The IIHF World Championship gets underway in just a few weeks and USA Hockey has announced the first group of players that will be suiting up for them. GM Chris Drury released 17 names that will be taking part, including captain Patrick Kane. The group is an impressive list of NHL stars that could very well bring home the country’s first gold medal at the tournament in nearly 60 years. The roster so far is as follows:
With the impressive play of Jacob Markstrom this season, the Vancouver Canucks have an interesting conundrum to face as the team suddenly may have themselves too much goaltending depth. The 29-year-old Markstrom has had another solid season as the Canucks’ starting goaltender, posting a winning record of 28-22-9 on a losing team, while posting a 2.76 GAA and a .913 save percentage.
However, Markstrom’s solid play raises some questions, according to the Vancouver Sun’s Patrick Johnston, who suggests that with his improved play, the team might want to consider trading from strength and consider moving top goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko this off-season. With another franchise goaltender in waiting with 19-year-old Michael DiPietro ready to go pro next season, the team could move Demko without significant loss. Demko has played in seven NHL games, and has played extremely well in five of those games. However, because of two poor outings, his .903 save percentage doesn’t look as impressive.
Regardless, the 23-year-old Demko would be high in demand from teams looking for a future franchise goaltender. Johnston suggests it’s a similar situation to when the team opted to trade goaltender Cory Schneider back in 2013 for a first-round pick, which eventually turned out to be Bo Horvat.
- The Athletic’s Harman Dayal (subscription required) writes that Vancouver should consider moving defenseman Ben Hutton. The 25-year-old blue liner seems to have returned to the form he showed in an impressive rookie year back in the 2015-16 season. After two seasons of struggles, Hutton has once again proven to be a top-four defenseman. Regardless, Dayal suggests that the 25-year-old’s success might be the best the team will ever see and they might be better off moving on from him now while his value is at its highest.
- The Canucks are close to signing defenseman Luke Schenn to a one-year contract extension, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman late last night on Hockey Night in Canada. Schenn, who came over to the Canucks in a January swap with the Anaheim Ducks for Michael Del Zotto, has fared well, showing energy and becoming a quick fan favorite in his 15 games with Vancouver. Schenn, who fell out of favor in Anaheim, is currently finishing out a one-year, $800K deal that he signed with the Ducks last offseason.
- In the same commentary, Friedman also confirmed rumors that University of Michigan forward William Lockwood has told the Canucks that he intends to return to college for his senior year. The 20-year-old had a solid year with the Wolverines as he tallied 16 goals and 31 points in 36 games last season. The 2016 third-round pick out of Michigan could opt to become a unrestricted free agent at this point next season.
The New Jersey Devils announced they have terminated the conditioning loan of goaltender Cory Schneider and have recalled the veteran netminder. To make room for him, the team has assigned promising goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood to the Binghamton Devils of the AHL.
Schneider returns home after showing improvement in his most recent conditioning stint, as he has allowed just five goals over the past two games with Binghamton this weekend, including picking up a big shutout win Saturday over Belleville in which he made 24 out of 26 saves. Schneider has struggled with injuries and success this season. Even with his improved performance this past weekend, he still has a 3.24 GAA and a .881 save percentage with Binghamton over eight games. His numbers in New Jersey have been even worse with a 4.66 GAA and a .852 save percentage. The hope is that he’s starting to recover from his abdominal strain and might be ready to serve as the team’s backup goaltender. The 32-year-old still has another three years on his contract at $6MM per season.
As for Blackwood, the team’s future might have to wait some time longer. Blackwood’s impressive play with New Jersey this season has given him the title of goaltender of the future. The 22-year-old has a 2.37 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 13 appearances. There is talk that the team may look to trade Keith Kinkaid, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, at the trade deadline, which would allow the team to officially make Blackwood the team’s starter. For now, Blackwood will have to settle for the starting role in Binghamton, where he was recently played at the AHL All-Star game and will bide his time till an opportunity presents itself.
After sending out a letter, telling fans that the team intends to rebuild last February, the New York Rangers rebuilding project is well underway, but The Athletic’s Shayna Goldman (subscription required) writes that there is one problem the team has — they aren’t losing enough.
