Zdeno Chara’s knee injury puts major strain on Bruins’ already thinned-out defense corps

Adam Proteau
Zdeno Chara (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(NOTE – This post has been updated twice. See below.)

The Boston Bruins’ blueline took a salary cap-related hit prior to the season with the trading of veteran Johnny Boychuk – and it got another scare with potentially bigger ramifications Thursday when captain Zdeno Chara left the team’s game against the Islanders with an undisclosed injury. His final shift of the game ended with 8:12 remaining in the first period, and Bruins coach Claude Julien offered no update on his condition after Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Isles.

On his last shift Thursday, Chara laid into Isles captain John Tavares with a solid check, but didn’t give any indication he was injured on the play: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Sabres’ Chris Stewart drawing major interest

Chris Stewart

Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart frequently popped up in the rumor mill this week as a possible trade candidate. Stewart, who turns 27 on October 30, is earning $4.2 million this season (with a cap hit of $4.15 million) and becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.

On Sunday, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claimed “lots of teams” are interested to see what Sabres GM Tim Murray will do with Stewart, fellow UFA winger Drew Stafford and defenseman Tyler Myers, who’s under contract through 2018-19 at an annual cap hit of $5.5 million.

Garrioch noted the Ottawa Senators were interested in Stewart last season, but the Sabres asking price was “Mark Stone or some other high-end prospect.” If that price hasn’t changed, Garrioch doubts the Senators will do it.

Earlier this week it was suggested in this column Stewart might be a good fit with the Boston Bruins, who are struggling this season to replace Jarome Iginla as their first-line right wing. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Bruins are indeed interested in Stewart, though he didn’t indicate if offers had been exchanged.

Assuming Murray seeks the same return as he reportedly did from the Senators (high-end prospect) for Stewart, he could have interest in center Ryan Spooner, goaltender Malcolm Subban, defenseman Joe Morrow or right wing David Pastrnak. The Bruins, however, currently possess $3.759 million in cap space, meaning the Sabres must either pick up nearly half of Stewart’s remaining salary or take on a salaried roster player in return.

It’s doubtful Murray will be interested in any of the Bruins potential UFA players. Chris Kelly‘s name has been mentioned as a trade candidate, but he’s a third-line center with a modified no-trade clause signed through 2015-16 at a cap hit of $3 million.

There’s no need for Murray to rush into trading Stewart, Stafford or Myers. He can simply allow this season to play out in hopes the market value for the trio improves leading up to the March 2 trade deadline.

FLIGHTLESS FLYERS SEEK BLUELINE HELP

For the second straight season the Philadelphia Flyers are off to a poor start. With only one victory in their first six games, there’s concern over the state of the Flyers defensive play. They’re 21st in shots-against per game (30.9) and possess the third-most goals-against per game (3.71) and fourth-worst in penalty-kill percentage (73.7).

Flyers GM Ron Hextall has limited cap space ($1.48 million) to bolster his defense. He’s reportedly seeking a defensive blueliner but the pickings are currently slim. Those mentioned in recent trade rumors – Carolina’s Andrej Sekera, Detroit’s Jakub Kindl and Edmonton’s Jeff Petry – aren’t considered shutdown defensemen.

It could cost Hextall one of his good young forwards to acquire a skilled stay-at-home blueliner. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio claims the price among interested teams is Brayden Schenn, who’s in the first season of a two-year contract at an annual cap hit of $2.5 million.

Memorable night for young guns as three rookies register first point

Jonathan Drouin (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 50 years, there will be three separate sets of grandkids hearing tell of Tuesday night’s NHL action. The reason being for rookies Jonathan Drouin, Adam Lowry, and Seth Griffith, it was the night they registered their first NHL point.

The Bruins’ Griffith and Jets’ Lowry both registered their first of what will hopefully be many NHL goals, while the shifty Drouin notched an assist on the game-tying goal in Tampa Bay’s overtime victory over the Calgary Flames.

Drouin, who has been lauded for his playmaking ability, showed it off in fantastic fashion. The 19-year-old Quebec native won a puck battle below the Flames goal line, worked the puck up the boards, and made a seeing-eye backhand saucer pass that landed right on the tape of defenseman Jason Garrison:

Valtteri Filppula pushed the blast by Garrison home. In overtime, Drouin would get an excellent opportunity on a 2-on-1 with Steven Stamkos – with whom Drouin lined up with throughout the game – but was stopped on an incredible save by Karri Ramo.

For Griffith, he’ll be able to tell his children and grand children about an absolute laser of a shot:

A product of Wallaceburg, Ont., Griffith was a rookie sensation at the American League level last season, putting home 20 goals and 50 points. The goal couldn’t have come at a bigger time, either.

With the Bruins down 3-2 to the San Jose Sharks, Griffith’s big-league snap shot found the back of the net and brought the Bruins even. The Bruins would go on to win the game 5-3, thanks in large part to Griffith’s timely tally.

Finally, Adam Lowry, the son of former NHLer Dave Lowry, did what his father managed to 164 times at the big league level:

With the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps last season, Lowry stood out for his gritty play and nose for the net and was a large part of what made Winnipeg’s farm club so successful. As an AHL rookie, Lowry amassed 17 goals and 16 assists, good for 12th on the team in scoring.

His big body and powerful forechecking ability are what got him into the lineup with the Jets, but they certainly won’t shake a stick at him contributing in other ways on the score sheet. Lowry’s marker would stand as the game-winning goal.

Rumor Roundup: Will the Oilers shop Eberle or Yakupov?

