Team: Washington Capitals Arena: Verizon Center Stanley Cups:0 Captain: Alexander Ovechkin Founded: 1974 Conference: Eastern Division: Southeast

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Washington Capitals have acquired the 159th pick in the draft and goalie Edward Pasquale for No. 164, No. 192 and a 7th-round pick in 2015.

Pasquale was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. An RFA on July 1st, Pasquale posted a 17-13-1 record during the regular season and would later go on to see some Calder Cup action from the bench during the AHL final series between St. John’s and the eventual champions Texas.

At 23 years old, Pasquale has yet to prove he’ll ever make it past the AHL. With Philipp Grubauer, Sergei Kostenko and Brandon Anderson already in the system, it will be interesting to see if he’s even offered a contract for the upcoming season.

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The Washington Capitals have been awarded the NHL’s Winter Classic in 2015, set to take on the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions from Chicago.

The Capitals participated in the 2011 Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field, coming out on top with a final score of 3-1. However the real story lied in the hands of Sidney Crosby, who would receive his now infamous concussion following a hit from then-Capital David Steckel.

For Chicago, it will be the third time the team has participated in an outdoor game, with the first being the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field against the Detroit Red Wings. Earlier this past year, the Hawks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

The stadium has yet to be determined as of yet, but with Nationals Park holding a capacity of 41,888 for baseball, they look to be the odds on favorite to host the event on New Years Day.

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Photo: Andre Ringuette
Photo: Andre Ringuette

On July 1st, Washington Capitals center Mikhail Grabovski will become a UFA, but that didn’t stop him from signing with a team before the date…in a totally different sport.

Grabovski has signed a contract with the Minsk Ravens, a third-tier soccer club in his homeland of Belarus. He is set to suit up for the team in late July, and it shouldn’t have an impact on his NHL career as it’s likely just a summer workout job.

After being bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs following the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, Grabovski found himself playing in the American capital of Washington this past year. He had 13 goals and 35 points in 55 contests in 2013-14, which saw injury problems get the worst of him, but he would later play at the 2014 World Championships in Minsk to hopefully attract some NHL suitors for the upcoming free agent frenzy. During the tournament, the talented center dazzled the home crowd, producing multiple highlight real moments while posting eight points in six games.

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals defenseman Dimitri Orlov will miss the remainder of the World Championships for Russia after breaking his arm in a game against the Americans on Monday.

“My arm is broken and I can’t turn it, so there is no point in suffering and trying to play. I’d only be a burden to my team”, Orlov told reporters.

Orlov, who was competing in his very first World Championship tournament for the Russians, collided into the boards at a high speed during the second period of the game on Monday.Russia has been facing injury trouble early in this tournament already. After just one shift, Russia lost forward Andrei Loktionov with a shoulder injury, while Andrei Zubarev and Maxim Chudinov didn’t play against the Americans.

Orlov inked a two-year, $4 million extension with Washington in March, despite his agent requesting a trade back in December. Orlov produced three goals and 11 points in 51 games with the Capitals during the most recent transaction filled season.

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AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Slovakian goaltender Jaroslav Halak is on the move once again, getting traded to his fourth team since February thanks to a deal that will send him to the New York Islanders in exchange for a fourth round draft pick.

Halak had a strange year in the NHL in 2013-2014, having started the year in St. Louis before moving to Buffalo as part of the Ryan Miller deal, then moving from Buffalo to Washington in exchange for Michal Neuvirth before even playing a game. Despite being a popular item on the transaction list, he still managed to post a 29-13-10 record with a .921 save percentage and 2.25 GAA to go along with five shutouts.

The deal was a no-brainer for the Islanders. After it appeared as though any relationship between Halak and Washington was finished, acquiring the goaltender for a cheap price was a smart move by Garth Snow. With Evgeni Nabokov and Anders Nilsson likely heading off the island come July, as well as having no contract for Kevin Poulin just yet, the deal provides New York and option that could be effective in the long term. Even if a contract doesn’t come to fruition, it was a minor price to pay for a talented puck stopper.

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AP Photo/LM Otero
AP Photo/LM Otero

With zero games in a Buffalo Sabres uniform to date, Jaroslav Halak and a 2015 third rounder have been traded to the Washington Capitals in return for Michal Neuvirth and Rusty Klesla.

Last Friday, the Sabres acquired goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 third-round pick in return for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. Halak backstopped the Canadiens to an upset win over the Capitals in the 2010 playoffs, so you have to imagine the playoff performance factored into the decision. Halak had a 24-9-4 record with a .917 save percentage and a 2.23 GAA in 40 games with the Blues before he was traded.

