All posts by John Matisz

Taylor Hall craving more success after getting a taste last season

OAKVILLE, Ont. — Taylor Hall finally got a taste. Now he wants the full course.

This spring, the eventual MVP winner and his 93 points dragged the New Jersey Devils into the NHL playoffs for the first time in five years. The experience lasted just five games, however, as the Devils were bounced by the Tampa Bay Lightning in unceremonious fashion.

Following seven playoff-free seasons with both the Edmonton Oilers and the Devils, Hall finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's happy in red and black, but hungry for more.

"Definitely a successful season, but at the same time I watched playoff hockey for a month and a half before the Cup was handed out," Hall said Wednesday before teeing off at the NHLPA’s annual charity golf tournament. "We're a long way from where we want to be, but I think it was a great first step."

Despite the playoff berth, the Devils have been quiet this summer. General manager Ray Shero hasn’t acquired anybody of significance via free agency or trade; he also let a number of veteran players walk, with forwards Brian Gibbons (Anaheim), Michael Grabner (Arizona), and Patrick Maroon (St. Louis), as well as defenseman John Moore (Boston), all signing elsewhere.

"We’re going to have to find a way to make up for that," the 26-year-old said. "Those are guys that played key roles on our team, whether they were (picked up) at the trade deadline or just guys who came into (training) camp and surprised and made a huge difference for us."

Hall, whose 26-game point streak, career-high 39 goals, and 1.2 points per game helped him claim the 2018 Hart Trophy, laughed when he was asked about the potential of Shero using the club's salary cap space ($23 million in 2018-19) to add talent sooner than later.

"I just sit here like you guys …" he told a scrum of reporters. "I’d love to see us add a couple more pieces, but at the end of the day that’s not my job. My job’s to come into camp as healthy as possible, as committed as possible, and just worry about that."

While the Devils' depth chart remains unfilled, the team has Nico Hischier, the 2017 first-overall pick. Hall lauded the Swiss centre at the NHL awards, and heaped more praise onto him on Wednesday.

"If he was playing in Toronto, or a big market that would have a lot more spotlight, I think that he’d have a bigger name, a lot more recognition, certainly a lot more Calder votes than he had," Hall said of Hischier, who finished seventh in rookie-of-the-year voting.

"He had 50 points (52) as a centerman as an 18-year-old and, us playing on a line together, we played the top lines each and every night. I'm proud to be his teammate, I'm proud to be on a line with him, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the evolution of him, how he can improve next year."

The Devils vastly improved in 2017-18. Playing a speed game under coach John Hynes, they jumped from a winning percentage of .427 in 2016-17 to .591. It's an appetizing start, a jolt to the franchise's internal and external expectations.

"It's hard to get out of the basement. It's hard to get out of the basement and make the playoffs," Hall said, emphasizing the leap. "Now, I think the hardest step is going from making the playoffs to being a team that can challenge for the Cup. I'm really looking forward to trying to do that."

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Report: Blues expected to sign Patrick Maroon

The St. Louis Blues continue to stock up at the forward position.

According to Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, unrestricted free agent Patrick Maroon and the Blues are expected to reach an agreement on a contract. No word yet on terms.

In the 2017-18 season, Maroon split his time between the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers, contributing a total of 17 goals and 26 assists in 74 games. The St. Louis native's production topped out the year prior, with 27 goals.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong has been a busy man over the past week. He signed UFAs Tyler Bozak and David Perron, and traded for Ryan O'Reilly in an effort to revamp his forward group.

Maroon, 30, was arguably the top UFA remaining on the market.

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Jaskin stays with Blues on 1-year deal

The St. Louis Blues have avoided arbitration with 25-year-old forward Dmitrij Jaskin.

Jaskin signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $1.1 million to remain with the Blues, the team announced Saturday. St. Louis' 2011 second-rounder is getting a minor earnings bump, as his most recent contract paid him $1 million per season.

