Evander Kane gets extension, opportunity to continue to play for a contender

As had been rumored the past few days, Evander Kane is remaining long-term in San Jose, having signed a seven-year deal worth a reported $49 million.

Kane got his first shot at playing on a good team this past season, being traded to the Sharks at the trade deadline from the Sabres. Prior to going to San Jose, the 26-year-old had spent a majority of his career on bad teams in Atlanta/Winnipeg and Buffalo going back to when he broke into the league during the 2009-10 season. With that said, he’s always been productive, with a respectable 186 goals and 354 points in 574 games, per-game averages that translate to roughly 27 goals and 51 points over 82 games. He had nine goals and 14 points in 17 regular season games after being traded to San Jose, playing alongside Joe Pavelski.

Kane got his first shot at the playoffs this season after playing 574 regular season games without reaching the postseason. He had a good First Round, with three goals and four points in the Sharks sweep of the Ducks, but had just one goal and had a minus-five rating in the Second Round loss to the Golden Knights, and was suspended for Game 2 for cross-checking Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the Sharks series-opening 7-0 loss.

The $7-million cap hit for Kane is currently the 10th-highest among wingers, according to capfriendly.com, though that ranking will fall as the summer goes on with UFA-to be James van Riemsdyk in line to get paid on the open market while Artemi Panarin, Blake Wheeler, Nikita Kucherov, Patrik Laine, and Max Pacioretty will be in line to get north of $7-million AAV when their windows to negotiate contract extensions opens up this summer.

Kane will be 27 at the start of the 2018-19 season and the Sharks are still in a position to contend, and with so much cap space coming off the books after next season could still add another marquee player. Those factors should help the return on investment.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Western Conference

Avalanche vs Predators

Why the Avalanche win: Nathan MacKinnon takes over games. We’ll see if that continues in the playoffs, but he’s on an unbelievable run right now. Add in the fact he’s got two great players running alongside him in Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, you’ve got your hands full.

Why the Predators win: Predators are the best team in the league, far more dangerous than when they made their run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. There’s no real weakness on this team.

Player that proves to be the difference: Kyle Turris.. This is the true No. 2 center behind Ryan Johansen that Nashville missed last spring. When Turris was acquired from Ottawa early in the season, the Preds solidified themselves down the middle and really transformed the roster into one of the best in the league.

Something you might want to know: Predators leading scorer this season was Filip Forsberg with 64 points, which checked in at 52 on the NHL’s leaderboard. However, the Predators had six players record 50 points – Tampa Bay and Toronto were the only other teams to have that high a tally of 50-point guys.

What happens: Predators in 5. I think Nashville makes this a quick series. There’s just way too much on the Predators side.

Wild vs Jets

Why the Jets win: Can the Wild keep up? I don’t think they can. Minnesota is going to miss Ryan Suter in this series, though getting Jared Spurgeon back will help things.

Why the Wild win: Suter might be done, but Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba will make up for the loss. Minnesota trots out a great shutdown forward line in Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund while Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter will keep Winnipeg’s hands full. Jordan Greenway adds an element the Wild didn’t have before he signed his pro contract after his junior season at BU ended last month.

Player that proves to be the difference: Connor Hellebuyck.. Hellebuyck’s numbers (44-11-9, 2.36 GAA, .924 save percentage, six shutouts) would be enough to run away with the Vezina Trophy most years. He’s the rock that backstops the Jets and allows Winnipeg to play their quick-pace, run-and-gun style.

Something you might want to know: The city of Winnipeg hasn’t experienced a playoff series win since the 1987 Smythe Division semifinals, when the first iteration of the Jets (who are now, of course, the Coyotes) took down the Flames in six games. Winnipeg is 0-for in the last six seasons they’ve made the playoffs (1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2015).

What happens: Jets in 6. Hellebuyck shuts the door on the back end and the Jets keep up their offensive pace on the other end.

Kings vs Golden Knights

Why the Golden Knights win: Because we said Vegas wouldn’t hold onto the Pacific, would fall off in the second half, wouldn’t be a playoff team, wouldn’t be a good team, wouldn’t land an NHL team. We know nothing. Oh and they’re deep, fast, skilled, and have really good goaltending. That helps too.