Jordan Eberle (Getty Images)

Though the Edmonton Oilers finally won their first game of the season, their early-season struggles continue to generate trade speculation.

Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry told Sportsnet 590 he thinks the Oilers must trade one of their good young players if they’re to improve in the near future. Cherry expressed concern about the Oilers goaltending, but when asked if they should contact free agent Martin Brodeur, Cherry doubted Brodeur would go there.

Cherry also believes right wing Jordan Eberle would fetch the best return, as he doesn’t feel anyone could be interested in struggling winger Nail Yakupov. However, TVASports’ Renaud Lavoie claims there are teams interested in the 21-year-old right wing. Read more

Rockstar Rask: Bruins goalie lights up the stage

Jared Clinton
Tuukka Rask

There are a lot of things you may not know about Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. For instance, he’s got a habit of taking shootout losses poorly. He also served in the Finnish military. Also, did you know Rask has beaten every single team in the NHL at least once?

If you didn’t – and hey, even if you did – now you can watch him beat something that’s not your favorite NHL team: a drum set alongside Buffalo band the Mustn’ts. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Red Wings still searching for missing blueline piece

Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings are linked to Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers in the rumor mill, but he’s not the only blueliner they could be pursuing. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports the Florida Panthers want to move blueliner Brian Campbell and the Red Wings are interested.

Kypreos claims the Wings hope to move rearguard Jakub Kindl, but the Panthers prefer one of their blueline prospects like Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen. It’s unclear if other clubs are interested in the 35-year-old Campbell, who is signed through 2015-16 at an annual salary of over $7.142 million.

The Wings only have roughly $2.720 million in cap space. They have little room for Campbell’s contract unless the Panthers agree to pick up half of his remaining salary, plus take on a salaried player from the Wings.

An obvious assumption would be shipping former Panthers center Stephen Weiss ($4.9-million annual cap hit) back to Florida, but he has a modified no-trade clause and must agree to such a move. It’s unlikely the Panthers want him back.

A bigger issue, however, is Campbell is a left-handed shot, which doesn’t suit the Wings need for a top-four blueliner with a right-handed shot. Unless the Wings get desperate, they’ll likely pursue a more affordable defenseman who suits their needs.

COULD CANES MOVE SEKERA?

The rumor mill was abuzz with excitement last week over speculation teams could have interest in Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal. It appears, however, he’s not the only member of the Hurricanes generating some trade chatter.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports defenseman Andrej Sekera is also a sought-after trade option. He notes the 28-year-old blueliner is coming off a 44-point performance and is eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end. Johnston feels Sekera would be a good fit in a number of NHL cities.

The Hurricanes, however, could be reluctant to move Sekera, who blossomed into a solid top-two pairing defenseman following his acquisition from Buffalo last year. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Hurricanes hope to re-sign Sekera, who’s making $2.75 million this season.

It’s up to Sekera to decide if he wants to stay with the team which gave him the opportunity to shine, or test the free-agent market for a more profitable contract.

BRUINS SEARCHING FOR A TOP LINE ANSWER

The Boston Bruins are still struggling to adjust to Jarome Iginla‘s off-season departure via free agency. Iginla was their first-line right wing and his absence this season has left a big hole on their top line.

Fluto Shinzawa of The Boston Globe believes the Bruins will keep searching for a potential replacement throughout this season, seeking a sizable winger with a right-hand shot. He feels they can use the assets received from the New York Islanders in the Johnny Boychuk deal as bargaining chips, notably the Philadelphia Flyer second-round pick in 2015.

Shinzawa also notes the Bruins must re-sign restricted free agents Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Reilly Smith next summer, speculating they could prefer a winger in the final year of his current contract.

Perhaps Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart could fit the bill. He’s young (turning 27 on October 30), physical, has two 28-goal seasons under his belt and is eligible for UFA status in July. The only sticking point right now is his $4.15-million cap hit, while the Bruins only have over $2.240 million in cap space.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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Five fresh faces making an impact with their new teams

Boychuk, Okposo and Tavares

It’s still early in the season, but fans are starting to get a feel for which free agent pick-ups and off-season trades have worked in their favor. For some, it was a blockbuster deal that could change the future of the franchise. For others, it was a smart, below-the-radar deal that has given them the piece they need to build one block at a time.

Below you can find the top five off-season moves that are making waves in the early season. What is your top five?

5. Daniel Winnik (Toronto Maple Leafs)

While he certainly wasn’t the sexiest of signings in the off-season, Daniel Winnik has been just what the Toronto Maple Leafs needed. There has been no shortage of talk about the Leafs defensive woes. After a summer dedicated to shifting the focus of the front office, headlined by bringing in assistant GM Kyle Dubas, the Leafs went out and got the 29-year-old Winnik.

Though he’s unlikely to make any highlight reels, Winnik is the kind of player that helps teams win. Already this season he has shown just how defensively sound he is. Coming off a career-high 30 points in 2013-14 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Plus, he’s from Toronto. That’s sure to make one notable Leafs’ fan happy. Read more

Milan Lucic feeling the heat after appearing to make lewd gesture at Canadiens fans

Milan Lucic (Getty Images)

Milan Lucic is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the two are fairly familiar with one another at this point. And the Boston Bruins left winger was back in hot water Thursday after appearing to make a lewd gesture and taunt Canadiens fans with a mimed raising of the Stanley Cup.

Lucic’s frustrations boiled over late in Montreal’s 6-4 win over Boston: with 1:20 left, he took a boarding penalty – and once he was in the penalty box, the 26-year-old interacted with fans by…welll, you go ahead and see what you think it was he was doing: Read more