The Omsk, Russia, native put up 17 points in 76 games this past season, just shy of his career-high 18 from 2014-15. Since breaking into the NHL in 2013, the 6-foot-2, 216-pounder has been used almost exclusively at even strength.

Meanwhile, three of the Blues' restricted free agents - forwards Jordan Schmaltz and Petteri Lindbohm, as well as defenseman Joel Edmundson (who has arbitration rights) - are still unsigned.

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Lamoriello believes Islanders in better spot than 2015 Leafs

Lou Lamoriello insists this time will be different.

Having digested the blow of John Tavares jetting to the Toronto Maple Leafs via free agency, Lamoriello told Postmedia's Michael Traikos that the New York Islanders do not intend on living in the NHL's basement like his former club did a few years ago.

When Lamoriello and Leafs coach Mike Babcock joined forces in Toronto back in May 2015, they were blunt about the team's bleak short-term prospects, with Babcock famously warning fans about imminent "pain." You won't be hearing anything similar from Lamoriello or new Islanders coach Barry Trotz anytime soon, the general manager said Friday.

“There’s always pain when you miss the playoffs so many years in a row," Lamoriello said, referring to the old Leafs. "But I think where the Islanders are today are more progressed than where Toronto was at the given time. It's different.

“In saying that, we have to see. But no, I do not think it will end up the way the first year it ended up in Toronto. Mike (Babcock) and I went through (pain) for one full year in Toronto. I want to jumpstart that.”

Despite the Tavares setback, there is apparently no time like the present for the Mat Barzal-led Islanders. The club's transactions in the hours and days immediately following Tavares' decision, while criticized by some as knee-jerk reactions, certainly back up Lamoriello's "jumpstart" mindset.

The 75-year-old Lamoriello inked pest Leo Komarov to a four-year contract, signed veteran Valtteri Filppula to a one-year pact, picked up winger Tom Kuhnhackl on a one-year deal, traded for fighter Matt Martin (who has two years remaining on his contract), and brought in goalie Robin Lehner for a single season.

“You don’t look back," Lamoriello added. "You don’t complain. You just go forward.”

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Made in America: The greatest NHL players by state

God bless America ... for these hockey players.

Happy birthday, United States. Below is an ode to your influence on the great game of hockey: a list of the greatest NHL players by state. First, a few notes.

Due to a dearth of homegrown talent, the following 15 states did not make the cut: Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

For consistency's sake, players are sorted by birthplace according to the league's official website. Therefore, the odd player will seem out of place. For instance, Brett Hull (Belleville, Ont.) is excluded altogether from this exercise, and Arizona's Auston Matthews (San Ramon, Calif.) is elsewhere.

As for honorable mentions, we instituted a two-player limit. Exceptions were made for a handful of hockey-mad states, like Michigan and Minnesota, who received up to five mentions (Statistical info courtesy: and

Alabama - Nic Dowd, F

131 9 17 26 3

Slim pickings in the deep south. Dowd, while an excellent college player in his day, has struggled to make a major impact in the NHL. A 2009 seventh-round pick out of St. Cloud State University, the Huntsville native has filled a depth forward spot for the Kings, previously, and Canucks, presently.

Honorable Mention: N/A

Alaska - Scott Gomez, F

1079 181 575 756 366

Gomez, a playmaking center who topped out at 84 points, picked up plenty of hardware over a six-team playing career. The pride of Anchorage won a Calder Trophy (1999-00) and two Stanley Cups (2000, 2003). At his peak, Gomez was a star, tying for the league lead in assists in 2003-04 with 56 helpers.

Honorable Mention: D Matt Carle, F Brandon Dubinsky

Arizona - Sean Couturier, F

498 101 166 267 15

The desert has never been mistaken for a hockey hotbed, yet Couturier (raised in Quebec), Matthew Tkachuk (raised in St. Louis) and Matthews (born in California, raised in Arizona) represent legitimate NHLers with Arizona ties. Couturier, only 25 and the runner-up in Selke Trophy voting this spring, is a fringe star.

