All posts by Cory Wilkins

U.S. downs Canada to capture bronze at World Championship

Team USA defeated Team Canada 4-1 on Sunday to claim the bronze medal at the World Championship.

After a 0-0 first period, New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider opened the scoring for the Americans midway through the middle frame, notching his ninth point of the tournament when he picked up a turnover courtesy of Canada's Connor McDavid before tucking the puck past netminder Curtis McElhinney.

Canada got on the board with less than two minutes remaining in the second period, as San Jose Sharks blue-liner Marc-Edouard Vlasic slipped into the offensive zone to bury one by American goaltender Keith Kinkaid.

A power-play marker by U.S. forward Nick Bonino with less than seven minutes remaining in the third period sealed the victory for the Americans, as he knocked a backhand rebound by McElhinney.

Anders Lee and Kreider added a pair of empty-netters to bump the final score to 4-1. Kreider was named Player of the Game for the Americans, while McElhinney took home the same honor for Canada.

The bronze marks Team USA's first medal finish at the World Championship since 2015, when the Americans defeated the Czech Republic to capture third place. The United States has not played in the gold medal game since 1960.

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Oilers sign Swedish free agent Persson to 1-year contract

The Edmonton Oilers have added to their defensive depth, agreeing to a one-year contract with Swedish free-agent blue-liner Joel Persson, the team announced Friday.

Persson spent the 2017-18 campaign with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League, where he led all defenders with 34 points in 51 games. He then posted five points across 13 playoff games en route to the SHL championship.

"(Joel) has progressed rapidly in the last year and has shown a very good offensive side to his game which is compatible with some of our needs," Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said in a statement.

Chiarelli added that the Oilers intend for Persson to play in Sweden next season, but that the club has the right to recall him to the NHL.

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Bruins owner: Quebec doesn’t have numbers to bring back Nordiques

The math doesn't add up for the NHL to return to Quebec City, according to Boston Bruins owner and NHL executive committee chairman Jeremy Jacobs.

Speaking at an end-of-season press conference Wednesday, Jacobs was questioned on a variety of topics, including the potential for Quebec City to resurface as an NHL market. He saw little hope in the prospect.

"Quebec is challenged, to put it nicely," Jacobs told reporters. "Look at the income base and the population base. There probably isn't a smaller market, so they're really going to have to distinguish themselves in some other way."

The NHL played out of the Quebec capital from 1979 until 1995, when financial concerns forced a relocation. The Nordiques were uprooted to Denver and rebranded as the Colorado Avalanche.

Attempts have been made to bring the NHL back to Quebec City, including the unveiling of the 18,000-seat Videotron Centre, a new arena built to league standards that opened its doors in 2015.

During the NHL's most recent expansion process, Quebec City's bid was deferred because of the declining Canadian dollar and a need to correct the league's geographic imbalance.

Now the NHL could be preparing to add a 32nd team. But it appears Quebec City is once again on the back burner, with the league primarily focused on the Pacific Northwest and the addition of a team in Seattle.

There's also been strong interest from Tilman Fertitta, who owns the NBA's Houston Rockets and would like to recruit a second franchise to share the Toyota Center.

"You look at Houston and you look at (Quebec), it's the fifth largest city in North America versus the 105th, let's say, so they have a different situation there," Jacobs added. "Economically, they're challenged and numerically there is challenge to them. They just don't have the numbers.

"But we've got enthusiastic fans there, there is no doubt about that. It's a great market and I'm not being critical of it."

If economic challenges were a hurdle for Quebec City during the NHL's last open-expansion bid, the push for a return could be even trickier this time. Potential ownership in Seattle, backed by American billionaire David Bonderman and Hollywood filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, would have to pay a $650-million expansion fee. That's $150 million more than the Golden Knights paid in 2017.

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Lightning’s Cooper: Ovechkin taking out frustration of past playoff failures

Alex Ovechkin is a man on a mission.

After failing to capture the Stanley Cup through his first 12 years in the NHL, the Washington Capitals captain is seemingly out to carve a new path in the 2018 postseason.

Ovechkin has tallied 19 points in 14 playoff games, including a game-winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He's powered the Capitals to their first third-round appearance since 1998.

The charge has only continued as Ovechkin and the Capitals have taken the first two games against the favored Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I think he has taken 14 years of frustration out on one playoff. Not just us, but this whole playoff season," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters Monday. "There's a reason he has 600 goals and he's done all these wonderful things in the league."

Ovechkin has picked up a pair of points in each game against the Lightning. The Capitals can push Tampa to the brink of elimination in Washington on Tuesday, which would make Ovechkin's dominance even more impressive.

"In the past, (Ovechkin) has not had playoff success, and when you do get to taste a little bit of it, it really tastes good," Cooper added.

Ovechkin is just two points back of tying his career high in the playoffs. He notched 11 goals and 10 assists during the 2009 postseason.

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Goalie Stuart Skinner signs with Oilers 1 day after winning WHL title

The Edmonton Oilers added some depth between the pipes, agreeing to terms with Swift Current Broncos netminder Stuart Skinner on a three-year entry-level contract, the Oilers announced Monday.

Skinner finished the Western Hockey League regular season with a 16-6-1 record and a .914 save percentage across 25 appearances. He then stacked up another 16 victories in the playoffs to guide Swift Current to its first trip to the Memorial Cup since 1993, winning the WHL championship on Sunday night.

