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Tag:Teddy Purcell
Posted on: October 11, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 10:36 am
 

The Lightning: The East's (again) quiet contender

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Let me take you back to last season. The Tampa Bay Lightning were just one game, no, one goal from making a trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals. The pushed the champion Bruins to the brink before a late Nathan Horton goal in Game 7 sent the B's on.

That's how the Lightning's breakout season ended. People had perhaps anticipated an improved Lightning squad, but one going that far? It was a quick ascension under first-year coach Guy Boucher. Yet, outside of the drama of Steven Stamkos' contract extension, there was very little discussion about the team from Tampa.

But why not? After all, the Bolts finished only four points behind the Capitals not only in the Southeast Division last season, but in the Eastern Conference. They then swept those same Capitals in the conference semifinals.

There are the headliners, of course. Outside of the twins in Vancouver, it is hard to find a better pairing of players than Martin St. Louis and Stamkos. Throw in Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone? There is some special talent.

It's enough for Boucher to throw the slightest of bulletin-board quotes Washington's way before Monday's matchup.

“Last year we showed that we were the new kids on the block for them and they are used to being first," Boucher said. "We were kind of in their way as a thorn in their side and this year we are planning on being a thorn in both sides, hopefully."

Then they showed in the crazy, back-and-forth 6-5 shootout loss in Washington that they can be even pricklier. It was as captivating a game as you will see in the regular season while also being rather hideous. It's funny how sometimes an ugly game can be so pretty. It was "so bad, it's good" theater.

In that game, the Lightning managed to score five goals without any coming from the aforementioned four players. Stamkos didn't even have a shot on goal through the first two periods. Asked if he is getting enough enough production from his top line, Boucher's answer was perfect.

"No. I never get enough of anybody," he said with a smirk.

Instead the scoring work was done by Brett Clark, Teddy Purcell, Dominic Moore, Bruno Gervais and Nate Thompson. Now the game was hardly any model for defensive responsibility and goaltending teaching seminars, but you had to be encouraged to see so much production beyond the top line.

"It's a process. It's always a work in progress. Obviously we're doing a lot of good things, but we have a lot of things to clean up and that's part of the regular season," Thompson said. "You're going to have games where it's not going to be perfect. Still have a lot of work to do and a lot of season left. We did some good things, we did some bad things [on Monday]. We have to learn from it and move on."

It hasn't been the best of starts to the season. At times they looked sluggish and out of sync, but keep in mind the Bolts just began the season on a three-game road trip that included visits to the defending Stanley Cup winner and then the division champs here.

"I don’t think it’s concerning me, but we got to have our finger on it," St. Louis said after the game. "We took a huge stride in our work ethic compared to last game. We took way too many penalties, power play’s got to be better. That sums it up."

So again, why are people sleeping on the Lightning? Maybe it's because they were very quiet in the offseason aside from the Stamkos situation? The only new addition from outside the organization is Ryan Shannon, Gervais and backup goaltender Mathieu Garon. Hardly scene stealers.

There are two answers that seem the most obvious: They play in Tampa Bay. It's nothing the fans in Tampa don't already know, but it just isn't treated with the same attention as the traditional markets. That's the easy one.

But the real reason could be the concerns about the defense, including the goaltending situation. Last season the Bolts were 21st in the league in defense. If the game in Washington is any indication, things aren't looking much better yet. Add on that, the Lightning just learned they will be without Mathias Ohlund for the next four-to-six weeks.

Speaking specifically to the five goals surrendered to the Capitals, Boucher expressed some trepidation over the defense right now.

"Turnovers hurt us, but we can certainly be a lot better at [defense]," Boucher said. "But we are concerned. Ohlund is supposed to play against the top lines and he's out for a long time. So now we're asking some guys to play in slots their not supposed to. On any team it needs to be an adjustment. Guys are going to have to take the load for long times so I guess it's hurting us. But hey, we're battling through. We're still doing some good stuff, but we got to get better."

And when they do, the Lightning will somehow be right back in the position as the under-the-radar Cup threat. With the lack of attention, you get the feeling this is a "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" situation.

