Sens Alfredsson, Bruins Chara Named All-Star Captains

Written by Brian McCormack on .

Daniel Alfredsson, as expected, will serve as captain of one team at the NHL All-Star game taking place at Ottawa's own Scotiabank Place on January 29th. His opponent, however, won't be Ontario counterpart Dion Phaneuf as some expected.

Instead, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara will serve as the other captain..

Alfredsson, who has spent all 16 of his professional seasons in Ottawa, has 35 points in 42 games, yet ranked second in All-Star voting in an overwhelming fan-campaign in Ottawa. He'll be making his seventh All-Star appearance.

Chara, who played in Ottawa from 2001-02 to 2005-06, went to the playoff four times with the Senators, including an Eastern Conference Final in 2003. He scored 51 goals and 146 points in four seasons in Ottawa. He was nominated for a Norris Trophy in 2004.

The NHL All-Star game will have an overwhelmingly Ottawa-centric feel, with four of the six starters hailing from the Senators and the nostalgia that Chara's position provides.

The Fantasy Draft will be held on January 26th at 8 p.m. With the NHL passing over Phaneuf as captain, is it possible Chara and Alfredsson would choose to draft Phil Kessel last overall for the second straight year, despite this season's success? Wouldn't that be a fun, quirky tradition to set?

This writer thinks so. After all, why would any Senator want a Maple Leaf on his bench?

Click here for the full list of all-stars that will be divided up into Team Alfredsson and Team Chara later this month.

REPORT: NHL Finalizing 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium

Written by Mike Salerno on .

MLive.com is reporting, like we had discussed last week, that the NHL has finalized a deal to hold the 2013 NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. The game will reportedly be between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in the second "Original Six" matchup in the game's six-year history.

Despite reports that Red Wings and Tigers owner lobbied to have the game at Comerica Park, home of the Tigers, the NHL was unwilling to pass on the idea of having over 110,000 fans crammed into "The Big House" for a hockey game.

According to MLive's report, though, Comerica Park will also house a second rink that will host a number of festivities:

To appease Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, a rink will be constructed at Comerica Park. The home of the Detroit Tigers will host other events leading up to the Winter Classic, including the alumni game and possibly the Great Lakes Invitational.

The events will officially be announced at news conferences at Comerica Park and Michigan Stadium in early February, after the Red Wings return from a four-game trip to Western Canada and Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 6.

As a Yahoo! Sports article suggested last week, the Winter Classic will be the only event held at Michigan Stadium, as all the other extracurricular activites will take place roughly 30 minutes away at Detroit's Comerica Park.

The news of the 2013 Winter Classic certainly brings stability to the event for another year after a very late announcement of this year's game between the Flyers and Rangers at Citizens Bank Ballpark. However, the report, if true, isn't met without some concerns.

While the NHL will go to great lengths to provide itself with another signature outing at Michigan Stadium next January, one wonders how things could've been different:


A big crowd in "The Big House"

Obviously, the biggest draw of Michigan Stadium is it's ability to hold upwards of 110,000 fans. It was enough to take the game out of the actual host's home city for the first time. Granted, the distance between Ann Arbor and Detroit isn't much, but it's still notable.

Last year's Big Chill at the Big House between Michigan and Michigan State drew 113,411 fans to Ann Arbor.  The NHL's current attendance record was set in the inaugural Winter Classic at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, which hosted 71,217 for the game between the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. The NHL expects to shatter that record, something they would've been unable to do if they agreed on hosting the game at Comerica Park.

It will also be interesting to see how NHL ice guru Dan Craig performs having to craft two ice surfaces as opposed to one. For his sake, we hope the weather cooperates with him.


Oh, Canada?

The NHL, and more importantly--NBC, had previously stayed away from the Canadian markets, always preferring to have two teams from US cities competing in first five Winter Classic events. Now, with the allure of two Original Six franchises and the thousands of Canadian fans who will flock across the border to see their beloved Maple Leafs play outdoors, they couldn't resist.

But is it the right move? After all, the NHL knows very well that any event featuring a Canadian team will sell out instantly. That's just the kind of hockey-crazed lives our neighbors to the north live. As far as growing the game in non-traditional markets, though, the Winter Classic has failed to deliver thus far.

