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Stamkos, Subban, Hall: Teams make flurry of blockbuster moves as free agency looms

Stamkos, Subban, Hall: Teams make flurry of blockbuster moves as free agency looms

With NHL free agency set to begin on Friday, many teams are not waiting to make blockbuster moves. Tuesday saw a flurry of moves involving big name players.

Steven Stamkos chooses to remain in Tampa Bay

Free agency just got a tad less exciting with the news that Steven Stamkos will be staying put in Tampa Bay. Stamkos was the biggest name on the market in free agency, but the Lightning were able to re-sign him to an eight-year deal for $68 million for a cap hit of $8.5 million per season. The news was first reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie. Craig Custance of ESPN also reports that the deal includes a no-movement clause.

By staying with his current team, Stamkos was allowed to sign for the maximum length of eight years. Had he gone elsewhere, the longest he could have signed for was seven years. There was talk of possibly Tampa attempting a sign-and-trade deal if it looked like they were not going to be able to sign Stamkos, but this deal will put an end to that speculation. Stamkos is in Tampa for the long haul.

In the end, this was the destination that made the most sense. Stamkos is one of the best scorers in the NHL and, at 26 years old, he's entering his prime. Though there has been talk of tension between him and Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, Cooper has made the Lightning a Stanley Cup contender. Tampa came within one win of two consecutive conference championships despite Stamkos missing all but one playoff game. Any of the other teams thought to be in the chase for Stamkos this summer do not have nearly as much talent as Tampa's roster currently boasts. If Stamkos wants to win, Tampa makes the most sense.

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Montreal Canadiens trade P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber

The Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators swapped all-star defensemen as the Canadiens shipped the mercurial P.K. Subban in exchange for Shea Weber, as first reported by Nick Kypreos of SportsNet. The move comes just before Subban's no-movement clause was set to kick in on Friday.

There were a lot of rumors flying around about possible trades involving Subban, but much of the speculation surrounded Montreal's desire to trade up in the draft. The fact that Shea Weber could be on the table caught everyone by surprise, but it's a deal Nashville absolutely had to make.

Weber is a phenomenal player and was the captain of the Predators. He has spent his entire career in Nashville and was the team captain. But how could they pass this up?

Nashville gets Subban, who won the Norris Trophy in 2013 as the NHL's top defenseman, a player who is just as good if not better than Weber, and who is nearly four years younger. Subban's cap hit is $9 million, which is steep, but one in which Nashville can easily absorb after shipping out Weber's hit of just over $7.8 million. Oh, and Weber's contract doesn't expire until 2026.

Subban didn't seem to fit with the culture of Montreal, but the Canadiens may soon regret chasing out one of the top defensemen in the NHL.

Edmonton Oilers trade Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson

The Edmonton Oilers were in desperate need of a defenseman and they got one...at an enormous price. The Oilers announced they have traded former No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Adam Larsson.

Let's be clear. Larsson is a very good defenseman, a promising blue liner who is just 23 years old. After getting the No. 1 draft pick in seemingly every draft for the past 50 years, someone was bound to be the odd-man out and it turned out to be Hall. Edmonton got a bright young talent at a position of need in exchange for a player that was likely not in their long-term plans.

Having said all of that, Edmonton got swindled.

Hall tallied 65 points in 2015-16 (26 goals, 39 assists). That kind of offensive talent is hard to come by and it certainly should have netted them a greater return than just Larsson.

General manager Peter Chiarelli also now has the dubious distinction of having traded the first two picks of the 2010 draft as he also traded Tyler Seguin as the general manager in Boston. How'd that trade work out?

MORE CAPITALS: CAPS OPT FOR LESS GRUELING, MORE COHESIVE PROSPECTS CAMP

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

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Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

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