Is Madison Bowey the missing piece that Washington needs?

Ryan Kennedy
Madison Bowey (Photo by Ken Andersen/NHLPA via Getty Images)

It’s hard not to see a bitter irony in the fact that Madison Bowey is still playing hockey, while the Washington Capitals are not. After all, the Caps are the dream for Bowey, a physical two-way defenseman currently enjoying his first year of pro with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

But if Bowey can help the Bears get five more playoff wins, it will be the perfect ending to an excellent year of development for Washington’s most promising blueline prospect. And perhaps a glimpse of the Capitals’ future.

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Penguins’ Rutherford, Capitals’ MacLellan, Stars’ Nill named finalists for GM of the Year

Jim Rutherford (Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Penguins took a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference final with a convincing Game 3 victory on Wednesday night, and that means GM Jim Rutherford’s bunch is only two wins shy of winning the Eastern Conference and six victories away from taking home the Stanley Cup. As the architect of this team, though, Rutherford could be in line for some additional hardware at season’s end.

It was announced Wednesday that Rutherford has been named one of three finalists for the GM of the Year Award along with Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan and Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill. Unlike other awards, the GM of the Year was voted on by GMs, executives and media members at the conclusion of the second round of the post-season, which helps take into account the impact deadline deals may have had on a club.

But even though that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine Rutherford doesn’t take home the hardware given what he managed ahead of the deadline. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Thomas Greiss’ success means Jaroslav Halak could hit the trade market

Thomas Greiss.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Goaltender Thomas Greiss’ solid performance filling in for sidelined starter Jaroslav Halak could spell the end of the latter’s tenure with the New York Islanders. Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports Isles GM Garth Snow sang Greiss’ praises, suggesting he’s ready to be a full-time starter.

Staple notes the Islanders currently carry three netminders with Halak, Greiss and promising J-F Berube. He points out the oft-injured Halak voiced his displeasure over the setup and suggests there’s a rift between the veteran and management.

The 31-year-old Halak has two years remaining on his contract. He could hit the trade block this summer. Staple doubts he’ll fetch much of a return and would be more of a cost-cutting deal for other roster moves.

Halak also lacks a no-trade clause and there are clubs (Calgary, Carolina, Toronto) in need of goaltending depth. However, his injury history and $4.5-million annual cap hit could adversely affect his trade value.

WHAT IS PANTHERS LONG-TERM PLAN WITH GUDBRANSON?

The Florida Panthers recent re-signing of defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a one-year, $3.5-million contract extension raised some eyebrows. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa notes the 24-year-old Gudbranson is of the age where high-end blueliners like himself get multiyear deals. Shinzawa speculates Panthers management might not be enamoured with him.

Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel claims the move was made to provide the Panthers with salary-cap flexibility for next season to re-sign rising center Vincent Trocheck. He also reports they’re among the clubs interested in former NHL winger Alexander Radulov, who spent the last four seasons in the KHL.

Gudbranson already has five seasons under his belt with the Panthers. Despite missing time this season to a concussion, he was among their leaders in hits (150), blocked shots (73) and ice time (20:06). He also averaged over 26 minutes of ice time per game in the post-season.

Gudbranson’s ongoing improvement as a shutdown defenseman should keep him part of the Panthers’ long-term plans. If not, he’ll attract considerable interest via free agency next summer.

EXPECT ONLY MINOR CHANGES TO CAPITALS IN OFF-SEASON

Don’t expect the Washington Capitals’ early playoff exit to result in a significant roster overhaul.

Earlier this week, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan addressed the media for the first time since his club’s elimination by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshuyan reports MacLellan is “pretty content” with his core. He’ll look at bolstering the third line, specifically his ninth or tenth forwards.

MacLellan also intends to get restricted free agents Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov, Tom Wilson and Michael Latta re-signed. His plans to tweak his third line could mean cutting loose unrestricted free agents Mike Richards and Jason Chimera. The 37-year-old Chimera, however, tells Khurshudyan he hopes to return with the Capitals next season.