Neuvirth, who is signed for another year, struggled to maintain any traction in Washington after the club sent Semyon Varlamov to Colorado. In 13 games of action with the Caps this season, Neuvirth posted a 4-6-2 record to go along with a .914 SP and 2.82 GAA.

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No, not that Chris Brown.
No, not that Chris Brown.

Perennial trade requester Martin Erat has found himself ANOTHER new home: the Phoenix Coyotes.

In one of many deals completed on the day before the trade deadline (likely to mess with the nine-hour trade deadline shows), the Phoenix Coyotes sent Chris Brown (no, not the singer), Rostislav Klesla, and a 4th round pick to the Washington Capitals for Erat and John Mitchell.

Klesla has played three years with the Phoenix Coyotes after a trade sent him from Ohio to Arizona on February 28th, 2011. Klesla has had injury issues throughout his career, and his last full year was with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2007-08 regular season. He has struggled in the past three years with Phoenix, not contributing on the point streak and being known as one of their worst possession-players (Klesla had a Corsi of >50% with the Coyotes last season).

The most important player going the other way is Martin Erat, who joins his third team in two seasons with this trade to Phoenix. After joining the Predators in 2001, he stayed with the organization for 11 years before requesting the trade that brought him to Washington and prospect Filip Forsberg to Nashville. That relationship didn’t last long, though, as Erat requested a trade months later and has finally had his request granted. Hopefully he likes it in Phoenix, or we could see another diva-esque trade request sooner rather than later.

Photo by Marko Ditkun/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Marko Ditkun/NHLI via Getty Images

The Anaheim Ducks were busy on Tuesday, making three deals with just over 24 hours remaining before the NHL trade deadline.

In the first deal, Anaheim sent forward Dustin Penner to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 2014 fourth round draft pick. During his second stint with the Ducks this year, Penner potted 13 goals and 32 points in 49 games, giving him a grand total of 150 goals and 307 points in 571 regular-season games. Penner was a Stanley Cup champion during his first go-around with the Ducks, winning the elusive trophy back in 2006-2007 before being signed by the Edmonton Oilers the following year.

The Ducks then used the fourth rounder to grab Stephane Robidas from the Dallas Stars. Robidas, a pending UFA, is currently attempting to return from a severely broken leg that has limited to 24 games this season. The 37 year old defenseman played in the NHL All-Star game back in 2009, but has since slowed down as time passes him by.

In the final trade of the day for the club, Anaheim sent Viktor Fasth to the Edmonton Oilers for a fifth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and a third-round choice in the 2015 NHL Draft. The 31 year old goaltender, who is 2-2-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average and .885 save percentage after battling injuries for the majority of the year, should be a decent option for the Oilers, who traded Ilya Bryzgalov to Minnesota shortly after. With the backup option now open, the Ducks called up Frederik Anderson, a Danish born goaltender who has gone 15-3-0 for the Ducks this season in 19 appearances.

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Just before the gold medal game even began, the Swedish national team was dealt a major blew: top line centreman Nicklas Backstrom would miss the finals with a migraine.

Or was that really the truth?

According to a report from Yahoo! Sports’ Greg Wyhysnski, Backstrom tested positive for a banned substance after using an allergy medication.

Backstrom, who failed to record a goal for the Swedes in five games of action, did assist on four of his team’s markers during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

Washington Capitals forward Martin Erat has told Washington management he is unhappy with how he is being utilized and has reportedly asked them to be traded.

Earlier in April, the Nashville Predators traded Erat and Michael Latta to the Capitals at the trade deadline in exchange for top prospect Filip Forsberg. Erat requested to be traded away from Nashville, and waived a no-trade clause in his contract to facilitate the deal. The former first liner has had very little success during his time with the club, recording no goals and six assists in 23 contests this season, adding to his three total points in 9 games with Washington last year.

Erat was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career on Saturday and he has only averaged 13 minutes a game this year.  Erat has a $3.5M cap hit but his contract does slip to just $2.25 million in 2014-15.

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Clarkson SCOAR
David Clarkson scores the Toronto Maple Leafs' lone regulation goal as they beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 in the shootout on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Clarkson SCOAR
David Clarkson scores the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lone regulation goal as they beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 in the shootout on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Just as they have done all season, the Toronto Maple Leafs leaned heavily on their goaltender to steal a game and it happened once again as they defeat the Washington Capitals by a score of 2-1 in the shootout despite the Capitals firing 50 shots at James Reimer. As for Braden Holtby? He 28 shots against.

