We ended last week’s Around the NHL by admitting that the Flyers are, indeed, among the class of teams with nothing to look forward to this season. That column closed with “E-A-G-L…” and, lo and behold, that’s over too. The Sixers are still in fourth in the Eastern Conference and pitchers and catchers report around this time next month.
The NHL season marches on though, and is never short on intrigue. In the past week, we saw some teams do some roster shuffling, one of the greats call it a career, and a great of a different type call a game. Let’s dive in to this week’s Around the NHL.
Nash Calls it a Career
Veteran winger Rick Nash formally hung up his skates last week. The longtime Columbus Blue Jacket and New York Ranger (and very short-time Boston Bruin) finishes his NHL career with 437 goals in 1,030 games played.
It’s hard to say what Nash’s legacy will be. He was the cornerstone in Columbus for nine years, drafted first overall by the franchise just two years after it was founded. He was the first truly remarkable player to lace up for a team that has seen very few of them wear its uniform. His impact was indelible. Still today, you’ll see an endless string of No. 61 jerseys and t-shirts in the crowd at their home games.
As a free agent, he left the team for New York in the summer of 2012. In Ohio, he’d played just four playoff games. In his first three seasons with the Rangers he played 56, reaching the Finals in 2014, but falling short of a Stanley Cup.
The player harbored no ill will towards the Blue Jackets team he’d left behind, and he was rumored to have been discussing a final season with the team before ultimately electing to hang up the skates. A string of concussions had bitten into his playing time over the last few seasons, and to preserve his health, the 34 year-old decided to walk away.
A celebrated goalscorer, he’ll be remembered most by Blue Jackets fans as a player worth showing up to watch during the franchise’s difficult formative years.
Unfortunately, the loss those fans felt when he moved on to brighter lights might be repeating itself, as the franchise struggles with a pair of soon-to-be free agents in Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. Bobrovsky, for his part, was benched earlier this week for mysterious reasons, and has been extremely non-committal when asked if he wants to remain in Columbus.
Teams Shuffle Depth
In a season with so much tumult and inequity, where so many resource-rich teams find themselves in a battle for the top lottery pick rather than a playoff spot, you’d expect there to be some serious transactions. And, to this point, we’ve seen very little.
The league did take some time out on Friday afternoon to ship a bunch of very small pieces around, however.
The Chicago Blackhawks sent defender Jan Rutta and a 7th round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Slater Koekkoek. Koekkoek is 24, four years younger than Rutta, and has shown some NHL potential, but Tampa’s defense is just too stacked. In Chicago, he’ll get a chance to show what he can do with some real icetime.
The Ottawa Senators swapped depth winger Paul Carey to the Boston Bruins for mostly-minor league defenseman Cody Goloubef. The Sens also moved Gabriel Gagne, a 22 year-old forward prospect, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for 23-year-old Morgan Klimchuk, who has been somewhat more productive in his young AHL career and might have an outside shot at an NHL career, especially on a team like Ottawa.
The Pittsburgh Penguins also made minor transaction news, signing their 27 year-old backup goaltender Casey DeSmith to a 3-year, $1.25 million per extension. It’s unclear what that means for Tristan Jarry, their 23 year-old netminder who played 26 games for the club while Matt Murray dealt with injuries last season.
Oh, and Jordan Weal made his Arizona Coyotes debut in back-to-back games against the Alberta teams on Saturday and Sunday.
Snoop in the Booth
The Los Angeles Kings’ season has reached that point where there isn’t much left to watch: The team’s in the cellar, and some aging franchise heroes (see: Carter, Jeff and Quick, Jonathan) might be on the trade block.
So why not have some fun? Bring in a legendary local artist, give him a jersey and a jacket and whatever else, let him drop the puck and hang out in the booth?
Snoop Dogg got the turn this time around, providing a welcome energy to LA’s broadcast during Saturday night’s contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His brief duties on the mic are well worth a watch -- he does a lot more encouraging and reacting than play-by-play. Personal favorite: “Aw, c’mon, nephew!” in response to a broken stick on a point shot.
This isn’t Snoop’s first entry into the hockey world: He memorably performed (unedited!) before the 2017 All-Star Game. His hockey allegiances are questionable, though, having spent plenty of time repping the Kings’ biggest rival, and he famously entered the public consciousness wearing the jersey of Saturday’s visitor.
Regardless, some of the rap legend’s magic seemed to rub off on the lowly Kings, as they beat the Penguins, 5-2.