There's no reason to think the Bolts aren't one of the best in the East. The perception is that teams like the Sabres and Rangers got better through free agency and the Penguins will be better with the eventual return of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But Tampa Bay, by sticking together and being in Year 2 under Boucher, will have another crack at reaching the Stanley Cup Finals this spring.

Photo: Getty Images (Side note: Love the guy watching Boucher diagram the play from the stands!)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:13 pm
 

Capitals debut hardly smooth for Vokoun

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- As far as first impressions go, this one was way down the list.

Tomas Vokoun played his first game with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday against the Lightning, and, well, it was ugly. But don't take my word for it. Take Vokoun's, who still got credit for the win despite giving up five goals on 28 Lightning shots.

“I can’t tell you the last time I remember having as bad a game as I did tonight,” Vokoun said. "It just shows how strong this team is. They literally won today without goaltending. We won the game ... certainly not thanks to me.”

The night got off to a rather ominous start. Vokoun surrendered a goal before every actually facing a shot from the opposition. The Bolts' first "shot" of the night was a centering pass from behind the goal line from Teddy Purcell that bounced right off Caps defenseman Mike Green's skates and in. Not much he could do there.

The second goal, though? Again, beat from behind the goal line, this time the puck squeezing in on his near side. It was ugly. At that point you could already hear the fans inside Verizon Center asking "THIS is the guy that's supposed to lead us to the Cup?"

After a few more Tampa Bay goals -- in Vokoun's defense, there were a couple of nice deflections from the Lightning and another time a man sat on his doorstep in the crease unmanned -- it got to the point that the crowd couldn't help itself anymore. A puck came trickling into the zone and Vokoun calmly shuffled it on to a defenseman, leading to a nice sarcastic ovation from the Caps faithful.

“Once you get a little bit on the heels, you’re misreading the plays and it was just ugly, ugly, ugly game for me,” Vokoun said. “Every time I thought something’s going to happen, the exact opposite [happened]. Sometimes you go through games like that.”

But Vokoun ended up redeeming himself. When it came time for the OT -- thanks to a late Jason Chimera tally, his second of the game -- he was spectacular. He helped the Capitals kill off time on the 4-on-3 and then stonewalled Tampa Bay's only two attemps in the shootout and totally redeemed himself. Or at least saved face.

“If you asked Tomas, he’ll be the first one to tell you that’s probably not the way he wrote the script," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "I guess if you’re trying to look at the big picture, it takes a guy with a lot of mental toughness top lay like that. And then in the overtime when you’re having four-on-three against you and you make those three or four huge saves. I got to believe if it was me, I would have been so mentally out of it… and he comes up and he makes those big saves and he makes the save in the shootout. It told me a lot about his character and it ends up as a positive thing even if he didn’t have a positive game for the most part.”

But in the world of first impressions, this one wasn't the best. Coming on the heels of his agent saying the decision to start Michal Neuvirth in the opening game was a slap in the face? That's a little bit of a whole to dig out of. So long as he's as good as he was when it mattered most, that shouldn't be a problem.

“I’m going to make a promise I’m going to get them back sometime when they need me.”

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:09 pm
 

Southeast Division preview: Still chasing Caps

By Brian Stubits

The days of the South-least Division are slowly fading away.

For the last half decade, the Southeast Division has been the Washington Capitals' playground with four teams chasing. Of course the Caps have been very good through that time, but fattening up on their division "rivals" undoubtedly helped them to four straight division championships.

Just take the 2009-10 season as an example. That year the Capitals had 18 more points than the next closest team in the East while no other team in the division finished even in the top nine of the conference standings. That's especially amazing when you consider there are only 15 teams in the East.

They stil finished atop the East despite a transformation. Head coach Bruce Boudreau changed the way the team plays, trying to lock down on defense. As a result, the league's highest-scoring team the past few years dipped all the way to 19th in scoring. Alex Ovechkin had a very good season by almost anybody's standards. Just not his own.

The trick for Boudreau is to find that happy medium. They showed defense is something they can and in the past they showed they can score. Now they need to show they can do both. If they don't, especially early, Boudreau will hear the calls for his firing. The most successful regular-season team hasn't done enough after it to satisfy the increasingly antsy and demanding fan base.