First Period:

The Capitals go to work early on as Jason Chimera gets a couple of decent scoring opportunities with the second one leading to a crazy scramble in front which forces James Reimer to go flat on his stomach and cover the puck. The Maple Leafs get a pretty good chance of their own a couple of minutes later after James van Riemsdyk found Phil Kessel on an odd-man rush but Holtby came across to stop the Kessel shot. Not long after, Peter Holland nearly buries his second goal as a Leaf, but misses an open net after a pair of nice plays by Kessel and van Riemsdyk. The pace slows down somewhat midway through the opening frame, with neither team really able to take control of the game. The Capitals get a three-on-two with under six minutes to go, but Michael Latta can’t beat James Reimer as the game remained scoreless. Then, less than a minute later, Joffrey Lupul comes in on a one-on-one but he doesn’t beat the Capitals’ netminder either. The Caps get another opportunity, Mikhail Grabovski leaves a drop pass for Eric Fehr, but James Reimer shuts the door. After the TV timeout, Jay McClement battles down in the Caps zone, then finds Mason Raymond behind the net, who passes it in front to a waiting Nikolai Kulemin but he can’t get his one-timer in the back of the net. The period comes to a close a few minutes later, in what was a very quick first period that didn’t have a penalty. The Capitals had the slight advantage in shots on goal at 11-10.

Second Period:

The first penalty of the game comes around a minute into the first period as Mason Raymond takes a hooking penalty but the Maple Leafs kill it off as they held a pretty deadly power play unit at bay. Over five minutes gone in the second period and the Capitals had five shots on goal to the Maple Leafs’ zero as they had control for the most part early on in the second. The Capitals get another chance on the power play due to a Dion Phaneuf roughing penalty. While the Caps are able to move the puck and get some good shots from John Carlson, the Maple Leafs’ goalie stops them all and the Leafs kill it off. With zero shots just under midway through the second period, the Maple Leafs will look to get their first shot on goal of the period from an Eric Fehr interference penalty. On the power play, not only do the Maple Leafs get a shot on goal, they get the game’s first goal via a David Clarkson deflection of a Jake Gardiner shot. It was reviewed, but it ended up standing and it’s 1-0 Maple Leafs. David Clarkson nearly gets another coming down the wing, but he rings it off the post. Dion Phaneuf gets a chance in front after a nice feed from Joffrey Lupul, but Braden Holtby stops him, then takes a hit from Joel Ward but gets right back up. Late in the second period, there’s a bit of a scare for Mikhail Grabovski as he falls to the ice and takes a skate to the face but thankfully gets right up and goes right to the dressing room. The period ends shortly after with the Maple Leafs up 1-0. Shots in the second period were 17-9 in the Caps’ favor.

Third Period:

The third period begins like the second period, with a Toronto penalty. This time it’s David Clarkson going off for interference, but the Maple Leafs penalty killers come up big again and kill off another Capitals power play. About six minutes in, Phil Kessel comes flying in for a loose puck and makes a nice pass back to van Riemsdyk who can’t beat Holtby and neither can Peter Holland. Mikhail Grabovski does end up returning to the game, with 20 stitches to close up two separate cuts. Morgan Rielly blazes into the offensive zone and fires a wicked wrist shot but it is right at the chest of Holtby. Many minutes go by, until the Maple Leafs get another great chance only to be foiled by the goal post. Dion Phaneuf jumped into the rush and got a pass from Jay McClement, but his shot rang off of the post. The Capitals tie it up as Alex Ovechkin blasts a shot on a rolling puck past James Reimer who had zero chance, 1-1. Neither team can score to take a late lead, so there will be overtime. Shots in the third period were a staggering 19-4 in favor of the Washington Capitals.

Overtime and Shootout:

The Caps get a chance via Troy Brouwer who gets a fantastic opportunity in front of the net, but Cody Franson makes a great stick check to deny Brouwer. Another good chance, this time for the Leafs as Morgan Rielly skates the puck into the zone and makes a nifty pass to Nazem Kadri, but Kadri is stopped by Holtby in front. Neither team can score in the overtime period, so this game is now headed to a shootout.

David Clarkson: no goal

Eric Fehr: goal

James van Riemsdyk: goal

Alex Ovechkin: no goal

Mason Raymond: no goal

Nicklas Backstrom: no goal

Joffrey Lupul: goal

Troy Brouwer: no goal

Leafs win in the shootout, 2-1.