One key aspect of a rebuilding team is to pick up top prospects and the best way to do that is through the entry draft. However, with the team’s 21-20-7 record this season under new head coach David Quinn, their 49 points would give them the 22nd best record in the league, which would not give them a chance at super prospects Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko next season. While there is never a guarantee to picking up a top pick due to the draft lottery, had the team just five points fewer, 44 points would have put them 30th.
Of course, if New York trades off more players at the deadline such as Kevin Hayes or Chris Kreider, the team may continue to drop in the standings and improve their chances at a top pick. However, it could have a negative effect on the team’s environment that Quinn has developed this season.
- Andrew Gross of Newsday writes that despite the layoff, neither defenseman Thomas Hickey and winger Andrew Ladd of the New York Islanders have a timetable to return and remain on injured reserve. Hickey, who has been out with an upper-body injury since Dec. 17, could be out for some time as head coach Barry Trotz said the defenseman will need four or five practices before being able to play, which could mean he may not be back into the lineup until mid to late February. Ladd, who has been out with a lower-body injury and has been out since Nov. 15, and also may not be back until late February.
- NJ.com’s Chris Ryan analyzes the New Jersey Devils’ roster, looking at what players should stay and go and while even a few months ago, goaltender Keith Kinkaid was considered to be a key piece to the Devils’ success after proving last year that he can handle the full-time job well, it’s likely time to move on from the 29-year-old, who has struggled quite a bit of late. Kinkaid, who is in the final year of a two-year, $2.5MM deal he signed in 2017, has struggled this year with a 13-14-6 record, a 3.10 GAA and a .899 save percentage. Throw in the fact that MacKenzie Blackwood looks like the team’s long-term starter and the fact that the team can’t move Cory Schneider due to his lengthy and expensive contract and Kinkaid is likely to be looking for a new team this summer.
- The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor (subscription required) answers mailbag questions, pointing out that the Philadelphia Flyers are likely to bring up more prospects over the next several months. The team will likely recall defenseman Philippe Myers at some point this season. O’Connor writes that Myers has been playing impressive hockey with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL for the past two months and looks to be a player ready to take over a spot on Philadelphia’s defense next season. To ensure that, the Flyers will need to bring him up and give him some playing time this season.
While the Colombus Blue Jackets intend to start backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo against Washington Saturday, Sportsnet’s John Shannon writes the team intends to start Sergei Bobrovsky Sunday against the Rangers after the veteran goaltender did not dress Thursday after a team “incident.”
Bobrovsky practiced Friday and then made a statement to the media:
“I let my emotions get to me when I shouldn’t,” Bobrovsky said regarding the incident that caused him to miss Thursday’s game against Nashville to NHL.com. “I pride myself to being a good teammate all the times… We cleaned the air and we’re ready to move on.”
Bobrovsky worked with goaltending coach Manny Legace in Washington this morning while the rest of the team did not have a morning skate, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, suggesting that Bobrovsky is ready to return to the team.
“That’s what solving things and moving on is all about,” General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “Sometimes you can use these types of things to become tighter as a group and as a team. But it’s really important you always air them out face-to-face and you move past them and learn from it rather than letting it linger and doing the talking behind their back. That’s why we always bring it all out in the open.”
Of course, it seems more and more likely that Bobrovsky is heading elsewhere when the season ends unless the team truly considers moving him at the trade deadline. However, while many have suggested that Bobrovsky is heading to the New York Islanders this offseason, New York Post’s Larry Brooks suggests that Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello may already have a different plan with the impressive play of Robin Lehner so far this year. The scribe writes that Lamoriello has an amazing knack for finding impressive goaltenders throughout his tenure, including Martin Brodeur, Cory Schneider and Frederik Andersen as well as Lehner.
- The New York Rangers took another hit today as the team may have lost defenseman Fredrik Claesson for some time after Saturday’s game against the Islanders, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. Claesson hit the boards hard after a hit by the Islanders’ Matt Martin. While nothing official has been announced, head coach David Quinn said it “doesn’t look good.” Quinn also added that defenseman Neal Pionk could be ready Sunday to replace Claesson in the lineup although he’s still considered day-to-day.
