PHT Morning Skate: ‘Gloria’ cease-and-desist; Tallon on the hot seat

5 Comments

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Philly bar where ‘Play Gloria’ began has sent cease-and-desist letters to St. Louis retailers selling merch. (KMOV4)

• Herb Carnegie could have been first black NHL player, according to a letter from the 1940s. (NHL.com)

• Golden Knights offseason will be a failure if they don’t sign Nikita Gusev. (Knights on Ice)

• There’s one thing missing from the Carolina Hurricanes’ otherwise successful summer. (News & Observer)

• If the Panthers don’t get results, it could be Dale Tallon who’s out the door. (The Rat Trick)

• What’s happening in Los Angeles? (Jewels from the Crown)

• What is it going to take to get a deal done with Brock Boeser? (The Hockey News)

• An update on the contract negotiating statuses of Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• The Golden Knights wanted Micheal Ferland. (Sin.Bin Vegas)

Phillip Danault rose to the occasion last season. (Eyes on the Prize)

• Raleigh is ready for outdoor hockey. (Cardiac Cane)

• A look at the comparables for Sam Bennett‘s next contract. (Flames Nation)

• What is wrong with NHL hockey. (Blue Line Station)

Julius Honka could be a worthwhile trade option for Toronto. (Tip of the Tower)

• How close did the Columbus Blue Jackets come to offer sheeting Mitch Marner? (Sportsnet)

Anthony Beauvillier and agent talk contract. (Eyes on Isles)

• His last name includes ‘Stud’ and Jack Studnicka the next great hope for the Bruins at center. (NBC Sports Boston)

• How short-handed icing could lead to more goal scoring. (On the Forecheck)

• A look at the center market still left in free agency. (Two in the Box)

• Kevin Dineen named coach of the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. (Anaheim Ducks)


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

Central Division arms race only intensifying

Getty Images
4 Comments

It’s the National Hockey League’s version of an arms race, a Cold War of sorts.

The developing and cultivating of assets has been rampant in the Central Division over the past few seasons, if not several more before that. Powerhouses have arisen, some likely — Nashville, for instance, and Winnipeg, too, with their drafting.

Others have forged different paths. The St. Louis Blues tricked the world in January when they sat in last place in the NHL, only to hoist the Stanley Cup in the middle of June in one of sports most remarkable comeback stories.

From Manitoba down through Texas, the Central has become and remained hockey’s toughest division, one where aggressiveness in the trade market, in the scouting department and on the draft floor has paid off in dividends for those who have been patient to allow their teams to blossom. And those who have been able to unload and reload, too, have found success.

Four of the past 10 Cup champs have come from the division, and while the Blackhawks have won three of those, others have come close, including the Predators who reached the Cup final in 2017.

The paths have been many, and it’s resulted in a division full of legitimate playoff contenders, if not Stanley Cup ones as well.

It’s a proper standoff.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the Central Division waters, shall we?

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

On the rise

Dallas Stars: They have grown one of the best defenses in the league, command one of the best goalies in the NHL and added a lethal scoring threat in Joe Pavelski this summer, took a cheap and calculated risk on Corey Perry and took a chance on the oft-injured Andrej Sekera.

If the payoff becomes more goals, a rejuvenated leader in Perry and a stout defenseman that Sekera can be, the Stars, who were a goal away from the Western Conference Final this past season, could be a major player in the division.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs have made their intentions clear. After an unlikely second-round appearance in this past year’s playoffs, the Avs have added the fourth-overall pick thanks to offloading Matt Duchene a couple seasons ago to the Ottawa Senators, who were horrible last season. They signed Joonas Donskoi in free agency, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, too, and pried Andre Burakovsky away from the Washington Capitals and Nazem Kadri from the Toronto Maple Leafs in an aggressive start to the offseason.

Colorado already has some of the best offensive weapons in the NHL with Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. It remains to be seen if their defense takes a hit with the loss of Tyson Barrie in the Kadri deal. But a young team got a good taste in the postseason this year and the additions made can only make the team better.

Still strong

Nashville Predators: The trade-off for adding Matt Duchene was shipping out P.K. Subban. It’s a steep price to pay, but one mitigated by having one of the best defensive cores in the NHL even without Subban’s services.

Duchene should add much-needed goal-scoring to the club, including on the power play where the Preds were abysmal last year (12.9%, 31st in the NHL). The Predators still ooze talent, and they’re a tough-as-nails team to play against, Subban or not. They’ll challenge once again for a third-successive division crown.

