Restricted NHL free agents Jesse Puljujarvi, Julius Honka can no longer play this season

The signing deadline for all restricted free agents has come and gone, meaning they will not be eligible to play in the NHL this season. The group is headlined by Jesse Puljujarvi and Julius Honka, who are both currently playing in Finland and will have to wait for another chance in North America.

The Dallas Stars were rumored to be looking at potential offers Sunday for their young free agent, who was described as “an asset” earlier this weekend. Despite being a relatively high first-round pick, Honka never really found a fit with Dallas and played just 87 NHL games over his entry-level contract.

An elite offensive weapon at the minor-league level, Honka would be an intriguing option for any team looking to add some skill to the back end. Apparently any interest shown wasn’t enough to convince Dallas GM Jim Nill, however, who will now have plenty of time to work out a deal before the 2020-21 season. Even though Honka is playing in Finland, his agent, Todd Diamond, told Sean Shapiro of The Athletic that there is a chance he could move to another league at some point.

Puljujarvi meanwhile has been very clear with his desire to be sent out of the Edmonton Oilers organization. After three disappointing and frustrating seasons since he was the fourth overall pick in 2016, Puljujarvi decided not to sign as an RFA and is instead spending the season dominating Liiga back in Finland. The big winger has 24 points in 25 games for Karpat and is improving his value daily for Oilers GM Ken Holland.

It doesn’t appear as though either player will ever suit up again for their current NHL organizations, and this deadline guarantees they at least won’t do so this season. However, it doesn’t completely end trade speculation, as their rights could still be swapped at any point. The young free agents are no longer eligible to play in the 2019-20 season, but that doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last of either one.

By: Gavin Lee

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/restricted_nhl_free_agents_jesse_puljujarvi_julius_honka_can_no_longer_play_this_season/s1_14825_30688889

Winners and losers from 2019 NHL free agency

NHL free agency can be a difficult thing for general managers to navigate. They think they are adding the missing piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle but are often times overpaying a player who will one day have to bought out or traded. Sometimes, though, teams make it work. Here we take a look at the winners and losers of the 2019 NHL free agency period. This is ONLY focusing on free agents and not the draft or trades.  1 of 23

Buffalo Sabres: winner

t has been a strong offseason for the Sabres, who re-signed Jeff Skinner and added Jimmy Vesey and Colin Miller via trade. They also dipped into the free agency pool by getting Marcus Johansson on a cheap deal from the Boston Bruins. They are still probably a long way from the playoffs, but they took a nice step closer this summer.  2 of 23

Calgary Flames: loser

The Flames had one major flaw on their roster during the 2018-19 season in net: goalie. They attempted to address it but did so in a rather disappointing way by signing Cam Talbot, statistically one of the worst goalies in the NHL this past season, to a one-year contract. Maybe getting out of Edmonton and playing behind a better defensive team will help. If it doesn’t, it is an inadequate offseason for the Flames.  3 of 23

Carolina Hurricanes: winner

The Hurricanes picked up Ryan Dzingel on a cheap, short-term deal and also managed to lock up Sebastian Aho on a long-term contract thanks to some help from the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens’ weak offer sheet attempt was an easy match for the Hurricanes and helped them avoid a summer of negotiating with their franchise player.  4 of 23

Chicago Blackhawks: winner

Stan Bowman has been a busy man this offseason, trying to get the Blackhawks back to the playoffs, making multiple trades and adding one fairly significant free agent. That was goalie Robin Lehner, a Vezina Trophy finalist from this past season with the New York Islanders. Lehner will be a great complement to Corey Crawford and a fantastic insurance policy if Crawford is injured again.  5 of 23

Colorado Avalanche: winner

The Avalanche are building a powerhouse in Denver. They made a blockbuster trade with Toronto to get Nazem Kadri while also adding Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi to help round out their forward depth. This is a Stanley Cup contender right now and is only going to get better, plus Colorado still has more salary cap space than almost every other team in the league. 

Columbus Blue Jackets: loser

Gustav Nyquist was a nice addition at a decent value, but the free agency exodus that saw Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel walk out the door leaves several significant holes on the roster. 

