Avalanche

Avalanche exposes Calvin Pickard to expansion Vegas Golden Knights
In advance of Wednesday’s NHL expansion draft in Las Vegas, the league announced each team’s protected list Sunday morning. The Avalanche protected 11 players, including goalie Semyon Varlamov, and left the likes of goalie Calvin Pickard, forward Mikhail Grigorenko and defenseman Mark Barbario available to the Vegas Golden Knights. Each team will lose one player to the Knights. In alphabetical order according to position, the Avs protected forwards Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabe Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Nieto; defensemen Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov; and Varlamov in net. Varlamov, who was traded from Washington to Colorado in 2011 by Vegas general manager George McPhee, the former Capitals’ GM, is coming off two surgeries to his groin/hip area and his save percentage has declined the past three seasons, going from .921 to .914 to .898. He is under contract for the next two seasons, at a $5.9 million cap hit. Related ArticlesJune 15, 2017 NHL announces draft order; Avalanche has seven selections June 15, 2017 Paul Stastny, Kelly Cup to appear at Dawg Bowl VII hockey fundraising event June 15, 2017 Avalanche removes Francois Beauchemin from roster with buyout June 14, 2017 Colorado Eagles in discussions to become the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate June 13, 2017 Avalanche not identifying players protected from NHL expansion draft Protecting Varlamov, 29, over Pickard, 25, could be simply a show of support for the veteran goalie, because it is believed McPhee has no interest in working with the Russian for another time in a different city. Pickard isn’t considered a bona fide NHL starting goalie, but a highly serviceable backup and outstanding teammate. The Golden Knights also are expected to select goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury is under contract at $5.75 million over the next two seasons, and that’s another reason why Vegas won’t consider Varlamov. It is highly doubtful the Knights would choose two goalies with a combined cap hit of nearly $12 million through 2018-19. First- and second-year players and unsigned prospects are exempt from the expansion draft. So up-and-coming Avs players Mikko Rantanen, Tyson Jost and Andrei Mironov, among others, are not in Wednesday’s picture. Here’s a complete list of Colorado’s unprotected players: forwards Troy Bourke, Gabriel Bourque, Rene Bourque, Joe Colborne, Turner Elson, Felix Girard, Grigorenko, Samuel Henley, John Mitchell, Jim O’Brien, Brendan Ranford, Mike Sislo, Carl Soderberg; defensemen Barberio, Mat Clark, Eric Gelinas, Cody Goloubef, Duncan Siemens, Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wiercioch, Joe Cannata; goalies Pickard, Jeremy Smith. [...]
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NHL salary cap set at $75 million for 2017-18 season
NEW YORK — The NHL salary cap has been set at $75 million for this season in a slight increase over last year. The league and NHL Players’ Association announced the cap and the salary floor of $55.4 million in a joint statement Sunday. The figures are set by the league’s hockey-related revenue. It’s an increase of $2 million from the $73 million cap last season, as players elected to use their escalator clause to raise it. Even a slight increase can help several teams that are up against the cap, like the Chicago Blackhawks and Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals. For budget teams, the floor increased just $1.4 million from $54 million. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights must spend at least to the salary floor in their first season. [...]
