Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Final, Panthers ship Gudbranson to Canucks & more in this morning’s collection of NHL headlines.
THE MERCURY NEWS/STLTODAY.COM: For the first time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks are heading to the Stanley Cup Final. Joel Ward scored twice, Logan Couture had a three-point game and Martin Jones made 24 saves as the San Jose Sharks defeated the St. Louis 5-2 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. Vladimir Tarasenko scored both goals for the Blues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from a few shaky moments in the third period, the Sharks dominated this game. Regardless of who emerges from the Eastern Conference Final (Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay), I think the Sharks are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Yes, the Pens and Bolts have players with Cup Final experience (especially the Lightning), but the Sharks overcame some difficult opposition to get this far.
As for the Blues, we can expect another summer of questions about head coach Ken Hitchcock’s future. While he guided them to the Western Conference Final for the first time in 15 years, there was some second-guessing by fans and pundits over his handling of several players, particularly of Tarasenko’s ice time.
TAMPA BAY TIMES/TSN: As the Lightning prepare to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, they need goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to have the game of his life. Meanwhile, Lighting captain Steven Stamkos isn’t expected to skate in Game 7.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t have the best record in Game 7 situations.
VANCOUVER SUN/SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers traded defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for center Jared McCann, a second and a fourth-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reaction on my Twitter feed last night when this deal was announced was overwhelmingly negative toward Canucks GM Jim Benning. I don’t see this as such a bad move on his part.
The Canucks need blue-line depth and the 24-year-old Gudbranson (6-foot-5, 216 pounds) is a skilled, physical shutdown blueliner who’s steadily improved over his five NHL seasons. He’s also on a one-year deal worth $3.5 million, which isn’t a budget buster. The only knock against him is his injury history.
The Sun’s Ben Kuzma suggests this move means the Canucks are parting ways with veteran blueliner Dan Hamhuis. They could also select Pierre-Luc Dubois in this year’s draft, which would’ve made McCann expendable.
In return, the Panthers are getting a promising young center in McCann and an additional pick in the second round of this year’s draft. Mike Matheson’s emergence was also why they were willing to part with Gudbranson. However, I wonder if this deal gets made if Dale Tallon was still the general manager? Regardless, this move could pan out well for them if McCann fulfills his offensive upside. They now have a lot of depth at center but McCann can also skate on the wing.
Also, the Panthers have informed blueliner Brian Campbell they’d like to re-sign him, but he intends to test the UFA market.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Pavel Datsyuk’s agent admits his client received an offer from a KHL team (believed to be SKA St. Petersburg), but he still hasn’t reached a decision as to his future. That’s still expected to come sometime in mid-June after he meets with Detroit Red Wings management.
OTTAWA SUN: Long-time Senators defenseman Chris Phillips is expected to announce his retirement as an NHL player today. He was drafted first overall by the Senators in 1996 and has scored 71 goals and 217 assists in 1,179 career games.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils defenseman Jon Merrill underwent right-shoulder surgery and will be recovering for four months.
NBC SPORTS: Despite the decline in the Canadian dollar, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still expects to see a revenue increase for this season.