Now, onto who was good and bad.

The Good:

Far and away the best player on the ice, for either team, was James Reimer. Including the shootout, Reimer stopped an unreal 52 of 54 shots he faced. He was the sole reason the Maple Leafs had any chance in this game let alone actually win the game. This was huge for Reimer after watching Jonathan Bernier get the last two starts and three of the last four. Maybe this will lead Randy Carlyle to give Reimer more starts?

To me, the third star of this game had to be Morgan Rielly. This was a fantastic game for the young rearguard, who moved the puck up ice with speed and confidence seemingly at will. Rielly looked dominant at times in this game and, like Reimer, made a case for more playing time after Paul Ranger was scratched tonight.

While Alex Ovechkin did eventually score, Dion Phaneuf had him shut down for a large majority of this game. He frustrated Ovechkin by not giving him room to work and it showed in Ovechkin’s emotions. Phaneuf also had a couple of good offensive chances, including one that went off of the goalpost. Phaneuf has had a terrific season and is definitely in line for a raise this off-season.

The Bad:

I know he is probably injured, but Phil Kessel was nearly invisible for a lot of the game. He had six shots on goal (which really surprised me) but I think at least half came early in the first period. Kessel needs to step up in big game’s like this and, again he’s probably injured, tonight he did not.

This is nothing major but why would you play an injured Frazer McLaren for just four minutes and scratch Trevor Smith? Who actually hasn’t looked too bad in the past few games.  The Leafs struggled for offense at times in this game and playing an injured goon for four minutes and scratching a player with two goals in a second line role makes little to no sense to me.

Conclusion:

The win bumps the Maple Leafs’ record to 14-8-1 with their next game on Monday, at home, against the Columbus Blue Jackets. After tonight’s showing, I would be astounded if James Reimer didn’t get that start.

Left wing Jason Chimera has signed a $4 million, two-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals.

Chimera, who tallied a league-leading six points last week thanks to two goals and four assists, was recently named the NHL’s second star of the week.  The Canadian born forward is off to a strong start with five goals and six assists in 16 games this season for the Capitals, almost good enough to pass his 14 point total from his 47 game 2012-2013 campaign.

Chimera played two seasons for Edmonton before being traded to the Phoenix Coyotes for draft choices. Because of the NHL lockout, he did not play the following season and went to play in Italy for Mastini Varese. Chimera was subsequently dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets, without playing a game in Phoenix, as part of a trade for Geoff Sanderson. Chimera was later traded to the Capitals on December 28, 2009 in return for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina and has emerged into a reliable forward in the process.

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The Boston Bruins pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy following their 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final at TD Garden on June 7th, 2013. Will the defending Eastern Conference champions once again be the beast of the East? (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
The Boston Bruins pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy following their 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final at TD Garden on June 7th, 2013. Will the defending Eastern Conference champions once again be the beast of the East? (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
The Boston Bruins pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy following their 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final at TD Garden on June 7th, 2013. Will the defending Eastern Conference champions once again be the beast of the East? (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
The Boston Bruins pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy following their 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final at TD Garden on June 7th, 2013. Will the defending Eastern Conference champions once again be the beast of the East? (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

Atlantic Division:

1.) Boston Bruins.

The team that has represented the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final in two of the last three years went on an incredible run after an incredible comeback in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, losing just once in the next two rounds, but was unable to overcome the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins saw some turnover this summer, though, losing the likes of Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Jaromir Jagr, Rich Peverley and Andrew Ference. They did bring in Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla, who can both be very productive, though Iginla’s not getting any younger, and Eriksson’s coming off of a down season. I’m not sure the Bruins are a better team than they were, but they’re still very good, and perhaps they can be more consistent. I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

2.) Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens were one of the biggest surprises of last season, as they finished second in the East just one year after coming in last. Not a bad first year for the new general manager in Marc Bergevin and new head coach in Michel Therrien. The more I look at this team, though, the more I think it wasn’t a fluke. This isn’t a team that’s filled with stars, but the Habs are very deep and have a good mix of young players and veterans, and maybe I just love Daniel Briere, but I liked that addition. Sure, he’s 36, had some injury problems and has seen his production drop, but if he can just produce around what he did in 2011-2012 (49 points in 70 games), Montréal will definitely take that for a two-year contract at just $4 million per year. Being bought out by the Flyers will certainly provide motivation for Briere, and I won’t be surprised if he shows he’s still got something left. He’s also one of the best playoff performers in recent history, and while the Habs had a great regular season last year, they were upset by the Ottawa Senators in five games in the first round. Briere would have been nice to have then. However, the key will be Carey Price, who needs to bounce back from a tough finish to the season. If he does, the Habs can play with anyone.

