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NHL Three Stars: Letang plays forever; Lightning wakeup and win

No. 1 Star: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

Letang was a beast for the Penguins in their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals. Due to the injury to Olli Maatta in the first period, the defenseman had to take on extra minutes on the ice. Like an insane amount of minutes - 35:22 in total. In that time he was a plus-2 with 6 shots on goal, 4 attempts blocked, and 1 missed shot. He also blocked 5 shots.

No. 2 Star: Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning

The forward recorded 2 goals and 1 assist in the Lightning's 4-1 drubbing of the New York Islanders. The series is now tied at 1-1 as it heads to Brooklyn. 

No. 3 Star: Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins

The goaltender improved his playoff record to 4-1-1 as he held the Capitals to 1 goal on 24 shots. Check out this series of saves he made.

Honorable Mention: Braden Holtby made 33 saves in the loss ... Thomas Greiss was 27 of 30 for the Islanders. Victor Hedman scored a goal and an assist. Same for Jonathan Drouin who picked up his first playoff goal:

Did You Know? Nicklas Backstrom won 18 of 20 draws, and was 14-1 against Sidney Crosby.

Dishonorable Mention: Brooks Orpik is definitely going to get suspended for knocking Olli Maatta out of the game for his vicious, very late hit. Penguins power play was 0-for-5. No Pittsburgh center was above a 36% success rate on the dot ... Both the Lightning and Islanders power play were 1-for-5. In the final 1:40, both teams started to tussle and took a total of six penalties. All of them minor infractions, but sets up a headed Game 3.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Penguins stifle Capitals offense to draw even in series

Braden Holtby can only do so much for the Washington Capitals. He can't be expected to go out and score goals, too.

It looked like it was going to be a tough night for the Pittsburgh Penguins after Olli Maatta was knocked out of the game by Brooks Orpik on a high, violent hit to the head. It was the young defenseman's second shift in the first period, leaving Pittsburgh to play the rest of the game with only five d-men. Kris Letang picked up slack with an insane 35:22 TOI.

After the game, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Maatta is out indefinitely and will know more on Sunday. He hammered home the hit was late and is something that should be eliminated from the league all together.

Requests to speak with Orpik following the game were declined by Capitals PR; however, Barry Trotz gave his opinion on what happened.

Orpik received a 2 minute penalty for interference. It was the first of five power plays for the Penguins. They were unsuccessful on all five.

The game remained tied at zero through the first period. The Penguins diluted the Capitals offensive attack, and outshot their opponent 14-5.

The first goal of the game came at 7:08 into the second period.

From behind the net, Pittsburgh center Nick Bonino makes a perfect pass to Carl Hagelin alone in the slot. He roofs it past Holtby to give the Pens the 1-0 lead.

The Capitals thought they tied it as Nate Schmidt easily flung the puck past Matt Murray, who was on his belly. The official waved the goal off right away, and gave Evgeni Kuznetsov a goaltender interference penalty.

Kuznetsov sat on the head of the goaltender. That's not allowed.

Pittsburgh held the shots to 14-5 for a second period in a row. Through two periods, the usually offensively dynamic Capitals were credited with only 10 shots on goal.

Things started to change in the third period as the ice tilted in the direction of the Capitals. It started with a questionable penalty call on Kris Letang. 

Washington had been whistled for five penalties to the Pittsburgh's one up to this point in the game. Perhaps this was a makeup call on the part of the officials because it sure looked like Letang and Mike Richards should've both hit the box for this play.

The Penguins had killed off over half of the penalty time on the clock before a scrum in front of the net had everyone, including the goaltender Murray, out of position. 

Marcus Johansson hovered around the crease until the puck popped out, and he banked it right into the net. Tie game at 1-1.

Kris Letang was PIIIIIISSED when he came out of the box. He let the officials have it. (He also lost his helmet several times during the game. For a guy that gets a lot of head shots, he should probably invest in a new chin strap.)

With less than four minutes to go, former Capital, Eric Fehr, netted what would be the game winner.

Evgeni Malkin goes out to the side boards to retrieve the puck. He effortlessly flips the puck in the air to the front of the net. Fehr makes contact with the puck and it knuckles by Holtby.

Washington poured it on to close out the game with 14 shots to the Penguins 7, but Murray came up huge. He allowed 1 goal on 24 shots.

The game for Washington could've been much worse if it wasn't for the 33 save performance by Holtby.

The Penguins evened the series all 1-1 as it shifts back to Pittsburgh.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Maple Leafs draft lottery win doesn't validate tank, says Shanahan

The Toronto Maple Leafs finished with the worst record in the NHL and the League’s lowest point total. This was, of course, by design, as team decided to rid itself of veteran players in attempt to tank the season for a high draft pick. 

“We explained to our fans beforehand that we were going to move some players, move some contracts, and we were going to struggle a bit,” explained team president Brendan Shanahan.

Sure, whatever.

It was a tank, and the majority of Maple Leafs fans were behind it, even with the acknowledgement that literally nothing ever goes right for the franchise and neither would the draft lottery. In fact, the new NHL Draft Lottery rules made it more difficult than ever for the worst team in the draft to secure the first overall pick.

“It wasn’t, in my mind, the best year to have three separate lotteries,” Shanahan said. “But the rules were the rules, and there were no complaints on our part.”

So the NHL Draft Lottery commenced on Saturday night before the Washington Capitals’ Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. One by one, the teams with low odds were told they didn’t hit the lottery. The Winnipeg Jets, slated to pick sixth, moved up to the top three.

And then we finally reached the moment Shanahan, the Leafs’ proxy at the live lottery event, was waiting for: Pick No. 4, with the Leafs, Jets, Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers -- owners of four of the last six first overall picks and winner of last season's Connor McDavid draw -- still alive.

“That was the lowest that we could go,” said Shanahan.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly turned over the placard.

It was the Oilers’ logo on the back.

The hockey world, sans Edmonton, exhaled, as did Shanahan.

“It had nothing to do with the Oilers, but this was the first time in the evening that it was possible I could see the Leafs logo. That we didn’t made me feel very good,” he said.

The Jackets claimed the third pick. The Leafs were announced as the first overall pick, which sent the viewing party back at Real Sports in Toronto into hysterics, complete with streamers:

So the Leafs will likely draft Auston Matthews, the dynamic American center, even though Patrik Laine, the dynamic Finnish winger, is the top selection on many draft boards.