Given the nature of the game and the conditions needed for a successful outdoor hockey game to be played, namely a chilly game-time temperature, many NHL markets are automatically eliminated from hosting the event, at least for now. Rather than punishing fans in warmer climates, such as Nashville, San Jose, Los Angeles and Carolina, they could celebrate these teams by including them in games in the colder markets.


Just another game?

Another difference with the choice of teams for next year's game as opposed to previous years is the implications it will have on the standings. You can make the argument that at the end of the day it's still a game that's worth two points, like any other on the schedule. But when the Rangers and Flyers played this year, after flipping back and forth for the Atlantic Division lead almost every day through December, it seemed like losing a game to another team in your division would hurt more than most.

Next year, we'll have our first inter-conference Winter Classic. Does that make the game less meaningful? For example, let's pretend the Red Wings and Leafs played in this year's Winter Classic. On January 1, the Red Wings sat comfortably in fourth place in the Western Conference, three points behind the Blackhawks for the Central Divison and conference lead.

 The Leafs, however, were in 10th place in the East, two points behind Ottawa for the final playoff spot. Wouldn't you think that game, even if the Red Wings were hosting it, would mean far more to the Leafs as far as the standings were concerned?


Gearing up for another matchup of "old-school rivals?"

Sure the Leafs and Wings will most likely make for a great game, but it seems as though the NHL is trying to force another "rivalry" on us, like they did with the matchups of Penguins and Capitals in 2011 and the Rangers and Flyers in 2012. Admittedly, it's worked so far.

But to call the Red Wings and Maple Leafs rivals hasn't exactly been accurate since the Leafs moved to the Eastern Conference prior to the 1998-99 season. NBC and the league will certainly play up the fact that both teams are "Original Six franchises" ad nauseum, but is there really any hatred between the two teams, or even between the fans?

Why not include a team like the Sharks, who've met the Red Wings in the playoffs each of the last two seasons? Granted the "allure" of the Original Six matchup wouldn't be there, but it would be replaced by something tangible from the past few years, not historical connections between the teams that have been glorified over the past 70 years.

Setting a precendent to host a future Winter Classic?

We've seen this before. The Red Wings will be the third team to host a Winter  Classic after being the visiting team in a previous year, following the trend of the last two seasons. Could this put the Leafs in position to host the Winter Classic in future years? While the 2014 Winter Classic is already rumored to go to the Capitals, the road team in last year's game at Heinz Field (see, we're on to something here), the Leafs may have their sights set on 2017, their 100th year in the league.

What better way to celebrate 100 years of NHL history than with the league's flagship event? It may very well take four years to iron out all the television rights and semantics, so they'd better start getting to work now.

Goalies Dominate Monday's NHL Action... Except Ryan Miller

Written by Mike Salerno on .

There were six games on the NHL slate last night, a rather heavy amount for a Monday, and we saw at least one display of fine goaltending in every matchup.

There were three shutouts (almost four) in what quickly turned into a league-wide netminder clinic on Monday night. Amidst all the strong play from netminders across the country, two goaltenders were not nearly up to the challenge facing them at the other end of the ice.

Ryan Miller's tough year continued as his homecoming to Joe Louis Arena was spoiled in a 5-0 thumping at the hands of the Red Wings. Miller was pulled after his younger brother Drew set up Darren Helm 4:32 into the second period, just 13 seconds after Todd Bertuzzi stretched Detroit's lead to 4-0.

Miller, who allowed five goals on 14 shots, has seen his save percentage drop to under .900 for the season, the lowest it's been since 2003-04, when he only played in three games. Though he was again the victim of horrid defensive zone play by the Sabres, he was still unable to erase the mistakes being made in front of him.

"It's embarrassing," said Miller. "I got family, friends … everybody came to watch Drew and I play and, you know, at least they got to watch Drew perform."

His counterpart, Detroit's Jimmy Howard, made 27 saves for his fifth shutout of the season. Howard, who's 27 wins lead the NHL, was stellar again, making Miller's fall from grace this season all the more prevalent.

