Waddell was certainly buoyed by Carolina’s presence in the Conference Final. The Hurricanes have had quite the year in his first season as GM and they pulled the trigger on a pair of significant trades, sending Jeff Skinner to Buffalo plus Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to Calgary. Carolina also effectively rebuilt their goalie tandem with the signing of Petr Mrazek and the waiver claim of Curtis McElhinney; the two have combined to give them well above average goaltending for the combined price of an above average backup netminder.
Jim Schoenfeld has stepped down from his position as New York Rangers assistant general manager, ending a 17-year run with the organization. The executive was the GM of the Hartford Wolf Pack for 14 years, but the team decided to hand over the minor league affiliate to Chris Drury in 2017. Rangers president Glen Sather released a statement:
In nearly two decades with the Rangers, Jim made an impact on every level of the organization. His tireless efforts and contributions were vital to the extended run of success we experienced during his tenure in New York.
Prior to his tenure in New York, Schoenfeld had worked as a head coach for the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals and Phoenix Coyotes but achieved mild success. His overall record was 256-246-78 as an NHL coach, with a losing record in 57 playoff contests. His departure leaves Drury as the only assistant GM on staff for the time being.
- Florida Panthers prospect Ludwig Bystrom is heading to Finland, signing a two-year contract with Karpat. The 24-year old defenseman was scheduled to be a restricted free agent this summer after spending the last two seasons with the Springfield Thunderbirds. Bystrom recorded 30 points in 71 games this season for Springfield, but still hasn’t made his NHL debut. The Swedish defenseman was originally drafted 43rd overall by the Dallas Stars in 2012.
- The Carolina Hurricanes are expected to have Curtis McElhinney in net once again as they try to stay alive in their Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Bruins. McElhinney stopped 29 of 31 shots on Tuesday night in a losing effort, and will try to find some magic to keep the Hurricanes in the series. Regardless of what happens tonight the Hurricanes will have to make some tough decisions on their goaltending situation next season, as both McElhinny and Petr Mrazek are pending unrestricted free agents. Top prospect Alex Nedeljkovic was recently named AHL Goaltender of the Year, but has just two games of NHL experience.
Jordan Binnington has been a revelation for the St. Louis Blues this season. A 25-year-old rookie who didn’t make his first NHL start until January, Binnington somehow managed to record 24 wins, a .927 save percentage, and a league-leading 1.89 GAA this season and has led the Blues to the Western Conference Final thus far in these playoffs. Binnington will be 26 before next season and has just 33 career appearances, yet he is a Calder Trophy candidate and undeniably St. Louis’ MVP in this amazing turnaround season. So how do you compensate a season like this? The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin wondered the same thing and explored three comparable contracts that the Blues may explore this off-season. The first belongs to a player with many similarities to Binnington, NHL journeyman Andrew Hammond. Hammond’s breakout season with the Ottawa Senators in 2015 was even more impressive than Binnington’s, that is until he lost his job to a healthy Craig Anderson in the postseason. A 26-year-old “prospect” with only 24 NHL appearances to his name, Hammond received just $1.35MM per year over three years from the Senators following his big season. However, Larkin points out that Hammond was not expected to be the starter in Ottawa, whereas Binnington is undoubtedly going to begin next season ahead of Jake Allen on the Blues’ depth chart. He also notes that Binnington has arbitration rights this season and no reasonable arbitrator would be convinced that Binnington is worth an equivalent contract to Hammond’s, which would only be about a $1.5MM AAV. On the other end of the spectrum, Larkin uses Winnipeg Jets’ starter Connor Hellebuyck as an example. Hellebuyck, another older prospect out of UMass – Lowell, Hellebuyck joined the Jets in 2015-16 at age 22 as the backup, struggled the next year as the part-time starter, and then had a breakout campaign last year in the final season of his entry-level contract. Winnipeg responded with a six-year deal worth more than $6MM annually for Hellebuyck. However, by the time he signed his extension, Hellebuyck had played in 149 games over three seasons, a much larger sample size than Binnington’s. He was also younger and entered the NHL with far great expectations compared to Binnington’s relative obscurity through a long AHL career. Thus, Hellebuyck also fails to be a convincing comparison for Binnington. Larkin finally settles on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Matt Murray. Murray also came out of nowhere as a rookie, albeit a 21-year-old rookie, to start 13 games down the stretch and then lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup behind a stellar postseason. Despite Murray’s lack of NHL experience, the Penguins had seen enough to reward their young keeper with a three-year extension worth $3.75MM per year. While Binnington is significantly older and a less heralded prospect, he has a larger sample size and slightly better regular season numbers than Murray, making the deal a fair comparison. Under the current salary cap, which is likely to increase this summer, Murray’s deal would equate to about a $4.25MM AAV for Binnington. So what should Blues fans expect in a Binnington extension? The safe bet is somewhere between three and four years at $4-4.5MM per year, but a Stanley Cup title could still push that value even higher for the breakout keeper.