Why the Kings win: They look similar to the teams that won it all in 2012 and ’14. Anze Kopitar has been a force all year up front and Jeff Carter has been sensational since he returned. Dustin Brown has reignited his career. Drew Doughty holds down a strong defense and Jonathan Quick has been strong in net of late.

Player that proves to be the difference: Jeff Carter.. In 21 games since returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for four months, Carter has 13 goals and 19 points.

Something you should know: Four of the top eight players in terms of plus-minus are playing in this series: William Karlsson (1st, plus-49), Jonathan Marchessault (2nd, plus-36), Reilly Smith/Dustin Brown (t-7th, plus-31).

What happens: Kings in 5. It’s not so much clock strikes midnight on Vegas, more that Los Angeles just isn’t a good matchup for this team.

Sharks vs Ducks

Why the Ducks win: Plagued by injuries early on, the narrative was watch out if they get healthy and get in the playoffs. Well, they’ve done both those things. With everyone back – with the exception of Cam Fowler, who was injured last week – the Ducks enter the playoffs 10-1-1 in their final 12 games. This looks like the team we expected to see come April when the roster was ravaged by injuries in October.

Why the Sharks win: San Jose is solid from the top to bottom. The Evander Kane acquisition at the deadline added offense up front. This team is built very well from the net-out.

Player that proves to be the difference: Ryan Kesler.. Most important player on this team. It’s no coincidence that this team reached the Western Conference Final twice in Kesler’s first three seasons in Anaheim. He’s your best defensive forward and your agitator, the daily double of not just shutting down the opposing top line but getting under their skin, knocking them off their game. On top of that, he can be your top offensive producer. He didn’t had a great regular season after returning from hip surgery just after Christmas, but has shown flashes of finding his game of late.

Something you should know: With 118 points in 121 career playoff games, Ryan Getzlaf has the 4th-most playoff points since the 2004-05 lockout, trailing only Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Patrick Kane. Getzlaf has played six fewer playoff games than Kane, 28 fewer than Malkin, and 27 fewer than Crosby.

What will happen: Ducks in 7. Take it a step further and say Anaheim wins Game 7 in overtime. This series is almost too close to call. It’ll be worth staying up for.

Second Look: Sabres complete third-period comeback against San Jose

The misfortunes in Buffalo continued on Tuesday night for the San Jose Sharks, blowing a 4-1 third period to lose in overtime.

The loss marked 17 losses in 19 games for San Jose in Buffalo. The Sabres scored three times in a 2:28 span, beginning with Ryan O’Reilly’s powerplay goal with 10:57 to play. Evander Kane and Kyle Okposo followed the next two scores to tie the game before Kane scored again in overtime on a feed from Jack Eichel.

The third period has been a weakness for the Sharks this season. San Jose is a minus-six in the third this season, compared with a plus-one in the second and a plus-24 in the first. The Sharks 55 goals allowed in the third period is tied for seventh-most in the NHL with Calgary.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are plus-two in the final 20 minutes of regulation in addition to being 6-5 in overtime. Buffalo has seized the extra point in four of its last five overtimes.

Mid-season award predictions

So it’s the official midpoint of the season even though many teams are around the 50-game mark, well past the official midway point that is 41 games. But anyway, here’s a look at who might, will, and/or should win the respective NHL awards that are handed out following the season.

Hart Trophy: Brent Burns, San Jose- This award will probably go to Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby but Burns is why the Sharks lead the Pacific Division and are in the running to repeat as Western Conference champions. He’s been on the ice for 36 percent of San Jose’s goals, according to puckalytics, which compares to 28 percent for McDavid and 22 percent for Crosby. His 51 points in 50 games leads the team.

Vezina Trophy: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota- What a story this will be. The once forgotten about, cast away to the AHL only to get another chance and thrive goaltender in Dubnyk finally getting his due. He’s statistically been right up there with Carey Price among the game’s best netminder over the past few seasons and he’s been unconscious once again this season. He leads the league in save percentage (.936) and GAA (1.88), and is second in wins (27). The only thing that separates him from the goaltending Triple Crown at the moment in Sergei Bobrovsky, who has one more win than Dubnyk.

