After all the struggles the New York Islanders have had over the last few years finding a reliable starting goaltender, one can understand why it is surprising to see one of them at the top of the Three Stars list for last week. Robin Lehner, who was left unqualified by the Buffalo Sabres last summer, took home the first star of the week after stopping 65 of 67 shots. Lehner has played himself into a potential extension with the Islanders or a long-term deal on the open market this summer with his .930 save percentage this season for the resurgent Islanders.
Second and third stars went to two forwards on teams out of the playoffs, as Mika Zibanejad and Patrick Kane did their usual damage. Zibanejad is one of the few players on the New York Rangers that seems off the trade block this season given his relative youth and affordable contract, though of course nothing is set in stone at this point. Kane on the other hand is having another incredible season in a lost year for the Blackhawks, with 70 points in 49 games. He too is untouchable, of course.
- Kane also made headlines today for coming to the defense of teammate Brent Seabrook. With the Blackhawks in the midst of another failed season, the scrutiny of Seabrook’s contract – considered by many to be one of the worst in the league – hasn’t gone away. Seabrook, 33, is signed for five more years at a cap hit of $6.875MM, but already appears to be on the decline. His offensive totals have decreased in each of the past two seasons and, while they are on pace to improve this year, his defense has noticeably dropped off in the current campaign. Seabrook has struggled to maintain his previous high level of play and has not been able to avoid criticism, given the price tag on his participation. Yet, Kane fired back at media members after practice on Monday when Seabrook’s name came up yet again during questioning about the performance of Chicago’s core players, NBC Sports’ Charlie Roumeliotis writes. Kane argued that Seabrook is underpaid in the eyes of his teammates due to his leadership and locker room presence, calling him the “heart and soul” of the team. Kane’s defense of his long-time teammate may keep the critics of his back for the time being, but if Seabrook doesn’t improve, his contract will continue to be a focal point of the Blackhawks struggles.
- It didn’t take long for Brian Flynn to find a new team. Just two days after clearing unconditional waivers and having his contract terminated by the St. Louis Blues, the veteran forward is on his way to Switzerland. EV Zug of the NLA has announced a one-year contract with Flynn, who is making his first foray into European hockey. Zug is currently the top team in the NLA; however, the team finished second overall in the regular season last year, only to be upset in the first round of the playoffs. Looking to avoid a similar fate, they have brought in Flynn who should make an immediate impact. The 30-year-old has 275 NHL games under his belt, as well as another 137 in the AHL and 153 in the NCAA as a star for the University of Maine. In stops with the Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens, Flynn showed that he could be a reliable role player, while his collegiate years and AHL stints with the Rochester Americans and Texas Stars also displayed high-end offensive ability. Playing alongside fellow NHL vets like Dennis Everberg, Carl Klingberg, and Raphael Diaz, as well as leading scorer Lino Martschini – who has garnered some NHL attention this season – Flynn should be able to step in and be a difference-maker right away for Zug.