- According to Shawn P. Roarke of NHL.com, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour says there is a “pretty good chance” he goes back to Curtis McElhinney in net for an elimination Game Four against the Boston Bruins on Thursday. McElhinney has played well this postseason in relief of Petr Mrazek, including in Game Three. McElhinney made 29 saves and allowed just two goals on Tuesday night after Mrazek surrendered ten goals combined in Games One and Two. At this point, McElhinney does seem to give the Hurricanes the best chance to win against Boston, but is there more at stake here? Whether McElhinney or Mrazek are in net, the odds of Carolina winning Game Four are slim and the chances they win four in a row to advance are much, much worse. When the ’Canes are inevitably eliminated, they face a reality of both Mrazek and McElhinney being unrestricted free agents. If forced to choose between the two, one would certainly think that the team would prefer to bring back Mrazek, who outplayed McElhinney this season – and is nine years younger. However, they take the risk in going back to McElhinney, who lost nevertheless in Game Three, that Mrazek no longer feels like the top option in Carolina and looks for other opportunities on the open market. After a strong season, the Hurricanes can’t afford a downgrade in net, so unless they are open to spending more on a free agent upgrade to Mrazek – a Robin Lehner or Semyon Varlamov for example – they’ll need to be careful with how the approach his confidence as this playoff run winds down.
- Is new Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland happy to enter next season with Mikko Koskinen and (Group 6 free agent) Anthony Stolarz in net? If not, he could have a hard time attracting free agents and might instead look to his old team for help. Steve Yzerman may also want to bring in fresh blood in Detroit, but the Red Wings are locked in to Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier next season to the tune of $7MM. The ink is still drying on Howard’s extension with the team and his loyalty likely lies more with the city of Detroit than with Holland. After a nice season, it would be a surprise for Howard to be dealt away. However, Yzerman will likely be willing to move the disappointing Bernier and Holland would seemingly be interested. After all, it was Holland who signed the journeyman to a three-year, $9MM contract just last summer. He very well may feel that Bernier can still live up to that contract, even after a poor first season with the Red Wings. It would not come as much of a surprise if Bernier outperforms Koskinen next season, so if Holland can re-acquire the veteran net minder on the cheap, it could make sense for the Oilers.
The middle of May doesn’t always bring with it a number of small transactions, but today happens to be a different story. Here are some minor moves from around the league:
- The Carolina Hurricanes have recalled Patrick Brown once again, the latest transaction in a playoff-long shuffle between the AHL and NHL. Brown is up under emergency conditions meaning he will have to be sent back down if all of the Hurricanes are healthy enough to play in tonight’s game. He’ll start his own playoff series later this week when the Charlotte Checkers take on the Toronto Marlies in the AHL Eastern Conference Final.
- The Rockford IceHogs have signed Liam Coughlin and Jack Ramsey to one-year AHL contracts, meaning they will stay with the Chicago Blackhawks organization for at least another year. The pair of draft picks both would have seen their exclusive negotiating rights expire later this summer after four year careers in the NCAA.
- The Binghamton Devils have done the same, signing Ludvig Larsson to an AHL deal for 2019-20. Larsson played three years at Merrimack College before suiting up this season for Pennsylvania State University. Undrafted, he then spent seven games with the AHL Devils at the end of the year, enough to convince him to return to the organization for another season.
- 37-year old former NHL defenseman Anton Volchenkov has re-signed with his KHL club for one more year, giving him another chance to continue a long and successful playing career. Originally selected by the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the 2000 entry draft, Volchenkov played nearly 800 games in the NHL before returning to Russia, including 86 playoff contests.
The season is over for all but four NHL teams, meaning free agents from the other 27 clubs are already focused on July 1st and the start of free agency. How many of those top free agents are still considering staying where they are versus testing the market? How many teams have the means and interest to re-sign them?
