Rumor Roundup: Kings, Rangers, Red Wings face tough decisions in off-season

Milan Lucic.

The Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings were the first clubs eliminated from the opening round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. Their early exits have given rise to considerable speculation about their off-season plans.

Having rebounded from missing the 2015 post-season, the Kings entered this year’s playoffs considered among the Cup favorites. Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times cites a lack of blueline depth for why they fell in five games to the San Jose Sharks. It’s an issue she believes GM Dean Lombardi will have difficulty addressing this summer.

A lack of salary-cap space will hamper Lombardi’s effort to bolster his defense. The Kings currently have over $65.9 million invested in 20 players for 2016-17, though center Vincent Lecavalier’s anticipated retirement should free up an additional $2.25 million.

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Getting to Know: Rangers goaltender Antti Raanta

Antti Raanta (via NHL/YouTube)

Status: New York Rangers goaltender.

HT: 6-0 WT: 192 pounds
DOB: May 12, 1989 In: Rauma, Finland

First Hockey Memory: “I think when I went first time on the ice, I got my players skates and stepped on the ice. That was the biggest celebration when you fell all the time, skating a little bit forward and I didn’t fall down. So I think that was my first memory. If you think about games, I think ’95 when Finland was in the World Championship, that’s the first memory I remember about the hockey and winning something.”

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Penguins lay beatdown on Rangers, look like serious contenders as they head to Round Two

Conor Sheary (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

No team was better than the Pittsburgh Penguins over the final two months of the season. If that hadn’t been clear through the first four games of their first-round series against the New York Rangers, it definitely was after the 6-3 drubbing they handed down to take Game 5 and advance to the second round of the post-season.

Over the final two months of the season, the Penguins dominated opponents with the league’s best offense, second-stingiest defense and a counter-punching attack that could turn even the slightest odd-man break into a goal. Pittsburgh also maintained the second-best possession rate in the league over that span, and it doesn’t hurt that they have arguably the world’s greatest player on the roster in Sidney Crosby, with a supporting cast that includes Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist.

Before the series began, the Penguins were considered contenders. After wiping out the Rangers with relative ease in five games, Pittsburgh looks like they’re among the class of the East. Read more

Henrik Lundqvist gets yanked early, Evgeni Malkin leads dominant Penguins to brink of series win

(Getty Images)

For the second time in eight days, Henrik Lundqvist had his start come to an abrupt end. But unlike Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers all-star goalie was yanked on Thursday due to performance.

Lundqvist’s Game 4 start lasted only 18 shots, and 26 minutes. He gave up four goals before he was pulled with the Rangers desperate for a boost. It didn’t work, and now the Rangers have to go to Pittsburgh for a must-win game on Saturday. The Penguins routed the Rangers 5-0 and head home with a 3-1 series lead.

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Suspend him or not: Kris Letang gets away with an absurdly violent slash in Game 3

letang slash

Full marks to the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning Game 3 against the New York Rangers Tuesday night. Details here. But, sheesh, things might have gone differently had the referees caught defenseman Kris Letang’s dastardly act in the third period.

The Penguins led 2-1 at this point, so the Rangers surely could’ve used a power play, and they deserved to get one here. Check out the over-the-top slash from Letang on Rangers right winger Viktor Stalberg:

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Penguins smother Rangers to win Game 3. Here’s why New York should be worried

Matt Cullen celebrates his third-period goal in Game 3. (Jared Silber/Getty Images)

The conditions were perfect, in theory, for the New York Rangers to take over their Metropolitan Division semifinal matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night in Game 3. The Blueshirts were fresh off a convincing 4-2 victory over the Pens in Game 2. New York had captain Ryan McDonagh returning from a hand injury after missing the start of the post-season. And Pittsburgh was turning to Matt Murray, 21, for his first career playoff start in net.

But it wasn’t to be. Murray, an elite prospect ranked 39th overall in THN Future Watch, showed no signs of jitters in his first game back from a head injury. He challenged shooters and made a few tough saves early. His lone hiccup came on this downright pretty Rick Nash goal early in the second period:

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Rumor Roundup: Is Frederik Andersen a fit for the Maple Leafs?

Frederik Andersen (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

While the Toronto Maple Leafs made progress in the first season of their rebuild, they still lack a quality starting goaltender. The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons notes the only reason for Jonathan Bernier’s return next season is the year remaining on his contract. He thinks the Leafs could accelerate their rebuild with an upgrade in the crease.

Finding a good goalie this summer won’t be easy. There are slim pickings via unrestricted free agency, with former Leaf James Reimer the best of the bunch. It’s unlikely they’ll bring him back.

Options are also few in the trade market. Last month, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello scouted Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks.

Andersen, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. If the Ducks are committed to John Gibson as their starter, Andersen could be shopped this summer. The Leafs could face competition for his services, as the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes could also come calling. Read more

Banged-up Rangers give Raphael Diaz a call for blueline support

Raphael Diaz (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

First Ryan McDonagh, then Dan Girardi. The New York Rangers are living the “war of attrition” storyline that often dominates the Stanley Cup playoffs and they’re doing it right away. With those two regulars sidelined, the Rangers have called up defenseman Raphael Diaz from the AHL. When will he play?

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