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/winners_and_losers_from_2019_nhl_free_agency/s1__29539724#slide_6

By: Adam Gretz

Ryan O’Reilly joins Wayne Gretzky in Stanley Cup Final record books

Ryan O’Reilly has joined impressive company in the Stanley Cup record books.

O’Reilly scored the first goal of Game 7 on Wednesday to give his St. Louis Blues a 1-0 lead over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. That was the fourth straight Stanley Cup Final game in which O’Reilly had scored, something last accomplished by Wayne Gretzky in 1985.

O’Reilly scored on a deflection with just over three minutes to go in the first period.

Alex Pietrangelo added another goal with seven seconds left in the period to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead through the first period.

O’Reilly actually has five goals in four games as he scored twice in the Blues’ Game 4 win. For his performance in the Final, as well as the rest of the postseason, O’Reilly was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Blues hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in franchise history.

Original Article

By: Larry Brown

Stanley Cup Final: The names to know

The Blues and Bruins not only had success in the standings, but they also looked like championship-level teams with the way they played, controlling possession, playing great defensively, getting great goaltending and finding secondary scoring to go with their dynamic top line players.

Both teams have continued that level of play throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and now they are meeting in a rematch of the 1970 series that was won on Bobby Orr’s legendary overtime goal. With the series set to begin, let us take a look at some of the most important names you need to know.

Those include the star players, the goalies, the coaches and a group of people who do not actually play for either team.

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins —  Everything with the Bruins revolves around Marchand. He is their best offensive player and one of the most productive in the entire NHL. He is a top-tier goalscorer and an excellent playmaker, and he combines all of that with an outstanding defensive game that makes him one of the most complete players in the league. He is also almost certainly going to do something — maybe even several things — that draw the ire of the Blues and their fans or pretty much anyone that is not a Bruins fan. Along with being a top-10 offensive player, he is also the most effective pest and agitator in the league. Sometimes he takes that heel role a little too far and gets himself in trouble, running the risk of an ejection or a suspension (or actually getting ejected or suspended), but it is a part of his game and it is not going anywhere. One way or another he will be one of the main attractions in this series.

The Goalies: Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington —  We mentioned them in our look at the potential X-factors in the series, but they really need to be mentioned again because they will play such an enormous role in who wins this series. Rask is not only playing the best hockey of his career this postseason, but he also is currently putting together one of the single best postseason goaltending performances ever, at least from save percentage and goals against standpoints. He has played on this stage before, backstopping the Bruins to the 2012-13 Stanley Cup Final where they were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks, but he has yet to be “the man” in net for a championship run. This is obviously his best chance. Binnington, meanwhile, has a far smaller resume and track record at the NHL level but has been one of the most surprising individual success stories in the league. At the start of the year, he was nothing more than an afterthought in the Blues organization and is now one of the biggest reasons the team is playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the 1969-70 season.

Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues —  Tarasenko is the Blues’ most dangerous player and is heading into the Stanley Cup Final riding a six-game point streak, finding the score sheet in every single game of the Western Conference Final. Along with being a consistent 35-40 goal-scorer since becoming a regular in the NHL, Tarasenko is also one of the best postseason goalscorers ever. His 0.476 goals per game average in the playoffs is not only higher than his career regular-season total, but it is also second best among all active players and in the top 25 in the history of the league. He had a slow start to the playoffs but has looked unstoppable over the past two weeks.

David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins —  One of the biggest reasons the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window reopened over the past couple of years has been the emergence and development of young players like Pastrnak and McAvoy. They needed another wave of talent to come through their system and complement the core of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara, and these two have been everything the Bruins could have possibly hoped for them to be. Pastrnak has become one of the top goal-scoring wingers in the NHL (38 goals in only 66 regular-season games this season), while McAvoy is the perfect modern-day No. 1 defender given his skating, ability to jump into the play and lead the rush and overall brilliance.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues —  After a disappointing regular season that saw him score just 11 goals in 69 games, Schwartz has put together a Conn Smythe-worthy performance in the playoffs, already eclipsing his regular-season total. He is one of just three players in NHL history to have scored at least 10 goals in the playoffs and exceed his regular-season total. He has two hat tricks and two game-winning goals so far this postseason.

