Canada names Sidney Crosby World Cup captain; happy with J-Bo

Sidney Crosby (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images

It was the most obvious choice, but there was also a pretty good reason for it. Team Canada named Sidney Crosby captain of the upcoming World Cup of Hockey squad, with Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber earning ‘A’s on their sweaters as alternate captains. So what went into the decision?

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Down Goes Brown: Five teams that have had a quiet offseason, and what it means for 2016-17

Flyers GM Ron Hextall. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

An NHL offseason can be a funny thing. For some teams, it represents an opportunity to blow everything up real good, hitting the reset button entirely or at the very least radically changing direction. For others, it’s a chance to double down on what’s already working by loading up on the final pieces of a true contender. In either case, blockbuster trades can be made, big-name free agents can be lured, and coaches and GMs can be replaced. Things are happening.

And then there are the teams that decide to skip all of that, and largely sit out the offseason. They tinker a bit, re-signing a guy here and making a minor move there, but for the most part they decide to pass on doing anything especially newsworthy.

And let’s be honest: While that approach may not be all that exciting, sometimes it absolutely turns out to be the right one. Sometimes, it really is better to leave the bat on your shoulder. But only sometimes.

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Pittsburgh signs Thomas Di Pauli, still has a building advantage

Ryan Kennedy
Thomas Di Pauli (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed free agent center Thomas Di Pauli to a two-year entry-level contract, adding an asset to an organization that does not have a deep prospect pipeline right now. But here’s the thing: the Pens are staying in the NHL’s top echelon without a traditional building strategy and Di Pauli is part of that.

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Vesey met with seven teams, discussing options Thursday — what can each team offer?

Jimmy Vesey (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

For those tiring of hearing about NCAA free agent Jimmy Vesey, rest assured that the 23-year-old winger is nearing a decision on his destination.

According to a report from ESPN’s Joe McDonald, Vesey has finished meeting with the teams he has interest in joining — seven in total — and will begin discussing the options with his agents today with the possibility of coming to a final decision as early as Friday. Included on Vesey’s list of meetings were the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. That’s not to mention Vesey’s meeting with the Buffalo Sabres, who traded for his rights in mid-June.

Vesey comes with a lot of potential, having scored 56 goals and 114 points in 70 games with Harvard over the past two seasons, and he picked up the Hobey Baker Award in 2016 as the top player in the NCAA. But his performance doesn’t mean money can be used to sway his decision. Each team will have to table similar offers because Vesey will enter the league on a two-year, entry-level deal.

So which team will persuade Vesey to sign on the dotted line? Here are the pros and cons for each team in the running to land the college standout: Read more

Cullen signs one-year deal with Penguins to chase consecutive Stanley Cups

Jared Clinton
Matt Cullen (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

At 39 and having just won the second Stanley Cup of his career, Matt Cullen had a chance to go out on top. But the 18-year veteran, who contributed four goals and six points during Pittsburgh’s Cup run, sees an opportunity for the Penguins to win back-to-back championships so he’s sticking around for at least one more season to take a shot at consecutive titles.

The Penguins announced Cullen’s signing Wednesday to a one-year, $1-million deal, and Cullen said that most of the Cup-winning squad is sticking around helped push him towards signing.

“That factored into my decision a lot,” Cullen told PittsburghPenguins.com’s Michelle Crechiolo. “It doesn’t happen often that you win the Cup, but also doesn’t happen that you have virtually the same team back to try to go after it again the next year. We have a really special group and I really, really enjoyed being part of the group.” Read more

Five sophomores who could be in line for breakout seasons

Robby Fabbri (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)

There’s nothing worse than the dreaded sophomore slump, and there are several players who are going to be fighting against a down year after bursting onto the NHL scene this past season.

Take Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin for example. Each came in with significant amounts of hype — McDavid the phenom, Eichel the Hobey Baker winner and Panarin the Russian standout — and each delivered with stellar performances in their rookie seasons. Because of that, the upcoming campaign is going to be their chance to prove that the 2015-16 season was no fluke and that the production was a sign of things to come.

The same goes for defensive talents such as Colton Parayko and Shayne Gostisbehere. Parayko came in as a relative unknown and turned into a top-four defenseman for the St. Louis Blues and already looks to be a member of the core group that will lead the team forward. As for Gostisbehere, his high-scoring ways made him a sensation and Philadelphia Flyers fans can’t wait to see if he can do it all again.

But there are also several rookies who had good — not great — rookie campaigns and could take a major step forward this coming season. Here are five sophomore players in line for a breakout year in 2016-17: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Red Wings willing to move forwards for top-three defenseman

Lyle Richardson
Tomas Tatar (Bill Smith/Getty Images)

Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s made no secret of his desire to add a top-three defenseman. How he’ll address that need remains a topic of interest for Red Wings fans this summer.

If Holland goes the trade route, he could draw upon his forward depth for bargaining chips. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press suggests winger Tomas Tatar could be used in a trade package to bring in the help the Wings need on defense.

In a profile of winger Gustav Nyquist, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan speculates the 26-year-old could become a viable trade chip.

Tatar and Nyquist surfaced in the rumor mill earlier in the off-season due to their disappointing performances in 2015-16. Having reached career-highs in points in 2014-15, Nyquist’s production fell from 54 to 48 last season, while the 25-year-old Tatar’s dropped from 58 to 45.

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Marc-Andre Fleury wants Penguins’ starting job back, but can he actually win it?

Jared Clinton
Marc-Andre Fleury (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Marc-Andre Fleury won his second Stanley Cup this off-season, but the Pittsburgh Penguins netminder did so in much different fashion.

When Fleury won his first Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2008-09, he did so as the 24-year-old starting goaltender who was the future of the organization. But when hoisting the Stanley Cup this past June, he lifted the trophy over his head as a 31-year-old backup goaltender who had lost his job to the bright, young upstart.

Fleury isn’t convinced he can’t take the starting job back, though. Even after Matt Murray secured his place as the starter during the playoffs with one of the best post-season performances in recent memory, Fleury said he feels positive about his role with the team moving forward.

“I love Pittsburgh, and the Penguins are my team,” Fleury told NHL.com’s Robert LaFlamme. “I want to stay with them for the rest of my career. I had some good conversations with management after the season. Nothing is written in stone. I want to come to camp ready to win my job back. I have to get back to the same level of play and help the team, win games.”

That’s much easier said than done for Fleury, and it’s not going to be easy to take back the job from Murray when the 22-year-old is arguably one of the most talented young goaltenders in the world. Read more