Either way, the Leafs may be getting a franchise player for their rebuild.

“It doesn’t change the timetable, but it helps with plans, for sure,” said Shanahan. “We knew we were going to pick somewhere in the top four, and we knew we were going to get a player that would have an impact. But obviously getting No. 1 certainly helps.”

And strip-mining your team for a season in the hopes of securing that pick certainly helps. So we asked Shanahan: Does drafting first overall validate all the loses, all the frustration? Does it validate the plan?

“I don’t think validated would be the right word, because quite honestly if we ended up with the second, third or fourth overall pick, I still felt that we did what was needed to be done in Toronto,” he said.

“The validation part isn't in winning the lottery, because that's up to fluke [luck]. We’ll feel satisfaction when we’re truly at a point of being a Stanley Cup contending team. It feels good to win the lottery, but I wouldn't go as far as saying it's validation."

As for the lottery itself, it may come as no surprise that Shanahan is a fan of the current format.

“I agree with the concept,” he said. “As far as the optics that it improves around the integrity of the game, I think it’s serving its purpose.”

It certainly did for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. 

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Maatta knocked out of Game 2 after vicious, late hit by Orpik (Video)

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been dealt a devastating blow on defense at the hands of Brooks Orpik. 

Orpik, in his second playoff game since returning from an upper-body injury, delivered a predatory head shot on Penguins' defenseman Olli Maatta. The Washington Capitals d-man made contact with Maatta's head using his elbow/forearm at high speed.

From Ian McLaren:

As the video shows, Maatta passes the puck and continues to watch the play in front of the Washington Capitals net. Well after the puck had left Maatta's stick, Orpik's gaze did not leave the young defenseman as he ramped up for the hit.

Maatta had no idea what was about to strike him as Orpik lunged with full force into Maatta, making contact with his head. The Penguin dropped like a rock to the ice.  

Orpik was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for interference and remained in the game. 

As for Maatta, that was his second shift of the game. He was helped off the ice by teammates, and was clearly dazed. The Penguins insider account Tweeted there would be no update on Maatta until after his game, insinuating his return is unlikely.

This action by Orpik will most likely draw the attention of the Department of Player Safety. Eyes are on DoPS to make up for the lack of punishment Orpik received from the on ice officials.

"It's a late hit. It's a five minute major in my book," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said to NBC's Pierre McGuire in an on the bench interview. "These are the types of hits we're trying to get out of the game. It's a late hit. I know it's a tough call for the refs; there is a lot going on out there, but for me those aren't the types of hits we want to see in our game."

Nearly two weeks prior, Orpik himself was believed to be concussed when a hit by Ryan White sent him into the boards in Game 3 of the first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. He did not play again until Game 1 of the second round.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Maple Leafs, Jets and Blue Jackets earn top spots in new NHL Draft Lottery

None of the Canadian teams made it into the playoffs, but in the end, Canada still won.

The Toronto Maple Leafs had the highest odds of winning the first overall spot, and this time the Edmonton Oilers didn't screw everything up. The Leafs will select first, and are likely take good American boy, Auston Matthews. 

In the revamped version of the draft, the first three spots were drawn. The remaining two spots went to lottery winners: the Winnipeg Jets, who moved up from sixth to second, and the Columbus Blue Jackets who moved up from fourth to third.

Take a look at the odds of each team landing their spot and where they ended up:

Odd of Team Winning 1st Drawing   Results
1. Toronto Maple Leafs 20.0%   1 Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Edmonton Oilers 13.5%   2 Winnipeg Jets
3. Vancouver Canucks 11.5%   3 Columbus Blue Jackets
4. Columbus Blue Jackets 9.5%   4 Edmonton Oilers
5. Calgary Flames 8.5%   5 Vancouver Canucks
6. Winnipeg Jets 7.5%   6 Calgary Flames
7. Arizona Coyotes 6.5%   7 Arizona Coyotes
8. Buffalo Sabres 6.0%   8 Buffalo Sabres
9. Montreal Canadiens 5.0%   9 Montreal Canadiens
10. Colorado Avalanche 3.5%   10 Colorado Avalanche
11. New Jersey Devils 3.0%   11 New Jersey Devils
12. Ottawa Senators 2.5%   12 Ottawa Senators
13. Carolina Hurricanes 2.0%   13 Carolina Hurricanes
14. Boston Bruins 1.0%   14 Boston Bruins

Not sure how this all happened? Here's the NHL's explanation of the selection process overall:

The 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three drafting slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – an expansion over previous years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection only.

Three draws will be held: the first Lottery draw will determine the club selecting first overall, the second Lottery draw will determine the club selecting second overall and the third Lottery draw will determine the club selecting third overall.

As a result of this change, the team earning the fewest points during the regular season will no longer be guaranteed, at worst, the second overall pick. That club could fall as low as fourth overall.

The allocation of odds for the first Lottery draw will be the same as for the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery. The odds for the remaining teams will increase on a proportionate basis for the second Lottery draw, based on which club wins the first Lottery draw, and again for the third Lottery draw, based on which club wins the second Lottery draw.

The 11 clubs not selected in the Draft Lottery will be assigned NHL Draft selections 4 through 14, in inverse order of regular-season points.

The draft itself will take place June 24-25 in Buffalo, New York.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Puck Daddy's NHL 2016 Draft Lottery Live Chat!

It’s Christmas morning in Canada, as the NHL Draft Lottery finally arrives. 

We broke down which teams most deserved to win the lottery, which basically means everyone but Edmonton. We’ll be live-chatting the Draft Lottery beginning at 7:45 p.m., with the draft going off around 8:05 p.m. on NBC (the real one, not the cable one) and CBC in Canada.  

Join us for all the shock, awe, laughs and Hamburger Women!

Live Blog NHL 2016 Draft Lottery Live Chat!

Hockey player breaks leg, gets amazing painted-skate cast (Photos)

When one breaks a limb, one gets a cast. Usually that cast gets covered with illegible scribbles from friends, as we all realize that Sharpies aren’t exactly made for writing on plaster. 

But when one hockey player recently broke their leg during play – getting their foot stick between the boards and the ice, snapping it when attempting to clear the puck – their cousin decided to properly decorate the cast: as a Washington Capitals-influenced hockey skate.