The referees: Gord Dwyer, Steve Kozari, Wes McCauley, Chris Rooney, Kelly Sutherland — The NHL would probably prefer that you did not know the names of this group, but given the way the playoffs have gone so far you might soon become acquainted with them. Officiating has been the sub-plot of the 2019 postseason due to the controversial calls, missed calls and messed up calls that have severely impacted games. Every round has been affected in some way by the officiating, and the NHL has to be hoping that trend does not continue in the Stanley Cup Final.

The top centers: Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly —  This series will feature two of the best two-way centers in the NHL when Bergeron (Bruins) and O’Reilly (Blues) go head to head. Bergeron is the standard against whom all other defensive forwards are measured in the NHL right now and is just as dominant with the puck on his stick as he is without it. He will score, he will shut down your top scorer and he will dominate every phase of the game when he is at his best. O’Reilly may not quite be on his level (few players are), but he is not far behind. He, too, blends top-line offense and stellar defensive play and also has the ability and discipline to play big minutes against the league’s best players, play them tough and still stay out the of the penalty box at astonishingly low rate.

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By: Adam Gretz

Zdeno Chara back at practice, on track to begin Stanley Cup Final

Zdeno Chara , 42, might not be the same player he was 10 or even five years ago, but he is still an integral part of the Boston Bruins’ success this season and postseason. When the veteran defenseman was forced to sit out Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, there was some panic from the fan base and likely a little within the organization as well. However, Chara’s teammates buckled down and ended the series in convincing fashion and in doing so bought their captain another 11 days of rest before the Stanley Cup Final. While many assumed that would be enough to get him back on the ice, there was no timeline for his return from an undisclosed injury.

That is until today, when Bruins provided some clarity on Chara’s status. According to NHL.com’s Eric Russo, Chara was back as a full participant in practice today, after only skating and working out over the weekend. Following the full 45-minute session, Chara was feeling good:

It was nice to be out there again, skated [on Sunday] then skated with the team. It was a good practice, good pace. I’m taking it one day at a time. [Tuesday’s] an off day, but get back at it on Wednesday… I’m not gonna lie, watching games is not fun. You want to play them and you want to be involved. For sure it was something that [I] was feeling that kind of anxiousness to play. But guys did a great job, won the game, so that’s great.

Chara is eager to get back in action and, considering his apparent health with a week still to go before puck drop on Game 1, he is well on his way to doing just that. As the respected veteran said, it is “one day at a time” right now, but Chara is certainly on track to be ready for the Stanley Cup Final. As the Bruins wait to see who they’ll be playing, they know that Chara is an important asset regardless. The future Hall of Famer remains one of the more dominating defensive presences in the game and hopes to put his ability and experience to work in pursuit of a second Stanley Cup title.

By: Zach Leach

Original Article

Watch: Brad Marchand taunts Justin Williams over penalty

Boston’s Brad Marchand is known for being arguably the biggest instigator in the NHL, and he was back at it on Sunday during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Bruins and Hurricanes.

Marchand took Hurricanes captain Justin Williams down with a high stick late in the second period, and the referees only called a penalty when Williams got in Marchand’s face and yanked his chin strap. Marchand then pointed to the penalty box and taunted Williams by making a “C” with his hand and putting it up to his chest.

In other words, Marchand was ridiculing Williams for taking a dumb penalty as his team’s captain. It proved costly, too, as the Bruins scored on the power play to take a commanding 4-0 lead into the third period.

When compared to some of the things Marchand has done to opponents in the past, that was nothing. Williams is just lucky Marchand didn’t lick him.

By: Steve DelVecchio

Original Article

Ville Pokka, Klas Dahlbeck staying in KHL

An NHL career never did materialize for former Chicago Blackhawks top prospect Ville Pokka. After a trade last season took him to the Ottawa Senators organization, he bolted for the KHL and signed with Avangard Omsk in the summer. Pokka has now signed a one-year extension with his KHL club, ending any chance he was going to return to North America this year. Klas Dahlbeck , who played for Chicago as well as the Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes, has also re-upped in the KHL, signing a one-year extension with CSKA Moscow.

Pokka, 25, was originally selected 34th overall by the New York Islanders in 2012, but was one of the big pieces sent to Chicago for Nick Leddy in 2014. At that point, the young defenseman looked like a potential star after putting up 27 points in 54 games during his final year in Finland. Pokka got off to a great start with the Rockford IceHogs, and continued to rack up points throughout his minor league career. Unfortunately, his foot speed and defensive awareness were just never enough to earn a chance at the NHL level. He was traded to Ottawa without ever suiting up for Chicago.

Dahlbeck meanwhile was also a Blackhawks prospect for a time, selected by them in the third round of the 2011 draft. He made his debut for the club during the 2014-15 season but was sent to Arizona along with a first-round pick to bring Antoine Vermette to Chicago. He would end up playing 170 NHL games before leaving last season for the KHL, and won a Gagarin Cup with CSKA recently.

By: Gavin Lee

Original Article

Biggest surprises of the NHL playoffs so far

With the second round of the NHL playoffs underway, the chances of a perfect bracket are slim to none. According to NHL.com, there are only five perfect brackets remaining.

Because of the chaos, there have been many surprises since the first game of the 2019 NHL playoffs. We look at the biggest shockers of the first round.

Lightning sent home thanks to Blue Jackets

  • Led by head coach John Tortorella , the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the President’s Trophy winners, even after Tampa’s historical regular season.
  • The Lightning were one of the best offensive teams in the league this season but were outscored, 19-8, in the series and had scarce offensive output from their best players.
  • With 128 points during the regular season, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov registered only two assists in four games for the Bolts.
  • This is the first time in NHL history that a No. 1 overall seed has been swept in the first round of the playoffs.

The Jets were grounded after six games

  • After making it to the Western Conference finals last season, the Winnipeg Jets were the most favored Canadian squad to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • The Jets lost in six games to the St. Louis Blues, who have won 12 of their past 16 games dating back to March 16.
  • All of Winnipeg’s losses came by one goal, as well as both their victories.
  • Even in their own arena during Game 5, the Jets allowed three goals in the third period and lost, 3-2.

Some of the league’s top players were shut down

  • Arguably the best player of the past decade, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby registered one assist in the playoffs — the lowest postseason point total of his career. He finished with a minus-4 in four games, the worst mark of his postseason career.
  • Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau also finished with one assist in five games with a minus-2 rating after scoring 99 points in the regular season.
  • Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist for the Predators and was not much of a factor, and the Dallas Stars took advantage, taking the series in six games.
  • Steven Stamkos also had a goal and an assist, with a plus/minus of minus-8. You could say he was a defensive liability for the Lightning.

Golden Knights get robbed in Game 7

  • Up 3-0 in Game 7, Vegas’ Cody Eakin cross-checked San Jose’s Joe Pavelski to the ice. Eakin was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
  • San Jose had an unreal comeback, netting four goals on the 5-minute power play to take the lead, with two goals coming from Logan Couture.
  • The Sharks won with two minutes left in overtime thanks to a goal from Barclay Goodrow, who only played two shifts the entire period.
  • On Thursday, the NHL apologized to the Golden Knights and admitted the referees were incorrect on Eakin’s penalty. That does not change anything for the Golden Knights.

A “Bunch of Jerks” beat the defending champs on the road in Game 7

  • One of the biggest underdogs in the playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes took the Washington Capitals to double overtime and advanced on a goal from Brock McGinn.
  • The Caps’ Alex Ovechkin had seven goals in the series but finished with a minus-2. He was a force in the offensive end but not so much on defense.
  • Warren Foegele led the Canes with four goals. In 77 regular- season games, Foegele had 10 total goals. The third liner has been great in his first playoff series.
  • The Hurricanes advance to the second round for the first time since 2009, when they made it to the Eastern Conference finals.

By: Trevor Drake

Original Article

How close are the Penguins to becoming the Blackhawks or Kings?