In January, PHR published our Mid-Season UFA Power Rankings: 1-10, 11-20, and honorable mentions. Mark Stone, Eric Staal, Jakob Silfverberg and Jimmy Howard – four of our top 25 – have already signed extensions. However, the other top names and their current squads have exactly seven weeks to decide whether or not they will follow suit.
The Columbus Blue Jackets went all in at the trade deadline and it paid off with the franchise’s first ever playoff series win, a shocking sweep of the President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning. Yet, the acquisitions of Ottawa Senators standouts Matt Duchene (No. 5) and Ryan Dzingel (No. 16) was not enough to get the team through round two, nevertheless to a Stanley Cup title. Now, the team faces the possibility that their new additions could walk in free agency alongside stars Artemi Panarin (No. 2) and Sergei Bobrovsky (No. 6), leaving them with major holes to fill. The latter duo have long been expected to test the market, perhaps even as a package deal. Additionally, the conditional 2020 first-round pick tied to re-signing Duchene would seemingly make it less likely that Columbus opts to extend him, especially given their lack of picks in the upcoming draft. None of those three have officially ruled out a return to the Blue Jackets, but it doesn’t look good. On the other hand, Dzingel, an Ohio State University alum, looks like he could be a more natural long-term fit, but it hasn’t prevented rumors that other teams are very interested in signing him.
Another free agent-heavy team that blew through round one of the playoffs only to be knocked off in round two are the New York Islanders. After losing John Tavares last summer, going through the same with top forward Anders Lee (No. 9) would be devastating for the Islanders franchise. Yet, the captain still remains unsigned. It’s fair to assume they will eventually figure it out, but that line of thinking if awfully reminiscent of last year. New York is reportedly pushing hard to retain enter Brock Nelson (No. 11) and winger Jordan Eberle (No. 15) as well, but they could be more inclined to test the market. There’s also the question of resurgent goalie Robin Lehner (No. 23). Will the Islanders lock up the young keeper who was so solid this season? Or will they refuse to pay market value for a player that has benefited from their system while splitting time with Thomas Greiss?
Another team of interest are the San Jose Sharks, who remain alive in the Western Conference Final. Superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson (No. 1) and respected veteran forward Joe Pavelski (No. 7) are both heading for free agency and the Sharks may be hard-pressed to sign both. There’s also deadline addition Gustav Nyquist (No. 14) to consider re-signing, as he has had a strong postseason with the Sharks. The Carolina Hurricanes are also one of four teams still playing and are definitely happy they held on to forward Micheal Ferland (No. 18). Ferland is reportedly expected to test the market, but after a deep postseason run he may be more open to extending his stay with the Hurricanes.
It was a difficult end to the year for the Winnipeg Jets, who were one-and-done this year, falling to the St. Louis Blues in the first round. Between rental center Kevin Hayes (No. 8) and big defenseman Tyler Myers (No. 10), the Jets have a pair of coveted free agents on the roster who they would surely like to keep, but that is the least of their worries as they face a daunting impending cap crunch. It could make bringing back even one of the two nearly impossible. The same goes for defenseman Jake Gardiner (No. 12) and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs will have a hard enough time keeping their roster together and re-signing their current restricted free agent, nevertheless managing to re-sign Gardiner.
Generally, playoff rentals proceed to hit the free agent market rather than re-up with their new teams. In addition to Duchene, Dzingel, Hayes, and Nyquist, Nashville’s Wayne Simmonds (No. 13), Dallas’ Mats Zuccarello (No. 21), and Colorado’s Derick Brassard (No. 24) could very well be headed to yet another destination. Simmonds and Brassard were disappointments in their short stays, but Zuccarello proved to be a nice fit with the Stars. However, the team would lose a first-round pick rather than a second-round pick to the New York Rangers if they were to re-sign the veteran forward. That may not be enough to stop them from extending him, though.
If there was any doubt that the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t re-sign Jeff Skinner (No. 4), one would think he would have been dealt at the trade deadline. However, he remains suspiciously unsigned and would be a massive addition to the free agent market if he does make it to July. Skinner has been a great match with Jack Eichel and certainly looks like a long-term fit in Buffalo, but the team’s second-half struggles could have Skinner re-thinking a long-term stay.
Vancouver’s Alexander Edler (No. 22) stated that his preference was not to be dealt at this year’s trade deadline and to instead re-sign with the Canucks. The two sides have been working toward an extension, but until pen meets paper he is still an impending free agent that will attract considerable attention. Similarly, Semyon Varlamov (No. 17) has expressed an interest in remaining with the Colorado Avalanche, but it’s unclear if the feeling is mutual. Varlamov would have to take a major pay cut to stay on as backup and may rather test a goalie market that has already lost Howard and could lose Lehner before free agency opens.