Adding speed and scoring to the third line is crucial. The Penguins third line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel did the most damage to the Capitals in their second-round series. MacLellan will likely attempt to emulate that model.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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Maple Leafs rebuild gets a big boost from Marlies’ playoff success

Kasperi Kapanen (right) and Reece Scarlett  (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

So the Toronto Marlies are off to the Eastern Conference final in the American League as the executives with the big team tap the tips of their fingers together, their plan falling perfectly into place. Mitch Marner and his London Knights made a mockery of the Ontario League playoffs, Auston Matthews is leading USA in scoring at the World Championship and defenseman Connor Carrick, acquired from the Washington Capitals for Daniel Winnik, scored a goal to take over the AHL’s playoff scoring lead.

To be sure there were smiles and backslaps all around when the Marlies defeated the Albany Devils 4-3 in a darn entertaining Game 7 to win the second-round series and earn the right to face the Hershey Bears, the child team of the Capitals.

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Let’s not try to settle the Crosby vs. Ovechkin debate until their careers are over

Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby (Getty Images)

Can we put the Sid vs. Ovie debate to bed until their careers are completed? Please.

The truth is, at this stage of their careers, there is no correct answer to the debate.

If the matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs proved nothing else, it is that it doesn’t matter how Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin do against one another in head-to-head competition, it only matters whose team wins.

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Rumor Roundup: Big decisions loom in Dallas as Stars seek goaltending upgrade

Kari Lehtonen (left) and Antti Niemi (Steven Ryan/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals are the latest to join the list of playoff casualties. Their early exits from the postseason makes them fodder for offseason trade and free-agent speculation.

Shaky goaltending was the prime culprit in the Stars’ departure. The tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi entered the playoffs with the worst combined regular-season goals-against average (2.78). They finished with a bloated combined GAA of 3.23.

ESPN.com’s Craig Custance recommends the Stars upgrade between the pipes, but that won’t be easy. The Stars have over $10 million invested in Lehtonen and Niemi through 2017-18. Niemi carries a full no-trade for 2016-17 while Lehtonen holds a partial NTC.

Should GM Jim Nill trade or buy out Lehtonen or Niemi, the Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika lists Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes, James Reimer of the San Jose Sharks and Carter Hutton of the Nashville Predators as free-agent options. He also suggests Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks as trade targets. Read more

Puck over glass rule in desperate need of reform

Jason Kay
Jay Beagle makes a heroic, desperation save to keep a thrilling Game 6 alive a little longer. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

I’ve never been a fan of the puck over glass penalty rule. It’s always felt as though the punishment dwarfs the crime, especially when compared to other infractions that either get penalized with an identical two minute minor or not at all.

Screaming case in point. In Pittsburgh-Washington Game 6, the Pens take three consecutive minors for illegal clears, are faced with consecutive 5-on-3s, and surrender the inevitable game-tying goal. Fast forward to overtime when Jason Chimera is cross-checked in the offensive zone, which leads directly to a golden 2-on-1 opportunity for Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr.

In the puck-over-glass scenarios, the offenders had zero intention of committing an infraction, and their actions did not nullify an immediate scoring opportunity. By contrast, the Capitals would have been eliminated on what appeared to be a non-call against Chimera if not for a strong play by netminder Braden Holtby.

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Penguins eliminate Capitals on Nick Bonino’s overtime winner in weird, wild, wonderful Game 6

The Penguins celebrate Bonino's winner.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are off to the Eastern Conference final, thanks mostly to some unsung heroes. The Penguins eliminated the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night in a roller-coaster Game 6.

Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into overtime to secure a 4-3 win and send the Penguins to the East final for the first time since 2013, when they were swept by the Boston Bruins.

Bonino has been traded three times in his six-year career, yet Tuesday’s winner was his third career playoff overtime goal. He banged in a rebound off a Carl Hagelin shot after he was fed in the slot by Phil Kessel.

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