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If you're wondering about the buttom of the cast, "It is indeed a piece of rubber that the doctor attached to the cast so I could walk on it after about four weeks," said the player, via Reddit.

This is pretty awesome, ahem, breaking news.

s/t Reddit Hockey for all of it.

Anaheim Ducks face tough offseason RFA decisions

ANAHEIM, Calif. –  The focus for defenseman Hampus Lindholm is on the ice. Ask him a question about his contract and the pending restricted free agent points to controlling only what he can control. 

“At the end of the day I just want to play hockey,” Lindholm said. “Whenever (a new contract) happens it’s going to happen. It’s not something I’m thinking about right now. Whenever that conversation starts I’ll deal with that then.”

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One day after Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray indicated he doesn’t want to be as liberal as before in giving out long-term contracts or no-trade clauses to his pending restricted free agents, Lindholm still believes everything will work out and he’ll get the contract he deserves.

“I think any player in the league wants security. Whenever we start talking I’ll have to see my options and whatever they want to do with me and what their plans for me are and my own plans for myself,” Lindholm said. “I can’t start talking about something that hasn’t happened yet. Whenever stuff starts going in the right direction I’ll think what my plans are and then I’ll know my place.”

Lindholm is probably the most pressing RFA position player contract Murray needs to complete. The slick 22-year-old Swede is a budding all-situations star who averaged 22:00 per-game and notched 28 points in 80 games. He just finished his entry-level contract.

The other two are defenseman Sami Vatanen and forward Rickard Rakell. 

The 24-year-old Vatanen is a swift skater and an excellent minute-crunching (21:19 per-game) offensive (nine goals, 29 assists) defenseman, but he’ll likely demand a major raise from his two-year $2.525 million contract. Rakell, 22, broke out this year with 20 goals in 72 games but was derailed near the end of the season because of an appendectomy. He’s at the end of his entry-level contract.

If the Ducks are looking to change course to try to make improvements after losing their fourth straight Game 7 at home, both Vatanen and Rakell are more chips Murray could use to add a different piece.

Both said they preferred to stay in Anaheim, but understand it’s not their choice.  

“I mean I really hope I can stay here. I really enjoyed it so far and am really motivated to do more stuff with this organization, so I’m just hoping it is going to work out,” Rakell said.

Added Vatanen, “I hope at some point before this next season I have a contract somewhere. I would like it to be here.” 

Rakell was asked about Murray’s thoughts on long-term contracts and again noted he wants to be in Anaheim for many years to come. 

“I enjoy it here and I think we do have the potential to do big things here, so obviously I want to be here for a long time,” Rakell said. “It’s not really up to me so we will see what happens and hope for the best.” 

Murray said that he’s open all different options based on his budget moving forward, but he hasn’t decided exactly how to plot the course with his RFAs yet. This also includes goaltender Frederik Andersen – arguably his biggest offseason trade piece. 

"To change some things, some people are going to get moved,” Murray said. "You’re going to have to change money around, it what you’re going to do. My budget is my budget. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with that. Our revenues were up a little bit this year, so I get a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I don’t think the [salary] cap is going to move [much], which could be very favorable to us, except we’ve got a bunch of guys to sign. It’s going to take a lot of work and decisions on who to keep and who not to keep."

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

 

Lightning bounce back, take puck and Game 2 away from Islanders

Ben Bishop was pulled in Game 1 of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s series against the New York Islanders. Which was sort of embarrassing on several levels, since it was also a day on which he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy. 

But here’s what happens when Ben Bishop gets pulled: His team usually wins the next game. And the Lightning bounced back to take Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, 4-1, over the Islanders.

“It’s a team thing. The guys played really well in front of me,” said Bishop, who improved to 12-3-1 after being pulled. “We just wanted to get pucks deep. Last game, we had too many turnovers, fed their transition."

It was Tampa Bay’s transition game that fed the first goal, led by a reunited Triplets Line.

It was set up by defenseman Victor Hedman thanks in part to having Cal Clutterbuck and Nick Leddy collide in the neutral zone. Ondrej Palat easily fed a puck to Tyler Johnson, with Matt Martin forced to play defense, and he converted for the 1-0 lead at 6:03 of the first period.

Full marks to Nikita Kucherov, who forced the turnover that forced the Islanders to collide.

“We had a little traffic in the neutral zone there, and Kuch made a great play,” said Johnson on NHL Network, who now has four goals in the playoffs. 

Jonathan Drouin made it 2-0 as he stick-handled in a phone booth, and scored one that Thomas Greiss wanted back:

Nikolay Kulemin cut the lead to 2-1 with a deflected shot on an Islanders’ power play. But Hedman scored a power-play of his own, off of Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan’s skate, to earn the 3-1 advantage. Johnson closed out the scoring with an empty netter.

Like Bishop said, the Lightning played a hell of a game in front of him, as he bounced back with a 19-save effort. They limited the Islanders to three shots on goal in the third period, after a five-shot second period. (That included a seven-minute stretch without a whistle in the third.)

The Lightning smartly held onto the puck more this game, ending with a lopsided possession advantage.

"They had more puck possession in our zone," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. 

The Islanders, meanwhile, played a tentative, pass-happy game. And when they did shoot, Bishop saw it.

"We didn't get in front of him enough. We started the game with power play after power play, and they pressured us all over the ice," said Capuano. "We didn't take his eyes away."

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Frederik Andersen on his NHL future: 'I want to play a lot'

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Frederik Andersen knows he’s an NHL level No. 1 goaltender. Not only has he proven himself as an everyday starter during the regular season, in the playoffs he’s taken the Anaheim Ducks to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.

“Of course, you want to play. That's the bottom line. You want to be in net. When you know you can play, you want to be in net,” Andersen said.

For most teams re-signing him as a restricted free agent in the offseason would be a no-brainer. But the Ducks have a bit of a different situation with their goaltenders. John Gibson was re-signed last September for the manageable salary cap hit number of $2.3 million per-season over the next three years. 

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The 22-year-old Gibson made the NHL All-Star team this past year and had a 2.07 goal-against average and .920 save percentage in 40 games as Andersen, who came into the season as the Ducks' No. 1, dealt with a few different health problems. Andersen finished the year with a 22-9-7 record, a 2.30 goal-against average and .919 save percentage.

Gibson started the first two games of the playoffs, losing both before relinquishing the net to Andersen. 

