- Accuracy Shooting: Jaccob Slavin (Hurricanes), 9.505 seconds
The Carolina Hurricanes have a deep defensive group (even with Dougie Hamilton sidelined), a trio of impressive young forwards and a former captain returning as a midseason boost. The team is third in terms of goal differential in the Metropolitan Division, yet head into the All-Star break in fifth place and battling to hold onto a wild card position.
One thing the team has been desperate to find over the last several years has been a solid starting goaltender, something that has proved elusive to this point. Petr Mrazek reinvigorated his career last season when he posted a .914 save percentage through 40 games with the Hurricanes, but after struggling in the playoffs he has been his old inconsistent self again this year. The bounce-back for James Reimer has been enough to keep the Carolina goaltending situation afloat, but according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription required) the Hurricanes are still keeping their eye on the market.
LeBrun writes that the Hurricanes have “monitored closely” the goaltending situation in Chicago, where the Blackhawks find themselves with two strong options in net who are both headed towards unrestricted free agency. Robin Lehner in particular is of interest, as LeBrun explains the Hurricanes tried to sign him as a free agent last summer and like him “a lot.”
What’s not to like? After finishing third in Vezina Trophy voting last season Lehner has proven it wasn’t just the tight New York Islanders defensive system that pushed his numbers into the stratosphere. The 28-year old goaltender has a .922 save percentage with the Blackhawks this season, which is actually only slightly ahead of his career average. Remember that Lehner also posted a .936 in the Islanders’ eight-game playoff run last spring, including coming oh-so-close to stealing Game 1 against the Hurricanes in the second round.
Lehner is headed for unrestricted free agency again and this time wants to be paid fairly for his career performance. LeBrun notes that the Blackhawks had a “brief conversation” with his camp recently and plan to speak again, but it’s not clear yet how the situation with Lehner and Corey Crawford, a franchise icon and fellow pending UFA, will turn.
Before Saturday’s All-Star Game three-on-three tournament, the NHL’s best will take the ice on Friday night in the annual All-Star Skills event. There has been considerable hype around this year’s competition, given both the new “Shooting Stars” event, in which players will fire the puck at targets on the ice from platforms in the stands, and the participation of stars from the women’s game, including their own three-on-three scrimmage. Now, the league has announced who specifically will be taking part in each event, both new and classic. Below is the lineup for each event:
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators
Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
David Rittich, Calgary Flames
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators
David Perron, St. Louis Blues
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
American Women’s Elite All-Star (TBD)
Canadian Women’s Elite All-Star (TBD)
Team Canada: Meghan Agosta, Mélodie Daoust, Ann-Renée Desbiens, Renata Fast, Laura Fortino, Rebecca Johnston, Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, Blayre Turnbull
Team USA: Kacey Bellamy, Alex Carpenter, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson, Annie Pankowski, Alex Rigsby Cavallini, Lee Stecklein
All the action kicks off at 7:00pm local time in St. Louis, with coverage from NBCSN in the U.S and CBC, SN, and TVAS in Canada.
The Carolina Hurricanes are close to getting their former captain back as Justin Williams is expected to return to the ice on Sunday against the New York Islanders, according to News & Observer’s Chip Alexander. While head coach Rod Brind’Amour did state that Williams will go through pre-game warmups before he made a decision on whether to play Williams, the scribe writes that everyone, including Brind’Amour believes that Williams will make his debut on Sunday.
“I’m nervous before every game I play so I’m going to have nerves,” Williams said. “But the one thing you never question is your ability and that’s one thing I’m never going to question. I’m going to go out there and work my tail off and let my instincts take over.”
The 38-year-old Williams signed a one-year deal 11 days ago and has been working with the team trying to get into game shape. Williams is coming off a solid season in which he scored 23 goals and 53 points last season and likely will take a bottom-six role to start.
- The Vancouver Canucks still remain hopeful they can bring back defenseman Nikita Tryamkin, who left the team three years ago after his dissatisfaction with his playing time and refusal to play in the AHL. The Canucks have hoped to bring back the 6-foot-7, 265-pound blueliner back after several successful seasons in the KHL. The 25-year-old might be open to coming back, according to his agent, Todd Diamond (via TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal. “It’s very much on the table, the goal and desire is to sign in Vancouver, that’s what we have had discussions about,” said Diamond. “I don’t want to disrupt his season. There is plenty of time to talk when his season is over.”