Dynasties don’t always fade away. Sometimes they just crumble and collapse into a smoldering pile of ruin that cannibalizes itself and everything around it.

Sure, we sometimes throw the word “dynasty” around in sports a little too loosely, and I admit I am probably doing that here for the purpose of this argument, but hey … I needed a starting point. Even though NHL’s salary cap era has not produced a true “dynasty” comparable to the likes of the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, or Montreal Canadiens, there have been three teams that have stood out above the pack and achieved a level of success no other team has come close to matching.

The Los Angeles Kings won two Stanley Cups in three years.

The Chicago Blackhawks won three in six.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have won three (with a fourth appearance in the Stanley Cup Final) in 10 years.

Those three teams have combined to win eight of the Stanley Cups in the salary cap era, including eight of the previous 10.

While none of them on their own qualify as a true “dynasty,” they have still been the defining teams of this era.

Two of them, the Blackhawks and Kings, are already in the smoldering pile phase of their franchise progression.

The Kings have missed the playoffs more than they’ve made them since winning their second Stanley Cup in 2014, have not won a playoff series, and just wrapped up a 2018-19 season where they spent the year competing with the Ottawa Senators for the worst record in the league.

The Blackhawks have not won a playoff series in three years since their 2015 Stanley Cup win and have missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Is this sort of bleak stretch in the Penguins’ future? Well, the long-term answer is most certainly yes, it is, because Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are not going to play forever, and there is going to come a point even when they are playing that they may not be able to carry the team to the playoffs. Hell, you don’t have to look far to see the track the Penguins have been on the past two years, going from back-to-back Stanley Cups, to a second-round exit, to a first-round sweep after clinching a playoff spot in Game 81 of the regular season.

That is coming down from the top of the mountain, friends, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody stays at the top forever, and at least if you are a Penguins, Kings, or Blackhawks fan you have a bunch of banners to show for it.

As the old saying goes: Banners hang forever.

But how close are the Penguins to truly falling to the bottom and living in the reality that Blackhawks and Kings have spent the past few years in (and maybe the next couple, at least)?

It will happen at some point, but I’m not sure the Penguins are there just quite yet.

First, even though the “core” of Crosby, Malkin, Letang, etc. are getting older, I feel like they have more of a graceful decline ahead of them than the core players of the Kings and Blackhawks.

The Kings’ core really wasn’t that impressive to begin with, was it?

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are great — but that was about it. Their run of championships was never one that was built on skill or remarkably deep rosters. It was built on suffocating, systematic defensive work and hoping that Jonathan Quick could catch fire for a couple of months and rise above his otherwise mediocre track record as an NHL starting goalie. I’m not saying the Kings were frauds as champions (they were a legitimately great for three years!) but they just didn’t seem to have the type of roster that was set-up for long-term, sustained success over a decade or so.

Once their handful of high-level players started to slow down, there wasn’t much left around them to make up for it. When a player like, say, Dustin Brown loses a step, he doesn’t have much else to fall back on.

The Blackhawks are a little tougher to get a read on on where things went so sideways for them.

Corey Crawford’s health issues over the past two years have definitely had a negative impact on their overall performance, and when you lose a really good starting goalie and don’t have anyone to fall back on, that is going to create a lot of problems. I also think a lot of the Blackhawks’ problems are a little self-inflicted in the sense that they stayed too loyal to the wrong players (see: Seabrook, Brent) and made some irrational decisions based on one bad postseason result (trading a first-line player like Artemi Panarin to bring back a lesser player in Brandon Saad — one that they were, again, probably staying too loyal to because of the team success).

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By: Gretz

Watch: Alex Ovechkin with epic celebration after go-ahead goal

Alex Ovechkin was feeling it after pouring in the go-ahead goal Monday night as his Washington Capitals attempted to close out their series against Carolina.

Ovechkin made a brilliant shot before going absolutely wild with an epic celebration in front of the road crowd.

This was Ovechkin’s fourth goal of the playoffs so far. He’s on fire right now, just like his celebration game.

Original Article

By Jesse Reed