Game recaps, plus the latest on Marc Staal, Cory Schneider, Brad Marchand, Ted Nolan and more.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Second-period goals by Marc Staal and Chris Kreider gave the New York Rangers a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Earlier in the day, the NEW YORK POST reported Staal had a deal in principle with the Rangers on a six-year, $34.2 million contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The deal hasn’t been officially announced but it is also believed to carry a full no-trade clause for the first three years, followed by a partial clause for the final three years, as well as a no-move when it comes to waivers. This move also puts to rest speculation Staal might join his brothers Eric and Jordan as a free agent in Carolina.
Critics will argue the Rangers overpaid for Staal, but if they didn’t someone else would’ve via the UFA market, where he would’ve commanded over $6 million annually. Getting him for $5.7 million annually is actually a bit of a bargain. It’s a move the Rangers really needed to make, as their defense corps struggles whenever Staal is sidelined. He’s a valuable part of their blueline and they simply couldn’t afford to lose him via free agency, especially when there’s no viable and affordable options to replace him. Staal’s new contract pushes the Rangers’ cap payroll for next season to over $52 million invested in 13 players, with Derek Stepan, Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello among the notable free agents to re-sign.
THE TENNESSEAN: Mattias Ekholm and James Neal scored in the final minutes of regulation to lift the Nashville Predators to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Washington Capitals, spoiling the homecoming of Capitals coach and former Predators bench boss Barry Trotz, who was feted with a video tribute by the Predators during lineup introductions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trotz did a tremendous job helping the Predators become a competitive team for years, and it appears he’s having the same positive effect this season upon the Capitals. He truly is one of the NHL’s best coaches.
NEWSDAY: Kyle Okposo scored four goals to carry the New York Islanders to a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, moving them into first place in the Eastern Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a mirage, folks. Barring a rash of injuries to key players over the remainder of this season, the Islanders are for real. This is the best Islanders roster in over 30 years.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Anaheim Ducks downed the New Jersey Devils 5-1, but the bigger story here is an upper-body injury suffered by Devils goalie Cory Schneider from a high shot by Ducks forward Matt Beleskey early in the first period. Schneider finished the period but missed the rest of the game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Schneider’s injury is serious the Devils can kiss their already-fading playoff hopes goodbye.
NOTE: Games involving Canadian NHL teams are recapped in “Canadian Corner.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE: The NHL has suspended Bruins winger Brad Marchand two games for a slew-foot on New York Rangers center Derick Brassard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the second time Marchand has been disciplined for slew-footing, as well as his third NHL suspension. If he continues his questionable tactics, his suspensions will get longer.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Former Halifax Mooseheads linemates Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon will face off against each other for the first time when Drouin’s Tampa Bay Lightning meet MacKinnon’s Colorado Avalanche tonight.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres coach Ted Nolan is growing frustrated over his players seeming unwillingness to follow his instructions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In the players defense, it’s tough to remain motivated when you’re a club lacking skilled depth with absolutely no hope of making the playoffs this season. Still, Nolan wants his players to compete hard in every game, so his frustration is also understandable.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings GM Ken Holland doesn’t expect injured Wings Jimmy Howard, Johan Franzen, Tomas Jurco, Jonas Gustavsson or Jakub Kindl to return to action until after the upcoming NHL All-Star break.