After the jump, we'll take you around the league and highlight some other noteworthy goaltending performances and what Ryan Miller thinks about a potential shake-up in Buffalo.

Is P.K. Subban the New Keith Hernandez?

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

So, let me get this straight... In a game where Rene Bourque makes his debut as a Hab, and the New York Rangers have a completely out-of-character defensive collapse in a 4-1 loss to Montreal, all fans can talk about is a phantom spit?

Really?

After Max Pacioretty put the Canadiens up 2-1 with his second (first unintentional) goal of the game, Subban appears to spit on Rangers defensemen Michael Del Zotto as he skates back to the bench.

At this point, Tonight's Healthy Scratches is proud to present you with our honorary detective to help clear this matter up. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jerry Seinfeld!

When asked about the controversial loogie, both Michael Del Zotto and Subban were just as shocked as Newman and Kramer:

 

One would think that one spitting incident would be enough for one weekend within a franchise, right? HA! Wrong!

Before P.K. could even snort up his loogie, recently exiled Sean Avery was already in hot water in the media, over alledgely spitting at his new coach, Ken Gernander.

Rumors surfaced when it was announced that Avery was scratched from the Whale's tilt agains the Norfolk Admirals on Friday night for "disciplinary reasons."

The Rangers then strongly refuted the allegations that Avery had spit on Gernander, thus closing the case.

I mean, hey, maybe Avery is a strong believer in Wachati culture? Everyone immediately begins to chastise poor Avery, when all he was trying to do was show how honored he was to be a member of Gernander's team. Jeez, give the guy a break for bringing some culture to the AHL!

Are We Seeing Zach Parise's Last Days As A Devil?

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Prior to the start of this season, when the Devils named Zach Parise their ninth captain in team history, it was looked at as the first step in the long process of keeping the 27-year old American winger in New Jersey for the long haul.

Parise, after all, had become the name on everyone's wishlist for next summer's free agent period, similar to Brad Richards was to so many this past July. Through three and a half months, Parise and the Devils are back in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, determined to erase last year's dramatic fall from the pillars of the league's elite.

But now, with the trade deadline looming, teams have begun lining up to bid for Parise's services, leaving general manager Lou Lamoriello with a tough decision.

CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio reported yesterday that Parise's agent, Wade Arnott, would be happy to negotiate during the season, but so far Lamoriello has stuck to his strict policy of waiting until the offseason.

New Jersey's stern general manager, who's been set in his ways that have produced multiple Stanley Cup champions, now runs the risk of losing the only time he's got to negotiate alone with Parise, before a gaggle of other teams start making phone calls.

It's not likely the Devils will trade Parise in the midst of a playoff run, but their financial troubles have put them in a bind that makes it nearly impossible to outbid other teams for free agents, especially with Ilya Kovalchuk's contract on the books for another 300 years.

Rich Chere of The Newark Star-Ledger has been following the progress of this story throughout the season and recently spoke to Parise about what exactly it would take to get him to re-sign:

“I think in my situation you have to look down the road,” Parise said. “What’s happened, the lack of us doing well in the playoffs the last few years, is irrelevant. I have to look past that and look at how are we building for the future?

“We made some mistakes before. We lost some series we should’ve won. But what do you do now? It’s about how we’re going to do in the next few years.”

A quick glance at New Jersey's expiring contracts suggest that Parise may not be the only one on the move shortly. Both goaltenders, including future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur, will be unrestricted free agents this summer, followed by Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac after the 2013 season. The team's future is full of unknowns, something that may cater to Parise's interest in signing elsewhere.

Earlier last week, Eric Duhatscheck of The Globe and Mail reported that dollar amounts are also paramount to Parise, and with the Devils well-documented financial problems, it may force Lamoriello's hand into trading his star winger to ensure he gets something in return.

Duhatscheck says the Red Wings could be willing to throw a five-year contract worth up to $8.5 million annually for Parise to play alongside another one of the league's premier talents in Pavel Datsyuk.

That's right, stick that in your NHL 12 simulator and see how close the Red Wings come to 82-0.