3.) Detroit Red Wings.

The dynasty has shown signs of crumbling in recent years, and these certainly aren’t the same Red Wings they once were, but after squeaking into the playoffs this past season they managed to take the Chicago Blackhawks all the way to overtime in Game 7 in the second round. They then made some noise in the summer with the signings of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. Weiss should be a solid player if he can rebound from an injury that cost him most of the past season, and Alfredsson, well, he’s 40, but he’s still a decent player. So, you can certainly make a case that Detroit added a pair of top six forwards. Not bad. Again, not the same Wings they once were, but they’ve still got something left.

4.) Ottawa Senators.

For obvious reasons, it was pretty crushing for Ottawa to see Daniel Alfredsson go, but I still think it was a good summer for the Sens. They got Bobby Ryan, who I think could be primed for a better season playing with Jason Spezza, and while they gave up a very good young player in Jakob Silfverberg, he may never be Ryan. The Senators also made the playoffs in spite of some bad luck with injuries, and getting the likes of Spezza, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen back healthy will be huge. Clarke MacArthur will also be a nice addition if Paul MacLean uses him correctly, which Randy Carlyle didn’t in Toronto. Craig Anderson has also established himself as an elite goalie. I actually like the way this team looks quite a bit. I won’t even be surprised if they have a better season than Alfie and the Wings. Boy, would that be hilarious.

5.) Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs were also one of the biggest surprises of this past season, making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. It was surprising because, well, a lot of people just didn’t think they were that good, and as you can take a look at for yourself here, they probably got pretty lucky (http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/were-luckiest-unluckiest-nhl-teams-2013-season-184041337.html). In the summer, they gave out big paydays to bring in David Clarkson and keep Tyler Bozak. You could argue that a player they bought out (Mikhail Grabovski) and made no attempt to keep (Clarke MacArthur) are better. Clarkson is 29 and had one 40-point season in his career, while Bozak is a pretty sorry excuse of a first-line centre, also only reaching 40 points once, and at 27 years old, isn’t a lot younger. On a good team, he should probably be on the third line. In fact, defenseman Cody Franson, who the Leafs didn’t leave a lot of room to sign and ended up missing most of training camp and the preseason, had more points than both Clarkson and Bozak last season. You could argue both of their “big signings” aren’t even legitimate top six forwards, and they won’t even have Clarkson for the first 10 games. If the Leafs’ luck evens out this year, I’m not sure they’re going to make it a second straight trip to the postseason. What I do like about Toronto is its goaltending, despite how weird that is to say. James Reimer is coming off of a terrific season and was probably the main reason the Leafs made the playoffs, and as anyone who’s followed me for a while should know, I think very highly of Jonathan Bernier. That’s a very good young tandem, and should at least keep the Leafs in the race.

6.) Florida Panthers.

It looked like the young Panthers had broken through in 2011-2012, winning the Southeast Division and taking the eventual East champs in the New Jersey Devils all the way to double overtime of Game 7. They responded by being the worst team in the NHL this past season. However, Tim Thomas was a nice addition and should form a nice tandem with Jacob Markstrom, and Brad Boyes was also a nice addition, coming off of a criminally underrated season with the New York Islanders. Even Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney may not end up being terrible additions to their defense. They also do have some good young talent that could step up, and part of why they finished last was because they had such a rotten time with injuries. Florida will probably be better, but I’m not sure I see a return to the playoffs already.

7.) Buffalo Sabres.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. And I’m not about to get fooled a third time after believing in the Sabres in each of the last two years. The Sabres aren’t even fooling themselves anymore, as it’s been acknowledged in Buffalo that it’s time to rebuild. Captain Jason Pominville was sent to the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline, and Darcy Regier is also looking to move another pair of his top players in Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. Unless it’s a surprising year in Buffalo, I expect them to be gone by the trade deadline. There is some promise here, but Ron Rolston’s first full year as head coach will be about building for the future.

8.) Tampa Bay Lightning.