Honorable Mention: F Matthew Tkachuk

California - Auston Matthews, F

144 74 58 132 61

It's two years into his NHL career and already Matthews is the top Cali-born player. The five-tool center is dynamic and strong, he drives play and takes very few penalties, and has amassed 74 goals in fewer than 150 games. Matthews, 20, is among a few in contention for the Maple Leafs' captaincy.

Honorable Mention: D Lee Norwood, D Brooks Orpik, F Jason Zucker

Colorado - Ben Bishop, G

323 174 97 30 .919

Slavin may finish with a better career, but right now Bishop is the home run pick. The netminder has been a model of consistency since settling into the NHL, stopping between 91 percent and 92.4 percent of shots in all six seasons he has appeared in at least 20 games. Amazingly, Bishop has dressed for five teams.

Honorable Mention: F Mike Eaves, D Jaccob Slavin

Connecticut - Jonathan Quick, G

556 293 195 56 .916

For a place with a population below 4 million, the southern New England state has produced some quality talent. Quick takes the cake here, in large part because he's a winner. Two Stanley Cups and one Conn Smythe vaults him ahead of Drury and Janney, forwards with impressive resumes.

Honorable Mention: F Chris Drury, F Craig Janney, F Max Pacioretty, D Kevin Shattenkirk

District of Columbia - Jeff Halpern, F

976 152 221 373 54.2

Halpern and Kevyn Adams are the only notable NHLers born from the nation's capital. The former strung together a lengthier and more productive career. With stops in Washington, Dallas, Tampa, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, and Phoenix, Halpern made the rounds. He was a faceoff-winning bottom-six forward.

Honorable Mention: F Kevyn Adams

Florida - Shayne Gostisbehere, D

220 37 113 150 17

The man they call "the Ghost" is a byproduct of his surroundings, namely the nearby Panthers. Gostisbehere, 25, hails from Pembroke Pines, just down the highway from Sunrise. In 2017-18, he racked up 65 points for the Flyers to finish fourth in defenseman scoring. The sky is the limit for the power-play QB.

Honorable Mention: D Jakob Chychrun, F Dan Hinote

Georgia - Mark Mowers, F

278 18 44 62 43

Mowers, now a pro scout for the Sabres, enjoyed seven NHL seasons despite going undrafted out of the University of New Hampshire. The center was born in Decatur but grew up in New York. In the mid-2010s, as Mowers fell out of favor with NHL teams, he jumped to the top Swiss league.

Honorable Mention: N/A

Illinois - Chris Chelios, D

GP G A PTS +/-
1651 185 763 948 +351

Underrated historically, Chelios is not only Illinois' claim to hockey fame but also one of the game's all-time defensemen. The ageless wonder finally retired at 48, riding off into the sunset with three Norris Trophies and three Stanley Cups. Chelios, an 11-time All-Star, offered a unique mix of grit and skill.

Honorable Mention: G Craig Anderson, F Ed Olczyk

Indiana - Jack Johnson, D

788 66 212 278 22:52

Johnson, of Indianapolis, is past his prime but has enjoyed a productive career as a minute-munching defenseman. He spent nearly five full seasons on the Kings, before being dealt to the Blue Jackets in 2012. Now locked up by the Penguins, Johnson can reset and, at 31, potentially get back on track.

Honorable Mention: F Donald Brashear, D John-Michael Liles

Iowa - Scott Clemmensen, G

191 73 59 24 .905

Perhaps best known for being one of Martin Brodeur's backups, the Des Moines native was no All-Star. However, considering he was picked in the eighth round of the 1997 NHL Draft, Clemmensen sure made something out of nothing. In retirement, he develops goaltenders for the Devils.

Honorable Mention: N/A

Maine - Brian Dumoulin, D

243 7 44 51 19:50

The Pine Tree State is a toss-up. On one hand, blue-liner Dumoulin is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, yet a veteran of just 243 NHL games. On the other, Rick DiPietro, now an analyst, was a highly touted prospect and decent NHL goalie whose body of work is forever incomplete due to career-ending injuries.