Other teams that may be in on Parise include the Wild and Kings, two teams that were beaten out by New Jersey in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes two summers ago. The Islanders, given their history with Zach's father J.P., will certainly throw their hat in the ring as well, though their own money problems will most likely keep them from being a serious threat to land him.

If the Devils don't begin negotiating with their captain soon (as per the current collective bargaining agreement they could as of January 1), they will run the risk of having to compete with nearly every team around the league, a race they're definitely not fit enough to win.

Isles' DiPietro Season Likely Over

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

Roses are red,

Violets are Blue.

Rick DiPietro's hurt.

Shocking news from the New York Islanders late last night: Goaltender Rick DiPietro will most likely miss the remainder of the season.

The normally impervious oft-injured netminder has been on injured reserve for the past month, after suffering a groin injury in a game against the Stars back in early December.

With hopes of his latest injury healing itself with rest, the Islanders' medical staff discovered it was more serious than first thought, opting for DiPietro to undergo sports hernia surgery some time next week.

Ever since signing his monstrous 15-year, $67.5 million deal back in 2006, the 30-year old netminder has been hit with more injuries than pucks. And sometimes the pucks even cause injuries!

At the time of the contract, the then 25-year old budding star was looked at as the face of the Islanders' franchise for years to come. After all, they did trade away a 20-year old Roberto Luongo in order to commit to making DiPietro the No. 1 overall selection in the 2000 NHL Draft. DP was coming off a 30-win season, his second as the official starting goalie for the Isles, and was also the United States starting goaltender at the '06 Olympic Games in Torino.

His injury list, although prevalent, was nothing too out of the ordinary, for an NHL goaltender. A tweaked knee here, a headache there; nothing that could have foreshadowed the following five years.

On the heels of Alexei Yashin's disastrous contract with the Islanders, it was mind-blowing that newly-appointed (and former backup to DP) GM Garth Snow's first major move, would be to ink DiPietro to a deal that would pay him until he was 40-years old.

Oh, if Marty McFly could have only gone back to Uniondale on September 12, 2006...

Flyers, Leafs Talking Trade: Two Schenns in Philly?

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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TSN and The Philadelphia Daily News are reporting trade discussions have been ongoing between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers with regards to a pair of marquee players.

The proposed deal would send Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, the fifth overall selection in the 2008 NHL Draft and brother of Flyers rookie Brayden Schenn, to the Flyers in exchange for third year forward James van Riemsdyk, who was taken second overall by Philadelphia in the 2007 NHL Draft.

The deal makes sense for the Flyers, who are in serious need of defensive depth due to the nagging injuries to Kimmo Timonen and the concussion that ended Chris Pronger's season.

Further, the emergence of rookie Sean Couturier and Matt Read in Philly has made van Riemsdyk, who has only four goals and eight points in his last 20 games, expendable.

Prior to training camp this summer, the Flyers inked van Riemsdyk to a six-year extension worth $25.5 million. The expectation after his signing was that he'd be in Philadelphia for the forseeable future, but that's what everyone thought about Jeff Carter and Mike Richards too.

Schenn has been under the microscope in Toronto since his arrival and has seen a dramatic drop in his ice time this season. A lack of secondary scoring in Toronto may offer enough pressure for Burke to take a chance on the struggling van Riemsdyk.

The Leafs have gotten strong defensive play from rookie Jake Gardiner and have seen Dion Phaneuf return to the all-star caliber of play they expected when they acquired him from Calgary in 2010.

The Scratches will continue to update this story throughout the day as more information becomes available.

Short-Sighted Flames to Face Long-Term Problems

Written by Brian McCormack on .

"Iggy is going nowhere and we are going for it."

That's what Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun following last night's trade with Montreal primarily centered around Mike Cammalleri's return to Calgary and forward Rene Bourque's departure to the Montreal Canadiens. If you're a Flames fan, you're probably wondering something along the lines of "Going for what?!"

Okay perhaps with some profanity sprinkled in. After all, it's been a long time since you've seen your beloved Flames win a playoff series. 2004 must seem like it was, well, eight years ago.

Now, nestled comfortably in 12th place in the Western Conference and having played more games than anyone other than Colorado and conference-leading Vancouver, the Calgary Flames were screaming to be blown up and started from scratch, a move that should have occurred during Darryl Sutter's tenure.