The 26-year-old Andersen’s two-year $2.3 million contract is set to expire on July 1. While he’s arguably the Ducks’ most experienced goaltending option, he’s also Anaheim’s most valuable trade chip this offseason.

The Ducks don’t need two starting goaltenders and could plug another roster hole by trading a netminder. Andersen will likely command a greater per-year salary than Gibson in his next deal.

“I think when the time comes some decision will be made,” Andersen said. “I like playing here. I know all the guys love having me in the net. I like it here, so obviously would love to play.”

Speaking with reporters at Ducks getaway day, Andersen sounded like a person who didn’t want to leave Anaheim. The Ducks picked him in the third-round of the 2012 NHL Draft and worked with him to help him become a solid NHL netminder. His status won’t change how he prepares for next season if he’s in Anaheim or somewhere else.  

“I've got to talk to my trainers, plan my summer and take it from there,” Andersen said. “It doesn't matter where I'll play. It doesn't matter how I prepare. I have to make sure I prepare the right way and prepare for next year.”

Andersen didn’t sound 100 percent comfortable when asked about sharing the net next season with Gibson again.

“It's possible. Never write anything off. Who knows? It's too early to tell,” he said. “I don't know if it'll happen. We'll see. I want to play a lot.”

General manager Bob Murray understands that both Andersen and Gibson may not want play on the same team next year simply because they both want the majority of ice-time.

“I mean, they’re No. 1 goalies. Any good No. 1 goalie I’ve known in my life wants the bloody net,” Murrsay said. “So, do they want that? That’s an issue. But, they’re a pretty good team. It would be nice, but we’ll see."

Expansion could also play a role in Murray’s goaltending decision. If teams are only allowed to protect one goaltender, he’ll have to trade one to not lose him for nothing. Expansion could happen as soon as 2017-18. 

“We have two very good young goaltenders, and again, you have to remember when you’re talking about this - expansion draft… if we have expansion,” Murray noted.

Even though the decision is tough, it’s a choice a lot of general managers would like to have. But it has to be right for the team and the goaltender. And it sounds that the Ducks embarrassment of goaltending riches has hit a tipping point. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Lady Byng Trophy Finalists: Eriksson vs. Kopitar vs. Barkov

The NHL announced Saturday that Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar, Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson and Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov were finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy, given annually to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”  

The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association voted for the award.

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So which one of these guys will win the Byng?

Why Aleksander Barkov deserves The Lady Byng

From the NHL: 

Barkov established career highs in goals (28), assists (31) and points (59) – nearly doubling his production from his first two NHL seasons combined (24-36—60 in 125 GP) – to help the Panthers set franchise records for wins (47) and points (103) while capturing their second division title. He also established a career high and shared fourth place in the NHL with eight game-winning goals, the most by any Florida player since 2006-07. Barkov’s eight penalty minutes – in 66 games – were a career low and tied for the fewest among the League’s top 50 scorers. He is an NHL Trophy finalist for the first time and the Panthers’ first finalist for the Lady Byng since 2011-12, when Brian Campbell won the award.

Barkov has often combined his high skill level with gentlemanly play. He’s never accrued more than 16 penalty minutes in a single season. This year, Barkov took his game to another level with 59 points in 66 games to give himself more Byng cred. 

Why Loui Eriksson Deserves The Lady Byng

From the NHL:

Eriksson registered 30-33—63, his most points since 2011-12 (26-45—71), while playing in all 82 games for the fourth time in his career. He reached the 30-goal milestone for the second time (also 2008-09: 36), including his third career hat trick and first since the 2009-10 campaign. Eriksson received just six minor penalties and 12 total penalty minutes over the course of the season – only three players who appeared in at least 82 games posted fewer totals in either category. He is a Lady Byng finalist for the second time after finishing third in voting in 2010-11 (w/ DAL). Eriksson is looking to become the first Boston player to win the Lady Byng since 1981-82 (Rick Middleton).

When Eriksson was a member of the Dallas Stars, he received some Byng votes, finishing third in the race for the 2011 Byng and fourth in 2012 Byng voting. This year with the Boston Bruins Eriksson rediscovered his scoring touch with 63 points in 82 games. His 30 goals were the second-most of his career. His 12 penalty minutes were his lowest full-season total since 2011-12. 

“It is a great honor to be considered for the Lady Byng Trophy, an award that has been won by some of the best players of all time,” said Eriksson in a statement from the Bruins. “There are many deserving candidates so to be named one of the finalists with Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov is very exciting for me. Thank you to my teammates and the coaching staff and I appreciate all those who voted." 

Why Anze Kopitar Deserves The Lady Byng

The NHL says:

Kopitar (25-49—74 in 81 GP) led the Kings in scoring for the ninth consecutive season, the longest active such streak in the NHL, to help the team set a franchise record for wins (48). He also ranked second in the League with a +34 rating, matching a career high established in 2013-14. Kopitar totaled only 16 penalty minutes despite pacing NHL forwards in total time on ice (1,690:12) – an average of 20:52 per game. He is a Lady Byng finalist for the second straight campaign after finishing third in voting in 2014-15. Kopitar, who also was announced as a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, is attempting to become the first Los Angeles player to win the Lady Byng since 1993-94 (Wayne Gretzky).

Kopitar was recognized for his gentlemanly play in the past, finishing in the top-10 in voting five times. Kopitar was a finalist last season.

Though Kopitar plays a rugged, physical cycling game, he’s never gotten himself in trouble and always plays clean and within the whistles. In his career, Kopitar’s had just one fighting major – in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Alex Burrows.

Who Wins The Lady Byng?

Eriksson has been one of the cleaner players in the NHL for a long time. Playing in Boston likely gave him more exposure with the voting populous.

Who Should Win The Lady Byng?

There’s no wrong decision with all three of these players. They all played smart hockey with a high level of sportsmanship and didn’t put their teams down shorthanded at crucial points in games.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

NHL Draft Lottery Preview: Who deserves 2016 top pick the most?

The 2016 NHL Draft Lottery, a.k.a. Canada’s Stanley Cup Final, is scheduled for Saturday night.

Please keep in mind that the lottery rules have changed, and that the worst team in the regular season is no longer guaranteed at least the second overall pick. The Toronto Maple Leafs could drop as low as fourth, which would be so very LOLeafs. 

There are three draws: the first drawing will determine the club selecting first overall, the second drawing will determine the club selecting second overall and the third drawing will determine the club selecting third overall.