- While the Philadelphia Flyers sent off forward Jordan Weal Friday to Arizona, The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor (subscription requried) writes that the team made the move because the 26-year-old was no longer in the team’s plans. The team got little in return other than a sixth-rounder and defenseman Jacob Graves, a 23-year-old currently playing in the ECHL, and included because the Coyotes were already at 50 contracts and needed to send one back in the deal. Weal, a favorite of former general manager Ron Hextall, was deemed expendable by new management, but the improved play of Phil Varone also may have had quite a bit to do with the move. Varone, a similar player to Veal, has played in 14 of the team’s last 17 games, while Weal has been a healthy scratch often of late.
The Senators were looking to acquire a goalie when Mike Condon went down with a hip issue shortly after being sent to the minors, reports Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch. Even though the team is hopeful that the netminder will be able to return next month, he suggests that they may still want to add some depth between the pipes in case injuries strike as they don’t want to bring up prospect Filip Gustavsson from the AHL just yet; he’s in his rookie AHL campaign. They could look to bring in an AHL veteran or perhaps someone on a cheap deal at the NHL level that would allow them to return Mike McKenna to the minors and put him back in the third-string role that he was originally expected to fill.
More goalie notes from around the hockey world:
- There is no timeline for when Devils goaltender Cory Schneider will return to the lineup, notes Abbey Mastracco of the Bergen Record. The veteran was put on IR last week with an abdominal strain. This season has not gone well at all for the 32-year-old who has posted a nightmarish 4.66 GAA with a .852 SV% in seven appearances so far. Instead of potentially having a 1A/1B tandem with Keith Kinkaid, the latter has had to take on the bulk of the workload and is starting to falter. With that in mind, rookie Mackenzie Blackwood may be in line for some more playing time coming out of the break.
- If the Rangers are able to get top goalie prospect Igor Shesterkin signed for next season, that will change the fortunes for current backup Alexandar Georgiev. Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post notes that the Russian prospect is in the final year of his KHL deal and New York will be taking a run at signing him after that time. It’s highly unlikely that Shesterkin, who the team hopes is their starter of the future, would agree to any AHL time so that would force Georgiev into a number three role. While he’ll still be waiver-exempt next season meaning that they could keep him around for depth, they could also try to capitalize on his trade value at that time as young goalies with NHL experience are often coveted around the league.
Friday: Lack has cleared waivers and can be assigned to the minor leagues.
Thursday: The New Jersey Devils had been carrying three goaltenders on their roster since Cory Schneider returned from his hip injury, as even though Eddie Lack was on a conditioning stint he still counted towards the 23-man group. Now they’ve dealt with that situation, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that Lack has been placed on waivers.
Lack, 30, never did get into a game for the Devils this season as Keith Kinkaid was instead given the starting role. The veteran backup has bounced around the last few years, and played in just eight games over the last two seasons. That’s a far cry from the 2014-15 campaign when he went 18-13-4 for the Vancouver Canucks and was among the league leaders with a .921 save percentage. Lack at that point looked like a goaltender who would lock down an NHL crease for years to come, but has since seen his performance decline rapidly.
There are teams who could take a chance on the 6’4″ goaltender though, as they deal with injuries or inconsistency from their own starters. Los Angeles, Arizona, Ottawa and others could all potentially use a veteran netminder to give them some more experience in the crease, and with Lack’s $650K salary he would cost just as much or less than their current options. Still, there have been other goaltenders like Anton Forsberg and Mike Condon who have passed through unscathed already this season for one reason or another, and Lack may experience the same. If he does, he’ll be solid depth for the Devils at the minor league level.
Just two games on the schedule around the league tonight, which will give teams ample time to make roster moves and get ready for this week. As always, we’ll be right here keeping track of all the minor transactions.
- The New Jersey Devils have recalled Cory Schneider from his conditioning stint as expected, meaning Eddie Lack is on his way to the minor leagues. Interestingly though, the team has used a conditioning loan for Lack too, meaning the team will currently still have three goaltenders on the NHL roster. Lack will get in some games for the Binghamton Devils before the team decides whether or not to place him on waivers.
- Jeremy Lauzon is back up with the Boston Bruins under emergency conditions, as Matt Grzelcyk was not able to practice today. The team is still also without Charlie McAvoy as he works his way back from injury, while Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston reports that Kevan Miller skated on his own. Lauzon has already made his NHL debut this season, and is now looking for his first NHL point. After practice, the team also recalled Colby Cave under emergency conditions while moving McAvoy to injured reserve.