But the somewhat surprising emergence of the Lightning last year has beefed up the division's rep. Tampa Bay figured to be on its way back up the NHL ladder, but the boom that came out of last season seemed to be ahead of schedule. Now the division has two of the game's elite scorers in Steven Stamkos and Ovechkin. With the Bolts unceremoniously sweeping the Caps in the playoffs last year, we just might have the beginning of an actual division rival for Washington.

The division also features something new: the most amped up fan base in the league, at least for one season. The Winnipeg Jets are still stuck playing in a division that will have them being true fish out of water. To say the Jets will suffer from jet-lag isn't just a fun pun but a reality they face. With that said, what was one of the easiest road trips in the NHL just became one of the toughest, especially for the teams in the Southeast that should look into taking the Concord to Manitoba.

Southeast Division (in order of predicted finish)

Washington Capitals: The Caps have become one of the league's elite teams and have done a pretty remarkable job of keeping their core together. Well this offseason owner Ted Leonsis and crew decided it was time to shake up the roster a touch to try and find the missing recipe to move Washington deeper into the playoffs. Enter Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Tomas Vokoun among others. I don't think there was a bigger offseason addition in this division than the Caps getting Vokoun, especially when you factor in the salary he'll be getting. Vokoun's talents have been hidden in Florida in the past four seasons, but he's an excellent goaltender but he is (or at least was) prone to prolonged slumps. As for Ward and Brouwer, they considerably beef up the Caps' toughness up front along the boards who are very capable two-way players.

Strengths: They have shown they can do every facet of the game well. It is a challenge to find a more talented team in hockey, including on the blue line. That's not something you could say in the past, but John Carlson and Karl Alzner complement each other well enough to make one of the best young defenseman duos in the NHL.

Weaknesses: It is tough to pinpoint any with this team, it is very well-rounded. It will be interesting to see how they handle expectations and increased heat when they hit some rough patches. Also, from an organizational standpoint the team has very little room to maneuver under the salary cap. That could be worth monitoring if/when GM George McPhee decided to tweak the roster.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Everything came together for a great run to a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference finals last season under new coach Guy Boucher. He brought in the ol' 1-3-1 system that seemed to be a magic trick for the Bolts. Now the question becomes can they repeat or was last year lightning in a bottle (that pun really was not intended)? One thing strongly in their favor is that the return almost the entire roster intact from last season. They did lose a couple of players such as Simon Gagne, but not much in the way of being unable to repair. one player who is back is Eric Brewer, and he'll be better for having spent camp and beginning the season in Tampa Bay. It will be interesting to see how this team fares with expectations on their shoulders.

Strengths: They roll out two excellent lines at the top. The Ryan Malone-Stamkos-Martin St. Louis line is one of the best in the game and the second group of Nate Thompson-Vincent Lecavalier-Teddy Purcell isn't too shabby, especially if Purcell continues his growth. They also had excellent special teams last year, ranking in the top 8 of both power play (it helps to have Stamkos, who scores 17 on the PP last year) and penalty kill a season ago. I also love the man on their bench as Boucher is a star in the making among coaches.

Weaknesses: I am still not in love with the goaltending situation. Dwayne Roloson was very good after being picked up by GM Steve Yzerman (he would qualify as another strength), but he just doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me to keep it up. The addition of Mathieu Garon to back him up is a good one, though. Moreover, consistency might be an issue, especially for Stamkos. He really slowed down last season, failing to score 50 goals when he appeared to be on his way to 60 midseason.

Carolina Hurricanes: If the playoffs were a night club, the Hurricanes have been the guy standing at the front of the line until the bouncer says they're full. Every year it seems they are squarely on the playoff bubble, including last season when it came down to Game 82, which was a sound defeat. This season figures to be more of the same for the 'Canes as they might just be the next-best thing to a playoff team the East has to offer. They had a very pleasant surprise in Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner last season and captain Eric Staal is still leading the show. Gone, though, is another Carolina long-timer in Erik Cole (now in Montreal). One thing you have to love about this franchise, though, is its consistency. GM Jim Rutherford has been there ever since they became the Hurricanes (and before). It seems like their best players don't leave the organization, either. Hopefully for them the consistency in their finishes doesn't stay the same, but instead they crack the postseason. But in a beefed up East, that will be tougher said than done.