Once a club is assigned a pick through the Draft Lottery Drawing, it is ineligible for further participation in the Drawing; there will be a re-draw for any pick that otherwise would be assigned to a team that already has been selected.

Everyone got that?

So which teams deserve to select first overall? Here’s a look at the lottery field this year. (Please keep in mind that we’re going with Auston Matthews as the first overall pick, although Patrik Laine could easily end up No. 1 overall here.)

And here … we … go.

14. Boston Bruins

Lottery Odds: 1%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Joe Thornton, 1997. Please remember that next season at Wayne Primeau’s number retirement ceremony in Boston.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Of course not. To paraphrase Bruce Wayne: “If we even believe there is even a 1-percent chance they can win the top pick, we have to take it as an absolute certainty and we have to destroy the NHL Draft Lottery system." (And then, as per Zack Snyder, he murders everyone with guns.)

13. Carolina Hurricanes

Lottery Odds: 2%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: They never have, actually. Eric Staal of the New York Rangers (checks watch … yeah, still with the New York Rangers) was taken No. 2 overall in 2003.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Yes. The Hurricanes are trying to build a winner the right way, with great coaching and a youth movement and analytics and not burning their season like piles of smoldering rubber at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Were that to be rewarded with a top pick, it would be good and just … well, save for the fact that an 86-point team shouldn’t have a chance to pick first overall. The real question: Would Auston Matthews increase or decrease the Quebec rumors?

12. Ottawa Senators

Lottery Odds: 2.5%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Chris Phillips, 1996, back when a Canadian team selected first overall in three out of four years because they were abjectly terrible. No, we mean back in the 90s when that happened.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? We’re torn. On the one hand, this team was so fecklessly mismanaged and has such forehead-slapping ownership that the last thing anyone would want is for a top pick to end up there. That said, Erik Karlsson could use a playmate and the Senators winning would be like sharpening a tree trunk and shanking the Leafs with it.

11. New Jersey Devils

Lottery Odds: 3%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Never, although they did select Brendan Shanahan at No. 2 in 1987 and Kirk Muller at No. 2 in 1984, a year in which the Pittsburgh Penguins iced a bantam team and played a sack of onions in goal but in no way were trying to tank for Mario.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Like the Hurricanes, the Devils refused to tank this season for a transformative pick that could reenergize the franchise post-Lamoriello. Unlike the Hurricanes … they probably should have. So consider this the ultimate test of the Hockey Gods’ desires: If they win, they did it the right way; if they lose, well, at least Matthews won’t muscle in on franchise center Travis Zajac’s ice time.

10. Colorado Avalanche

Lottery Odds: 3.5%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Nathan MacKinnon, 2013.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Yes. Then Matt Duchene gets traded to the Ottawa Senators, helping them, and the expectations are raised for the Avalanche to excel – which they won’t meet, forcing them to hire a coach that can offer some semblance of structure beyond  “let da goalie bail us out.” Of course, one other option is that they draft Matthews, his mother doesn’t want him to play in Denver because of the weed or something, and then an arbitrator decides if the Flyers or Rangers have actually traded for him. It’s in the franchise DNA.

Marc Bergevin, general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, speaks with the media after a meeting of NHL general managers Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

9. Montreal Canadiens

Lottery Odds: 5.0%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Doug Wickenheiser, 1980. Or three spots ahead of Denis Savard. No worries, they eventually acquired Savard. Didn’t cost them much.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Yes. The Canadiens having a crisis of conscience right now, but throw a No. 1 center on that roster like Matthews and suddenly a lot of things change. Well, not the coaching situation, as apparently Michel Therrien is actively blackmailing his general manager. That's the only thing that makes sense. 

8. Buffalo Sabres

Lottery Odds: 6.0%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Jack Eichel, last year. Wait … Edmonton? Seriously? OK then: Pierre Turgeon in 1987.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? There are going to be plenty of people that want to see the Sabres win because they were jobbed out of the first pick by the lottery last season after doing such a glorious job of tanking. But they don’t need the top pick. They have Eichel and plenty more behind him. They’re on the way. Let someone else have the transformative prospect this time. Learn to share.

7. Arizona Coyotes

Lottery Odds: 6.5%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: We’re not sure if this counts, but the Jets 1.0 drafted Dale Hawerchuk in 1981.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Gee, ya think? Matthews is from Arizona and grew up a Coyotes fan. This is like if the NHL expanded to Slovenia and they had the first pick in Anze Kopitar’s draft year. Getting Matthews would be a coup on and off the ice, provided he turns them into winners, which is the only thing that’ll actually create new fans in the desert. It’ll also be great to have a star player who’s a few years older than their next GM.

6. Winnipeg Jets

Lottery Odds: 7.5%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: We’re not sure if this counts, but the Jets 1.0 drafted Dale Hawerchuk in 1981.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Yes, in the sense that the best fans in the NHL deserve to have a blue-chip rookie star lead the franchise to glory for the next decade before he escapes their frozen hell-scape for an American city. No, in the sense that for those of us that would like to watch a U.S. kid star in the NHL, the Jets are on NBCSN, like, negative times.

5. Calgary Flames

Lottery Odds: 8.5%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Never. Sam Bennett at No. 4 last season was their highest-ever pick.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Of course not. They have a Bennett and Gaudreau and Monahan to build around. Plus the world’s a more fun place when Brian Burke is raging against the lottery system. But don’t worry, he’s bringing the same good luck charms to this year’s lottery that he had when the Ducks failed to win the Sidney Crosby Derby. Which is like re-using an snapped wishbone that didn’t work the first time.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

Lottery Odds: 9.5%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Rick Nash in 2002. Requested a trade in 2012.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Yes, yes and yes. The Jackets need a star player and franchise centerpiece. And we’re quite fond of Jarmo Kekalainen, so we’d like to see that whole “trade Johansen, end up with Jones and Matthews” thing work out. Oh, wait, who are we kidding: It’s Jarmo Kekalainen. He’s totally drafting Laine.

3. Vancouver Canucks

Lottery Odds: 11.5%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Never. They selected Daniel Sedin at No. 2 and Henrik Sedin at No. 3 in 1999. Petr Nedved (1990) and Trevor Linden (1988) were also No. 2 overall picks.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? More than anyone else in this draft. The Canucks were mismanaged into the ground by the previous regime, and right now the franchise is basically two ageing Swedish stars holding up the empty husk of a franchise. At this point, they're about as relevant as a Rick Santorum campaign button. They have some players in the pipeline. They need their McDavid.

