point goal, Kucherov connected for his 21st goal of the season with this tally:

To give some mind-boggling perspective, consider this: on Jan. 8, 2018, Kucherov topped all NHL scorers with 59 points in 42 games, seven points more than anyone else at that time. The slacker.

Kucherov isn’t just leading the NHL with those 71 points; he’s also rubbing elbows with some of the game’s greats. The league pointed out some staggering stats:

  • Kucherov is the first player to reach 70+ points in 43 games since Jaromir Jagr hit that mark in 38 contests, way back in 1999-2000. Former Lightning great Martin St. Louis managed to hit 70 in 53 contests back in 2006-07, which was the best pace between Jagr’s feat and Kucherov doing so on Tuesday.
  • His playmaking has been especially prolific. The NHL notes that Kucherov is the 10th player to generate at least 50 assists in 43 games. The most recent time that happened came from a scary 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins group of Jagr, Mario Lemieux, and Ron Francis. No big deal.

Kucherov’s 71 points in 43 games translates to about a 1.65-point-per-game pace. If he maintained that blistering productivity, Kucherov would author an absurd 135 point season. The 2017-18 campaign represents his career-high so far in the NHL, as he generated 100 points in 80 games.

Pretty zany stuff. For a deeper dive on Kucherov’s torrid last few months, check out this recent post from PHT’s Adam Gretz.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Now-retired St. Louis says teams were interested: ‘Do I think I can still play? Yeah’

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It was just two days into free agency when Martin St. Louis announced his retirement from professional hockey — and it turns out there were some suitors for his services during that 48-hour window.

“I knew there were teams interested,” St. Louis said on Monday, while meeting the media to formally call it a career. “I can sit here and be proud that my last year I scored 21 goals and the year before I scored 30, so do I think I can still play? Yeah.

“But it’s time to move on and do something else.”

It’s unclear which teams were interested in the 40-year-old Rangers winger, but it’s easy to see why some would be. Despite a “down” campaign offensively, St. Louis still scored more goals than Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Marleau and Bobby Ryan; it’s also possible a team would’ve looked to him as a mentor for some of its younger prospects, especially given St. Louis’ renowned physical fitness (I mean come on, look at those trunks.)

Geography, though, probably limited potential suitors, as part of St. Louis’ earlier move from Tampa Bay to New York was so he could be closer to his family. In fact, spending more time with his wife and children was something he referenced in explaining his decision to walk away from the game.

“My whole family has been so supportive of me and it’s been all about me a lot,” St. Louis said. “Now it’s time for it to be about someone other than me. My wife will be happy to have another full-time parent alongside her.

“The focus is on my kids, and I am excited about that.”

Related: Curtains on Broadway: Martin St. Louis calls it a career

Etem, acquired in Hagelin trade, signs one-year, $850,500 deal with Rangers

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The New York Rangers have locked in the key piece acquired in the Carl Hagelin-to-Anaheim trade — on Tuesday, the club signed Emerson Etem to a one-year deal worth $850,500, per the New York Post.

Etem, 23, is a former first-round pick (29th overall, 2010) that never seemed to fit in Anaheim. Despite lightning-quick skating ability and a nice skill set, the California native never played more than 45 games in a single season for the Ducks, and never scored more than 11 points. He did show some flashes this postseason, however, scoring three goals in 12 games for Anaheim, including this beauty against Winnipeg in the opening round:

In New York, Etem will get a fresh start — something Ducks GM Bob Murray said the youngster might need at this stage of his career — and should get a decent shot at minutes on a Rangers team that’s been thinned out up front. Hagelin is gone, Martin St. Louis retired and UFA James Sheppard remains unsigned.

The Rangers did bring in speedy ex-Preds forward Viktor Stalberg, however, and that could cut into Etem’s opportunity.

PHT Morning Skate: Columnist says Kings should part with Voynov

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times believes that the Kings should either trade Slava Voynov or terminate his contract, regardless of how everything ultimately shakes out with the league and law enforcement. (Los Angeles Times)

Speaking of departing Kings, The Royal Half bids Justin Williams a fond farewell. (The Royal Half)

Paul Martin’s heartfelt goodbye letter to the Pittsburgh Penguins (and fans) is a great read. It also might leave you yelling “Spumoni!” the next time you see Martin hemmed in his own zone. (Players’ Tribune)

How much better is Edmonton’s defense, really? (Oilers Nation)

Looking back at Martin St. Louis’ career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Steve Dangle views Phil Kessel’s time in Toronto as “an era wasted.” (Warning: you might want to turn your volume down before watching this.)

Speaking of Kessel, ouch:

Curtains on Broadway: Martin St. Louis calls it a career

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One of the greatest diminutive players in NHL history is walking away.

Martin St. Louis, the 2004 Hart Trophy winner as league MVP, announced his retirement on Thursday after 16 seasons.

“I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride,” St. Louis, 40, said in a statement.  “I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years.

“I could have never played for so long or accomplished all that I have without the unwavering love and support from my wife, Heather, our three sons, Ryan, Lucas, and Mason, and my parents.”

Undrafted out of the University of Vermont, St. Louis bounced around the IHL and AHL before making his NHL debut with Calgary during the ’98-99 campaign. He wouldn’t become a star, though, until the Flames cut him loose and he signed on in Tampa Bay.

During his 13 years with the Lightning, St. Louis emerged as one of the best and most iconic players in franchise history, cementing himself in Bolts lore during the 2003-04 campaign. That year, he led the team to its first and only Stanley Cup, topped the NHL in points (94) and took home a bounty of hardware by winning the Hart, Art Ross and Lester B. Pearson trophies.

Though his divorce from Tampa Bay was messy — he demanded a trade at the ’14 deadline, and was acrimoniously shipped off to the Rangers — St. Louis carved himself a new chapter in New York, helping the Blueshirts advance to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with the team.

This year, he and the Rangers made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final before losing to his old Lightning mates.

All told, St. Louis was named to seven All-Star Games, earning All-NHL Second Team honors four times and All-NHL First Team honors once. His 1,033 career points are 70th all-time in league history.

“I have had the good fortune of working with some incredible players and trainers throughout my career who I am grateful to also call good friends,” St. Louis said. “I am also thankful to all of the fans who have supported me through the years; it has meant so much to me. I have dedicated my life to being the best player I could be and now want to turn more of my focus to my three boys.

“I look forward to this next chapter of my life and the time I will have with my family.”