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Colorado Eagles in discussions to become the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate
The Avalanche might move its primary minor-league interests from San Antonio to less than an hour drive north of Denver, to Loveland, joining forces with the Colorado Eagles, who could become the Avs’ American Hockey League affiliate as early as 2018-19. The Eagles, the Avs’ current ECHL affiliate who recently won the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions, are mulling opportunities for AHL membership, according to president and general manager Chris Stewart, and hoping to increase their partnership with Colorado’s NHL team. The ECHL is considered Double-A, a level below the AHL. “There have been some discussions,” Stewart said of Eagles’ AHL venture with the Avalanche. “Obviously, the proximity and logistics, there’s a lot of sense for an affiliation that could possibly take us to the American Hockey League. I can’t confirm anything at this point, by any means, because there are way too many moving parts.” The Eagles’ AHL opportunity became available because of the NHL expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who will share the AHL’s Chicago Wolves with the St. Louis Blues in 2017-18 before the Blues sign elsewhere. There will be 31 NHL teams next season, but just 30 AHL teams. St. Louis could conceivably replace the Avalanche as the San Antonio Rampage’s parent team in 2018-19. The Avs will continue to place their top prospects in San Antonio for the upcoming season, and beyond if the deal with the Eagles doesn’t work out. Because the Avs remain under contract with the Rampage, they declined to comment about the Eagles and the AHL. “We are interested. The Avalanche has some interest,” Stewart said of the possible AHL relationship. “Whether or not that works with their San Antonio agreement or not, I don’t know. Like I said, there are a lot of moving parts. But we would want that affiliate at another level.” He added: “When you’re talking with the NHL, and especially the Avalanche, which has done so much for the good of hockey in the state of Colorado, I don’t want to step out of line. We’re very respectful of the Avalanche and what they’ve done for hockey, and the Eagles, as hockey continues to grow in this state.” The Eagles play at the 5,289-seat Budweiser Events Center, a county-owned facility, and have sold out 431 home games in 14 seasons. The Budweiser Events Center opened in 2003 and seats 7,200 for concerts but just 5,289 for hockey. The Hershey Bears led the AHL in attendance this past season with an average of 9,309, but 18 teams averaged just less than 6,000. Related ArticlesJune 15, 2017 Paul Stastny, Kelly Cup to appear at Dawg Bowl VII hockey fundraising event June 5, 2017 Colorado Eagles sweep South Carolina Stingrays to win first Kelly Cup May 25, 2017 Luke Salazar is back skating in his home state, seeking ECHL title with Colorado Eagles May 24, 2017 Avalanche prospects helped Colorado Eagles reach the upcoming ECHL Finals “I don’t believe that the AHL would accept the building as it sits today,” Stewart said of the Eagles’ arena. “I’m not just talking about seats. The facility in general, the locker rooms, I do think there would have to be some mitigation done to the building to help facilitate an American Hockey League franchise if we went in that direction.” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic and AHL commissioner David Andrews attended Eagles home games last season. “People saw those gentlemen there, watching the game,” Stewart said. “They’re public figures, and there with a sharp, keen eye, wanting to see how we presented the game. They liked it, from what everything they had to say to myself and (Eagles owner) Martin Lind. We love to put on a good show and our fans are electrifying. They really bring energy into that building every night.” [...]
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Avalanche removes Francois Beauchemin from roster with buyout
Defenseman Francois Beauchemin will not return to the Avalanche next season. The team announced Thursday morning it will buy out the final year of the 37-year-old’s $4.5 million annual contract, with no salary-cap benefit for 2017-18. The move opens a roster spot and allows Colorado to protect another player from next week’s expansion draft. Beauchemin had a no-move clause, automatically putting him on the protected list. According to TSN hockey journalist Pierre LeBrun, Beauchemin’s agent Bob Sauve said the Avs never asked the player to waive his NMC for the expansion draft. Beauchemin spent two seasons with the Avs after being acquired from Anaheim as an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2015. He had 34 points (eight goals) in 2015-16 but slipped to 18 points (five goals) last season. He played in 163 of a possible 164 games for Colorado and was named alternate captain by first-year coach Jared Bednar last season. Because Beauchmin is over age 35, the Avs cannot spread out a buyout benefit, thus his $4.5 million salary will count against the team’s cap next season. However, the team only owes Beauchemin on a two-thirds ratio, $3 million, and will pay it in $1.5 million increments next season and in 2018-19, according to CapFriendly.com. The same situation unfolded last season with defenseman Brad Stuart, whose entire $3.6 million salary counted against the cap after the Avs bought out then then-36-year-old. For next Wednesday’s expansion draft in Las Vegas, the Avalanche will protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender or eight combined forwards/defensemen and a goalie. All first- and second-year players are exempt, along with unsigned prospects. Colorado is bound to protect defensemen Erik Johnson (NMC), Tyson Barrie and Nikita Zadorov, and possibly Mark Barbario if it goes the 8/1 route. Related ArticlesJune 15, 2017 NHL announces draft order; Avalanche has seven selections June 15, 2017 Paul Stastny, Kelly Cup to appear at Dawg Bowl VII hockey fundraising event June 14, 2017 Colorado Eagles in discussions to become the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate June 13, 2017 Avalanche not identifying players protected from NHL expansion draft June 13, 2017 Lunch Special: What is Matt Duchene’s future with the Avalanche? [...]