Strengths: They have an excellent captain in Staal, both from a leadership standpoint and player quality. They also boast one of the better goalies in the league in Cam Ward, an All-Star last season. And there's that whole consitency thing they have going on, often helps in the old chemistry department.

Weaknesses: There is not much depth to talk about in Carolina. After Stall, Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, they aren't likely going to find a whole lot of scoring. They also don't posses a ton of size among the forwards, hence the reason they brought in Anthony Stewert and Alex Ponikarovsky this offseason to help. There just doesn't seem to be enough to crack the postseason, but Rutherford admits to this being somewhat of a "rebuilding" phase. That's a pretty competitive team for one that's rebuilding.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers were incredibly active in the free-agent market in July, adding a slew of veterans to hold the tide while the youngsters develop. Undoubtedly the Panthers are better than they were last season, but how much better? They did lose arguably their best player in Vokoun and are replacing him with the combination of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, not exactly an exciting development. But it can't be denied that the Panthers now at least have NHL-quality players across their lines (and defensive pairings, led by Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski), but they still aren't high-quality players, not guys that you figure can get them into the playoffs, finally. The trick in Florida is not doing anything now to hinder the future, which is very bright as the system is loaded.

Strengths: I do like the defensive corps they are putting together, especially if 2010 No. 3 overall draft pick Erik Gudbranson makes the team as expected. It's very hard to say at this point with so many new faces coming together what kind of strenghts we're looking at, it's tough to predict how they will play together. But we do know something that isn't likely be a strength this year ...

Weaknesses: The aforementioned goaltender position. With Vokoun gone, the Panthers are relying on the combination of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. Now, both do have experience, Theodore more so than the Clemmer, but in no way do they make up for what Vokoun, Florida's best player in recent seasons, took with him. You also have to wonder about chemistry issues with this team having brought in so many new faces. We'll put new coach Kevin Dineen as an "unknown."

Winnipeg Jets: The virtue of such a home-ice advantage will likely make the Jets a little better than the Thrashers were last season, but not enough. Thankfully for them the new home crowd in Winnipeg will just be jacked to have hockey back. They will need to take advantage of the home crowd, especially with a stretch of 10 home games in 11 contests that stretches from the end of November through December. But they will need to find scoring punch, especially from the forward group. They have excellent point producers among the defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, but Ladd needs more help. Hopefully, that's where Evander Kane will fit in. In his third year since being drafted in the first round (all of his time spent at the NHL level) this could be the year he steps up his game and becomes a franchise fixture. He is already a popular figure partly by virtue of his Twitter account and the way he has taken to Winnipeg.

Strengths: They were above average on the power play last season, finishing 12th in the league thanks to Byfuglien and Enstrom. Thrown in the potential of Zach Bogosian as an offensive weapon and that's a lunch of firepower coming back the blue line. I like Ondrej Pavelec in net if he can get a little better support from his teammates. I will put one more in this category, and that's the patience of the front office. They have a lot of first-round talent on the roster and they don't seem willing to abandon the long-term plan for a quick fix to appease the riled up fans.

Weaknesses: The forwards need to show more. Outside of Ladd, nobody up front cracked the 20-goal barrier last season in Atlanta. They need to find a way to tighten down defensively after giving up the second-most goals per game in hockey last year at 3.20. The forwards doing a better job of creating scoring chances and possessing the puck will certainly contribute. The penalty kill was almost equally bad last year, clocking in at 27th in the NHL. Like the Panthers, we'll put new coach Claude Noel as an "unknown."

NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.



Posted on: July 20, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: July 21, 2011 11:59 am
 

Bolts' Purcell, Coyotes' Korpikoski avoid arbiter

By Brian Stubits

Make that two arbitrations hearings avoided.

On the first day of scheduled arbitration hearings, the first two players reached last-minute deals to avoid the hearing process.

It started with the Coyotes and Lauri Korpikoski coming to terms on a two-year deal that Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet says is for $3.6 million. The left wing had a breakout season with the Coyotes last season, scoring 19 goals and posting 21 assists to go with a plus-17, all significantly surpassing his totals from his first two seasons in the NHL.