Norris Trophy: Brent Burns, San Jose- For all the reasons mentioned above, and then some. He’s having an historic season for a defenseman, and is making a serious push at the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading point-getter. Should Burns win the scoring title – he’s eight points off the current perch held down by McDavid – he’d be just the second blueliner in NHL history to lead the league in scoring. The other is Bobby Orr.

Selke Trophy: Ryan Kesler, Anaheim- Kesler has been Anaheim’s best player this season. He has 39 points in 51 games while his 21:48 of ice time per game is a second behind Patrick Kane for the league-high among forwards. Kesler has taken a league-high 1,119 faceoffs, his 57.6 success rate on the draw third in the league behind Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly among players that have taken greater than 900 faceoffs. Watch out for a late surge from Bergeron, whose offensive numbers aren’t there but numbers on defense, faceoffs, and possession remain through the roof.

Calder Trophy: Auston Matthews, Toronto- In what has been the Year of the Rookie in 2016-17, Matthews stands alone in the race for the Calder. That’s how good he is, and that’s how much higher a level he’s on than everybody else. Forget rookies, Matthews has been one of the top five players in the league this season. He looks like he’s been in the NHL for 10 years. He’s tied with Alex Ovechkin for fourth in the NHL with 23 goals.

Jack Adams Award: John Tortorella, Columbus- The Blue Jackets have broken out this season, emerging as one of the league’s best teams, highlighted by a 16-game winning streak that stretched from November to January. It’s another feather in the cap for Tortorella, whose best known for going into young clubs and getting guys to realize their potential, as he did in Tampa Bay and New York.

General Manager of the Year: Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton- Chiarelli has done a fine job reconstructing the roster in Edmonton, and the Oilers are on track to erase an 11-year playoff drought as a result. Of course, it all starts with Connor McDavid, but a Chiarelli bringing in a number of players over the past two years, such as Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Andrej Sekera, Mark Letestu, and Kris Russell has changed the identity of the team. While he traded an elite talent in Taylor Hall, it’s looked like the shake up the Oilers needed.

Lady Byng Trophy: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis- He’s having his best season yet, with 47 points in 49 games while carrying a Blues team that isn’t as good as years past. He’s done so by staying out of the box, with just eight penalty minutes.

Masterton Trophy: Craig Anderson, Ottawa- Anderson hasn’t played since December 5th, away from the Senators to be by his wife’s side as she undergoes treatment for cancer. However, he’s nearing a return as his wife has completed treatment.

Art Ross Trophy: Brent Burns, San Jose- He’s a long shot but what the heck, let’s have some fun here. I’ll be rooting for the story.

Richard Trophy: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh- Crosby has slowed off the pace when it comes to putting the puck in the net after a torrid start to the year, but nobody has really caught up.

Second Look: Patrick Marleau four-goal third period

In a game that wasn’t expected to be a close one – the worst-in-the league Avalanche facing the defending Campbell Bowl winner Sharks – Monday night’s contest went into the third period tied, San Jose catching itself in a 20-minute game as the club looked to keep up with Anaheim in the race for first place in the Pacific Division.

Then Patrick Marleau happened.

The 37-year-old forward took the game over in the third period, scoring four goals in the final 20 minutes to give the Sharks the 5-2 win. The outpouring was the first four-goal game of Marleau’s career, according to hockey-reference.com, as he became the first player to score four goals in a period since Mario Lemieux did so in January 1997.

All four goals were scored in a different fashion. The goal that got Marleau on the scoresheet was a net-front tip of a Marc-Eduoard Vlasic shot from the left point, which was Vlasic’s 11th apple of the season. The second was set up on a give-and-go with Logan Couture, which Marleau buried on a wrap-around at the right post while the hat trick came on a two-on-one with Joe Pavelski. He made it four on a stretch pass from Vlasic, which turned into a breakaway that resulted in goal No. 4 with 3:37 to play.

The four-goal period will certainly be the highlight of Marleau’s chase for 500 career goals, the accomplishment bringing him up to 497, which is good enough for 46th on the all-time list. His next goal will tie Glenn Anderson for 45th on the list. Forty-four players in NHL history have reached 500.