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Buffalo Sabres hire Phil Housley as head coach
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Phil Housley began his Hall of Fame playing career in Buffalo. It is also where he will open his NHL head-coaching career after being hired by the Sabres on Thursday. Housley’s hiring completes an offseason overhaul for the Sabres in replacing coach Dan Bylsma, who was fired along with general manager Tim Murray in April. He represents the first significant move made by first-time general manager Jason Botterill, who took over the job last month. Housley takes over a team that stagnated under Murray in extended its franchise-worst playoff drought to six seasons. With a 33-37-12 record, Buffalo finished last in the Atlantic Division, 26th overall, and with two fewer wins than last season. Related ArticlesJune 16, 2017 Looming expansion draft turns up trade chatter around NHL June 15, 2017 NHL announces draft order; Avalanche has seven selections June 15, 2017 Jonathan Drouin traded by Lightning to Canadiens for Mikhail Sergachev June 14, 2017 650,000 fans at parade cheer Penguins for Stanley Cup win June 14, 2017 Colorado Eagles in discussions to become the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate Housley has spent the past four years as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators. He is credited for overseeing a highly skilled and speedy group of defensemen that helped Nashville make its first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Botterill was forced to place his coaching search on hold to wait for the Predators’ season to end, which came with a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday in Game 6. “Based on his experience as a player and coach, we think Phil is uniquely qualified to be our head coach and help us achieve our organizational goals,” Botterill said in a statement released by the team before a late-afternoon news conference. “His approach to the game aligns with the way we envision our hockey team playing, and we’re excited to see where his leadership will take us.” It’s a home coming for Housley, who was selected with the No. 6 pick in the 1982 draft by Buffalo and spent his first eight of his 21 NHL seasons playing for the Sabres. He also had a connection to Botterill from their playing days. Though Botterill was mostly a minor-league journeyman, he and Housley both played for the Calgary Flames from 1999-2001. Housley has head-coaching experience but not at the NHL level. He was head coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 2013 World Junior championships. Starting in 2004, Housley spent nine seasons coaching Stillwater Area High School in his native Minnesota. As a player, Housley’s 1,232 career points (338 goals and 894 assists) rank third among American-born players and fourth among all NHL defensemen. [...]
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Paul Stastny, Kelly Cup to appear at Dawg Bowl VII hockey fundraising event
Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation’s Dawg Bowl VII is a week away (June 22-25) at The Edge Ice Arena in Littleton. The 42-team hockey tournament includes the Mainline West Top Dawgs — a top-tiered team exclusively consisting of current and former professional players — and a smorgasbord of off-ice activities to benefit Front Range hockey families in need. The free public event raised a record $140,000 (before expenses) last June and the generous folks at Dawg Nation are looking to exceed that this year. Photo provided by Heather KarasHeather Karas, widow of Jeff Karas, a former Littleton Hawks and Colorado Select hockey coach, hoists Dawg Nation’s women’s division championship trophy with Butch Mousseau’s widow Macaire Mousseau. Jeff Karas died of leukemia in 2013 and Butch Mousseau of head trauma in March. The Avalanche, Colorado Eagles and DU Pioneers are among Dawg Nation’s most affluent supporters, and NHL teams such as the Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers have donated signed sweaters and other auction items. The Colorado Eagles are expected to have the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions on hand, and one of the biggest silent auction items will be a team-signed/framed Denver Pioneers’ NCAA championship sweater. Last year, one of the top-tiered teams featured a quarter of DU’s team, including Highlands Ranch’s Troy Terry. The Top Dawgs include former Avalanche players Paul Stastny (playing Friday only), Brett Clark and Aaron MacKenzie, along with Eagles captain Sean Zimmerman and veteran Eagles forward Darryl Bootland, a 2000 Avalanche draft pick. Their games are Friday, June 24 at 6:50 p.m., Saturday, June 25 at 11:20 a.m. and 7:10 or 8 p.m. There will be a sled hockey game Saturday between members of the U.S. national team and others, plus the Survivor Game featuring the ceremonial puck drop by Flight for Life crash survivor Dave Repsher. If you love the game, you will love this event. For more information, click here.  [...]