- The St. Louis Blues have recalled Ville Husso from the minor leagues to fill in for Jake Allen while he deals with injury. Robby Fabbri, Nikita Soshnikov and Carl Gunnarsson meanwhile have all been recalled from their conditioning assignments according to Lou Korac of NHL.com.
The New Jersey Devils are doing just fine with Keith Kinkaid as their starting goaltender, but will soon get back someone who aims on taking his job. Cory Schneider has been activated from the injured non-roster list, and will now be sent to the AHL on a conditioning loan. Schneider is coming back from hip surgery, and looking to reclaim his place as a starting goaltender in the NHL. The team has also sent Eric Gryba to the minor leagues after clearing waivers, to open up room for Schneider who will still count towards the NHL roster.
Now 32, it has been a few seasons since Schneider really stood out as an elite goaltender in the league. Once a lasting presence on the NHL leaderboards, he’s carried just a .908 save percentage through his last 100 games and will have to really show his worth to overtake Kinkaid in the New Jersey net. That will be a difficult task seeing as Kinkaid is currently 4-1 with a .941 save percentage, but there’s still at least one thing in Schneider’s favor—money. The Devils owe Schneider $6MM for this season and three more, meaning their hands are somewhat tied when it comes to goaltending. With Kinkaid scheduled for unrestricted free agency in 2019, they might not be able to afford both.
That should give the Devils all the motivation they need to get Schneider back into the net on a regular basis, given that their future might rely on him. This team looks ready to compete for the playoffs for the next several years with their young core, and will need a solid goaltender to get them there. It does put pressure on the former All-Star to perform though, given that the team has a capable option to use this season instead of him. Schneider has been working hard all summer to come back from his latest injury, and will face his next test when he gets into some game action this weekend.
Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug left the team’s preseason finale in the first period last night and the early indications are not good. Krug did not return to the game and was later seen in a walking boot. Head coach Bruce Cassidy did not have much of an update after the game, saying that he has “no information” on his status, adding “hopefully it’s nothing serious, but it’s tough luck if it is, obviously.” The offensive blue liner was already returning from a fractured ankle suffered in the postseason and had been limited in training camp, but this sounds as if it was a new injury on Saturday night. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen and with the regular season opening in just a few days, Krug’s availability is up in the air. The team does have fellow puck-moving lefty Matt Grzelcyk to fall back on. Grzelcyk was a starter as a rookie last season for the Bruins, but looked slated for No. 7 duty to begin the year. If he can overcome his own minor lower-body injury, he would be an easy fix. If not, Cassidy said that he would not hesitate to start rookie Urho Vaakanainen. The 2017 first-round pick is in his first season in North America, but has impressed in camp and has yet to be cut. While Krug is clearly the superior option, the Bruins have plenty of depth to manage his potential absence to begin the year. The concern would be just how long their power play quarterback remains sidelined.
- Los Angeles Kings veteran forward Dustin Brown was another casualty last night. The big winger took a shot up high from teammate Anze Kopitar and was forced out of the game. Brown did not return and the team issued an update that he had suffered an upper-body injury on the play. However, there has been no word from the Kings since. The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman reached out to head coach John Stevens and GM Rob Blake, but could not get any more information. The team is likely taking their time to evaluate Brown, but it’s also possible that the injury is more serious and the team wants to approach the news on their terms. Like Krug, the proximity of the injury to Opening Night leaves his status to begin the year as a question mark.
- One question that has been answered is who starts the year in net for the New Jersey Devils. Although he traveled with the team to Europe for their exhibition game in Switzerland and regular season opener against the Edmonton Oilers in Sweden, Cory Schneider is primarily there to continue working with the team’s medical staff. Head coach John Hynes made it official today that Schneider will not start for the Devils in their opener, reports NHL.com’s Mike Morreale. Still rehabbing from off-season hip surgery, it was always a long shot for Schneider to be ready to go for game one. New Jersey’s starter has yet to even be cleared to play. As such, last season’s savior Keith Kinkaid is likely to get the call, while veteran third-string keeper Eddie Lack remains on the roster as the current backup. Schneider is actually progressing well in his recovery and could be back in net soon, just not next week.