St. Louis Blues: The Stanley Cup champs found a way to make the best of the sum of their parts. It’s not that they didn’t have skill, but they also didn’t have a bona fide superstar, at least during the regular season.

But a rugged team that bands together seems to be a squad that can find success, despite whatever perceived lackings they have (see: Vegas, 2018). Jordan Binnington remains a question mark only because we need to see him play a full season at (or at least near) the level he produced after getting his first NHL start on Jan. 7. Ryan O'Reilly was exactly what the team needed and if Robby Fabbri can stay healthy, they could get a good shot of talent injected into the roster.

The Unknowns

Winnipeg Jets: Losing Jacob Trouba hurts. How much so remains to be seen, but taking a top-pairing defender off any team is going to expose a gap that can be exploited.

The Jets are going to get younger once again this season, especially on the back end where they’ve lost Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot. Those aren’t losses that will hurt the team nearly as much, but its experience not on the roster anymore. The Jets will have competition for those spots and could still make a move on the back end (perhaps Jake Gardiner if they could make it work) that would improve that situation.

Signing Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor comes first, however. Andrew Copp, too, along with Neal Pionk, part of their return for Trouba. The Jets still need to sort out their second-line center issue. Who plays with Laine is a big question with no answer at the moment. The Jets aren’t the Stanley Cup contender they were two years ago, and they won’t be riding the same hype train they rode coming into the past season. They also won’t be terrible. They’re still a playoff team, but the ceiling is unknown at the moment.

Did they improve?

Chicago Blackhawks: They’ve made some moves, giving Alexander Nylander a second chance while acquiring Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta to make their defense stouter. And they have a quality 1-2 punch in goal now with the addition of Robin Lehner, who is some of the best insurance you can have with Crawford’s injury proneness.

Will Dylan Strome continue to flourish as he did last season when he joined the team? Alex DeBrincat is a very good player and they still have Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Part of their backend is still fossilizing, however. And can Corey Crawford remain healthy? They signed Robin Lehner, so that could take some uncertainty away.

I’m inclined to think Chicago has gotten better and can compete for a playoff spot. I’m just not sure they’re on the same level as the teams above.

The struggle

Minnesota Wild: One wonders where this team is heading. Signing Mats Zuccarello is a good addition and taking a cheap chance on Ryan Hartman isn’t half bad.

But even with that, where is the goal scoring coming from? They traded away Mikael Granlund and Zuccarello has broken the 20-goal barrier just once in his career. Zach Parise isn’t the player he used to be. Eric Staal isn’t getting any younger. Ryan Suter can only play so many minutes a night and Devan Dubnyk took a step down last season, along with the rest of the team.


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

PHT Stanley Cup Tracker: Cup heads east to Ontario

St. Louis Blues
2 Comments

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker will keep tabs on how the St. Louis Blues spend their summer celebrating.

After spending its first week on the road in the Canadian prairies, the Stanley Cup headed east to Ontario over the past week.

On Friday, the Cup headed to Richmond Hill. The city has a population of 208,000 but only one of them recently won a Stanley Cup (and signed a two-year, $8.8 million deal in the past month).

The day was Jordan Binnington‘s in his hometown, which is situated just outside of Toronto.

A timeline of Binnington’s day can be found here.

Some highlights:

  • It began at Grandma’s house.
  • He got the key to the city

  • Grandpa got a drink
  • And then a cool story where Binnington’s biggest fan, Kevin, gave the goaltender a birthday card he had made up and passed along to his mother, who knew someone on the team that could deliver it to him. Unbeknownst to Kevin, his mother had kept the card so he could deliver his favorite goalie himself.

Captain Alex Pietrangelo has the cup today (Sunday, if you’re reading this in the future.)

Get in the hole has a whole new meaning here.

We will update this as they day goes along with more highlight’s from Pietrangelo’s day with the Cup.

Meanwhile, Vince Dunn also got his day and made a pitstop from a hometown parade in Lindsay, Ont., to visit a man in hospital.

Per the team’s website, Lawny Woodcock was diagnosed with colon cancer recently and won’t leave the hospital until next year.

Woodcock took a liking to the Blues after his Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs because of their Canadian contingent.

This week, he got to lift the Cup.

And this needs to explanation:

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker

Week 1: Cup heads to the Canadian prairies


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

NHL Free Agency: Binnington signs two-year, $8.8 million deal

Getty Images
8 Comments

One of the most remarkable stories in all of sport has cashed in on his unlikely season.