Honorable Mention: G Rick DiPietro

Maryland - Jeff Brubaker, F

178 16 9 25 16.7

There isn't much meat on the bone in Maryland, with Jeff Halpern's birthplace listed as Washington, D.C. So, by default, Brubaker is the state's golden boy. The Frederick native had trouble finding steady NHL work, topping out at eight goals and four assists in 68 games for the Maple Leafs in 1984-85.

Honorable Mention: N/A

Massachusetts - Jeremy Roenick, F

1363 513 703 1216 184

Roenick is hands-down a top-10 American-born player. He edges out a great collection of players hailing from Massachusetts, thanks to a resume straddling the Hall of Fame line. J.R. produced three 100-point seasons and two 50-goal campaigns, and he never shied away from flaunting that magnetic personality.

Honorable Mention: F Tony Amonte, G Tom Barrasso, F Bobby Carpenter, F Bill Guerin, F Keith Tkachuk

Michigan - Mike Modano, F

1499 561 813 1374 13.1

Modano is arguably the greatest U.S.-born player to skate in the NHL. One of his closest competitors, Brett Hull, was born in Canada, while Brian Leetch and Chris Chelios don't seem to carry the same clout. Modano holds the nation's record for goals and points, and he has a Stanley Cup ring.

Honorable Mention: D Mark Howe, F Ryan Kesler, G Ryan Miller, G Tim Thomas, F Doug Weight

Minnesota - Phil Housley, D

1495 338 894 1232 609

Fourth all-time in points by a defenseman, Housley was a treat to watch for 20 years. His effortless skating, crafty passing, and ability to run a power play was a deadly combination. In 1992-93, the State of Hockey's best nearly hit triple digits - a rare feat for a blue-liner - but settled for 97 points in 80 games.

Honorable Mention: G Frank Brimsek, F Neal Broten, F Dave Christian, F Jamie Langenbrunner

Missouri - Pat LaFontaine, F

865 468 545 1013 611

Call him Mr. Missouri. Among those born in the Midwest state, LaFontaine is in another realm. The Hall of Fame center racked up a ridiculous 148 points in 1992-93, his second of two triple-digit seasons. He made five All-Star teams and holds the 15th-highest points per game in NHL history.

Honorable Mention: F Patrick Maroon, F Paul Ranheim

Nebraska - Jed Ortmeyer, F

345 22 31 53 11:12

A member of the Omaha Hockey Hall of Fame, Ortmeyer is as good as it gets in Nebraska. He averaged 11 minutes per night over eight seasons. The right-handed forward dressed for the Rangers, Predators, Sharks, and Wild. Nowadays, he is employed by the Rangers in a player development capacity.

Honorable Mention: N/A

New Hampshire - Deron Quint, D

463 46 97 143 18:56

Drafted by the original Jets, Quint never made a major impact on the NHL. The left-handed blue-liner from Durham was by no means a point producer, with seasonal career highs of seven goals and 18 assists. Quint, now 42, was traded twice in 2000 and played for five clubs.

Honorable Mention: D Mark Fayne, D Ben Lovejoy

New Jersey - Johnny Gaudreau, F

312 97 191 288 12.2

Gaudreau, the 5-foot-9, 157-pound perennial scoring threat, is just revving up, whereas Bobby Ryan and James van Riemsdyk have probably hit their respective ceilings. Johnny Hockey, who bagged 24 goals and 60 assists this past season, should be contending for Art Ross and Lady Byng honors over the next decade.

Honorable Mention: F Bobby Ryan, F James van Riemsdyk

New York - Joe Mullen, F

1062 502 561 1063 334

Hall of Famer Mullen is a slam dunk here, even though Kane is arguably the best active American. A point-per-game player for his career, Mullen won three Stanley Cups in four years (1989 with the Flames; 1991, 1992 with the Penguins). He picked up two Lady Byngs and recorded 110 points in 1988-89.

Honorable Mention: F Dustin Brown, F Brian Gionta, F Patrick Kane, D Mathieu Schneider

North Carolina - Jared Boll, F

579 28 38 66 1044

Boll, who hails from Charlotte, went 101st overall in the 2005 NHL Draft. Since, he has carved out a decent career as a big-bodied, throwback right winger. He's hanging on as the league drifts toward speed and skill. As of this writing, Boll is an unrestricted free agent following two years with the Ducks.

Honorable Mention: F Ben Smith

North Dakota - Paul Gaustad, F

727 89 142 231 56.8

Size and faceoffs - that was Gaustad in three words. With a 6-foot-5, 227-pound frame and a knack for winning more draws than basically the whole league, he was a valuable role player. Now retired, Gaustad's body of work can be fairly compared to Tim Jackman's career. And it's Gaustad by a mile.

Honorable Mention: F Tim Jackman

Ohio - Bryan Smolinski, F

1056 274 377 651 45

A handy player for 14-plus seasons, Smolinski's career can be summed up in a word: solid. The Toledo native scored the odd timely goal, pitched in on the power play, and was a mainstay on penalty-killing units across the NHL. All told, the 6-foot-1, 203-pounder dressed for eight teams.

Honorable Mention: D Dave Ellett, F Curt Fraser, D Moe Mantha

Oklahoma - Tyler Arnason, F

487 88 157 245 14

This is basically a tie, with the advantage going to Arnason for (as of now) boasting a fuller resume than John Merrill. The left-handed center had a career year with the Blackhawks in 2002-03, contributing 22 goals and 33 assists in 82 games. Merrill, picked by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft, is just 26.

Honorable Mention: D Jon Merrill

Oregon - Jere Gillis, F

386 78 95 173 14

It has been a long time since Oregon produced an NHLer. In fact, Gillis, who played from 1977 to 1986, is the only local to even flirt with the 200-game mark. The Bend native suited up for the Canucks, Rangers, Nordiques, Sabres, Canucks, and, for one game, the Flyers.

Honorable Mention: F Scott Levins

Pennsylvania - Mike Richter, G

666 301 258 73 .904

Richter is America's most famous goaltender. Helping his case for Pennsylvania's best is a Stanley Cup, three All-Star selections and a career spent under the spotlight. Richter, who had his down years with the Rangers, ranks 33rd on the all-time wins list. John Gibson might eventually snatch his crown.

Honorable Mention: G John Gibson, F Ryan Malone, F Vincent Trocheck, F R.J. Umberger

Rhode Island - Bryan Berard, D

619 76 247 323 20:49

Hailing from a place called Woonsocket, Berard burst onto the scene as the first overall pick and 1996-97 Calder Trophy winner. Unfortunately, his career was derailed by a gruesome eye injury. He missed the entire 2000-01 season and, though he didn't retire until years later, was never the same player.

Honorable Mention: G Brian Boucher, D Keith Carney

South Carolina - Ryan Hartman, F

162 30 33 63 52.8

Hartman, born on Hilton Head Island, is a work in progress. The 23-year-old's underlying numbers are nice but the counting stats haven't caught up. After going 30th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Hartman has split two-and-a-half seasons between the Blackhawks (past) and Predators (current).

Honorable Mention: N/A

Texas - Brian Leetch, D

1205 247 781 1028 431

Texas: Land of defensemen - apparently. All three of the state's NHLers are quality blue-liners. Unequivocally, it's Leetch who holds serve. He won four individual awards (Calder, Norris, Conn Smythe, Norris) despite competing against Nicklas Lidstrom. Plus: 11 All-Star nods and a Stanley Cup.

Honorable Mention: D Seth Jones, D Tyler Myers

Utah - Steve Konowalchuk, F

790 171 225 396 26

Not the sexiest name in NHL history, but the Salt Lake City native built a decent career. Konowalchuk, recently fired by the Ducks as a coach, collected 40 or more points five times during his playing career. The left winger had his moments, registering a pair of hat tricks with the Capitals in 1995-96.