"We are happy to avoid arbitration and finalize a contract," Coyotes GM Don Maloney said.

A short while later, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced they avoided arbitration with Teddy Purcell, also on a two-year contract. Kypreos says that deal is worth $4.725 million. Purcell also enjoyed a breakout year last year with the Lightning, posting career highs with 17 goals and 34 assists, establishing himself as a solid second-line option for the Bolts. He also contributed in the postseason with 17 points (6-11) in 18 games.

It's not much of a surprise deals were done without the help of an intermediary. We explained yesterday how hard all the sides try to avoid actually making it to the arbitration hearing as it can be poisonous for future relations between the team and player.

The next player due up is the Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky tomorrow. It will be a bit tighter of a situation to see if they can reach a deal before the hearing.

Arbitration schedule
Date Player Team
July 20 Lauri Korpikoski (Settled: 2 years, $3.6M) Coyotes
July 20 Teddy Purcell (Settled: 2 years, $4.725M) Lightning
July 21 Brandon Dubinsky (Settled: 4 years, $16.8 million) Rangers
July 28 Josh Gorges Canadiens
July 28 Ryan Callahan Rangers
July 29 Jannik Hansen Canucks
August 2 Shea Weber Predators
August 3 Chris Campoli Blackhawks
August 3 Zach Parise Devils
August 4 Mark Fraser Devils
August 4 Blake Comeau Islanders

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Posted on: July 19, 2011 4:26 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 4:55 pm
 

Arbitration anticipation: Let the pain begin

By Brian Stubits

Nobody wants to go to arbitration. The next time you hear any involved party is excited for arbitration battles will be the first.

It can be dangerous. It can certainly be ugly. It is always contentious.

The nature of the best resembles part of Festivus with the Airing of Grievances. At least there are no Feats of Strength as an arbiter lays down the decision instead of the sides fighting it out. The involved parties are forced to justify their stance in the negotiations, resulting in teams putting down their own player. Not a desirable stance to have to take.

Because of the combative nature, the process has been known to cause strains in relationships between teams and players. It's exactly why teams try to avoid the process more fervently than someone looks to evade root canals.

For that reason arbitration meetings often times don't happen. It's amazing how much easier it is to strike a deal with a deadline speeding up the negotiations. Always worked that way for me to get book reports done in school; nothing like a deadline of two days away to read the first page.

So it is highly likely only a few of the names headed to arbitration will actually have their hearing. That goes for the two biggest names on the list, Shea Weber and Zach Parise. The Predators and Devils respectively will try and hammer out contracts before an arbiter gets to set the reward. This has happened to three players in the last day as the Jets avoided a hearing with Blake Wheeler, the Ducks with Andrew Cogliano and the Sabres with Andrej Sekera, all reaching new deals.

But there will still be hearings. Teddy Purcell and the Lightning will have their case heard tomorrow, the first day, along with Lauri Korpikovski and the Coyotes. The next case will be Brandon Dubinsky and the Rangers. All of those hearings should happen with the potential for the Rangers/Dubinsky battle to be a tough one seeing as the sides still seem to be pretty far apart.

Or you will have the cases where teams just walk away from the award. It happened last year with Clarke MacArthur in Atlanta and more notably with Antti Niemi in Chicago, the teams electing to let the player find another team than pay them the determined amount. It will happen again this year to a Blackhawks player as the team has already said it cannot afford to bring Chris Campoli back.

Last year in total five players got as far as the arbitration hearing. Three of those players' awards were not matched. Teams are only allowed to walk away in a situation where the player filed for arbitration and the reward is $1.7 million or more. Anything less than that and the player stays put, regardless.

Obviously the most interesting cases are those of Parise and Weber. They are both franchise players and are due for substantial raises. The case of Weber is particularly appealing since the signing of Drew Doughty in Los Angeles seems to be waiting for the precedent set by the future Weber contract.

With all of that as the background, here's a list of all the players who, as of now, are scheduled for their turns in the ol' testy tango of arbitration. Expect names to disappear from this list faster than Michael J. Fox in family photos.

