Blackhawks won’t re-sign two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Corey Crawford

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 10/8/20

It’s the end of an era in Chicago. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman announced that the team will not re-sign Corey Crawford. Bowman explained it was an emotional decision and suggested that Crawford should be recognized with the great Chicago goaltenders like Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito after winning two Stanley Cups with the organization. Crawford will become an unrestricted free agent Friday. While Bowman confirmed Malcolm Subban was not given a qualifying offer (along with Slater KoekkoekDrake Caggiula and others), the team is hoping to re-sign him to a different contract.

Crawford, 35, will leave the Blackhawks after 497 games in the Chicago crease and one of the most consistent goaltenders of his generation. He posted a 260-162-53 record over his decade-plus with the team, recording a .918 regular-season save percentage in the process. His postseason performances were even better, with two magical runs to the Stanley Cup championship in 2013 and 2015. He was a Vezina candidate on three different occasions, took home the Jennings twice and was named to the All-Rookie Team in 2011. There is little that Crawford hasn’t accomplished during his time in Chicago.

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Blue Jackets, Canadiens swap restricted free agents Josh Anderson, Max Domi

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 10/6/20

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens have found some common ground, swapping restricted free agent forwards Josh Anderson and Max Domi. The Blue Jackets will also receive a 2020 third-round selection in the trade. Both players are represented by agent Darren Ferris and will need new contracts for 2020-21.

Both Anderson and Domi have had huge success in the past for their respective teams but needed a change of scenery after some recent struggles.

In Anderson’s case, the relationship with the Blue Jackets has been strained for some time, going back to a contract negotiation in 2017 that saw him miss all of training camp. That was followed by two successful seasons, but the 26-year-old forward managed to score just a single goal in 26 games in 2019-20 while struggling with injury.

The Canadiens are obviously betting that Anderson can rebound and get back to the player who scored 27 goals in 2018-19 and looked like one of the best power forwards in the entire league. A fourth-round pick in 2012, Anderson brings size (6-3, 220 pounds) and goal scoring to a Montreal team that lacked both this past season. He’s also coming off a contract that carried a cap hit of just $1.85M and requires just a $2.1M qualifying offer (though is arbitration-eligible).

For Domi, this trade comes just a year after he scored 72 points for the Canadiens, the franchise’s third-highest total in the cap era. That incredible year was followed by a frustrating 44-point season in 2019-20, however, which saw Domi dropped to the fourth line at times. He just never seemed to find his true footing in the Montreal lineup.

He also, quite importantly, is coming off a contract that carried a $3.15M cap hit and will require a $2.9M qualifying offer. Domi is expected to be looking for a substantial raise on that number, something that the Canadiens may not have felt comfortable with as they start to transition to other young centers.

Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are the future in Montreal, meaning Domi either would have had to play in the bottom six or move to the wing. That isn’t the case in Columbus, where he can slide in as the team’s second-line center behind Pierre-Luc Dubois.

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Rangers select Alexis Lafreniere first overall in 2020 NHL Draft

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 10/6/20

The New York Rangers have added another franchise talent. After selecting Kaapo Kakko with the second pick in 2019, the Rangers lucked into another lottery win this year and the right to select any draft-eligible player they want. Though names like Quinton Byfield or Tim Stuetzle may have been tempting in any other year, the team had no choice but to select the consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

There is almost nothing that Lafreniere can’t do on an ice rink. Growing up just outside of Montreal, it didn’t take long for prospect watchers to recognize that he may be one of the next great talents to come out of the province of Quebec.

When it came time for the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft, there was little doubt who would be off the board first. The Rimouski Oceanic, the same junior program that had produced Sidney Crosby more than ten years earlier, selected Lafreniere ahead of Samuel Poulin and Jakob Pelletier, both players who ended up going in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft. Lafreniere was different though, and it wouldn’t take him long to show it.

Because of his late birthday—October 11th—Lafreniere would actually make his debut for Rimouski at age-15. He recorded 11 shots on goal over his first three games but would come away with just a single assist and four penalty minutes. It wasn’t until October 1st, ten days before his 16th birthday, when he would score his first two QMJHL goals. In the games that followed, he would add 40 to that total and lead the Rimouski in both goals and points despite being several years younger than his teammates. A CHL Rookie of the Year award awaited him following the 2017-18 season, along with plenty of other individual accolades.

They wouldn’t end there.

In each of the next two seasons, Lafreniere would not only lead his team in scoring, but dominate the competition on a nightly basis. In 113 regular season games he scored 217 points, winning CHL Player of the Year in each season despite leaving his team both years to compete in the World Juniors for Canada, the youngest player since Connor McDavid to make that prestigious roster.

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Lightning’s Alex Killorn suspended for Game 3 after boarding violation

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 9/10/20

The NHL confirmed on Thursday that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn is suspended for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the New York Islanders on Friday.