Honorable Mention: F Trevor Lewis

Vermont - John LeClair, F

967 406 413 819 287

Standing alone atop the Vermont hockey mountain is one of the most dominant power forwards of his generation. LeClair, at 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds, was a beast in his prime, bagging 50 goals in back-to-back-to-back seasons. And he followed up those three golden years with campaigns of 43 and 40 goals.

Honorable Mention: N/A

Virginia - Eric Weinrich, D

1157 70 318 388 22:55

Talk about longevity. Weinrich survived six NHL trades, stretching out his stay on the blue line to nearly 1,200 games. He provided teams with stability and durability. Scott Darling (longtime minor leaguer) and Scott Lachance (Olympian) are nice stories, but not quite at Weinrich's impact level.

Honorable Mention: G Scott Darling, D Scott Lachance

Washington - T.J. Oshie, F

665 187 277 464 52.1

It's safe to say Oshie is a 50-point guy. The pride of Everett has been within striking distance of, hit, or surpassed 50 in the seven campaigns he has dressed for at least 60 games. Tyler Johnson (two 50-point seasons and a 70-pointer) is right there with him. Tie goes to Stanley Cup champion Oshie.

Honorable Mention: F Patrick Dwyer, F Tyler Johnson

Wisconsin - Gary Suter, D

1145 203 641 844 387

Gary Suter leads an excellent group of Wisconsinites. A quick career synopsis: Ryan's uncle went in the ninth round of the 1984 NHL Draft, picked up the Calder Trophy in 1985-86, recorded 91 points in his third season, helped lead the Flames to a Stanley Cup in his fourth, and then played 13 more.

Honorable Mention: F Phil Kessel, F Joe Pavelski, F Drew Stafford, D Ryan Suter

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Former NHL coach Tim Hunter named Canada’s world junior bench boss

Tim Hunter is getting his chance.

Hunter, an assistant coach at the 2017 and 2018 World Junior Championships, has been promoted to head coach of Team Canada's world junior squad, Hockey Canada announced Tuesday.

The former NHL player (Flames, Nordiques, Canucks, Sharks) and NHL coach (Capitals, Sharks, Maple Leafs) will be tasked with leading Canada to glory in a tournament that's becoming increasingly difficult to handicap. This year's event, hosted by Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, runs from late December to early January.

Joining Hunter on the 2019 world junior coaching staff are Marc-André Dumont, Jim Hulton, and Brent Kisio. Hunter and his assistants are all head coaches in the Canadian Hockey League - Hunter in Moose Jaw, Dumont in Cape Breton, Hulton in Charlottetown, and Kisio in Lethbridge.

"To be in a position to have familiarity in our coaching staff with Tim Hunter gives us the opportunity to again compete for a gold medal," Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada's senior vice-president of national teams, said in a statement. "All three assistant coaches have also had prior experience working within our Program of Excellence at various levels. Their experience and knowledge will help our players succeed in this prestigious international tournament."

The Canadians won the gold medal in Buffalo in 2018, settled for silver in Montreal/Toronto in 2017, and failed to medal in 2016. Over the past 10 world junior tournaments, Canada has won three golds, three silvers, and one bronze.

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Ducks pick up depth forward Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons has a one-way ticket to California.

The unrestricted free-agent forward has signed a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks, the team announced Monday. The first one-way contract of Gibbons' career is worth $1 million, reports Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports.

In 2017-18, he recorded 12 goals and 14 assists in 59 regular-season games. He leaves the New Jersey Devils organization after two campaigns.

The 30-year-old Boston College alumnus has also dressed for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets over a 125-game NHL career. In total, Gibbons has posted 17 goals and 31 assists.

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Report: Slava Voynov’s domestic violence charge dismissed

Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov's domestic violence charge has been dismissed, according to The Athletic's Katie Strang.

On Monday, Voynov had his petition for the dismissal to the Los Angeles County Superior Court granted, Strang reported. The 28-year-old didn't appear in court, according to Curtis Zupke of the Los Angeles Times.