But with defiance, the Flames, who feature the league's fifth-oldest average roster, will continue on in their quest that will ultimately undermine their draft standing this June and set the stage for some serious decisions to be made over the summer.

The Flames currently find themselves in the midst of a three game win streak. This is hardly surprising. After the first week of December the Flames pulled off a three game winning streak, followed by a four game losing streak, followed by a four game winning streak... followed by a five game losing streak. The current streak is anything but convincing. And their -17 goal differential is thirteenth in the West.

The Flames looked to be likely sellers, as they did last spring, but once again will not concede to the fact that they are not built for a Cup, despite the league's third highest payroll.

The Flames certainly improve offensively with the addition of Cammalleri, who had his best career season in 2009 with Calgary, a season which earned him a mega-deal from the Canadiens. Cammalleri hasn't achieved that same success since landing in Montreal, working through injuries and, this season, only managing 22 points through his first 38 games.

But even if the change of scenery sparks Cammalleri, it is not reasonable to expect the offensive production in Calgary to spike that much. Only Jerome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, and Curtis Glenncross have more than 30 points.

With an aged roster, poorly constructed yet with several coveted players, the Flames would have been well-served to blow up the roster several times. Iginla is still a big-game player with leadership skills to go with his offensive punch, and with teams like Nashville, St. Louis, and LA in need of scoring, with some solid prospects, Iginla would attract numerous phone calls.

Jokinen and Glencross are having comparable season to Iginla. Glencross would be a good addition for several deadline teams at a reasonable price, as would Alex Tanguay, for third-line depth. Jokinen would be a tougher sell, due to his lack of success in other cities and a face-off percentage barely over 40%.

The most movable asset was Bourque. Bourque added goal-scoring to his repetoire over the last two seasons, scoring 27 goals each, which combined with his size on the wing was very appealing and made him a deadline fixture the last two years. Now Feaster has made the mistake of trading one of his two best pieces in a win-now move for a team that can't win now, and that does little for the future.

The Flames' system doesn't host an overwhelming dose of star-power either. Markus Granlund, who had a strong showing with seven points in seven games at the World Juniors earlier this month for Finland, was Calgary's second round pick this past June and has a very promising future.

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However, he still has yet to play professional hockey in North America and will have an adjustment period. He can't be expected to be of great impact come October.

Last years first rounder, Sven Bartschi, is one of the more exciting prospects for Calgary with 54 points in 25 games for Portland of the WHL. After Granlund and Granlund, the herd thins. Players like TJ Brodie, Greg Nemisz, and John Ramage certainly seem a ways off from being top unit contributors on an NHL roster.

So how do you respond to an aging, losing team with top-tier, NHL-ready prospects that can be counted on one hand? Common knowledge says you deal your most attractive pieces, take your lumps, accrue the best prospects the market has to offer, and pile up your picks for what appears early on to be a very promising draft, particularly for defenseman.

Montral made that realization in this deal, gaining Bourque, a second-round pick, and freeing up the cap space necessary to sign PK Subban and Carey Price long term.

Feaster has instead decided not only to go down with the ship, but to punch holes in the lifeboats. Calgary as presently built can only hope to put their nose to the grind and fight for a seventh or eighth seed in the west, to once again be good enough only to just miss the playoffs and settle for another draft pick in the mid-teens.

The Flames are ill-equipped and underachieving, making Feaster's remark of "We're going for it!" about as inspiring as when Robert E. Lee said it at Gettysburgh.

Three Michigan High School Coaches Fired Over Hazing Incident

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Three coaches from Howell High School in Michigan have been fired and the team's season put on hold due to an alleged hazing incident that included players parading around in women's underwear on a recent school-sponsored road trip.

Head coach Randy Montrose, who was in his 10th season coaching at Howell, and his two assistants were let go by the school after photos of the players in women's bras and panties at a bar in Marquette, Michigan were brought to their attention, according to a local news report.

According to Montrose, the incident in Marquette was not a form of hazing high school athletes, but rather team tradition. The school failed to see it his way, though.

