The final week of 2017 saw quite a bit of news around the league, even if it wasn’t in the form of player movement following the holiday roster freeze. Here are the top stories for the week.
Key Injuries: Both the Jets and Blue Jackets received some tough news on the injury front. Winnipeg center Mark Scheifele is out six-to-eight weeks with an upper-body injury sustained against Edmonton. For the time being, their plan is to shift Blake Wheeler down the middle instead of looking for a replacement via a trade. As for Columbus, they’ll be without winger Cam Atkinson (broken foot) and center Alexander Wennberg (back) for the next four-to-six weeks. While both players have underachieved this season, their absences create a sizable hole in their lineup. While not an injury, the Rangers also got some tough news as winger Chris Kreider is out indefinitely due to a blood clot in his right arm.
Four More Years For Armstrong: There are quite a few general managers who started the season in the final year of their contract, something that’s a bit of an unusual occurrence in the NHL. That number decreased by one this past week as the Blues inked GM Doug Armstrong to a four-year extension. Armstrong also made some headlines when he acknowledged that St. Louis isn’t likely to be active in the rental market between now and the trade deadline. There are still at least four active general managers that are unsigned beyond this season: Jim Benning (Canucks), Chuck Fletcher (Wild), Ken Holland (Red Wings), and Lou Lamoriello (Maple Leafs) while it has been suggested that Brian MacLellan (Capitals) is also in that situation as well but his contract status was never made public.
Penguins Not Actively Shopping Letang: While there was a suggestion earlier in the month that the Penguins could consider trading defenseman Kris Letang as they look to change things up on their roster, they are not actively shopping him either. Given Letang’s contract ($7.25MM for four more years after this one) with his injury history and no-trade protection (he can block a deal to 18 teams), making everything work in-season with a lot of buying teams not having anywhere near that type of cap space would be a challenge. A summer trade is certainly more likely (if they’re going to move him at all) and if they are able to find a team that can make it work now, they’ll likely want to see Letang (currently on IR with a lower-body issue) back in action before pulling the trigger.
Bower Passes Away: Long-time Maple Leafs and Hall of Fame netminder Johnny Bower passed away at the age of 93 after a short battle with pneumonia. He played in 552 career NHL regular season games (all but 77 with Toronto), winning four Stanley Cups and a pair of Vezina Trophies while playing regularly through the age of 44. Bower was also very active in the community and took part in numerous charitable functions, even in the days leading up to his passing while serving as an ambassador for the game for decades.
Senators Looking To Make Changes: With Ottawa tumbling rapidly down the standings, it appears GM Pierre Dorion is looking to shake up the roster. Although some have wondered if top blueliner Erik Karlsson could be moved, he has now been identified along with winger Mark Stone as the two untouchables among their current core players. Winger Mike Hoffman’s name has already surfaced as a player several teams are interested in but the big question here is if Ottawa is looking to start a rebuild or if they’re looking to bring similar players in return in the hopes that a new player or two will get them going in the second half.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.