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Jonathan Drouin traded by Lightning to Canadiens for Mikhail Sergachev
The Tampa Bay Lightning got the young defenseman they have been looking for in Mikhail Sergachev, even though it cost them highly skilled forward Jonathan Drouin. Tampa Bay acquired the soon-to-be 19-year-old Sergachev from the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday in a trade that checks off one box on general manager Steve Yzerman’s offseason checklist and could provide short- and long-term benefits. Dealing Drouin helps the Lightning ahead of the Vegas expansion draft and in their tight salary-cap situation, and adding Sergachev potentially strengthens their blue line for the next decade. “Our biggest need and our biggest goal was to acquire a puck-moving young defenseman, and we were able to do that,” Yzerman said on a conference call. “We wanted this type of game that Sergachev plays: an offensive defenseman, big, strong, good skater, moves the puck well. We were looking for that type of player and we were able to find a fit.” Related ArticlesJune 15, 2017 NHL announces draft order; Avalanche has seven selections June 15, 2017 Buffalo Sabres hire Phil Housley as head coach June 14, 2017 650,000 fans at parade cheer Penguins for Stanley Cup win June 14, 2017 Colorado Eagles in discussions to become the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate June 13, 2017 Avalanche not identifying players protected from NHL expansion draft Along with Sergachev, Tampa Bay got a conditional 2018 second-round pick that previously belonged to Washington and Montreal a 2018 conditional sixth-rounder. Yzerman said the condition is that if Sergachev plays 40 NHL games between the regular season and playoffs next season, no picks are exchanged. That’s an insurance policy on the Lightning’s part if Sergachev needs another year of seasoning in junior. If he’s ready now, even better. “We think we’re getting a young defenseman that’s going to have an impact in the NHL for a long time,” Yzerman said. “Whether that’s this year or two years from now, time will tell. I think he’s going to be a good player in the league for a long time.” In parts of three seasons with the Lightning, Drouin already showed he could adapt to the pro game. The 22-year-old set career highs last season with 21 goals, 32 assists and 53 points and has 95 points in 164 career games. Hours after the trade, the Canadiens signed Drouin to a $33 million, six-year contract that means he will count $5.5 million against the salary cap through 2022-23. Agent Allan Walsh said, “It’s his childhood dream to play for the Montreal Canadiens.” “It’s just really surreal,” Drouin said at a news conference in Montreal. “I’m still kind of in shock that it actually happened.” Drouin had a rocky tenure with the Lighting since being the third pick in 2013, asking for a trade in 2015-16 and coming back to play a prominent role this past season in the absence of injured captain Steven Stamkos. Asked about trading Drouin within the Atlantic Division, Yzerman said there’s risk in every trade but was doing what’s best for the Lightning and wishes his former player all the best in Montreal. Yzerman colored this as a need-for-need hockey trade. “We were looking for a defenseman, and we had to give up a forward to do that,” Yzerman said. “Ultimately Jonathan’s an extremely talented young man. I expect he’s going to have a long and successful career.” While it wasn’t the central goal of the deal, trading Drouin means Tampa Bay can protect an extra forward in the expansion draft and has more salary-cap space moving forward with other players in need of new deals. Previously, the Lightning would have potentially had to expose either Vladislav Namestnikov or Alex Killorn and can now keep them away from the expansion Golden Knights. They could lose a defenseman, perhaps Braydon Coburn or Jason Garrison, but Sergachev is exempt. “We were able to acquire a player that we do not have to protect,” Yzerman said. “It gives us a little more clarity there.” Chris O'Meara, The Associated PressTampa Bay Lightning’s Jonathan Drouin celebrates after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals Friday, May 20, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Sergachev was the ninth pick in the 2016 draft and is just beginning his entry-level contract with a cost-controlled cap hit of $1.74 million for the next three years. Considered one of the top defensive prospects in hockey, the Russian had 10 goals and 33 assists for 43 points with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires this past season and was a point-a-game player as they won the Memorial Cup. “He’s got good size, heR [...]