2. Edmonton Oilers

Lottery Odds: 13.5%

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Five minutes ago.

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery?

Anger

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

Lottery Odds: 20.0% 

Last Time They Picked No. 1 Overall: Wendel Clark, 1985. Wait, the NHL didn’t fix it for them every few years as is established in the league charter?

Do They Deserve To Win The Lottery? Insert deep sigh here: Yes.

The Leafs deserve credit and kudos for one of the most spectacular tank jobs in the history of the League, stretching back all the way to the David Clarkson trade. It’s shameless and hilarious and probably effective. I guess, just once, we can let the Leafs have a nice thing. With the full knowledge that Matthews will be swallowed alive by the Toronto media Sarlacc within three years, his ring-less hands struggling to hold onto to the skiff as Mike Babcock tries to aim just a little higher and shoot its tentacle. (The tentacle in this case is named "Steve Simmons.")

So there you go. Please join your friends at Puck Daddy for an NHL Draft Lottery Live Chat on Saturday night. Go team!

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks

(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here’s J.R. Lind of the Nashville Scene and NashvillePost fondly recalling the 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks.)

(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)

BY J.R. LIND (@JRLIND)

Like most hockey fans of a certain age, I loved The Mighty Ducks when I was a kid. I watched it ... a lot.

What kid wouldn't love a movie about the uplifting Twin Cities high-jinks of a group of under-talented misfits (and a talented but surly star) and their drunk-driving coach?

But enough about the Minnesota Wild.

I am here to put a bow on the season of the Anaheim Ducks, once again the Pacific Division Champions, the NHL version of a beauty pageant’s Miss Congeniality Award, in that it is always awarded to someone who is not going to win the big title. 

Of course, calling the Ducks congenial would be like calling vape-pen-made-flesh Corey Perry an expert in personal hygiene. 

The Ducks, as anyone with a brain and also Kevin Bieksa knows, are the most disliked group of men put on ice since the Discovery mutiny of 1611, an event Shawn Horcoff witnessed.

First there is the aforementioned dollar store hair gel spokesman Perry. In the closing moments of warmups before Game 7 against the Nashville Predators, Perry fired a puck up ice towards the Nashville goal, which, like trying to send your kids to public school or the Ducks locker room without being vaccinated, should be illegal. Perry's shot was gloved away by likable backup goalie Carter Hutton. It was a not unusual situation for Perry, who like itchy dry skin is very irritating during the colder months but disappears come spring. Perry was so averse to the back of the net against Nashville you'd think Pekka Rinne was standing in front of a bar of soap.

Slightly more successful was Ryan Getzlaf, who was able to tear himself away from Blacklist reruns and endless apps at TGI Fridays, the center of Orange County culture, long enough to pot a grand total of two goals against Rinne.  

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 27: Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks gets hit by Mike Fisher #12 of the Nashville Predators in Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 27, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Getzlaf, the most successful person ever expelled from preschool for bad behavior (he was 14 at the time), managed to keep his composure, throwing only 24 tantrums during the series, far below his career average.

Far and away Anaheim's best forward was Ryan Kesler, the answer to the question "Who can make Martin Shkreli seem sympathetic by comparison?".

Kesler, a potential Trump running mate, scored four goals in the series and outside of the inexplicably successful fourth line, was the main driver that helped the Ducks charge back to a 3-2 series lead after losing the first two games at home.

The Ducks would, of course, lose Game 6, because it was impossible for them to lose Game 7 unless they also lost Game 6.  

Given that it was the fourth consecutive Game 7 loss for the Ducks, it was inevitable, if silly, that Bruce Boudreau be fired and go pursue his true passion as a life size matryoshka doll Ottawa Senators head coach.

All the man did, after all, was drag his team out of the morass in which they were stuck during October and November (which was hard with Perry muttering "There’s no place like home" constantly) to win a fourth consecutive Pacific Division title, which is no easy task what with LA faffing around three quarters of the year before sneaking in the playoffs and, uh, Edmonton is in there, too. 

Which brings us back to The Mighty Ducks, which I've left on the table like Chekov's worn-out VHS tape. 

Having seen the original roughly 28,543 times, I know every line, every nuance (note:  much like Ryan Garbutt's game, there is virtually no nuance in The Mighty Ducks). While it was a dim imitation of the original, I was even into the nationalistic and deeply problematic sequel. But after that, I was done.

I know there was at least a third one, where some of the team went to a fancy prep school. Maybe there is a fourth one, where the team is fired in a rocket to take on a team of rich space kids or something. It is Disney, so I assume there is a Mighty Ducks: Singing Hockey Dance Camp. It stars Zac Efron, the Cheetah Girls and John Gibson, because he has to do something useful at some point. 

Anyway, there was no reason to watch. We knew how all the movies would end. The Mighty Ducks would come back, win the big game. Everybody is joyful. And in Minnesota, that’s not easy to accomplish without putting tater tots on top of stewed meat. 

I have to assume this is what keeps Anaheim fans coming back year after year. In a place built on rodent fueled dreams, eventually fantasy replaces reality. It is hard to blame Orange Countians for this mindset, being the setting of the only soap opera that was more realistic than its copy cat reality show

Surely, just once, the Ducks will be like the Mighty Ducks. Win that Game 7. Have a likable roster. Get a decent logo.

But it seems their spirit rodent isn't smiley, it always ends well Mickey Mouse. It's that damn groundhog. And Sonny & Cher are singing again

PREVIOUS EULOGIES

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Detroit Red Wings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Los Angeles Kings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 New York Rangers

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Florida Panthers

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Minnesota Wild

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks

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NHL Three Stars: Ward, Faksa give teams wins with strong thirds

No. 1 Star: Joel Ward, San Jose Sharks

The veteran forward scored the go-ahead goal for the Sharks and also had an assist in their 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round series. Ward faked out Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, then cut to his backhand and tucked the puck into the net for the go-ahead goal midway through the third period that made the game 2-1 in favor of San Jose. Ward’s line also drew the power play that led to the game-winner at the 15:40 mark of the third. In the regular season he’s averaged 0.44 points per-game. In the playoffs he’s averaged 0.72 points per-game. 

