Eastern Conference Round
We have finally arrived! It’s the beginning of the 2015-2016 NHL season, and the news keeps coming. Buffalo finally has something to cheer about, but also has something to concerned about, Carolina is scrambling to cover defensively after one of their leading defensemen goes down with a horrific knee injury, and Philadelphia rallies behind one of their prospects after a cancer diagnosis.
We begin in Buffalo where Jack Eichel wasted no time in getting his first NHL goal. Eichel, who was this year’s 2nd overall pick, seems to be adjusting quite well to his new teammates. But not all news in Buffalo is good. In that same game, the Sabres lost goaltender Robin Lehner due to injury. Lehner, who was picked up in trade with Ottawa this off-season, was projected to be the Sabres number one goaltender. The injury to Lehner puts the Sabres without an experienced goaltender and may have GM Tim Murray scrambling to find a replacement.
Another team that will be scrambling for a replacement is the Carolina Hurricanes. A torn ACL suffered in the first 47 seconds of his second shift by James Wisniewski, will shelve him for at least 6 months. Wisniewski, who was acquired in a trade with Anaheim this off-season, was projected to be a top line defenseman to help the ‘Canes balance their lineup with both younger players and veterans.
One other defensemen making news this week is the Flyers’ Logan Pyett. Pyett, who signed a minor league contract this summer, was diagnosed with sarcoma. Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that invades the soft tissues of the body. According to the American Cancer Society, survival rates of sarcoma are somewhat in Pyett’s favor. Regardless of the prognosis, the Flyers will be doing all they can to support Pyett as he goes through chemotherapy. Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall stated, “He’s in our family. He’s under our umbrella and he knows that. We’re going to do everything we can to get him the best care. I’ve already told him if he needs hotel rooms down our way while he’s getting the treatment, he’s welcome to it. We’re going to look after him like he’s ours…we care about our players.”
Western Conference Round
Let’s begin this week’s news in Los Angeles. Today, the NHL Players’ Association announced that it and the NHL have reached a settlement agreement regarding Mike Richards’ contract with the Kings. In a nutshell, what they announced today was that Mike Richards is now an unrestricted free agent. Richards still faces a charge of possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada. This incident led to the breach of his contract. The Kings payout to Mike Richards will last until 2031. He should count against their salary cap until then.
The Kings rival down in Anaheim made some contract noise today. Today, the Ducks announced that defenseman Simon Despres has signed a five-year extension worth $18.5 million. Despres, 24, is a 2009 first round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despres was traded from Pittsburgh at the Trade Deadline in exchange for veteran Ben Lovejoy. This is an affordable contract for a young defenseman that still has some upside. This is another solid contract signed by Ducks GM Bob Murray.
The highly anticipated debut of Connor McDavid took place last night in St. Louis as the Oilers squared off against the Blues. McDavid’s debut was spoiled by the Blues as the Oilers suffered a 3-1 loss. McDavid registered 18:07 ice time, -1 rating, and 2 shots on goal. He is the top center on the Oilers depth chart right now, and he played most of the night with Taylor Hall and Anton Slepyshev. While McDavid did not register a point, he was one of the Oilers strongest skaters of the night. There is no doubt that his first NHL goal or point will come soon.
On Monday, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced that Sharks forward Raffi Torres was suspended 41 games for his hit on Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg. Torres opted to not appeal the ruling handed to him. Torres and Sharks GM Doug Wilson released statements on Thursday that said that they both accept the Player Safety Department’s ruling. Here is a video of the hit:
The NHL Department of Player Safety has clearly sent a message around the league regarding head shots. Torres is also a repeat offender, which does not help his cause. One can only hope that Torres can adjust his game. He does not to get suspended for life the next time around.
The Chicago Blackhawks had their Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony on Wednesday night before they squared off against the NY Rangers. However, the Rangers ended up spoiling their party by the end of the night as the Blackhawks fell short in their game 3-2. The Blackhawks have three tough road games within the next week out East as they face the NY Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals. Blackhawks fans can only hope that the “Cup Hangover” does not last too long for them.
The main storyline going on in Dallas right now involves the goaltending tandem. Stars GM Jim Nill brought in veteran goaltender Antti Niemi over the summer and Niemi got the opening night start and shutout win on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen fell out of favor with Stars Head Coach Lindy Ruff late last season. Is Niemi the new #1 guy in Dallas? Will Lehtonen’s work load go down this year? This is one of the most expensive goaltending tandems in the NHL. The two goalies’ combined cap hit is $10.4 million. The Stars have invested a lot of money in between the pipes. But is it worth it?
By Andrea Sobolik and George Foussekis