Roughly six minutes into Wednesday’s Game 2, Killorn delivered what the league referred to as a defenseless hit on New York forward Brock Nelson:

Killorn was issued a major penalty and game misconduct for the hit. It was the first of two controversial moments involving Nelson, who cleared concussion protocol and was permitted to remain in the game amid protests made by fans on Twitter:

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Lightning captain Steven Stamkos to miss entire Eastern Conference Final

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors By Holger Stolzenberg | Last updated 9/6/20

There seems to be plenty of questions surrounding Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has yet to make his playoff debut after undergoing core muscle surgery in early March and now has been listed as “unfit to play” with a lower-body injury. Now it looks like that if he will play in the playoffs it will have to be in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Lightning and head coach Jon Cooper announced that Stamkos will miss the entire Eastern Conference Final due to his undisclosed injuries, adding that he will update that status if anything changes. There was plenty of hope that Stamkos might be ready to return to the team and supplement the offensive powerhouse Lightning against the stingy defense of the Islanders. However, that won’t happen here, and the Bolts will have to win the series without him if they have any hopes of him returning for the playoffs.

If or when he returns, however, The Athletic’s Joe Smith believes that Stamkos will likely begin on the Lightning’s second line with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli as they likely won’t want to break up the impressive play of the first-round combo of Brayden PointOndrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.

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Panthers hire Bill Zito as new general manager, replaces Dale Tallon

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 9/2/20

The Florida Panthers finally have found their next general manager. 

Florida announced Wednesday that they’ve hired former Columbus Blue Jackets associate general manager Bill Zito as their next GM. 

“I’m humbled and honored to accept the position of General Manager of the Florida Panthers,” said Zito. “My family and I want to thank Matt Caldwell and the Viola Family for their confidence in me for this opportunity with the Panthers. I believe in this organization and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it. Our team has great potential and I look forward to start working together in building something special in South Florida. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Zito, 55, has served as an executive for the Blue Jackets since 2013. He initially was an assistant general manager and then eventually took over the role of GM to the club’s AHL affiliate Cleveland Monsters. This past season, he was elevated to associate GM and senior vice president of hockey operations. 

Replacing Dale Tallon, Zito will reunite with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and potentially help him settle in goal after a disastrous first season in Florida. 

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Capitals fire head coach Todd Reirden after first-round playoff exit

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 8/23/20

After just two seasons with the Washington Capitals, it appears Todd Reirden is out as head coach of the club. 

The Capitals announced Sunday that they’ve relieved Reirden of his coaching duties, with senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan saying they have “higher expectations” for the team.  

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Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask opts out of NHL’s return to play

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 8/15/20

You could tell Tuukka Rask wasn’t himself from the moment exhibition games began in the NHL’s Toronto bubble.

The Boston Bruins goaltender has decided to opt out of the NHL’s return to play, the club announced ahead of Saturday’s Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

His decision to opt out comes after comments he made following Thursday’s Game 2 defeat. Rask stated that it didn’t really feel like the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that he was just trying to have fun and wasn’t focusing on the results. 

Through two games against the Hurricanes, Rask gave up many rebounds and couldn’t seem to control the puck. In four games in the NHL’s bubble, the 33-year-old went 1-3-0 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, which isn’t up to par for the Vezina-nominated netminder. 

Now Boston will turn to Jaroslav Halak, who is just as capable of stealing games for the Bruins as Rask. Halak, who went 18-6-6 during the regular season, also has some pretty solid playoff numbers. The 35-year-old has a 2.45 GAA and .922 SV% through the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his career. 

It’s likely that AHL goaltender Dan Vladar backs up Halak for the remainder of the playoffs, and the B’s appear to have been ready for this situation. 

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Boston Bruins-Carolina Hurricanes Game 1 postponed

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Zach Leach | Last updated 8/11/20

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets were locked in a duel for the ages on Tuesday night, playing into a fifth overtime in a game that began at 3 p.m. ET – the fourth-longest game of all time. As a result of this historic game and the unprecedented circumstances of the bubble postseason, Game 1 of the Boston Bruins-Carolina Hurricanes series that was supposed to begin at 8 p.m. ET has now been postponed. The league has announced that the two teams will square off at 11:00am ET on Wednesday, which should allow for the Washington Capitals-New York Islanders game to proceed as scheduled at 3 p.m. ET.

With Game 2 of Bruins-Hurricanes still scheduled for Thursday night, the teams will open their first-round series with back-to-back games. As with every series this year, there is already a back-to-back scheduled for Games 5 and 6 on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. As a result, Boston and Carolina could end up playing six games in nine days in this series. Backup goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and James Reimer could very well see a start or two in this series.

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End of an era? Canadiens eliminate Penguins from playoffs

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 8/7/20

If Friday’s result inside the Toronto NHL bubble site was the end of the era, it finished with more of a whimper than a bang.

The Montreal Canadiens, the lowest seed (No. 12) in the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Qualifying Round, defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 5) 2-0 in Game 4 to close the series out and send Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pens back to Pennsylvania. 

Montreal won the series 3-1.

Friday’s affair was largely missable for a neutral viewer, as Pittsburgh was unable to break the Canadiens down and seemed to grow frustrated and disinterested throughout 55 minutes of scoreless hockey. With 4:11 remaining in the contest, Paul Byron slid a pass out of the reach of Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry to teammate Artturi Lehkonen, who delivered the game and series winner:

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