Not to worry, Lightning fans – this team will be back in the Cup final soon

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

You could see it in the dejection splashed across the face of Steven Stamkos, and hear it in the considered whisper of Jon Cooper: the Tampa Bay Lightning were spent, physically and emotionally, and at a loss for appropriate words in the wake of losing the Stanley Cup final to the superior Blackhawks Monday. Undoubtedly, their fans and management were devastated as well; you would be too if you cheered on or built up a speedy and skilled roster of players who defied the odds and two of the league’s very best goalies en route to their fourth-round showdown against the Hawks. To get within eye distance of a lifelong dream and fall short is about as excruciating as it gets for professional athletes and those who support them.

But the mourning period for this edition of the team ought to be short, because the Lightning are anything but one-year wonders. The group GM Steve Yzerman has in place will have just as good a chance of returning to next year’s Cup final and at least a couple more after that. The Bolts are young, their salary cap situation is tenable – and if you look closely enough at this year’s squad, you’ll see they should be a little more lucky when next they’re playing for the best trophy in all of sport. And they will be back, and at least as dangerous next time around. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Is Phil Kessel a fit with Flames, Blues or Panthers?

Phil Kessel (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s claim last Saturday the Toronto Maple Leafs were getting trade inquiries for Phil Kessel, there’s growing speculation over where the 27-year-old scorer could be dealt.

If a Kessel trade happens, Friedman believes it will be a couple of weeks before it takes place. That’s likely because the NHL draft weekend (June 26-27), where many off-season trades generally take place, is fast approaching.

Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer who twice reached the 80-point mark, has value on the trade market. His contract, however, is a sticking point. He has seven years left at an annual cap hit of $8 million. Factor in the projected marginal increase in the cap ceiling for 2015-16 from $69 million to $71 million and it could prove difficult for the Leafs to find a suitable deal.

Friedman subsequently appeared on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central panel to discuss potential destinations for Kessel. He notes Predators GM David Poile had interest in the Leafs right winger, but doubts Nashville is a destination now, pointing out it has young stars like left winger Filip Forsberg and defenseman Seth Jones to re-sign the following season. Other destinations could include the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames.
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Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin: friends to foes and back again

Noah Hanifin (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – Because Jack Eichel went the college route and Connor McDavid played major junior, the rivalry between the top two prospects in the 2015 draft has been a little abstract this season. Sure, the pair met once at the world juniors, but that was it.

Eichel and Noah Hanifin, on the other hand, have a much richer history together – sometimes as teammates and sometimes as arch-rivals.

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NHL coach’s challenge a virtual certainty after competition committee edict

Kevin Shattenkirk (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Barring any unforeseen developments, the limited-in-scope coach’s challenge rumored for years to be coming to the NHL will be implemented in the 2015-16 season, thanks in part to a recommendation from the league and NHL Players’ Association’s joint competition committee Thursday.

The competition committee – comprised of four NHL GMs, one owner and four players – recommended league coaches be permitted to challenge goals that involve goaltender interference and offside plays with a video review. Goalie interference challenges would be considered by on-ice officials, while offside challenges would be addressed by the NHL’s video review center in Toronto. And if a coach has already used his timeout, he is unable to challenge any play. Read more

Getting to Know: Jim McKenzie

Jim McKenzie (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Status: NHL left wing from 1989-2004 with Hartford, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Anaheim, Washington, New Jersey and Nashville. Currently serves as a pro scout for Florida. Resides in Nashville.

Ht: 6-foot-3 Wt: 205 pounds

DOB: November 3, 1969 In: Gull Lake, Sask. Read more

Report: Alexander Radulov could be heading back to the NHL

Jared Clinton
Alexander Radulov (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Alexander Radulov, the former Nashville Predator and current captain of the KHL’s CSKA Moscow, could be on his way back to the NHL in time for the 2016-17 season.

According to a report from Russian website Champion.at, Radulov’s agent, Yuri Nikolaev, said that not only would Radulov be eligible to return to the NHL in 2016-17 but that he has already been contacted by Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy regarding the possibility of coming back to North America.

“Who was his coach (in the QMJHL?)” Nikolaev told Champion.at. “Patrick Roy, who now coaches Colorado. So, Roy phoned (Radulov) and says that he is waiting for the next season. Yes, (Radulov) can leave after next season.” Read more

Jagr and Eichel proving age means nothing at the World Championship

Jaromir Jagr (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

As we pause briefly from the Stanley Cup playoffs, let’s turn our eyes over to Europe for a second, where the World Championship is down to four teams. Canada plays the Czech Republic in one semifinal, while Russia and the United States renew hostilities on the other side of the bracket.

If Canada hopes to move on, they’ll have to stop an ageless icon. Meanwhile, the Russians will have their hands full with a powerful teenager.

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