No. 2 Star: Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars

The rookie picked up his second game-winning goal of these playoffs with a score late in the third period to beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in Game 1 of the second-round. The youngster also added an assist. Faksa's line scored Dallas' two goals in the game. The Stars have won nine of their last 10 home games dating back to March 17.  

No. 3 Star: Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars

The netminder was steady and solid in Game 1, stopping 31 of 32 St. Louis shots on goal in the victory. Lehtonen showed no ill effects from his previous game when he allowed four goals as the Stars almost blew their Game 6 clincher against the Minnesota Wild in the first-round. In five games this postseason, Lehtonen’s had a 2.01 goal-against average and .925 save percentage. Antti Niemi has played the Stars’ other two games.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

Honorable Mention: Stars forward Antoine Roussel scored a goal. Teammate Ales Hemsky notched an assist as did defenseman John Klingberg … Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored a goal and played 22:46 … St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott stopped 40 of 42 shots on goal in the loss … Sharks forward Logan Couture scored two goals including the game-winner … San Jose defenseman Brent Burns notched two assists. He is the first Sharks defensemen to post three straight multi-point efforts in the postseason … Sharks goaltender Martin Jones stopped 29 of 31 shots on goal. 

Did You Know? The Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars franchise is 24-9 against the St. Louis Blues at home in the playoffs.  

Dishonorable Mention: St. Louis sniper Vladimir Tarasenko played 21:04 but did not pick up a point. In his last four playoff games he has one point and is a minus-1 … Nashville center Mike Fisher was a minus-3 … Preds forward Mike Ribeiro was held without a point and has just one point in eight games this postseason. 

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Friday

Joel Ward's big third period sparks Sharks to Game 1 win

San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward has a longstanding reputation as a clutch playoff performer. Late in Game 1 of his team’s second-round series against the Nashville Predators he lived up to this status. Ward took over, scoring a goal and adding an assist to help the Sharks erase a one-goal third period deficit and win 5-2.

Ward gave San Jose the go-ahead goal with a beautiful breakaway move on Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, faking out his former Nashville teammate then going to his backhand to tuck the puck behind Rinne at the 11:49 mark of the third.

Before that momentum-changing goal, Ward got the primary assist on Tomas Hertl’s power play goal at the 2:37 mark of the third to knot the game at 1-1.

Later in the frame, Ward’s line kept the Predators in their zone and led to a high-stick by forward Calle Jarnkrok on Joonas Donskoi. 

On the ensuing power play Sharks forward Logan Couture deflected in a feed from Joe Pavelski for the game-winner at the 15:40 mark to put the game at 3-1 in favor of the Sharks. Predators center Ryan Johansen scored at the 18:11 mark to bring his team within one, but Couture fired an empty netter just 20 seconds later to ice the game.

The Predators took the lead after Mike Fisher scored a power play goal at the 4:33 mark of the second period, but from that point on it was all Sharks.

San Jose outshot Nashville 27-19 the final two periods and dominated puck possession after Fisher’s score. Their power play, which came into the game as one of the postseason’s best units, finished the contest 2-for-3.

San Jose signed the 35-year-old Ward to a three-year $9.825 million contract in the offseason to add some size and veteran playoff poise. Ward played three seasons with the Predators and in Nashville he started his playoff reputation with seven goals and 13 points in 12 games during the 2010-11 postseason. 

This postseason he has six points in six games. In the regular season he’s averaged 0.44 points per-game. In the playoffs he’s averaged 0.67 points per-game.

Game 2 is Sunday at SAP Center in San Jose. 

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

 

Ducks GM Murray on roster: 'Some people are going to get moved'

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After Friday afternoon's press conference, Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray appeared to have more questions than answers. 

Not the least of those being who will coach the team next year after he relieved Bruce Boudreau of his head coaching duties in the morning.

There will be plenty of time to address the head coaching vacancy, as Murray said, "There’s a bunch of guys out there. This is a huge choice for us. We’re going to take our time; do all our homework."

Instead, we're going to focus the other point of contention Murray brought up often when speaking with the media - the players.

Murray did not hold back when it came to addressing his team's performance in the playoffs outside of what the coaching can impact: "I’d like to know where the heck they were in Games 1 and 2. The players are going to have to answer that in the next four or five days. Where were they? They showed up in Game 7, but where was that passion? That controlled emotion? Where the heck was that? They’re going to have to be held accountable, too."

It gets better.

Murray was asked pointedly about his two best players, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry's, performances in the past Games 6 and 7 over the last three years. (To describe them as 'absent' would be putting it mildly.) 

"There are definite concerns in that area," said Murray. "The core has to be held responsible. They have to be better. Maybe I haven’t been hard enough in the last few years, but they’re going to hear some different words this time."

Whatever those words are, they're probably NSFW.

'The core' Murray refers to is more or less the contracts he is going to have to live with because of the players' no-move and/or no-trade clauses. Leading the GM to quash the idea of moving Getzlaf and/or Perry right out the gate, "They’ve got no trade, no moves [contract clauses]. We have four players with that situation ... that’s one of those things I’ve said: long-term, no trade, no move [contracts] will get yourself in trouble."

Which is somewhat ironic considering he agreed to the four core contracts in question: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, and Kevin Bieska. (Andrew Cogliano and his limited no trade clause could be added to the list, too.)

According to Murray, he was keeping up with the market around the NHL, "It’s what we get forced into. If you follow, and to some degree that’s what happens, a couple big contracts get signed, that what you end up getting pushed into. They expect it, and we all are guilty of [providing] that, but sometimes you’re going to have to push back."

"We may have to adopt a little different philosophy on some of those things going forward, but [the players are] going to want [long-term deals with contract clauses] ... I think I’m at the point where that’s enough of some of those things."

"I can say that now it’s going to be difficult. Some of my younger players are not going to want to hear that," said Murray. "It ends up being not good for the player and the team at some point. I’m not talking about us right now, but when you look at what’s happened in other places, where players get to this point, at certain points, it doesn’t work out good for anybody."

Those young players likely include a bevy of key restricted free agents: Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, and Frederik Andersen. All of whom played integral roles on Anaheim's second half success. Also on the RFA short list are Brandon Pirri and prospect Stefan Noesen (acquired in the Bobby Ryan trade). 