Voynov served two months in jail after pleading "no contest" to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a spouse. The incident occurred in October 2014.

The Kings terminated his contract shortly after the arrest, though the right-handed blue-liner has since played in the KHL for SKA St. Petersburg and internationally at the world championships and 2018 Olympics for Russia.

Multiple NHL teams are said to be interested in signing Voynov if NHL officials allow the two-time Stanley Cup champion to re-enter the league.

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Report: Slava Voynov’s domestic violence charge dismissed

Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov's domestic violence charge has been dismissed, according to The Athletic's Katie Strang.

On Monday, Voynov had his petition for the dismissal to the Los Angeles County Superior Court granted, Strang reported. The 28-year-old didn't appear in court, according to Curtis Zupke of the Los Angeles Times.

Voynov served two months in jail after pleading "no contest" to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a spouse. The incident occurred in October 2014.

The Kings terminated his contract shortly after the arrest, though the right-handed blue-liner has since played in the KHL for SKA St. Petersburg and internationally at the world championships and 2018 Olympics for Russia.

Multiple NHL teams are said to be interested in signing Voynov if NHL officials allow the two-time Stanley Cup champion to re-enter the league.

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How the Tavares signing impacts Leafs’ lineup, league dynamics

TORONTO - The most famous hockey-related list in recent memory shrunk by two-thirds as the weekend neared. The wheels were in motion.

John Tavares, the brightest free-agent star of the NHL's salary-cap era, paced back and forth on his Toronto-area pool deck. His mind raced. He poured over the pros and cons of signing a long-term contract with one of the remaining suitors: the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders.

The Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and San Jose Sharks - all of whom had pitched Tavares earlier in the week at his agency's Los Angeles headquarters - were old news, out, and, as the 27-year-old detailed Sunday, the list was narrowed down to "where I'm from" and "where I've been for a long time."

"My heart was tearing apart trying to figure out what I wanted to do," Tavares said at his introductory press conference.

In the end, with the hockey world in the palm of his hand, the ultra-loyal Tavares opted for what "felt right." His inner calculus spat out Toronto sometime mid-to-late Saturday afternoon.

His camp informed the Leafs not long after, and the two sides began discussing the particulars of a long-term contract. Outlined in the chart below, thanks to TSN's Pierre LeBrun, the signing bonus-heavy deal came to fruition in the wee hours of Sunday.

"I just had this feeling that this was the right fit for me, the right thing to do," said Tavares, stoic as always while his seven-year, $77-million agreement captivated Leafs Nation on Canada Day.

2018-19 $650K $15.25M $11M
2019-20 $910K $14.99M $11M
2020-21 $910K $11.09M $11M
2021-22 $910K $8.44M $11M
2022-23 $910K $7.04M $11M
2023-24 $910K $7.04M $11M
2024-25 $910K $7.04M $11M

Hockey's modest version of LeBron James' infamous Decision in 2010, capped by a bombshell announcement on Tavares' Twitter account, centered around three factors, according to the player, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, and Toronto president Brendan Shanahan.

First, the Leafs' indisputably strong roster. Second, the organization's pledge that his family would find comfort under the Toronto glare. Third, the opportunity and challenge of leading his hometown team to glory.

"We worked really hard on our presentation," Shanahan told theScore of the Leafs' pitch in L.A. "We were very clear in who the communicator was and that was Kyle, and we felt we told our story and put our best foot forward. Regardless of what happened, I think there was a quiet confidence around here, that we had done our best, and we were hopeful that he'd choose us."

Fittingly, the Leafs' home rink has a new name. On Sunday, the Air Canada Centre became Scotiabank Arena. The so-called Shanaplan, which started in earnest inside the ACC in April 2014, has entered a new stratosphere.

What now for the Leafs?

The Leafs now have enviable strength down the middle, their own spin on the Pittsburgh Penguins' venerable Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin tandem.

It's an imperfect comparison, sure, but it's difficult to pump the brakes on the best-case scenario when Auston Matthews, who turns just 21 this fall, is already arguably a top-10 center, and Tavares, a top-10 center for the better part of the past decade, is finally in a position to skate alongside another difference-maker.

Leafs coach Mike Babcock laid out his plans to Tavares in L.A. Stressing that it's the offseason and nothing is set in stone, he revealed Sunday that he has Tavares teaming up with Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman this fall.

Patrick Marleau, Babcock added, will join the dynamic duo of William Nylander and Matthews to complete the top six. With considerable depth, the Leafs' forward group evolved Sunday from very good to great.

Patrick Marleau Auston Matthews William Nylander
Zach Hyman John Tavares Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson Nazem Kadri Kasperi Kapanen/Connor Brown
Josh Leivo/Carl Grundstrom Par Lindholm Brown/Kapanen

On paper, placing Marner on Tavares' wing is a foolproof plan. The former is a tremendous playmaker (who can also finish) and the latter is a 12.9 percent career shooter (who can also thread the needle). Expect more tap-ins, one-timers, and breakaways in No. 91's near future.

"His speed, his ability to control the play, control games at times, his ability to move the puck and create time and space with his feet," Tavares said, rhyming off Marner's alluring qualities. "It's extremely impressive ... when you're on the ice, you know he's around the puck, he's on top of the puck and he wants it."

Exiting the forward fold via free agency are three longtime Leafs. Goal-scoring winger James van Riemsdyk is returning to Philadelphia, third-line centre Tyler Bozak is St. Louis bound, and sparkplug Leo Komarov is off to Dallas. Tavares will slide into Van Riemsdyk's net-front position on the Leafs' first power-play unit, according to Babcock.

Similar to Van Riemsdyk, the Mississauga native is creative around the goalmouth. He has averaged north of three power-play minutes per game over his nine-year career, making a second home in the crease area, and, in 2017-18, bagged 12 of his 37 goals on the PP.

Along with elite skill, vision, finishing ability, durability, and three-zone attentiveness, Babcock believes the newest Leaf brings veteran clout. It's no coincidence Tavares' seat in the locker room neighbors the stalls for both Marner, 21, and Nylander, 22.

"John being older, and John going through the hard knocks of the National Hockey League already - no different than Patrick Marleau when he arrived (last offseason from the Sharks) - the impact he's going to have on our young people is going to be immense," Babcock said.

What now for the league?

The Maple Leafs' odds to win the Stanley Cup vastly improved Sunday. That's a fact. But, in reality, the Tavares signing doesn't guarantee a single thing.

The NHL, of course, has a salary cap, which means the Leafs must be savvy spenders moving forward. Nylander (up now), Matthews (up in 2019), Marner (2019), and blue-liner Jake Gardiner (2019) need contract extensions, while the right side of their defense is ordinary at best.

What's more, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins stand in the doorway. The Atlantic Division is top-heavy, and neither of those teams lost a player of significance through free agency.

Tavares and Steven Stamkos (Getty Images)

Past the Atlantic side of the bracket are Crosby and the Penguins, and Alex Ovechkin and the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Both will be Eastern Conference heavyweights until further notice. It isn't Toronto and another team; it's Toronto and four others.

The West is harder to handicap, yet it features a group of projected Cup contenders in the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, and Vegas Golden Knights, and the three reloading California teams. Winnipeg, in particular, is primed for a string of deep playoff runs and on a similar trajectory to the Leafs.

A comprehensive league assessment would be premature right now. It's July. The dust must settle on free agency and the rumor mill (hello, Erik Karlsson). Until then, though, Leafs fans can dream big. The power has shifted.

Tavares, who slept in a Leafs-themed bed growing up, talked Sunday about what it would mean to end the decades-long Cup drought.

"It's hard to put that into words, right?" he said.

"People have been waiting for it for a long time. People are hungry for it. The passion for the game, the passion for the Maple Leafs, is unprecedented."

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