Rumor Roundup: Dion Phaneuf could still be a target for Detroit

Dion Phaneuf

Leading up to the recent NHL trade deadline, the biggest rumor making the rounds claimed the Detroit Red Wings were interested in Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf. While trade talks between the two clubs ultimately fell through, speculation persists suggesting the Wings could revisit their interest in the 29-year-old Phaneuf during the off-season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes Red Wings director of pro scouting Mark Howe took in a recent game between the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. As the Wings completed their respective season series with both clubs weeks ago, Friedman facetiously wondered which player Howe was scouting.

If the Wings remain keen to land Phaneuf, they must ensure not to use up too much cap space for future use. They currently have over $53 million invested in their 2015-16 cap payroll, but Friedman points out they have several key players to re-sign. Notables include Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith this summer, plus Justin Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Petr Mrazek in 2016.

Phaneuf has another six seasons at $7-million annually remaining on his contract. If the Wings want him, they must convince the Leafs to pick up part of his salary or accept a toxic contract in return like center Stephen Weiss, who has three years at $4.9-million per season left on his deal.

BLUE JACKETS WANT TO BOLSTER BLUELINE

The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t have fond memories of 2014-15. Having reached the playoffs last year for only the second time in franchise history, the Jackets followed up by finishing well out of contention this season.

Injuries were largely to blame. As of Apr. 7, Man Games Lost indicates the Jackets led the league in man games lost to injury with 499. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, defensmen Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray along with forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and Matt Calvert were among the notables to miss considerable time.

While the Jackets front office expressed disappointment in how the season unfolded, they don’t intend on a major roster shakeup this summer. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports team president John Davidson said management will try to improve the lineup, “but we’re not going to tear it down to improve it.”

Prior to Davidson’s comments, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said he’d like to add more depth to his blueline. Given the amount of players the Jackets have under contract next season and with the prospects within their system, Kekalainen said he wants to ensure his club has enough defensive depth going forward.

With over $61 million already invested in cap payroll for 2015-16 and all his core players under contract, Kekalainen has some room to add an experienced and affordable blueliner via free agency. St. Louis’ Zbynek Michalek and Barret Jackman, Detroit’s Marek Zidlicky, Chicago’s Johnny Oduya, Montreal’s Jeff Petry and perhaps Nashville’s Cody Franson could be among the options.

Bobrovsky’s lunging pad stop on Girardi is a thing of beauty

Jared Clinton
Columbus Blue Jackets v Dallas Stars

The Columbus Blue Jackets are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but don’t tell goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky that. Monday night he made a pad to rob New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi of a game-tying goal with less than a minute left, and it was a beauty.

With the Rangers pressing and their net empty, Girardi pinched down and found himself stationed right in from of the Blue Jackets’ net. The puck was worked back to the Rangers blueline and was fired on goal while on edge, causing it to flutter down to the stick of Derick Brassard. Brassard then made a no-look pass between his legs and onto Girardi’s tape, and then Girardi was absolutely robbed by Bobrovsky’s left pad: Read more

Blue Jackets’ Ryan Johansen scores a shootout goal – while barely moving a muscle

Adam Proteau
Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen scores a shootout goal on Isles netminder Jaroslav Halak. (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Blue Jackets star center Ryan Johansen is capable of all sorts of dazzling moves on the ice, but in scoring the game-winning shootout goal on New York Islanders netminder Jaroslav Halak Thursday, Johansen barely had to move a muscle.

Johansen was the Jackets’ second shooter in Columbus and skated in on Halak at a slow-but steady rate. However, neither player did much in the way of moving, and all Johansen did at point-blank range was spot the opening between Halak’s pads before flipping the puck through it: Read more

Denis Leary making new hockey-themed TV series – & here are 12 NHL-themed shows that should be next

Denis Leary (Mychal Watts/WireImage via Getty Images)

News Wednesday that actor and famous hockey/Boston Bruins fan Denis Leary was producing for IFC a new series centered around an amateur hockey team should inspire puck fans to pitch more hockey-themed shows to TV networks in the hope they might get picked up and put on air. Here, I’ll show you what I mean, using titles of TV series as examples:

The Walking Dead An outbreak of a mysterious virus ravages the Sabres, Coyotes and Maple Leafs and leads to locals staggering aimlessly and dead-eyed in the streets in Buffalo, Arizona and Toronto. While death sometimes seems to be a merciful option for our heroes during such a bleak time, they bravely continue to search and hope for a place to settle and grow. Read more

Why the Penguins should trade Sidney Crosby for the No. 1 pick

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Before any Pittsburgh fans go and get their jerseys in a jumble, just pause for a second, take a deep breath and think about it: if the Penguins fail to get back to the Stanley Cup final for the sixth straight season, what else is left for the franchise to do but blow up the core?

After an off-season of upheaval in which Pittsburgh brought in a new coach, a new GM and a new supporting cast for Sidney Crosby, there would be few options left but to raze the roster to the ground and begin anew. Sure, the Penguins could use Marc-Andre Fleury as a scapegoat and try using the same roster again next season with a different goalie, but that would only be putting off the inevitable. (Just ask the San Jose Sharks, who are years behind on the rebuilding schedule after sticking with their core despite perennial playoff failures, including their first-round faceplant last year.)

The best thing for the Penguins to do would be to try to trade Crosby for the next Crosby.

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CHL playoffs: The most intriguing first-round matchups

Quebec's Anthony Duclair  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The CHL playoffs begin tonight and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Connor McDavid has one last chance to win it all with the Erie Otters in the Ontario League, but the powerfully-built Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have designs of their own. Out in the Western League, Kelowna and Brandon seem to be on a collision course for the final, while the Quebec League has the added wrinkle of sending two teams to the Memorial Cup – one being the host Quebec Remparts, who won’t want to crawl in through the back door.

Here’s a look at all the first-round matchups in the CHL, with a bit more info on one series per league that has me riveted from the get-go.

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Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more

Sergei Bobrovsky goes post-to-post for outstanding toe save

Jared Clinton
Sergei Bobrovsky (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

After having outstanding seasons in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the current campaign has been one to forget for Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s been injured, the Blue Jackets have struggled and his numbers — a 2.78 goals-against average and .917 save percentage — are the worst they have been since he left Philadelphia in 2011-12.

However, no matter how bad a season, Bobrovsky may be able to hang his hat on the fact he can still makes saves few goaltenders in the league would dream of. Tuesday night against Anaheim, he made a post-to-post save that’s sure to be on end of season highlight shows. Watch the extension he makes when he slides across his crease and check out just how little of his body he uses to turn aside this Rickard Rakell attempt: Read more