The 2018 Memorial Cup will take place later this month in Regina, Saskatchewan, and includes the host Pats along with the Broncos, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, and the Hamilton Bulldogs.

The Oilers selected Skinner with the 78th pick in last year's draft.

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Capitals’ Kempny fined for cross-check to Lightning’s Paquette

Michal Kempny will pay the piper.

The Washington Capitals defenseman has been fined $2,419.35, the maximum allowable under the CBA, after cross-checking Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cedric Paquette in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Kempny was assessed a minor penalty.

The Capitals lead the Lightning 2-0 in the third-round series.

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3 players increasing their free-agency value in the playoffs

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs winding down it's time to consider how players still competing in the postseason have better positioned themselves ahead of free agency.

Here are three standouts who could cash in when the market opens on July 1.

John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals

We've seen this before. On his contract year, a player has a career-best season and then gets a nice raise during free agency. Carlson, who wrapped the regular season with a career-high 68 points, could be next to get that contract-year bump, especially with his high-end production continuing into the third round of the postseason.

Prior to the 2017-18 campaign, Carlson's career high was 55 points, and he's averaged 51 points over the past three years (adjusted for 82 games). That's more good news for Carlson's agent, who is sure to highlight the veteran blue-liner's status as the top right-handed shot available. The next best option is an older, injury-riddled, and less productive Mike Green.

Paul Stastny, C, Winnipeg Jets

Dealt from St. Louis to Winnipeg at the trade deadline, Stastny's production saw only a slight increase following the deal, up 0.05 points per contest. But he's raised his play in the postseason, tallying 15 points through 13 games to outpace key offensive threats like Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Kyle Connor.

If John Tavares becomes a free agent he'll undoubtedly be the top center available. But teams that miss out on the New York Islanders captain can come calling for Stastny. Currently on a $7-million contract, Stastny's strong playoffs after a pedestrian regular season in St. Louis could earn him a similar annual figure.

James Neal, RW, Vegas Golden Knights

There's a lot to like about Neal, and more than just intriguing intangibles like grit and leadership that typically boost a player's value in free agency.

The savvy winger also brings a steady scoring touch. He's displayed that throughout his career, including Neal's first year with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Neal continues to be a proven veteran who delivers when it matters. He's tied for fourth in Vegas playoff scoring with seven points over 11 games.

Adding to the intrigue is that the 30-year-old has never reached free agency, meaning many teams will finally have their shot at signing him to their squad.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Babcock details visit with Matthews: ‘It’s not going to be rosy every day’

Following reports of a rift stemming from the Toronto Maple Leafs' exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, head coach Mike Babcock visited star player Auston Matthews in his native Arizona earlier this month.

Babcock says the face time allowed them to work out any outstanding issues.

"He wants to be better, I want him to be better, I want our team to be better," Babcock told TSN's Darren Dreger. "He wants to be playing now, so that's what we're working towards. He wants to be the best two-way player in the game, so we're going to work as hard as we can.

"It's not going to be rosy every day. It never is. Anyone who perceives the NHL that things are going good every day, it's not like that. It's a competitive, competitive atmosphere."

The meeting came after Matthews, who maintained a point-per-game pace throughout the regular season, struggled to a two-point showing in Toronto's opening-round series against the Boston Bruins.

And while Matthews took flack for failing to find the scoresheet more frequently, Babcock was also the target of criticism after he elected not to double-shift his star player against a banged-up Boston squad.

For now, it appears they've cleared the air.

"There's a big difference between being 28 and totally established, and being 20," Babcock added. "We've got a lot of young people on our team, so that guidance is going to continue to happen. But we're excited about our group."

The Maple Leafs finished the regular season with a franchise-best 105 points.

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Predators won’t re-sign Hartnell

Scott Hartnell's second tour of duty in Nashville is over.

The veteran forward and pending unrestricted free agent won't be offered a contract extension, Predators general manager David Poile announced Monday.

The news comes after Hartnell was held off the scoresheet in four playoff appearances. He played just one game against the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round, then dressed for three of seven contests against the Winnipeg Jets in the semifinals.

Hartnell signed a one-year, $1-million contract with the Predators last offseason.

He finished the regular season with 13 goals and 11 assists in 62 games. It was a slight decrease in production for the 36-year-old, who tallied 37 points in 78 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets a year ago.

The Predators originally selected Hartnell with the sixth overall pick in the 2000 draft. He spent his first six seasons with the franchise prior to a 2007 trade that sent him to the Philadelphia Flyers.

In 1,249 career games, he has registered 327 goals and 380 assists.

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Predators’ Fisher announces retirement, again

Mike Fisher is hanging up his skates - for real this time.

The Predators forward announced Saturday that his playing days are over following Nashville's second-round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"This cow has been milked as much as it can," Fisher told Predators radio reporter Jeremy Gover. "It's bone dry."

Fisher originally announced his retirement last offseason following the Predators' run to the Stanley Cup Final, but returned in January with the hope of taking one last shot at a championship.

In all, Fisher appeared in 16 regular-season games, picking up two goals and two assists along the way. He finished the postseason with one goal in 12 appearances.

Fisher ends his 18-season career, split between the Predators and Ottawa Senators, with 278 goals and 311 assists in 1,104 games.

The 37-year-old left open the possibility of accepting an off-ice role with Nashville.

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