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Dmitry Kulikov hits Jakub Voracek
Dmitry Kulikov has a history with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, and they may be reacquainting themselves after the Sabres defenseman plowed through Flyers winger Jakub Voracek.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, 25, has already had to miss one game this season due to injury, and he could find himself watching more action from the sidelines in the coming days thanks to a suspension.
In Tuesday’s game against the Flyers, Kulikov saw an opportunity to crunch Philadelphia winger Jakub Voracek and took it, but the Sabres blueliner may have crossed the line. After a turnover inside the Sabres’ zone, Voracek was able to corral the puck before throwing a quick backhand pass to Travis Konecny.
Voracek continued on after making his pass, but by the time he could swing his head around to see any oncoming defenders, he was caught by Kulikov, resulting in a huge open-ice collision. The hit jarred Voracek’s helmet loose and immediately drew a crowd. Take a look:
That sure looks like it could be worthy of supplemental discipline, especially on the reverse angle. Kulikov’s back skate appeared to come up off the ice as he went in for the hit on Voracek and the contact seemed to be primarily with Voracek’s head. The referees working the contest judged the play to be outside the lines of fair play, too, slapping Kulikov with a minor penalty for charging.
If the NHL’s Department of Player Safety does judge Kulikov’s hit to be worthy of supplemental discipline, it won’t be the first time they’ve spoken with the Russian rearguard. In February 2015, he was suspended four games for a low-bridge hit on Dallas Stars sniper Tyler Seguin.
Thankfully for the Flyers, Voracek was able to remain in the game after Kulikov’s hit, and he even got the last laugh. Philadelphia picked up a shootout victory over Buffalo, and it was Voracek who netted the winner.
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The Flyers celebrate a goal.
Enjoy the plethora of goals now because it's very likely goaltending improves, rookie stars slow down, and referees put their whistles away.
Much has been made of the plethora of goals that have been scored in the NHL so far this season. Dynamic players and suspect goaltending have combined to give goal judges a case of repetitive stress injuries from pressing the goal-light button so often during the league’s first 93 games.
And the numbers are there to back it up. So far this season, teams have combined to produce an average of 5.91 goals per game, which doesn’t take into account the goal awarded to teams that win shootouts. In addition, there are 54 players who have played at least four games so far who are averaging a point per game, and that includes nine defensemen and six rookies. One of those players – Zach Werenski – is both a defenseman and a rookie and, going into Wednesday night’s games, freshman Auston Matthews leads the league in scoring and is on a 137-point pace.
It’s impressive to be sure, but is it going to continue? Almost certainly not. Even though this season is a little more productive out of the gate than most, the reality is that scoring is usually higher during the first part of the season before levelling off. It has been speculated that it’s so much more dramatic this season because the offensive players have already found their groove after having participated in the World Cup, but defensemen and goaltenders were part of that tournament, too.
And it’s not as though this is unprecedented. In fact, not long ago, scoring was at the same pace as it is now after roughly the same period of time. After 92 games in 2009-10, teams were actually scoring more than they are this season, averaging 5.97 non-shootout goals per game. The season before, the average was just slightly lower, at 5.86 goals per game after 91 games. And what ultimately happened? Well, in 2009-10, things evened out and the league finished the season at 5.46 non-shootout goals per game, which is pretty much average for this era. The league had four 100-point scorers and a total of 23 full-time players who averaged at least a point per game. In 2008-09, the league had three 100-point men and 20 regulars who averaged a point per game.
It will be interesting to see where this season goes. You’d have to think that there are a number of goaltenders who will find their games before long. Having sleeker pants can’t possibly be making that much of a difference. But what will bear more scrutiny is how the rookies and young players continue to produce as the season goes on.
Remember, these rookies who are filling the net are going through the league for the first time at the moment. Once opponents get a book on them, it’s probably going to be that much more difficult to make the same kinds of eye-popping plays they’re making right now. And none of them has experienced the rigors of the NHL on a long-term basis. Even Connor McDavid played only 45 games last season, so nobody’s sure how good he’s going to be after 60 games of going against the top shutdown lines in the league.
But more than anything, NHL coaches are notorious for finding ways of shutting down offensive players. They will have their teams adapt defensively and as the season moves on, will be clamping down on star players a lot more closely. And that doesn’t even take into account the inevitable erosion in the standard of officiating that seems to happen every year. As the season goes on, the hooking and holding that occurs early often degenerates into tackling and full nelsons by the end of the season.
Perhaps none of that will happen, but recent history tells us that it almost always does. There’s a chance the quick feet, hands and minds of the young players who have dazzled us for the first eight percent of the season will continue to do so, undeterred by checking and officiating. But that being said, it’s far easy to destroy a masterpiece than to create one. By the same token, it’s easier to stop star players from scoring, particularly when you’re abetted by a league that seems to love parity as much as the NHL does, than it is to continue to create offense. This is a league that goes to great pains to point out how close its games always are, conveniently forgetting the fact that it’s impossible to have large margins of victory when nobody is scoring.
It would be wonderful to see this level of scoring continue or, shocker of shockers, even rise a little. Enjoy it now, but it would be unwise to count on it continuing in the long term.
Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton popped up earlier this week in the NHL rumor mill, but a more likely trade candidate is Dennis Wideman.
Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton popped up earlier this week in the NHL rumor mill. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports there's talk the 23-year-old blueliner could be available.
LeBrun said he doesn't think the Flames are shopping Hamilton. While at least one team inquired into the defenseman's availability, LeBrun said talks didn't get far.
The Flames acquired Hamilton from the Boston Bruins prior to the 2015 NHL draft, re-signing him to a six-year, $34.5-million contract. Since joining the Flames, his performance at times was inconsistent. However, they appear committed to keeping him on their blueline.
A more likely Flames trade candidate is veteran defenseman Dennis Wideman. The 33-year-old is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July and doesn't have a long-term future in Calgary. He has a full no-movement clause, but the Flames could ask him to waive it if they're out of playoff contention by the March 1 trade deadline.
WITH LINDHOLM SIGNED, WHAT HAPPENS TO FOWLER?
Prior to the Anaheim Ducks re-signing defenseman Hampus Lindholm, there was a report linking him to a deal with the Colorado Avalanche and captain Gabriel Landeskog. As noted by Chris Nichols of Today's Slapshot, TSN's Darren Dreger said the Ducks and Avalanche had a conversation involving the two players, though Ducks GM Bob Murray wanted nothing to do with trading the 22-year-old blueliner.
With Lindholm finally under contract, any talk of swapping him for Landekog is put to rest. However, this isn't the first time Dreger's mentioned Landeskog as a possible trade candidate this year. On June 30, he reported the Ducks and Avs had discussed a Landeskog-for-Lindholm swap.
Landeskog surfaced again in the rumor mill later in the summer. On July 30, Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Sun included the 23-year-old left winger among five players the Canucks should pursue in the off-season.
So far, however, there's no indication out of Denver the Avs are willing to put their captain on the trade block. He's in the third season of a seven-year, $39-million contract and his $5.5-million cap hit isn't easy to move, especially this early in the season.
Landeskog's no-trade clause doesn't kick in until 2018-19, so he can be dealt anywhere this season without his permission. His performance through 2016-17, and that of the Avs, could determine if he becomes a trade chip.
It'll be interesting to see if the Lindholm signing puts an end to the Cam Fowler trade rumors that were flying around since late-June.
The Ducks freed up some cap space for Lindholm's new contract by placing concussed defenseman Simon Despres and his $3.7-million annual cap hit on long-term injury reserve. However, they must find cap room for Despres when he's ready to return to the lineup.
Throughout the off-season and into October, trade chatter linked the 24-year-old Fowler ($4 million cap hit) to the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings. That talk could be muted for now, but will likely flare up again when Despres is ready to return to the lineup.
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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It took two weeks longer than either party would have hoped, but the Anaheim Ducks have finally reached a contract with restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm.
Contract demands and a tough salary cap situation made negotiations difficult between the Anaheim Ducks and restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm, but after he sat out the first eight games of the season, Anaheim has come to terms a six-year, $31.5-million contract with the 22-year-old rearguard.
The signing was first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, and at an average annual value of $5.25 million, Lindholm becomes the highest paid defenseman in Anaheim. That may seem surprising given his age, but Lindholm has been the Ducks’ best defenders over the past two seasons and is a definite No. 1 guy in Anaheim.
However, there will still need to be subsequent moves made. According to CapFriendly, the Ducks remain about $1.4 million over the salary cap with Lindholm’s signing, and that’s including the space that was freed up when defenseman Simon Despres was placed on long-term injured reserve. Regardless of what will need to be done, though, the Ducks’ priority was clearly signing Lindholm, and GM Bob Murray has gotten that done.
That’s great news for the Ducks, too, because over the past few days, speculation had been that the Ducks and Lindholm were close to reaching a deal but a financial gap between the two sides had them at a standstill. Clearly, whatever the issue was, the two sides have been able to work out their differences to get Lindholm back in uniform.
The signing couldn’t come at a better time for the Ducks, either, because the club has struggled out of the gate under coach Randy Carlyle. Despite a convincing 6-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, the Ducks have only picked up eight of a possible 16 points through the first eight games of the season.
Lindholm won’t be available to immediately jump back into the lineup, however. The salary cap issue is one that will need to be worked, to be sure, but McKenzie also reported that Lindholm will need to secure a work visa in order to get into the lineup. That could take anywhere from one to two weeks, McKenzie said, and could force Lindholm to miss another four games.
Drafted sixth-overall by the Ducks in 2012, Lindholm immediately made the jump to the AHL in 2012-13 and was more than just an NHL regular by his second season in the North American pro game.
He averaged more than 19 minutes of ice time during his rookie season in 2013-14, scored six goals and 30 points in 78 games and finished seventh in Calder Trophy voting. He followed that up with a seven-goal, 34-point campaign in 2014-15 that saw him take on top-pairing minutes for a Stanley Cup contending team, and this past season, Lindholm notched 10 goals and 28 points in 80 games while earning a handful of votes for the Norris Trophy.
With Lindholm signed, the only restricted free agent still without a contract is Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba.
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