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NHL announces draft order; Avalanche has seven selections
The NHL on Thursday announced the official order of selection for next week’s draft at the United Center in Chicago. The two-day draft will begin with the first round Friday, June 23 at 5 p.m. (NBCSN). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. (NHL Network). Barring trades, the Avalanche will make seven selections. Colorado will pick fourth in the first round and first in Rounds 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7. The Avs, who finished with the NHL’s fewest points last season, traded their third-round pick to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Eric Gelinas on Feb. 29, 2016. Gelinas, 26, finished last season in the minors and is not expected to be given a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. 2017 Avalanche draft positions First round: No. 4 (fourth overall) Second round: No. 1 (32nd) Fourth round: No. 1 (94th) Fourth round: No. 21 (114th) (Obtained from NYR for D Nick Holden) Fifth round: No. 1 (125th) Sixth round: No. 1 (156th) Seventh round: No. 1 (187th) [...]
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650,000 fans at parade cheer Penguins for Stanley Cup win
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship, the first an NHL team has won back to back in almost 20 years, spawned by far the biggest victory parade of any of the franchise’s five titles. An estimated 650,000 people turned out along a downtown parade route that ended with a rally at Point State Park, city public works and public safety officials said Wednesday. A sunny day with temperatures in the 80s didn’t hurt, as the smell of sunscreen was as pungent as the Penguins’ love in a city that boasts, officially, only 305,000 residents. “These guys are fierce competitors,” coach Mike Sullivan told the crowd from a stage in the triangular park formed by the confluence of the city’s three rivers. “They just know how to win.” Roughly 400,000 fans attended last year’s celebration, which was the biggest for any of the team’s Stanley Cup championships to that point. The Penguins won the cup Sunday against the Nashville Predators with a 2-0 win in Game 6. And judging from signs and chants from the crowd, this championship was sweetened by the adversity the team overcame. Playoff MVP and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was knocked out for the better part of two games with a concussion against the Washington Capitals, and the Penguins played without their best defenseman, Kris Letang, who had neck surgery before the playoffs. As the players took the stage to PPG Paints Arena announcer Ryan Mill’s introductions, fans also learned that Ian Cole, another defenseman, played through a broken hand and broken ribs. And Brian Bonino, who broke his leg blocking a shot but still finished Game 2 of the finals before missing the rest, hobbled around on crutches while taking selfies with fans. A couple of bittersweet story lines punctuated the festivities: 40-year-old veteran Matt Cullen, who has won two Cups since joining the Penguins as a free agent last season, has hinted he might retire, prompting fans to chant, “One more year!” And, perhaps the best story of the playoffs was how former starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury regained that job when rookie Matt Murray was injured during warm-ups in the first game of the playoffs. Fleury was in net for nine of the 16 victories the Penguins needed to win the Cup before Murray returned from injury to replace Fleury after a shaky third-round game against Ottawa and was in net for Pittsburgh’s final seven playoff wins. Fleury, one of the most popular Penguins with fans and teammates, is likely to leave when the new Las Vegas franchise drafts its players or in an offseason trade. Phil Kessel, another fan favorite since the Penguins acquired him from Toronto two seasons ago, drew some of the biggest cheers. Fan Kristen Pearce, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, drove down to honor Kessel, a Wisconsin native, and was lucky enough to have him autograph her jersey and her sign, which read, “We drove from Wisconsin to see our Stanley Cup champion!” Some fans lined up the night before, and most waited several hours for the parade to start. Karla and Don Donahue drove 30 miles from Freeport to claim their seats in Point State Park at 2:30 a.m. This was the third victory parade for the Donahues, who also attended in 2009 and 2016. Karla Donahue said if they aren’t at the games they’re watching on TV. “If we’re somewhere else, it’s on the radio,” she said. “We haven’t missed a game in years.” The Penguins also won the Cup in 1991 and 1992. They became the first team to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998. [...]