Marleau, who is San Jose’s all-time leading goal scorer, is fifth among active players on the list of career tallies.

Bruins Face Canadiens for First Time, Scott Stevens Returns to New Jersey, Brian Elliot Faces Blues

Quite a bit to watch on Saturday night as 12 NHL games are being played, including the first game between Boston and Montreal, Flames goaltender Brian Elliot facing the Blues, who traded him over the offseason. Zach Parise and Scott Stevens will make their returns to New Jersey as the Wild face the Devils; Parise, of course, as a player, and Stevens as an assistant coach to Bruce Boudreau.

Here’s the games being played: Toronto at Chicago, 7; N.Y. Rangers at Washington, 7; Montreal at Boston, 7; Carolina at Philadelphia, 7; Tampa Bay at Ottawa, 7; Colorado at Florida, 7; San Jose at Detroit, 7; Minnesota at New Jersey, 7; Pittsburgh at Nashville, 8; Columbus at Dallas, 8; Vancouver at Los Angeles, 10; St. Louis at Calgary, 10.

Players to Watch

Chicago: Richard Panik; Don’t look now but Panik is leading the Hawks with five goals in five games. Patrick who?

Toronto: James van Reimsdyk; Will not be playing against his brother, Trevor, as its being reported the younger van Reimsdyk will miss 5-6 weeks with an upper-body injury, as it’s being reported by Scott Powers of The Athletic. The two have played each other just once.

N.Y. Rangers: Mike Zibanejad; Off to a nice start with five points in four games.

Washington: Zach Sanford; The rookie expected to play Saturday after being out of the lineup on Thursday. Will face fellow ex-BC big forward Chris Kreider for the first time.

Montreal: Tomas Plekanec; The 33-year-old center seems to like playing the Bruins, his 46 points against the archrival is the most he’s scored against any NHL opponent.

Boston: David Backes; First game in the rivalry. In 11 games against Montreal, he has four goals and eight points.

Carolina: Victor Rask; The Swedish center leads the Hurricanes with five goals in four games. He had 48 last season, up from 33 his rookie season.

Philadelphia: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare; The French centerman is leading the Flyers with a 54 percent faceoff percentage. He’s won 24 of 44 draws.

Tampa Bay: Ben Bishop; The Lightning netminder played 23 games in Ottawa from 2011-13 before being traded to Tampa, where his career has since blossomed. He is 117-53-17 since that deal, with a .921 save percentage and 2.26 GAA. Bishop has twice finished in the top three of the Vezina Trophy voting in a Lightning uniform.

Ottawa: Guy Boucher; Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s a coach. But the Senators first-year bench boss spent three seasons as the head man in Tampa Bay, going 97-79-20. He led the Bolts to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in 2011, his first season behind the bench.

Colorado: Patrick Wiercioch; The defenseman has four points in four games.

Florida: Jaromir Jagr; Jagr coming off his 750th goal of the season.

San Jose: Brent Burns; The defenseman has points in five consecutive games to begin the season.

Detroit: Thomas Vanek; Still second on the team with six points.

Minnesota: Zach Parise; Still hanging on 299. How fitting would it be to get 300 in New Jersey, where he spent the first seven years of his career?

New Jersey: Cory Schneider; Has a .938 save percentage and 2.00 GAA in four games. Going to need to keep it up; the Devils have six goals in four games.

Pittsburgh: Patric Hornqvist; He has four points in five games, second on the team behind Evgeni Malkin, who has five.

Nashville: James Neal; Played in Pittsburgh from 2011-14, had 89 goals and 184 points in 199 games.

Columbus: Zach Werenski; The rookie leads the Jackets in scoring.

Dallas: Devin Shore; The 22-year-old tied with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for the team lead with four goals.

Vancouver: Jacob Markstrom; He’s stopped 68 of 73 shots that have come his way in three games.

Los Angeles: Jeff Carter; His 58.8 faceoff percentage ninth in the league.

St. Louis: Jay Bouwmeester; The defenseman played four seasons in Calgary. His 25:52 average time on ice was the highest among the three teams he played for (Florida 2002-09, St. Louis 2013-present).