- San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner changed up the lines of his team, which also included listing forward Marcus Sorensen as a healthy scratch. Boughner used the word “message” when addressing the media, according to The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, suggesting he needs more “relentlessness” and for him to play “more on the inside.” After a 17-goal campaign, the 27-year-old is struggling this season with just five goals and has just one point in the last 19 games.
- Buffalo Sabres goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made his season debut in the AHL Saturday, stopping 24 of 27 shots in the Rochester American’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Cleveland Monsters. The Buffalo News’ Bill Hoppe writes that the plan has been to allow Luukkonen to stay with the team for a week before they return the top prospect to the ECHL, where he will play in their all-star game. The team may give him one more start before sending him back.
The Carolina Hurricanes have announced that Dougie Hamilton did indeed undergo surgery on his left leg today to repair a fractured fibula. The defenseman was injured last night when falling awkwardly into the boards and will be out indefinitely. Hamilton will be replaced at the upcoming All-Star game by teammate Jaccob Slavin.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour told team reporter Michael Smith that the injury was very similar to the one that kept teammate Jordan Staal out for three months in 2014, which at this point must seem like an optimistic goal. That would bring Hamilton back near the start of the playoffs, as long as Carolina can get there without him.
It’s hard to replace a player that does as much as Hamilton, but the Hurricanes may be one of the few clubs in the league with enough defense to do so. Already they were using Jake Gardiner much less than he is used to, giving the free agent signing just over 16 minutes a night after he averaged at least 20 in each of his eight first seasons. While Gardiner has been inconsistent this season, he may be able to eat up some of the minutes lost with Hamilton out.
Even behind Gardiner the team has Trevor van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury on the roster, not to mention Gustav Forsling, Jake Bean, Fredrik Claesson and Roland McKeown in the minor leagues who all have some level of NHL experience. Even Oliwer Kaski and Chase Priskie could be called upon in a pinch, though they haven’t proven themselves at the highest level yet. That kind of depth is an absolute luxury in the NHL these days, but should allow the Hurricanes to fill their blue line with enough talent to stay competitive in the Metropolitan Division.
The Carolina Hurricanes will still have one of their defensemen at the upcoming All-Star Game, as Jaccob Slavin has been added to the roster following Dougie Hamilton’s injury last night. Hamilton broke his fibula according to Nick Kypreos, though the team has not announced any official injury or timeline.
Slavin, 25, will be an All-Star for the first time in his career, despite being one of the most consistent two-way defensemen in the league for several years. The fourth-round pick from 2012 is a huge part of the Hurricanes team, logging more than 22 minutes a night (including almost zero powerplay time) and recording 22 points in 47 games. His +26 rating is good for third in the league, only behind Hamilton and Colorado Avalanche defender Ryan Graves.
It is terrible news for Hamilton though, who will miss significant time during what had been the best season of his NHL career. The 26-year old was a legitimate Norris Trophy contender with 14 goals and 40 points through 47 games, and will be sorely missed by the Hurricanes.
When Justin Williams decided to go back to the Carolina Hurricanes after his semi-retirement, it was on a minimum salary of $700K (prorated for the rest of the season). That deal comes with plenty of potential performance bonuses however, and Chris Johnston of Sportsnet broke them down today. Williams can earn:
- $150K for 10 games played
- $100K for 20 games played
- $250K if team makes the playoffs
- $100K for each round team wins in round 1-3
- $250K if team wins the Stanley Cup
- $250K if Williams wins the Conn Smythe
Those bonuses are cumulative, meaning Williams could earn an extra $1.3MM if things go (extremely) well. Not a bad payday for a player who hasn’t seen any action since last spring when the Hurricanes lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.
- Though Mikael Granlund wasn’t included in Craig Custance’s trade board today for The Athletic, colleague Adam Vingan was quick to point out on Twitter that the forward has not had any contract negotiations with the Nashville Predators yet. Granlund is in the final season of a three-year, $17.25MM deal signed when he was still with the Minnesota Wild, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
- While the Department of Player Safety considers the punishment for Ryan Lindgren, they’ve handed out a $2,688.17 fine (the maximum allowable amount) to Nick Cousins for his boarding incident last night. The Montreal Canadiens forward pushed Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green from behind and sent him hard into the boards. Though he won’t be suspended for the incident, Cousins will see harsher punishments in the future thanks to the fine.