I liked the acquisition of Ben Bishop at the trade deadline, and perhaps the goaltending in Tampa Bay will finally be fixed as he could form a nice tandem with Anders Lindback. However, neither goalie was terrific in their first year with the Lightning, and neither has proven himself as a starting NHL goalie yet. I also just still don’t think there’s enough behind the superstars in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, and two of their top three scorers not including those two are gone, as Cory Conacher was sent to Ottawa for Bishop and captain Vincent Lecavalier was bought out. Lecavalier’s buyout was necessary for financial reasons, but the problem is he’s still a good player, which I don’t think there’s enough of in Tampa.

1.) Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins rolled to the best record in the Eastern Conference, and before getting shut down by Tuukka Rask in the East final, looked like they were going to roll all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. There hasn’t been a lot of turnover in Pittsburgh, and that’s just fine. The Penguins are more than lethal enough, and bringing back Rob Scuderi will just help to solidify their back end. The big question is goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury is still a solid goalie in the regular season, but after winning the Cup in 2009, he’s had four straight playoffs with a save percentage under .900, and the last two have been especially horrendous. This past season, Dan Bylsma decided he’d seen enough after just four playoff games, riding with Tomas Vokoun the rest of the way. Vokoun was very good, though, so no worries if Fleury blows up again, right? Well, Vokoun just dealt with a scary medical situation and his return to hockey is in question right now, so the Pens may need Fleury to at least hold down the fort for a while. The good news for Pittsburgh is that this team can probably outscore any goaltending problems.

2.) New York Rangers.

After finishing first in the East and going to the conference final, the Rangers traded for Rick Nash, and there were even higher expectations in New York last season. While Nash didn’t disappoint (well, except in the playoffs), the team did, finishing sixth and squeaking past the Washington Capitals in the first round before getting destroyed by the Bruins while their $58.5 million man in Brad Richards was told to go watch from the press box. In response, the Rangers’ only big move was to fire John Tortorella, replacing him with Alain Vigneault. I liked this move. Tortorella’s shtick appeared to have grown old on his players, and I think a guy like Vigneault who is pretty much of the exact opposite in terms of personality will be a breath of fresh air. He also should allow his team to play a more open, offensive style, which is why I think giving Richards a chance to see if he can turn things around under him was the right move. I expect better things from the Rangers this season, but I don’t think they’ll quite beat out the Penguins.

3.) Washington Capitals.

After an awful start to their season, the Capitals turned things around and were able to win a terrible Southeast Division. However, it was yet another disappointment in the playoffs, as the Caps were embarrassed in Game 7 at home by the Rangers. Also, Mike Ribeiro’s gone, who had a terrific season, though Mikhail Grabovski is a nice, younger, inexpensive addition, who should be primed for a bounce-back season and has no shortage of motivation, even if he still won’t produce like Ribeiro did. The good news is Nicklas Backstrom stayed healthy, Braden Holtby looks like he may finally be Washington’s answer in goal, and when the Caps were tearing it up down the stretch, it was Alexander Ovechkin leading the way, looking like his old self while winning his third Hart Trophy, and his first since 2009. They’re still a pretty good team, but I like the Pens and Rangers more. Also, if the Rangers finish second and the Caps finish third, that means we get a series between them in the playoffs, which we apparently need to have every year.

4.) Philadelphia Flyers.

After three straight years of making it to at least the second round, it was a disappointing year in Philadelphia, as the Flyers failed to even make the playoffs. Will they bounce back? As always, the biggest question in Philly is goaltending. The Ilya Bryzgalov circus is gone, a fresh start looked like it was doing Steve Mason a world of good after being traded to the Flyers before the deadline (though beware the small sample size), and they brought back Ray Emery, who had a terrific season in Chicago. For Philly’s sake, you’d hope at least one of these guys are going to work out and finally bring an answer between the pipes, and it’s a tandem that certainly has potential. They also brought in Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit, and I won’t be surprised if they get a much bigger contribution from Sean Couturier. So, yes, I won’t be surprised if the Flyers bounce back.

5.) New Jersey Devils.

Ever since making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, it’s been a rough time in New Jersey. The Devils lost the Cup to the Kings in six games, then lost Zach Parise, then crumbled in spectacular fashion last season to somehow miss the playoffs after a terrific start to the season. Then they lost David Clarkson. That was expected, though, and they’d brought in Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe and Cory Schneider, and considering the Devils probably got a bit unlucky last season, I liked the way they were looking. What wasn’t expected, was then losing Ilya Kovalchuk, and, although it should be pretty obvious, I’ve already been over why that is so devastating for Jersey (http://thehockeyhouse.net/new-jersey-devils/kovalchuk-stuns-hockey-world-with-retirement-from-nhl/). The Devils deserved a better fate, but all of their players seem to want to go home, and three core players from their Stanley Cup Final team just two seasons ago are gone. Lou Lamoriello’s done a good job trying to patch those holes with guys like Ryder, Clowe, Jaromir Jagr and Damien Brunner — and the Schneider trade was brilliant — but man, these are some big holes that he keeps being asked to fill. I’m just not sure they’re going to score enough goals.