Calgary: Brian Elliot; Played five seasons in St. Louis, had a 2.01 GAA and .925 save percentage in 181 games.

#HatTrickChallenge

James Neal: Hasn’t found the net in four games. Breaks out against his former team.

Game of the Night

Montreal at Boston: It’s never a dull one when these two teams face each other.

Lock to Win

Minnesota: Zach Parise gets his 300th goal against the team that drafted him and the Wild continue to roll.

 

 

Thoughts Are Mine Only: All Hail Jagr

Here are some thoughts as you try not to get trampled jumping onto the Oilers bandwagon.

*Jaromir Jagr scored his 750th career goal on Thursday night, in Florida’s 4-2 loss to Washington. He joins Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801) in the 750 club.

*Jagr is one of the top 10 greatest players to ever play (please don’t ask me who other nine are and tell me to rank them). His career is far and away the most unique. It spanned three different decades, five presidential administrations (provided, of course, he doesn’t pull a fast one and retire within the next three months), played for eight different teams, had a three-year stint in the KHL, was beloved, then wasn’t beloved, then ran himself out of organizations, then fled for the KHL before a sea of dry eyes, then returned, then was beloved. Had a mullet, then didn’t have mullet, then had a mullet again. Yeah.

*FWIW – Last Time Jagr Did ‘BLANK’ Trivia. Last time he won a Stanley Cup? 1992. Last time he won the Hart Trophy? 1999. Last time he won the Art Ross Trophy? 2001. Last time he won the Ted Lindsay Award? 2006.

*Jagr never led the league in goal scoring.

*Great job by Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon setting up the goal by Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson in the third period of the Penguins 3-2 comeback win as he was trying to draw a cheap penalty. Dillon did the classic turn-the-back-as-the-forchecker-is-coming in the left corner as Patric Hornqvist was approaching. Hornqvist successfully separated the puck from Dillon, as the puck soon met the tape on Wilson’s blade and the rest is history. You have to appreciate the honesty of a hockey puck.

*So Edmonton is 4-1, its latest win an impressive 3-1 win over St. Louis.

*The Oilers won the final meeting between the two teams last season. This is the first time since 2009 that Edmonton has defeated St. Louis in back-t0-back games in regulation. The two-game winning streak for the Oilers was preceded by a 1-12-1 stretch against the Blues.

*The loss for the Blues snapped a 10-game streak of getting at least a point against Western Conference opponents. The last time St. Louis failed to come out of a game with a point against a team from the West? A 6-4 loss to Edmonton on March 16.

*The Kings needed those two points badly.

*The Stars aren’t easy to keep up with offensively, but they still have quite a ways to go on the defensive side of the puck.

*The Canucks are 4-0.

*After allowing four goals on 16 shots in a 4-0 loss to Colorado, Lightning netminder Ben Bishop has a .861 save percentage in three games this season.

*Cliff Pu scored a goal and won 17 of 27 draws in London’s 5-4 win over Kitchener in OHL action. Pu has five goals and 11 points in seven while winning 63.6 percent of the 151 faceoffs he’s taken. A third round pick by Buffalo in this past year’s draft, he should be a first-rounder in the redrafts we’ll see sprinkled all over the place this time five years from now. Sabres fans should be happy to have him.

Links

Bobby Orr sat down with Bob McKenzie in a one-on-one interview in recognition of the 50th anniversary of his NHL debut. Worth the 20 minutes and change. Part one is about 13 minutes, part two about seven.

ICYSYUAR (In Case You Spent Yesterday Under A Rock): Matt Murray signed a three-year extension with Pittsburgh.

So does the Murray extension mean the Marc-Andre Fleury era in Pittsburgh is all but over? This one writer seems to think so.

Here’s a very good breakdown by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about what the Murray signing does, may, or may not mean for the future of the Pens crease.

Jimmy Howard adjusting nicely into his new role with the Red Wings.

The rumblings of one Pierre LeBrun.

The Nashville Predators tapping into the robust fountain of Swiss hockey talent.

The talk of college hockey are the new rules, er enforcement of rules, that caused a rash of penalty calls in the first weekend of the NCAA season.