Arbitration schedule
Date Player Team
July 20 Lauri Korpikoski Coyotes
July 20 Teddy Purcell Lightning
July 21 Brandon Dubinsky Rangers
July 28 Josh Gorges Canadiens
July 28 Ryan Callahan Rangers
July 29 Jannik Hansen Canucks
August 2 Shea Weber Predators
August 3 Chris Campoli Blackhawks
August 3 Zach Parise Devils
August 4 Mark Fraser Devils
August 4 Blake Comeau Islanders

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: June 27, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 6:28 pm
 

Stamkos atop restricted free-agent class

Here we are, just days away from July 1, and Steven Stamkos still doesn't have a contract for next season. Come Friday, he will be a restricted free agent if no extension is reached with the Lightning before then. Stamkos says they're close, but as of yet no deal is done.

So will there be a stampede for Stamkos, a young superstar who has been the NHL's leading goal scorer over the past two seasons? Don't hold your breath.

If Stamkos is still unsigned comed Friday, teams will have the option of extending him an offer sheet, at which point Tampa Bay would have the option to match. And make no mistake, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will match. He is indicated that there really isn't a level he won't go to to keep his star.

Perhaps you're thinking if a team has a ton of money, why not call Yzerman's bluff, see if he truly means it? If nothing else, you force Tampa Bay to handicap the rest of its roster by committing more than it had afforded to signing Stamkos. Take the Panthers, for example. GM Dale Tallon has to spend $26 million just to reach the salary cap floor, so he has a ton of money to throw around at this point. Couldn't he set out to damage his division rivals by either taking away their best player (and giving the Panthers a star of their own) or hampering Yzerman's efforts to build his roster by offering Stamkos, say $12 million annually?

The answer is of course he could, but it's unlikely he would. Or any other team for that matter. Why? In the hypothetical world where the Lightning don't match and let Stamkos go, they would still get compensation. For Stamkos, the going rate would be four first-round draft picks going back to the Lightning. Stamkos is elite, but that's a heavy, heavy price to pay, in addition to the money committed to paying Stamkos.

So there's a reason why nobody -- except Maple Leafs fans -- has their hopes too high for Stamkos. Then again, you never know what might happen.

Among the other top RFAs this season, both Nashville's Shea Weber and New Jersey's Zach Parise have dates with arbitration after the teams filed, meaning they are off the market while the teams try to negotiate contract extensions. It's hard to imagine either player going as far as arbitration, but if they do, it's even less fathomable the teams would decline to give the player the award. Point being, don't expect to see either guy in a new sweater any time soon, barring trade, of course. These are the types of guys that you imagine will do what they need to do so as not to lose such cornerstones.

Now just because Stamkos seems like a sure bet to remain in Tampa, that doesn't mean other RFAs can't be pried away from their current teams.

Here are the top restricted free agents (in alphabetical order).

Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky -- New York Rangers: The young Rangers all scored at least 18 goals for the Blueshirts last season, led by Dubinsky's team-high 24. The quartet could be described as the future of the franchise.

Drew Doughty -- Los Angeles: The 21-year-old defenseman has already reached All-Star status and is one of the better offensive defensemen in the league already.

Sergei Kostitsyn -- Nashville: The other RFA they have to deal with in Music City, Kostitsyn scored 23 goals and pitched in with 27 assists, having the best shooting percetage in the NHL out of those with at least 25 shots.

Andrew Ladd -- Winnipeg: Ladd was sent to Atlanta from Chicago after the cap-strapped Blackhawks couldn't retain him. In one season for the Thrashers, he had 29 goals, nine on the power play, and 30 assists.

Brad Marchand -- Boston: The rookie really broke out in the playoffs, when he scored 11 goals for the B's on their way to the Stanley Cup, the second most for a rookie in the postseason ever behind only Jeremy Roenick.

Keith Yandle -- Phoenix: A great puck-moving defenseman, he could perhaps be a target of the Bruins in his hometown of Boston. Yandle had 11 goals and a whopping 48 assists for the Coyotes last season.