6.) Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets’ run late in the season that came so close to resulting in a playoff spot was adorable, and I think we were all rooting for them to get in, but let’s be honest, they weren’t a great team. Columbus became the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs despite having a goalie that won the Vezina that season. The Jackets were basically Bobrovsky and friends. That said, with that run, the addition of Nathan Horton (though he’s going to miss a big chunk of the season), a full season of Marian Gaborik and Ryan Murray making the jump to the NHL, there’s definitely optimism heading into the season, but I’m still not sure there’s enough here outside of Sergei Bobrovsky — and let’s not forget that his unbelievable season kind of came out of nowhere. I want to see him do just close to that over a full season now. If he’s the real deal, though, the Jackets should be in the race once again. Anyone can be with that kind of goaltending.

7.) New York Islanders.

The Islanders were a neat story last season, as their young team matured and made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. They even gave the Penguins a run for their money, taking the series all the way to overtime in Game 6. Mark Streit and Brad Boyes aren’t insignificant losses, though, as that’s their captain and two of their top five scorers that are gone. While Ryan Strome (and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, if he can stay healthy) could certainly make up for Boyes, the hole left by Streit on defense wasn’t filled (unless Griffin Reinhart has a huge rookie season). The Islanders are still a young team that’s learning and there will be bumps along the road, and I’m also not terribly confident in their goaltending, as Evgeni Nabokov hasn’t been terrific in New York and isn’t getting younger. This is also a pretty tough division, and this is just sort of where the Isles ended up.

8.) Carolina Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes entered last season with high expectations, but instead were one of the worst teams in the league, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year and sixth time in seven years since winning the Stanley Cup back in 2006. Carolina has basically added nothing of significance to make me think they’re going to be a whole let better this season. Granted, I’m not sure the ‘Canes are really as bad as they looked last season, so they could be better this year despite their quiet summer, and who knows, maybe Elias Lindholm will step in right away and have an impact as a rookie. Jeff Skinner should also have a better season, and a healthy Tuomu Ruutu will help. That said, I’m not crazy about their forward depth, I don’t like their defense at all (especially without Joni Pitkanen) and Cam Ward has struggled with injuries and not looked like the same goalie over the last couple of years. Again, this is a tough division, and Carolina is the team in it that inspires the least amount of confidence in me.

As far as the the wild cards go, I’ll give the first one to the Senators and the second one to the Flyers. As far as the teams that finished atop their divisions go, I’ll say the Penguins finish with a better record than the Bruins. The division winner with the best record in the conference takes on the wild card with the lowest record in the conference, while the division winner with the lowest record in the conference takes on the wild card with the highest record in the playoffs, meaning the Atlantic Division playoffs would have the Bruins taking on the Sens (and the Habs taking on the Wings) and the Metropolitan Division playoffs would have the Pens taking on the Flyers (and the Rangers taking on the Caps).

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Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images
Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images

The Anaheim Ducks have acquired Mathieu Perreault from the Washington Capitals for John Mitchell and a fourth-round pick in 2014.

Mitchell attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he played four seasons of college hockey with the NCAA Division I Wisconsin Badgers. Undrafted in the NHL, Mitchell signed with the Syracuse Crunch prior to the 2010-2011 season, recording 19 points and 64 penalty minutes.Mitchell collected 14 points and 48 penalty minutes in 61 games with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League last season and has a total of 51 points in 171 career matches.

Perreault played in 39 games for the Capitals this past season and managed to post six goals and 11 assists. In 159 career NHL games with Washington, Perreault had 33 goals and 37 assists. He will be reunited with former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim.

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The Phoenix Coyotes have re-signed left wing Mikkel Boedker to a two-year contract worth $2.25M per.

Following being drafted 8th overall in 2008, Boedker has played 256 NHL games, all with the Coyotes, and has recorded 34 goals and 95 points. The 23-year-old Dane is expected to play on Phoenix’s top line this season after he posted 26 points in 48 games last year.

In other news, the Washington Capitals re-signed forward Marcus Johansson to a two-year, $4 million contract Saturday. The 22-year-old, who registered 22 points in 34 games in 2012-13, is expected to play Johansson on the top line with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

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Mikhail Grabovski appears to have landed with Alex Ovechkin for the upcoming season.