Compared to recent years, this impending free agent class does look to have fewer locks for extensions among top players. Any of these names could hit the market, although odds are they won’t all choose to do so. Regardless, this could be a healthy market come July 1st. Just how deep could it be? That’s for you to guess. How many of these top free agents will sign extensions?
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Up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final behind a pair of convincing wins, the Boston Bruins have their eye on a second Stanley Cup title this decade and have the appearance of the team to beat right now. Tuukka Rask has been the Bruins’ best player so far this postseason and maybe the best player altogether. That is the growing consensus anyway, as Rask has emerged as the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy should Boston go all the way. Entering the third round of the playoffs, Vegas odds makers gave the Bruins keeper the best chances to be named playoff MVP after an incredible first two rounds. Two games later, he’s continued his strong play and those odds are only improving. Granted, Cup-winning goalies tend to be given strong consideration for the Conn Smythe every year, as reflected by St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington, San Jose’s Martin Jones, and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek filling spots two, four, and five respectively in the current odds as well. However, it’s more than that when it comes to Rask’s current level of play, as a quick look at the numbers will show that has truly been the best player in these playoffs so far. In 921 minutes, almost an hour more than Binnington in second, Rask not only leads all goalies in time on ice, but also tops all starters in wins and save percentage and is second in goals against average. Ruling out relief appearances by Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and Nashville’s Juuse Saros and two starts from Carolina’s Curtis McElhinney, Rask’s .937 save percentage is the best so far this postseason and, were it not for the New York Islanders’ Robin Lehner, Rask’s 2.02 GAA would also be tops. In fact, the Bruins allowed two late goals in Game Two against the Hurricanes after sitting back on a 6-0 lead, without which Rask would lead all categories and would hold a sub-2.00 GAA.
Rask has often faced unfair criticism during his time in Boston for lacking a “clutch” factor, despite winning a Vezina Trophy and leading the team to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. In fact, while Rask may not get much recognition, he is quietly one of the better goaltenders in NHL history on paper and has been even better in the postseason. Rask’s career playoff save percentage currently sits at .927, ranked seventh all-time and fourth among active goalies, while his 2.21 GAA is 14th in the modern era and again fourth among active goalies. Compared to his career regular season .921 save percentage and 2.28 GAA, Rask is better in the playoffs, yet his regular season numbers rank third and fourth all-time behind only the likes of Dominik Hasek, Ken Dryden, and Martin Brodeur. Rask is certainly due more respect than he tends to get and if he continues this impeccable playoff run, he should get it in the form of the Conn Smythe Trophy.
- Ranked second in the Conn Smythe odds and second among the four remaining starters in time on ice and goals against average, Binnington has continued to be the surprise performance fueling the Blues amazing turnaround season. A 25-year-old rookie who forced himself into Calder Trophy consideration with a stunning second half, Binnington recorded 24 wins, a .927 save percentage, and a league-leading 1.89 GAA this season. Yet, his numbers have tailed off in the postseason, although it’s been enough to get St. Louis through to the Western Conference Final. Is there more to Binnington’s slight struggles than just tougher competition in the playoffs? TSN’s Frank Seravalli writes that it’s hard to ignore the similarities between Binnington’s season and that of Andrew Hammond in 2015, when the “Hamburglar” took the league by storm. Hammond also arrived on the NHL stage late in his career and without much initial fanfare. He posted even better numbers in his rookie year than Binnington did his year and led the Ottawa Senators to the postseason, stealing starts from Craig Anderson along the way. However, he faltered in the playoffs and was replaced by Anderson mid-way through a first-round exit. Hammond put up pedestrian numbers as the Senators’ backup the next season before completely falling off the map. Could the same fate await Binnington? Already Binnington has bested Hammond’s season by continuing to play well in the playoffs, but how he’ll perform next year remains a mystery. In speaking with Blues coaches and players, Seravall notes that no one is worried that Binnington will fizzle out, this year or next. St. Louis fans just have to hope they are right, especially if the team opts to enter next season with the same tandem of Binnington and the inconsistent Jake Allen.