Others to watch: Zach Bogosian (WPG), Troy Brouwer (WAS), Michael Frolik (CHI), Clarke MacArthur (TOR), Blake Wheeler (WPG), Mike Santorelli (FLA), Blake Comeau (NYI), Teddy Purcell (TB), Semyon Varlamov (WAS)

2011 Restricted Free Agent Compensation
Annual Cap Hit Compensation
Less than $1,034,250 None
$1,034,250 - $1,567,043 Third-round pick
$1,567,044 - $3,134,088 Second-round pick
$3,134,089 - $4,701,131 First- and third-round picks
$4,701,132 - $6,268,175 First-, second- and third-round picks
$6,268,176 -- $7,835,219 Two first-round picks, second- and third-round picks
More than $7,835,219 Four first-round picks

-- Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl on Twitter or @BrianStubitsNHL

Posted on: June 17, 2011 3:25 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2011 6:53 pm
 

Goalie Smith hits homer as Bolts take some BP

The Tampa Bay Lightning were honored by the Tampa Bay Rays before their game on Thursday and some of them took batting practice before the game.

Steven Stamkos, Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson and Mike Smith all took some cuts in the cage and threw out the first pitch(es) before the Rays played the Red Sox. I'm trying to figure out the most amazing thing about this part of the story: Smith, who had never hit a baseball before, belted a home run into the bleachers in left.

I understand he's from Canada and all, but never hitting a baseball? That's tough in and of itself to swallow. But hitting one into the stands your first time swinging a baseball bat? Incredible.

"Dream come true," Smith said. "It felt like butter coming off the bat. I've always wanted to try that. Close my eyes and swung, and it went out. I'm pretty proud."

Rays manager Joe Maddon was pretty impressed by it. "That was well struck," he said.

Purcell didn't have as much luck when stepping to the plate. "I don't really know what I'm doing," Purcell said. "So I'm just swinging for the fences." Good luck with that swing, Teddy!

As for Stamkos, the restricted free agent everybody wants to know about, well his day was just about baseball. A shortstop growing up, Stamkos didn't look like a fish out of water, sending a couple of balls deep to the outfield. He said that he now appreciates how tough baseball is.

Of course, Smith is probably wondering what the big deal is. He did get one other taste of big-league ball. After rounding the bases for his home run trot, he was greeted with a shaving cream pie to the face.

Ah yes, the joys of the offseason.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: May 27, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: May 28, 2011 8:55 am
 

Lightning have decisions to make to keep cracking

Hats off to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You'd be hard pressed to find anybody before the season that saw this coming. It was clear they were getting better, and the vibe around the organization improved dramatically with the addition of Steve Yzerman to the front office, but Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals? That's exceeding expectations.

But here's the funny part. You look at this team and you don't see a group of over-achievers. It was a rapid improvement, but you don't get the sense this was a fluke. No, the Lightning are that good.

The question now becomes, will they be able to stay this good?

This offseason, Stevie Y will have his work cut out for him. For starters, there is the issue of Steven Stamkos. The budding superstar is a restricted free agent this year and you better believe there will be teams sending offer sheets his way if the two sides can't work out a deal in the next few weeks -- you have to think a deal being reached in the next two weeks is the most likely outcome. Obviously if he goes the loss is tremendous, but if he stays, the impact will be felt elsewhere as he is due a significant pay raise.

Even with the salary cap going up next season, the Bolts won't be able to keep all of their big players on the roster. Between Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Mattias Ohlund and Pavel Kubina, that's $30 million, or roughly half of next season's salary cap, depending on the final cap number.

In addition to Stamkos, one of the team's playoff Stars, Teddy Purcell, will also be a restricted free agent while the biggest playoff surprise of them all, Sean Bergenheim, will be unrestricted. Same goes for Simon Gagne.

With their midseason acquisition of Dwayne Roloson, the Bolts helped solve what had been a bit of a riddle for them in net. In relief of him, Mike Smith was very solid. Both of them, too, are scheduled to hit the open market as unrestricted free agents. After dealing with Stamkos, that'll be the second priority, figuring out who will be minding the net.

This season, Yzerman showed a bit of a golden touch so early in his career leading the Lightning, so we'll learn further this offseason if he's as good as gold. The Lightning still have a solid foundation, but seeing if he can lock up the franchise cornerstone and getting the players to fit the mold will be something worth watching in the coming months. The good news is the team does start the offseason with a little bit of room under the current cap.

-- Brian Stubits

 
 
 
 
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