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Avalanche not identifying players protected from NHL expansion draft
Unlike many NHL teams, the Avs on Tuesday declined to identify the players they will protect for the June 21 expansion draft. Each team will lose one player to the Golden Knights, and each team can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender; or eight combined forwards/defenseman and a goaltender. All first- and second-year players — such as Colorado forward Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost — as well as all unsigned draft picks, are exempt from selection. Veteran players with a no-movement clauses, such as Avs defensemen Francois Beauchemin and Erik Johnson, must go on his team’s protected list — unless they wave their NMC. An Avs spokesman Tuesday said the team won’t say if it has asked any of its players to waive their NMC. [...]
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A Stanley Cup hat trick? The Penguins’ stars could light the way to a three-peat.
By Isabelle Khurshudyan, The Washington Post NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On the first day of training camp, Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan addressed this Pittsburgh team’s long odds. It had been nearly two decades since any NHL team repeated as a Stanley Cup champion, and it had never happened in the salary cap era. Even the Chicago Blackhawks, three-time winners with a core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith hadn’t managed to win in back-to-back years. But Sullivan didn’t see a reason why the Penguins couldn’t do it, especially considering the roster experienced little turnover from the 2016 championship team. Seeds of doubt could’ve been planted when injuries piled up, particularly the loss of top defenseman Kris Letang. But after the Penguins made history with a no-name blue line that is arguably the least impressive to ever win a Stanley Cup, Pittsburgh has shown anything is possible. So, will Sullivan give next season’s Pittsburgh team the same spiel and use the possibility of a three-peat as motivation? “I don’t know, we’ve got to rethink that,” Sullivan said. “We’ll probably sit in the summertime and try to figure out a way to inspire this group again.” Sullivan said that entering this season, he and his coaching staff predicted some of the challenges Pittsburgh would have in its repeat bid, starting with a short offseason after playing until mid-June. To go along with that, several Penguins players participated in the World Cup of Hockey before the season. As the reigning champions, Pittsburgh was also a team that got its opponent’s best effort in every game. Letang’s neck injury then left the team without one of the league’s best offensive defensemen and forced the Penguins to go with a blue-line-by-committee approach in the playoffs. There have been five three-peats in NHL history, and the last team to do so was the New York Islanders, when they won four titles in a row from 1980 to 1983. According to Bovada, the Penguins are early favorites to win again next season with 9-1 odds. The main characters will stay the same with captain Sidney Crosby, center Evgeni Malkin, Letang and winger Phil Kessel. But 12 players are up for new contracts with six players entering unrestricted free agency. Bruce Bennett, Getty ImagesThe Pittsburgh Penguins pose for a group photo with the Stanley Cup Trophy after they defeated the Nashville Predators 2-0 in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Chris Kunitz, a three-time Stanley Cup-champion, seems unlikely to be back at 37 years old. This also likely marked 40-year-old center Matt Cullen’s last NHL game. Center Nick Bonino may also depart in free agency, leaving the Penguins with considerable holes in their bottom-six, a strength of the team’s balanced lineup. Carter Rowney played regularly this postseason, and young center Oskar Sundqvist could also be in line for a bigger role. Rookie forward Jake Guentzel, who led Pittsburgh in goal-scoring this postseason, played half of the year in the American Hockey League, and he’ll likely get a regular NHL role next season. On the blue line, Pittsburgh could lose Trevor Daley, who averaged more than 20 minutes per game this season. The goaltending tandem will see change with Marc-Andre Fleury reportedly agreeing to waive his no-move clause for the expansion draft so that the Penguins can protect 23-year-old starter Matt Murray. Related ArticlesJune 12, 2017 DU Pioneers, defending