There had been plenty of speculation in recent days that the Hurricanes and Justin Williams were closing in on a deal but it’s now official. The team announced that they’ve signed the winger to a one-year contract. He will receive a base salary of the league minimum $700K (pro-rated) plus up to $1.3MM in potential performance bonuses based on individual and team play both in the regular season and playoffs.
GM Don Waddell released the following statement on the signing:
We’ve been in frequent contact with Justin over the last few months regarding his status. We’re thrilled that he has decided to return to playing, and we’re confident that adding him to our group will help us both on and off the ice.
The 38-year-old served as Carolina’s captain last season before “taking a break” from the game back in early September before training camps open. However, he continued to skate and was believed to have increased his training in recent days with talks intensifying towards a new contract.
Williams was rather productive for the Hurricanes a year ago when he collected 23 goals and 30 assists while playing in all 82 regular season games; his 53 points were good enough to rank third on the team in scoring. While it would be unreasonable to expect him to come in and produce at a similar rate down the stretch this season, he should still be able to be a useful secondary scorer on a team that is already in the top ten in goals scored.
For his career, Williams has 312 goals and 474 assists in 1,244 games between four teams. His 786 points have him in the top 200 in all-time NHL scoring.
The structure of the contract, though a little odd, isn’t much of a surprise. As a result of the Patrick Marleau acquisition and buyout back in June, the Hurricanes are carrying his full $6.25MM deal on the books this season. Add to that the summer signings of winger Ryan Dzingel and defenseman Jake Gardiner (who combine for a $7.425MM price tag) and Carolina is a team that’s relatively tight to the cap. Structuring the deal to be bonus-laden minimizes the potential cap effects this season while also not taking too much away from their current cap room. If the bonuses ultimately push them over the Upper Limit, the overage penalty would be applied in 2020-21 when Marleau’s deal is off the books and they have more flexibility to absorb it.
Considering that he hasn’t played all season, it will be interesting to see if Williams jumps in right away for their next game on Friday against Arizona or if he will need some more time to get into playing shape. Either way, what has already been a pretty deep attack this season just got deeper.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
8:00pm: Williams was in attendance at PNC Arena on Tuesday night and it seems he was doing more than just taking in the Hurricanes-Flyers game. LeBrun reports that Williams has tentatively agreed on a contract with Carolina, with an official signing and announcement likely to arrive on Wednesday.
4:20pm: Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that the Toronto Maple Leafs also “made a pitch” to Williams this week, while confirming Boston’s interest.
1:35pm: Last night, while the the hockey world was focused on Connor McDavid’s wizardry and Peter Laviolette’s unemployment, John Shannon of Sportsnet provided an update on the situation involving Justin Williams and Carolina Hurricanes. There have been various reports over the last few weeks that suggested Williams’ semi-retirement could be coming to an end, but nothing has yet been finalized with the league.
Shannon tweets that the Hurricanes made a final offer to Williams yesterday to return to the team for the rest of the season, but also notes that if the veteran forward doesn’t sign in Carolina, the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning will “try and sign” him.
Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer however reported this afternoon that negotiations between the Hurricanes and Williams are ongoing, with the team “pushing for resolution in next 24 hours.”
Whatever that resolution is, there’s no guarantee that Williams will even be much help to an NHL team this season. The 38-year old forward has always come up big in important games, earning him the nickname “Mr. Game 7” but now hasn’t played any meaningful hockey in nearly eight months. Who knows how long it would take him to get up to speed, even if he was an effective option for the club last season.
In 82 contests during the 2018-19 campaign, the eighth consecutive season he has missed two or fewer games, Williams recorded 23 goals and 53 points. That included five game-winners to take his career total to 42 in the regular season (50 overall).
Although it took some time, with each individual team rolling out their own selections, the final rosters for All-Star Weekend have come into focus. Below are each of the four divisional team, set to face off in the Skills Competition on Friday, January 24th and the All-Star Game on Saturday, January 25th:
G Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
F Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (C)
G Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
G Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
F Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
F Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers
F Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils
F Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
G Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
D Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (C)
F Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
F Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
G Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
D Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
F Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
F Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (C)
F Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
F Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks
F Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Additionally, each divisional squad will have one more addition as decided by the Last Men In fan vote. Voting opens on January 1st and closes on the 10th. Here are the candidates: