A fresh sheet of ice in the dog days of the NHL offseason.
Summer Showcase Recap: Rasanen, Liljegren and Greenway in action (MLHS)
With both Erik Brannstrom and Rasmus Dahlin out, Timothy Liljegren was front and center on Sweden’s blue line, playing on Sweden’s top pairing again with Linus Hogberg, the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2016 fifth round pick. The game started off a little rocky with a turnover that nearly led to a USA goal, but he quickly found his groove and showed why he was so highly rated at the start of last season. He showed great poise and was silky smooth when lugging the puck up the ice; his transition game was on point throughout the 60 minutes, exiting the defensive zone and entering the offensive zone with a great deal of poise. Liljegren also put five shots on goal this game, which was tied with Oskar Steen for the most on Team Sweden.
NHL Top 25 under 25: Marner’s strong rookie season ranks him No. 17 (SBN)
Marner put up 61 points in 77 games with 19 goals to his name in the 2016-17 season. His 61 points on the year put him in a three-way tie for third place on the Maple Leafs team leaderboard and his 42 assists were tops on the team, which set a Toronto rookie record. It was an astonishingly good year for Marner in his first NHL season, and his addition on the second line with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak were just as deadly as Toronto’s first line. In fact, the line of van Riemsdyk, Marner, and Bozak led the NHL with 48 even strength goals this past season, according to Left Wing Lock.
Broda, Maple Leafs conquered ‘Battle of the Bulge’ in 1949 (NHL.com)
“We have the best hockey public in the world and we’re going to dish out the hockey it wants to see,” Smythe said. “If the players don’t come through, they won’t be traded. They’ll sit on the bench. I’m not going to let them loaf at the expense of some other teams. We’ll let them try buying their own roast beef for a change.” Smythe’s outburst reverberated across Canada and parts of the United States, and soon the Battle of the Bulge became a cause celebre.
Matthews can be even better for Maple Leafs, says Babcock (NHL.com)
“He’s a competitive guy and he expects to take a step this year and we do as well,” Babcock said between games at the World Junior Summer Showcase on Sunday. “I don’t measure guys by points, I measure guys by how they play and how they compete every day and how much better they get in their determination. We’re excited to see what he can do. He feels he’s a real good player and wants to be one of the best players in the game.”
2017 Top 25 Under 25 #23: Eemeli Rasanen (PPP)
Rasanen has some genuinely exciting tools: obviously he’s big, he’s fit, he can shoot, and his defensive instincts are improving all the time. Prospects as new and raw as Rasanen are mostly about dreaming of what could happen, so let’s dream a little: the best case scenario has Rasanen as an absolute terror of a shutdown defenceman. And not for nothing, but remember—he shoots right.
[Paywall] Why Marleau signing pushes Leafs into win-now mode (The Athletic)
In the short term, Marleau adds offensive punch — speed, passing, zone entries and the ability to create his own shot. His defensive ability is all but gone, so he’ll need to be insulated with defensively responsible teammates. The Leafs have those types available. In the long run, the Marleau deal is a big-money gamble. Even elite players fall off eventually, and the aging ex-Shark is in the twilights of his career. His contract is pricey and locked-in with full no-movement protection. If Marleau’s play falls off a cliff, and that could realistically happen any time, this deal will feel like an anchor very quickly.
Tavares keen on remaining with Islanders (TSN.ca)
Tavares isn’t tipping his hand on contract discussions with the New York Islanders this summer, but maintains he wants to remain with the only National Hockey League team he’s ever played for. “I think I’ll just keep that all internal,” he told TSN at Connor McDavid’s Power Edge Pro camp in Toronto on Tuesday. “We’ve had great open communication, it’s obviously a great place to play, I’ve enjoyed my time being an Islander and I want that experience to continue. “For me, I just want to get ready for the upcoming season and work on being the best player I can be for the Islanders.”
John Tavares, John Tortorella and NHL on NBC (Puck Daddy)
If you’re the Islanders and you’re not sure you can get him re-upped by, like, U.S. Thanksgiving, I think you gotta pull the trigger on a trade. It’s a trade you’re basically guaranteed to lose, since Tavares is like the seventh- or eighth-best center in the league and no one would even be able to give you fair value if they wanted to. But if it’s “Take the ‘L’ and make a trade that basically engenders a blow-it-up philosophy” or “Take the ‘L’ when he signs somewhere else on July 1 and get nothing back,” there’s no way to justify the decision.
Stamkos expected to be ready by Lightning training camp (PHT)
Back in November, he underwent surgery on his knee, which essentially derailed his 2016-17 campaign. The good news is that all signs point to Stamkos’ rehab going quite well, according to Joe Smith, who covered the topic in a mailbag for the Tampa Bay Times. Smith included a short-and-sweet update from Stamkos’ agent. “He’s doing great,” agent Mark Guy said. “No issues.”
Francis delivers another masterstroke, locks up Pesce to six-year extension (THN)
This past season, Pesce’s second full year in the NHL, his average ice time jumped by nearly three minutes per game and his responsibility went through the roof. He took on high-quality minutes in his sophomore season, often facing off against the other team’s top line and taking the second-highest slant of defensive-zone starts among the rearguards. In fact, the only Hurricanes defender to face tougher competition while starting more often in the Carolina end was Jaccob Slavin, who just so happens to be Pesce’s defensive partner. The two were nearly inseparable, skating more than 1,000 minutes together at 5-on-5 and forming one of the league’s best defensive pairings.
NHL 2017-18 schedule: 10 best nationally televised games of the season (SBN)
The NHL Stadium Series heads to Annapolis for a game between Toronto and Washington at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in early March. It’s the start of a partnership between the league and the military that could see additional outdoor games played at other locations in the future. But more importantly, we’ll get the chance to see Matthews vs. Alex Ovechkin under the bright stadium lights.