NCAA hockey champions, finalize incoming freshman class June 12, 2017 Sidney Crosby’s leadership helps Penguins’ youngsters succeed June 11, 2017 Penguins end Predators magical postseason run June 11, 2017 Penguins win 2nd straight Stanley Cup, beat Predators in Game 6 June 10, 2017 Predators leaning on Pekka Rinne to force Penguins back to Pittsburgh “You know, when we went to the Final in 2008 and then won in 2009, then you think that we’re going to do this a lot,” Fleury said. “All of this time in-between, it was tough and it was frustrating to not bring another championship, you know? But I think we learned from that. I’m glad we still had the same group of guys altogether.” Any three-peat bid would feature a slightly altered core, one that now includes Murray and young forwards Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust. But if Pittsburgh could repeat this season with a banged-up roster and one of the hardest paths to the final series, the Penguins have earned the right to be considered favorites again next season, when the team could cement its status as one of the NHL’s great dynasties. “I’m sure down the road, people will look back and put us wherever they want to put us, [...]
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Predators leaning on Pekka Rinne to force Penguins back to Pittsburgh
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pekka Rinne is a friendly, polite man off the ice. Slipping the puck past the Nashville Predators goaltender is one of the few ways to anger the 6-foot-5 Finn. Pucks bouncing past him on the NHL’s biggest stage infuriate him. Rinne chopped his stick against a goalpost not once, but twice after giving up a fifth and final goal a year ago when Nashville was ousted from the playoffs. That was just Game 7 in the second round. Now Rinne goes into the biggest game of his career Sunday night needing yet another home victory to force both the defending champs and the Stanley Cup Final to a deciding seventh game back in Pittsburgh. And Rinne spent the past 40 minutes stewing on the bench as the Penguins finished off a 6-0 rout Thursday night in easily Nashville’s worst playoff loss. “You have those thoughts that why (is) the puck getting deflected in off our guys or something like that,” Rinne said Saturday. “You try to work so hard that the luck is also on your side. When bounces not going your way, sometimes you question, have second thoughts in your head, but that’s life.” The goalie so competitive he doesn’t like teammates scoring on him in practice is back in Nashville where he’s been nearly unbeatable over the past two postseasons at 13-1. Rinne has a 9-1 record this spring with a 1.44 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in Nashville. He’s allowed two or fewer goals in eight of those 10 games and tied Antti Niemi with his 36th playoff win for the most in NHL history by a Finnish-born goaltender. Yet the goalie and the Predators stand between Pittsburgh and a big chunk of history. The Penguins are trying to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup in consecutive seasons in nearly two decades since Detroit repeated in 1997 and 1998. One more win gives the Penguins the franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup, tying them with Edmonton for sixth all-time. All four of Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cups have been clinched on the road with Chicago the last team to win the Cup on home ice back in 2015. “Opportunities like this, they don’t come around often, so you want to make the most of them,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. The Predators haven’t scored a goal in 63 minutes, 23 seconds since Filip Forsberg’s empty-net goal in Game 4. So Rinne will need to be at his best to give Nashville a chance at its first Game 7 and Pittsburgh’s third this postseason. Rinne understands coach Peter Laviolette was trying to wake up the Predators by pulling the veteran after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first 20 minutes of Game 5. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel all put up at least two points each in that game. Yet there’s been no question that Rinne, who has never won a start in Pittsburgh, will be in net Sunday night. “Right now our backs are against the wall, and this is our opportunity and I think you try to do anything in your power and prepare the best you can for this one,” Rinne said. The Predators know exactly what they need to do better against Pittsburgh. Part of that is being better in front of Rinne. “We made mistakes in front of him,” Laviolette said. “So I know there’s things that we can do that can support our goaltender better.” Nashville may be without defenseman Ryan Ellis, who didn’t finish Thursday night’s loss. Ellis was among several Predators who did not take part in an optional practice Saturday. Ellis plays with Roman Josi on Nashville’s top defensive pair and is tied for third with 13 points this postseason. The Penguins skated in Pittsburgh before flying to Nashville. Center Nick Bonino, who has missed three straight games with an injured left foot, did not practice for the Pens. Related ArticlesJune 8, 2017 Penguins crush Predators to take 3-2 lead in Stanley Cup June 6, 2017 Penguins head home upbeat despite 0-fer in Nashville June 6, 2017 Carrie Underwood puts off birthday present for Predators’ captain Mike Fisher June 5, 2017 Predators beat Penguins, 4-1, even Stanley Cup Final at 2-2 June 5, 2017 Charles Barkley takes up Gary Bettman’s invitation to Stanley Cup Final Pittsburgh couldn’t close out Columbus, Washington or Ottawa the first chance the Penguins had in each of their previous three playoff series. Coach Mike Sullivan thinks his Penguins are playing better, harder and smarter over the past two games. “When these guys play a committed, inspired game the way they do and they execute, then their talent and their instincts are going to take over,” Sullivan said. “And when they do that, they’re hard to defend.” Having the Stanley Cup in Bridgestone Arena gives the Predators plenty of motivation as well in th [...]
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Charles Barkley takes up Gary Bettman’s invitation to Stanley Cup Final
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Charles Barkley has not been shy sharing that he is far more excited about the Stanley Cup playoffs than the NBA playoffs. Thanks to a night off in the NBA Finals, Barkley took up NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on his invitation to come watch the pucks in person. “There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than Stanley Cup overtime hockey,” Barkley said. “It’s the craziest thing you’re ever going to see, so that’s one reason I just love the sport.” Barkley didn’t get overtime on Monday night, but he did get to see the Predators win 4-1 at home in front of their raucous fans to even the series against Pittsburgh at 2-2. Related ArticlesJune 8, 2017 Penguins crush Predators to take 3-2 lead in Stanley Cup June 6, 2017 Penguins head home upbeat despite 0-fer in Nashville June 6, 2017 Carrie Underwood puts off birthday present for Predators’ captain Mike Fisher June 5, 2017 Predators beat Penguins, 4-1, even Stanley Cup Final at 2-2 June 5, 2017 Nashville Predators leaning heavily on defense corps against Penguins A few hours earlier, Barkley interrupted Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey talking about the 1984-85 Oilers being voted by NHL fans as the greatest team in league history. With Bettman watching from the side, Barkley broke in by asking Gretzky who his favorite black athlete of all-time was. Gretzky immediately answered Grant Fuhr, his goalie with the Oilers. The former NBA star said he’s been following hockey since watching the World Hockey Association’s Birmingham Bulls in Alabama. When he joined the Philadelphia 76ers, Ron Hextall became Barkley’s favorite NHL player. Barkley also became friends with Eric Lindros of the Flyers, too. Barkley says Mike Wilbon has been taking him to the Stanley Cup Final with Chicago the past few years. But Jeremy Roenick, his neighbor in Arizona, has been urging Barkley to come to Nashville for a game and called the Music City scene “the craziest thing” he’d ever seen. With the NBA Finals switching from Golden State to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday night, Barkley had a free day. The Naismith Hall of Famer said he was looking forward to a little time in “Smashville.” “They say it’s crazy, and the playoffs have been amazing,” Barkley said. “I’m not breaking earth-shattering news. The NBA playoffs have not been very good.” Barkley noted that while at work he’s in a room with 20 TVs, so he has watched almost every hockey game this spring. “I think we showed a stat we’ve only had four basketball games in the playoffs that were less than double digits,” Barkley said. “So it’s not been a lot of fun broadcasting games this year.” [...]
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