The St. Louis Blues handed goaltender Jordan Binnington a two-year, $8.8 million bridge deal late Saturday, locking up the restricted free agent and avoiding arbitration with the man who began the season in the American Hockey League only to lead his team to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history last month.

The deal has a $4.4 million average annual value, $50,000 more than Jake Allen‘s $4.350 million.

“I’m happy to get this deal done with the St. Louis Blues,” said Binnington in a release from the team. “To the city of St. Louis, thank you for welcoming me in and trusting me to do me. I’m excited and motivated to keep doing my job and keep bringing success to the St. Louis Blues organization.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Binnington, 26, will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the deal.

Binnington made his first career started on Jan. 7, posting a 25-save shutout. While it would have easy to blow it off as a flash in the pan, Binnington would go on to produce a 24-5-1 record to close out the year, with an impressive .927 save percentage and five shutouts as a rookie.

“We are pleased to have Jordan signed for two more years,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “His play was outstanding and we look forward to seeing him continue to be a major contributor for our team.”

Binnington’s run lift the Blues from the basement of the NHL, briefly putting them in first place in the Central Division near the end of the season.

While they’d have to settle for third, Binnington and the Blues dispatched the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks to book their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.

They’d go the distance against the Boston Bruins, with Binnington making stopping 32 of 33 pucks sent his way in a 4-1, Stanley Cup-clinching win in Game 7.

Binnington became the first rookie goaltender in NHL history to record 16 wins in a single postseason. Binnington posted a .914 save percentage in 26 playoff appearances.

Binnington finished second in the Calder voting for the league’s top rookie.

Quick analysis: Bridging Binnington makes sense for both sides.

For the Blues, it comes with less risk than signing him long-term. If he turns out to be a flash in the pan and can’t re-create what he did last season, they only have to deal with it for a couple of seasons rather than the next six or seven.

For Binnington, it’s a chance for him to prove he’s the real deal (he sure seems to be) and cash in on a much more lucrative deal at the other end of it. He’ll be a UFA at the end of the deal, and teams will be lining up with truckloads of cash to entice if he only gets better from now until the contract expires.

Allen’s contract will come off the books at the same time, so a hefty raise against will be up for grabs.

It’s a win-win for both sides. Binnginton made just $650,000 last year. That’s a handsome raise for a half seasons’ worth of work.

MORE: Fabbri gets one-year deal from Blues, looks to get career back on track

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

Fabbri gets one-year deal from Blues, looks to get career back on track

Getty
4 Comments

The St. Louis Blues announced on Friday afternoon that they have re-signed restricted free agent forward Robby Fabbri to a one-year contract that will pay him $900,000 during the 2019-20 season. Once Fabbri was given a qualifying offer earlier this summer it was pretty much a given that he was going to be re-signed. The question now becomes whether or not he can get his career back on track after what were three mostly lost seasons.

During the 2016-17 season Fabbri looked as if he was on his way to becoming an excellent player for the Blues. He was a recent first-round pick, still only 21 years old, and was one of the team’s most productive and talented forwards that was building off of a promising rookie campaign.

But in early February of that season he suffered a devastating ACL injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Things got worse for him when he re-injured the same knee the following offseason, forcing him to miss the entire 2017-18 season.

He didn’t return to the Blues lineup until November of this past season after having missed nearly two full years of what should have been prime development years in the NHL. It proved to be a difficult season as he appeared in just 32 games, playing only 12 minutes per night (a three-minute per night drop from his first two years in the league) and scoring just two goals and six total points.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

He added one goal in 10 playoff games for the Blues on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.

Fabbri is a fascinating player for the Blues this season because he is still such a talented player and is still young enough that there should be at least some potential there. He is a year removed from the knee injuries that derailed such a significant part of his career to this point, and prior to the injury was on track to becoming a legitimate second-line scorer. Before the ACL injury in 2017 he was scoring at 20-goal, 50-point pace over 82 games while also posting positive possession numbers. He was a really good player and one of the best ones the Blues had.

With his injuries now in the rear-view mirror and a chance to start the 2019-20 season healthy, he can hopefully get back to that level for the Blues.

With Fabbri now signed the Blues still have to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, defender Joel Edmundson, and starting goalie Jordan Binnington.

Sundqvist, Edmundson, and Binnington all filed for salary arbitration, with Binnington’s being one of the most fascinating cases on the schedule.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.