BUFFALO – Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray could be on the lookout for a goaltender after starter Robin Lehner went down with an ankle injury in the first game of the season and is expected to miss at least between two-to-four weeks, a layoff that could be longer once the team has a better chance of examining him.
Lehner was injured in the Sabres 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators Thursday night when he went out to play a puck behind the net and his skate hit a rut and he had to leave the game. He left the arena in a walking cast and was still wearing it when the Sabres practiced Friday morning.
With another season just hours away, the excitement is palpable. Jaromir Jagr is growing his mullet and Erik Karlsson is cutting his. We’re on the verge of 3-on-3 play in overtime and, admit it, you’re probably on the edge of your set at this very moment, wondering who will issue the first coach’s challenge.
With a new season come all kinds of possibilities, both good and bad. And we have you covered for both. To that end, we present the absolute best and worst headlines you might read for each team this season:
The New York Rangers are coming off a Presidents’ Trophy and a second consecutive berth in the Eastern Conference final. They still have a future Hall of Famer in net with Henrik Lundqvist and one of the most frustratingly effective defense corps in the NHL.
So it’s hard to improve things over the summer, especially when salary cap constraints forced new GM Jeff Gorton to finely hone every contract put in front of him (Derek Stepans don’t come cheap, of course).
But the Rangers are still very much in their Stanley Cup window right now. Stepan, Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello are all accomplished forwards and they’re far from alone. The Blueshirts did lose another future Hall of Famer in Marty St-Louis, however, while the aforementioned cap woes led to the trade of fast and effective left winger Carl Hagelin to Anaheim.
In return, New York received Emerson Etem, a celebrated first round draft pick from 2010 who was lucky enough to be selected by his home state Ducks. Results have been slow at the NHL level for the right winger, though he is still young and perhaps a change of scenery will help. Etem now honors his home town with a Long Beach State University tattoo behind his right ear, so how does he feel about switching coasts?
Last year, Brent Seabrook averaged 22:10 minutes per game; his ‘D’ partner, Duncan Keith averaged 25:33; Patrick Kane 19:51; Jonathan Toews 19:33; and Marian Hossa 18:33.
That quintet, assuming they’re all still around, better get used to playing a lot more than that.
After Seabrook signed an eight-year, $55-million extension ($6.875-million per year) that will kick in next season, the above five players, along with Corey Crawford, will have a combined cap hit of $44.7 million, or 62.8% of their overall allowance, using this year’s ceiling. In other words, unless the cap shoots up next season – and don’t count on that – the Hawks will have less than $30 million to fill out the rest of the roster (and that’s not taking into account Niklas Hjalmarsson’s $4.1 million, Artem Anisimov’s $4.6 million or Bryan Bickell’s $4 million).
So you can expect one of two things: 1) Chicago’s roster in 2016-17 will feature a lot of cheap prospects and reclamation projects, resulting in a top-heavy collection that will see a bunch of ice time. 2) One or two of the Big 6 has to go. Read more
The Toronto Maple Leafs have stockpiled veterans on tryout contracts for the upcoming season, but now you can add another well-known name via trade: Michael Grabner. The New York Islanders unloaded the speedy Austrian on the Leafs in exchange for prospects Matt Finn, Carter Verhaeghe, Chris Gibson, Taylor Beck and Tom Nilsson.
So what’s up with this trade?
The Chicago Blackhawks made no secret more changes would need to come before locking up restricted free agent and bottom-six centerpiece Marcus Kruger, and those changes finally came Friday.
In a four-player deal, Chicago shipped wingers Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom and a 2017 third-round selection to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defensemen Dennis Robertson, Jake Massie and a fifth-round pick in 2017.
Friday’s deal gave the Blackhawks more than $2.4 million in which to sign Kruger and, shortly after the trade was completed, Chicago announced they have inked the 25-year-old to a one-year deal worth $1.5-million. Read more
The Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes pulled off a trade Wednesday night, with Brandon Gormley heading to the Avs and Stefan Elliott going the other way to Arizona. Both players are young defensemen who had yet to make definitive marks in the NHL and a change of scenery is not a bad idea.
He’s the youngest of three hockey brothers, but that doesn’t diminish the expectations surrounding center Ryan McLeod, a potent offensive force whose OHL rights were just traded to his hometown Mississauga Steelheads.