 

Grabovski was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 150th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and played his first NHL game with Montreal on January 6, 2007, against the New York Rangers. He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 3, 2008, in exchange for the draft rights to Greg Pateryn and a 2010 second-round draft pick.

Grabovski appeared in all 48 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, recording a disappointing 9 goals and 7 assists. Following the disappointing 2012-13 season, Grabovski was unexpectedly placed on waivers and listed to be bought-out by the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 4, 2013.

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Nathan Walker, an Australian ice hockey player currently playing for the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League, has signed a try-out contract with the Washington Capitals.

Walker, an undrafted left winger, played at the Washington Capitals development camp last season. Prior to signing with the Phantoms last year, the young forward spent six seasons as a member of the HC Vítkovice Steel franchise in the Czech Republic.

Walker first played for the Australian men’s senior team at the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division II Group A tournament which was held in Melbourne. Australia won the tournament and was promoted to Division I Group B for the 2012 World Championships. Walker finished the tournament with four goals and two assists for six points, tied for third overall. He was also recognized by the tournament coaches as the best player on the Australian team.

Walker represented Australia again at the 2012 World Championships. Playing in Division IB, Australia finished last in the group and was relegated back to Division IIA for 2013, a team he did not play for.

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The Washington Capitals have signed defenseman Tyson Strachan, right wing Matt Watkins and goaltender David Leggio to one-year, two-way contracts

Leggio, the Rochester Americans most valuable player the past two seasons, is coming off a 38 win season, good enough to place him first in the league. Leggio played for four years at Clarkson University, where he amassed a record of 59–29–12 with a .922 save percentage and 2.30 GAA. Leggio saw action in 54 games for Rochester in the 2011-12 season, winning a career-high 28, but he went 0-3 in the postseason. With Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth taking the two spots with the Sabres, Buffalo is looking to use three-year veteran Matt Hackett more often in Rochester, taking a spot away from Leggio. In his two seasons as the Amerks starter, the Williamsville native had a 66-48-3 record with a 2.59 GAA, .921 save percentage and 15-3 shootout record.

Watkins was originally drafted in the fifth round (160th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coytoes. Watkins registered 30 points and 43 penalty minutes in 68 games with Bridgeport of the AHL in 2012-13. The 5’11”, 180-pound forward ranked fifth on the team in points and served as the Sound Tigers’ captain during the 2012-13 campaign. Watkins has compiled 123 points  and 153 penalty minutes in 253 career AHL games with Bridgeport, Portland and San Antonio and has appeared in one NHL game with the Phoenix Coyotes. 

Strachan, who turned pro in 2006–07, has played 120 games in the NHL with both the Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues. As a member of Florida last season, Strachan compiled four assists and 40 penalty minutes. Strachan has collected 68 points and 270 penalty minutes in 216 AHL games with San Antonio, Peoria and Albany. He was originally drafted by Carolina in the fifth round (137th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

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The Washington Capitals have signed defenseman David Kolomatis to a one-year, two-way contract.

Kolomatis was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the 5th round (126th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He recorded 28 points and 18 penalty minutes in 46 games last season with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League. The season before Kolomatis skated in 58 games for Manchester in his third pro season.

Over his career, Kolomatis has collected 110 points and 118 penalty minutes in 254 career AHL games with Manchester and Providence. It expected that he will report to the Hershey Bears once the season begins.

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The Nashville Predators continue to add to their teams depth with the additions of center Matt Hendricks and goaltender Carter Hutton.

Matt Hendricks is off to Nashville
image via washington post

Hendricks is a very good two way center who can play the wing as well. He’s underrated offensively, capable of putting up 10-20 points on the fourth line. He also is very skilled stick-handler and has shown his puck skills in the shootout. Hendricks is a very solid penalty killer and will make the Predators and even better team coming into the 2013-14 season.

Carter Hutton, goaltender who played with the Rockford IceHogs signed a one year deal with the Predators to back up Pekka Rinne. Hutton will not get a lot of ice time in Nashville as Rinne is a work horse, starting upwards of 70 games a season. This will leave roughtly twelve games for Hutton. He has put up very solid numbers in the American Hockey League and will get his opportunity to get some National Hockey League experience.

Hendricks signed a four year deal worth 1.85M per year. Hendricks was a former Predators draft pick.

Hutton signed a one year deal with the Predators worth 550K. Hutton will get his first chance as an NHL goalie.