"You work at building a program for 10 years and get the respect of kids and parents," Montrose told a Detroit news outlet. "It's difficult. It's not hazing. This has been something like a right of passage. It's been done voluntarily by the boys. It's more like team building."

For now, Howell, who sits in first place in the Kensington Lakes Activites Association West Division with a 7-0-1 league record and 9-2-2 overall mark, is forced to put their season on hold until a new coach is hired.

"I don’t feel that I’ve done anything wrong with these boys at all, and I think everyone one of them here would tell you the same thing," he told WXYZ-Detroit.

That same news station, 7 Action News, has obtained two photos that have been used with the permission of the parents of the players:

One of the teens shown in the pictures is wearing a dress and a wig. A second teen featured in a photo is wearing nothing but shorts and boots. 7 Action News has been told the rest of the team was wearing similar clothing and paraded around a bar in Marquette across from the hotel the team was staying at.

“I had a girl’s bra on and some shorts,” said Keiffer Roth, a sophomore. The hockey player said that everyone thought it was funny and no one complained or felt uncomfortable.  Each teen performed a skit or song and awards were given out. Most of the parents of the players were there, including Roth’s father Jim.

“I asked and he said, well dad I want to do it and no one is forcing me to do it. As strange as strange as it was, it was just clean fun,” said father Jim Roth.

The decision to fire Montrose and the other coaches has been an unpopular one among many hockey parents and players.  Dozens attended a meeting earlier in the evening at the high school where police were called for crowd control.  Montrose put in ten years with the hockey program and he had hoped it would have been more.

Despite having the support of his players and their parents, Montrose will reportedly not fight the school's decision to relieve him of his duties.

The Highlanders sustained and enjoyed a high level of success under Montrose, earning multiple berths in the state finals before being crowned KLAA champions last season. Dating back to the 2002-03 season, Howell was 164-68-26 with Montrose as head coach.

UPDATED: Habs Cammalleri Traded Mid-Game Back To Calgary

Written by Mike Salerno on .

UPDATE 10:09 p.m.: It's been confirmed that the goaltender heading to Calgary along with Cammalleri is Karri Ramo. Ramo, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2004 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, has played in 48 NHL games over parts of two season with Tampa Bay.

After having his rights dealt to the Canadiens in 2010, Ramo has spent the past three seasons playing for Omsk Avangard of the KHL.

UPDATE 10:01 p.m.: According to James Duthie on Twitter , Cammalleri has been traded to the Calgary Flames for Rene Bourque. Cammalleri is going back to the team he scored 39 goals for in 2008-09.

The Canadiens trade one troubled winger for another, as Bourque is currently serving a five-game suspension for elbowing Capitals Nicklas Backstrom.


In the middle of tonight's Canadiens-Bruins game, Mike Cammalleri was pulled from the Montreal bench, told he was traded and sent back to the team hotel in a cab.

As the report spread through the rest of the bench, the team started to ask coaches where he was traded. Nobody knew, including Cammalleri himself. Pierre Gauthier's circus continues to operate nightly in Montreal. No word yet on his destination, but stick with THS for the latest.

Earlier this morning, Cammalleri blasted his team's effort of late, saying the team "plays like losers."

“I can’t accept that we will display a losing attitude as we’re doing this year,” he told NHL.com and La Presse. “We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it’s no wonder why we lose.”

Though it wasn't an indictment of just his teammates, Cammalleri took on a fair amount of blame himself, it didn't exactly come across as a motivational talk with the media. Safe to say, he didn't make any new friends in the dressing room. Now comes news that he was yanked mid-game against their biggest rival to be shipped out of town.

“When you display a losing attitude like we do now, you lose more often than you win and you stay in the same place,” he said. “When you show a winning attitude, you are not stifled by mistakes and you respond to a mistake with 15 good plays at the other end, you win and you get out of misery.

“This is not what we’re doing here now.”

Cammalleri has been one of the Habs worst underachievers this season for what he's being paid. In 38 (and a half, if you count tonight) games, he's scored only nine goals and added 13 assists. Not the greatest numbers for a player who carries around a $6 million cap hit annually and is signed through 2013-14.


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