- After the Colorado Avalanche signed 22-year-old Adam Werner to his entry-level contract today, they now have two goalies under contract for next season, and that’s it. Fortunately, one of those two is starter Philipp Grubauer, who came on strong in the second half of the season and in the postseason. He looks like a solid starter moving forward, but the Avs have many decisions to make behind him before next season. Werner should be no higher than fourth on the depth chart next year, so he’s not the solution as Grubauer’s backup by any means. Spencer Martin, 23, is a restricted free agent who should be back with the team. However, Martin struggled in the AHL this season and has yet to assert himself as a true NHL option through four pro seasons. Current backup Semyon Varlamov is a free agent who seemingly remains on good terms with the Avalanche, but is coming off a contract worth $5.9MM annually and may not be willing to take less than Grubauer’s $3.33MM on his next deal. This would seem to put this year’s third-stringer, Pavel Francouz, in a promising situation. The 28-year-old KHL import had a strong first season in North America, earning AHL All-Star recognition and making two impressive NHL appearances. Francouz initially signed with Colorado before Grubauer was acquired last summer and expected to compete for NHL time more than he did. Perhaps this could be his opportunity to win a full-time backup job next season. If the Avalanche feel Francouz and Martin are not adequate depth behind Gruabauer, Brian Elliott, Anders Nilsson, and Curtis McElhinney are among the affordable backup options available in free agency.
When the Eastern Conference Final resumes on Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes may have a different starting goaltender. NHL.com’s Shawn P. Roarke relays that Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour would not commit to starting Petr Mrazek again in Game Three. The Boston Bruins have scored 11 goals in the first two games of the series, all but one of which were attributed to Mrazek. He had only allowed allowed on goal in his previous two games and only 20 total in nine playoff games this season before arriving in Boston. Clearly, the Bruins have him figured out right now and it may be time for Carolina to give Curtis McElhinney a shot. Brind’amour approached Mrazek about coming out of Game Two, but the 27-year-old keeper wanted to stick it out, a right that the coach said he had earned. However, as Mrazek’s play did not improve as the game went on, he has likely lost that right to determine when he plays. McElhinney, who turns 36 next week, may have tread on the tired but is well-rested after making only three appearances so far in the playoffs. In those game, he has been stellar as well, posting a .947 save percentage and 1.56 GAA. If the Hurricanes are to win four of their next five games to come back and beat Boston, they’ll need some magic and Mrazek appears to be all out. Perhaps McElhinney has been saving some up for the first postseason run of his 12-year NHL career.
- Chicago Blackhawks prospect Fredrik Olofsson is heading home to Sweden. Olofsson, who made his pro debut last month with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs, has signed with MODO of the Swedish Hockey League, according to Swedish news source Kvalls Posten. This could be the end of Olofsson’s days in North American hockey, as he wraps up a solid NCAA career only to immediately bolt. Olofsson was a fourth-round pick by the Blackhawks in 2014 and played four seasons at the University of Nebraska – Omaha, leading the team in scoring in his senior season. The 22-year-old forward played in a pair of games with the Blackhawks’ affiliate, but has not been offered an NHL contract. He will thus become a free agent in August when his NHL rights expire, but doesn’t seem optimistic about his market. Interestingly, while Olofsson has represented Sweden on the international stage, he has never played competitively in his home country. Olofsson played his midget, junior, and college hockey in the U.S., but is now finally ready to return home.
- The Florida Panthers are expected to be major players on the free agent market this summer, with much of the speculated centered on their interest in top free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. While goaltending was certainly an issue this season and Bobrovksy would help immensely, defense was also a major concern and wouldn’t be addressed by grabbing only those two. Unsurprisingly, GM Dale Tallon tells The Athletic’s George Richards that a top-four right-handed defenseman is also on his wish list this summer. However, cap space is going to be tight for the Panthers and top righties like Erik Karlsson and Tyler Myers are likely out of their price range. Richards lists Anton Stralman and Adam McQuaid as right-side free agent options, while Ben Lovejoy, Dan Girardi, and Roman Polak would be other possibilities. If those aren’t impressive enough to be considered a top-four solution, Florida could be an intriguing trade partner for the Winnipeg Jets or Ottawa Senators for Jacob Trouba and Cody Ceci respectively.
The Guelph Storm are your 2019 OHL champions, defeating the Ottawa 67’s in six games after falling behind in the series 0-2. The Storm came back in three different playoff rounds to punch their ticket to the Memorial Cup, where they’ll take on the QMJHL winner Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, host team (and QMJHL runner-up) Halifax Mooseheads and either the Prince Albert Raiders or Vancouver Giants out of the WHL.