It appears as if the RFAs will be guiding the general manager's decisions this offseason: "We’ve got a sort of strategy here going about the contracts. Our RFAs ... they’re all important."

"We’re going to attempt to answer a few questions right away," said Murray. "It’s never easy because [the player are] never in a hurry to do things, but we’ve got to find out what some people are thinking as far as dollar wise. That will dictate which directions we go."

The goal appears to be to sign all the RFAs they can, but that won't be easy and could lead to more personnel turnover.

"To change some things, some people are going to get moved," said Murray, ripping the band-aid off right away. "You’re going to have to change money around, it what you’re going to do."

"My budget is my budget. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with that. Our revenues were up a little bit this year, so I get a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I don’t think the [salary] cap is going to move [much], which could be very favorable to us, except we’ve got a bunch of guys to sign. It’s going to take a lot of work and decisions on who to keep and who not to keep."

Anaheim's budget tends to be between $8-10 million under the salary cap ceiling. An incremental increase puts pressure on big spenders who might have to let go of assets the Ducks can capitalize on during free agency (for the right price). There is no indication ownership is going to open up the money bags to allow the Ducks to spend to the cap.

Instead, Murray has to look at preserving players that his organization has invested time and money into, and most importantly, see a role in the organization's future. Anyone else outside of that plan is fair game.

"The asset management of our players going forward is everything," Murray said.

"We have to prioritize as a group. It's all I’ve had on my mind since we got beat ... We haven't sat down [as a group]. I have in my mind what I think should happen, but I’ve got people that work for me that are going to want to voice their opinion."

Aside from the RFAs, the team appears to be on the search again for a top line left-winger - at a reasonable price - to play alongside Getzlaf and Perry. Murray laughed as the question was posed to him, "I answer this question every year."

He's not kidding. Ever since the trade of Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, Getzlaf and Perry have cycled through an entire team's worth of forwards attempting to find the right fit.

"So, yeah, a left hand shot, considering our team. It’s amazing. You’re always trying to find a right handed defenseman, and now I’m looking for a left hand shot. That’s kind of different."

Although, the scoring problem is not limited to the pairing of the high paid stars. "We didn’t get enough secondary scoring when we needed it," said Murray.

"We’ve basically got three second [lines] right now. I do not mind playing with three second [lines], if I could get them. For a while it looked like we had it, but it wasn’t there when it counted."

One of the key pieces in that secondary scoring puzzle is Rakell; who was mentioned frequently by Murray as one of the solutions to the scoring crisis. The soon-to-be 23-year-old center/winger and restricted free agent, was fourth on the team in scoring in the regular season with a career high 43 points (20G, 23A).

He was flying until about two weeks before the season ended when his appendix ruptured. Murray acknowledged the loss of a healthy Rakell hurt the team "big time," and the player "never got back to himself" when he returned to the lineup during the playoffs, earning only 2 points in 7 games.

Without saying it outright, Rakell is probably the No. 1 RFA target of the Ducks to get signed early.

Another area of strength appears to be the young defensive corps. "I thought our defense, for a young defense - [Josh] Manson’s injury obviously hurt us big time - did well," said Murray. For the first time since the Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger days, Anaheim was a strong puck possession team.

Bieksa is lumped in with the "core" group of players due to the inescapability of his contract; however, looking at the big picture, the true core of the defense is Cam Fowler. The 24-year-old is signed with the team through the 2017-18 season, and has no restrictive clauses on his contract.

Another player who appeared to join Fowler as a part of the defensive core structure was Simon Despres. He earned himself a five year, $18.5 million extension (with no clauses) set to kick in next season. However, Despres took several hits to the head during the season that caused him to miss a significant amount of time. He never returned to the form of the player that earned that contract.

Murray acknowledged as much and is concerned for his future, "... medical [examinations] are tomorrow. [Despres is] one of the ones I’m going to make sure he hangs around a bit and sees the right people. He got too many shots to the head that were - you saw some of them..." The GM shuddered and shook his head.

As stated earlier, Murray wants sign all RFAs which include two integral defensemen: 22-year-old Hampus Lindholm and 24-year-old Sami Vatanen. The thought of acquiring the rights either defenseman is enough to make other GMs salivate. 

The other looming player question for Murray comes in net.

When questioned why John Gibson was not sent down to play for the San Diego Gulls in their quest for the Calder Cup, it appeared to be a management oversight: "That was one where the trade deadline, we had to do the down and up [to ensure players could play on playoff rosters]. We made a decision, and this, right now, looks like it was another one we should have thought of."

Gibson was awarded a three year contract extension ($2.3-million AAV) set to kick in next year. He struggled in Games 1 and 2 against the Nashville Predators before getting the hook in favor of soon-to-be RFA Frederik Andersen.

The two worked well as a tandem in the Ducks post-Christmas emergence. A tandem is certainly something Murray is willing to consider, "[Assistant GM] David McNabb and I discussed that yesterday before we went in our meeting with the ownership; could we possibly work out those numbers? We’re going to see."

"The opposite side to that question is: do they want that? I mean, they’re No. 1 goalies. Any good No. 1 goalie I’ve known in my life wants the bloody net. So, do they want that? That’s an issue. But, they’re a pretty good team. It would be nice, but we’ll see."

From what Murray said earlier, it's highly doubtful he'll keep both goalies as all costs, vis a vis the Dallas Stars pricey goaltending model.

One thing Murray kept reminding reporters of is the possibility of an expansion draft next summer. He said repeatedly he doesn't know all the rules (which there aren't any official rules yet), but he has to factor that into his decisions. Reminding us also that there is no official announcement on expansion, as well.

There are a few things we know for sure ahead of player exit interviews on Saturday.

First, Murray is fine with Getzlaf keeping the captain's "C," at least, for now.

"I think he’s doing as best he can in that role. I think there’s a lot of things in that room he has to deal with," said Murray. "I think there are some different personalities in that room, and I’m not to the point of doing anything crazy in that direction."

"But when new coaches come in you have to have discussions with them about what they want to do and what they see in the room, so that discussion will happen."

Second, the GM spoke with the press at the Christmas break when the Ducks were in their major swoon, and just ripped the players for their lack of preparation for the season (i.e. out of shape in camp).

When asked if that was a concern for this upcoming year he said, "Don’t worry about that ... I already met with my strength and conditioning guy. Our guys did not prepare very well from last year to this year and the best teams always do."

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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