Game recaps, Leafs re-sign Rielly and Kadri, update on Claude Julien & more in today’s collection of notable NHL headlines.
NHL Playoff Scores
POST-GAZETTE/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Third-string goalie Jeff Zatkoff made 35 saves and Patric Hornqvist collected his first career NHL playoff hat trick to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers in Game One of their first-round series. Zatkoff got the call as starter Marc-Andre Fleury continues to recovery from a concussion while backup Matt Murray remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was forced to leave the game after teammate Marc Staal’s stick blade went through the protective cage of his face mask and grazed his right eye. Though Lundqvist finished the period, he didn’t return for the rest of the match. He will be re-evaluated today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a scary moment when Lundqvist was writhing on the ice in pain. Fortunately, it didn’t appear to be a serious injury. If he’s sidelined for a lengthy period, his absence could be a significant hit to the Rangers’ hopes of winning this series.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues needed just over nine minutes of overtime to get a 1-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks and a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. Blues captain David Backes’ cross-ice pass attempt to teammate Alex Steen deflected off Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and past goalie Corey Crawford.
TAMPA TRIBUNE: Alex Killorn swatted home the game winner to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game One of their best-of-seven opening-round series. Nikita Kucherov tallied two goals and an assist for the Lightning, while Mike Green and Kyle Quincey scored for the Wings.
Notable NHL Headlines
TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs yesterday announced the re-signing of defenseman Mike Rielly and center Nazem Kadri to six-year contract extensions. Rielly’s new deal is worth $30 million with an annual salary-cap hit of $5 million, while Kadri’s is worth $27 million with an annual cap hit of $4.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While it’s a bit surprising the Leafs opted to lock up Rielly for a six-year deal rather than a two-year bridge deal, you’ll be hard pressed to find a pundit or blogger who doesn’t like this deal. Quite frankly, Rielly’s earned it. The 22-year-old continues to improve on a rebuilding club and his best seasons are still ahead of him. At his current rate of development, this contract will look like a bargain for the Leafs in a couple of years.
Kadri’s deal raised some eyebrows, not so much for the annual cap hit as for the term. However, his overall game improved under Mike Babcock’s coaching this season. He’ll be a reliable second-line center for the Leafs.
It’s also worth noting that part of their annual salaries consist of signing bonuses: $2 million annually for Kadri, $2 million annually for Rielly for three of the six seasons. That’s guaranteed money for each player, even in the event of a lockout. Expect to see more contracts structured that way over the remainder of this CBA.
BOSTON HERALD: Bruins GM Don Sweeney and head coach Claude Julien will conduct their annual season-ending post-mortem press conference today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been widely rumored Julien could become the scapegoat for the Bruins missing the playoffs. The fact he’ll be at this presser suggests that’s not a certainty.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets assistant coach Craig Hartsburg is bringing his 27-year coaching career to an end, stepping down to spend more time with his family. “Hartsburg has been an NHL head coach in Chicago (1995-98), Anaheim (1998-2001) and Ottawa (2008-09), and an NHL assistant coach in Minnesota (1989-90), Philadelphia (1990-94, 2002-04), Calgary (2011-12) and Columbus (2012-16).”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before his coaching career, Hartsburg spent 10 NHL seasons as a defenseman with the Minnesota North Stars. Here’s hoping he has a happy retirement.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Sidelined Anaheim Ducks Rickard Rakell, David Perron and Kevin Bieksa hope to return to action at some point in their upcoming series against the Nashville Predators.
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Martin Jones will become the seventh goalie to make his first NHL playoff start in a San Jose Sharks jersey.