Guelph had a huge number of future NHL players on the team, but perhaps none more impressive than Nick Suzuki who took home MVP honors. The 19-year old forward recorded an incredible 42 points in 24 playoff games, while also finishing a +22. Suzuki was the main piece acquired by the Montreal Canadiens in last summer’s Max Pacioretty trade and will try to take another step in his development path next season when he starts his professional career.
- Erik Karlsson is “not at 100%” according to Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet, who noted yesterday that the San Jose Sharks defenseman may find his earning potential limited by his injury history as he heads towards unrestricted free agency this summer. While Kypreos explained that the Sharks do have interest in re-signing their star, he imagines that there may not even be a team willing to give Karlsson a seven-year contract given the injury risk he poses. The 28-year old has dealt with a groin injury for much of this season and previously had major surgery on his ankle. Karlsson has 13 points in 15 games this postseason, but has yet to score a goal.
- Perhaps the Carolina Hurricanes needed to find a way to get Patrick Brown and Jake Bean into the lineup today, but both were technically reassigned to the AHL before the game. The Hurricanes were picked apart by the Boston Bruins in Game Two, and will need to find a way to stop the bleeding as the series transitions back to Raleigh. Brown and Bean had been up on emergency recalls, meaning they have to go back down if the rest of the roster is healthy enough to play. The Charlotte Checkers don’t start their third-round series until Friday, meaning the Brown-Bean shuffle will probably continue all week.
The Ottawa Senators may have benefited long-term from trading off its expected big-name free agents at the trade deadline, but the franchise must still answer to its fans. With a number of young players on their roster, the team must prove to their fan base that it has no intention of just trading away all of their players once their contracts come up. There are rumblings that suggest the Senators are ready to commit to one such player, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman writes in his “31 Thoughts” column that the Senators are going to attempt to lock up defensive cornerstone Thomas Chabot to a long-term extension. Chabot, who broke out with a big season in his sophomore year with 14 goals and 55 points in 70 games, would be the ideal signing for the organization to prove to its fans that they intend to compete in the future.
Friedman also writes that owner Eugene Melnyk has been humbled by his lack of success in finding a President of Hockey Operations with top candidates showing no interest to the point of refusing to even meet with the team. The hope is that Melnyk will now find a way to please the fans by rewarding one of their young players. Chabot is the most likely fit as he will be eligible for an extension on July 1 as he is entering the final year of his entry-level contract. Perhaps the move will also turn around the team’s presidential search.
- NBC Sports Brian McNally writes that while the team was thrilled that 23-year-old Jakub Vrana put up 24 goals and finally broke out as a consistent top-six winger, the team now has to pay for him. Vrana, who becomes a restricted free agent this summer, could look to sign a long-term deal as a young piece to a veteran team or opt to sign a bridge deal that could take him towards unrestricted free agency in a few years. Of course, Vrana struggled in the playoffs which could count against him, as he didn’t register a point during the team’s seven-game series to the Carolina Hurricanes. We’ll have some decisions to make,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We’ll find out which direction we’re going on Vrana with a term deal or a bridge deal. Some of it is money decisions. Some of it’s we need to make a couple changes.”
- The Carolina Hurricanes are ready for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals with the Boston Bruins and while there will be no lineup changes, News & Observer’s Luke DeCock writes that the team still hopes that forward Saku Maenalanen, who has been out since Apr. 28 after having surgery on his hand, could return to the team soon as he practiced with the team Saturday in a non-contact jersey. The surgery was expected him to miss 10 to 14 days, which has already passed. While he’s tallied just one assist throughout the playoffs, the 6-foot-4 winger had given the team a physical element that it needed. The team hopes he might return later in this series
- Jonathan Bombulie of TribLive writes that while it will be Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford job to move out some defensemen, figuring out which defensemen to move could be more challenging that most might think. Looking at Olli Maatta, who is coming off a poor season, the scribe writes that while he struggled when on the ice with bottom-line centers like Derick Brassard, but was more even-keel when Evgeni Malkin was on the ice, while he was solid when playing with Sidney Crosby, suggesting that the problem may not totally fall on the team’s defense.
- Jake Bean’s back and forth travels continue. The Hurricanes announced that they’ve once again recalled the blueliner on an emergency basis along with winger Patrick Brown. This is the fifth time that Bean has been recalled since the start of the playoffs but he has yet to get into a game. Meanwhile, Brown has been up with Carolina for most of the postseason and has suited up eight times thus far, his first NHL action since the 2016-17 campaign.