Blackhawks

NHL 2016-17 Central Division preview: Can Stars solve goaltending woes?

NHL 2016-17 Central Division preview: Can Stars solve goaltending woes?

CSN Chicago will unveil a preview each day for every Central Division team leading up to the NHL's season-opener. Next up: Dallas Stars.

The Stars saw a 15-point improvement from 2014-15 to 2015-16 thanks to a scorching hot 28-8-3 start in the first three months last season, which helped them capture the Central Division crown for the first time since 1997-98.

Credit that to a high-powered offense that scored a league-high 265 goals, which was 17 goals better than the second-place team. It will be hard for the Stars to match that total, but that doesn't mean they'll rank among the tops in goals scored again.

Their weaknesses began to show down the stretch, however, with a leaky defense and a goaltending tandem that allowed the most goals of any playoff team in the regular season with 230.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016-17 season, Blackhawks fans!]

That needs to change if the Stars have any shot at seriously contending for a Stanley Cup. The problem is, there is $10.5 million committed to Kari Lehtonen ($5.9 million) and Antti Niemi ($4.5 million) through 2017-18, and it's difficult to see any team taking one of those contracts off their hands unless at least one of them has a strong first half.

It's especially tough to swallow knowing goaltenders like Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury could be on the market at the trade deadline with the threat of Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh losing them for nothing during next year's expansion draft.

Losing Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski and Kris Russell hurts a Stars blue line that is figuring out how to patch up playing in their own zone, but the addition of Dan Hamhuis should help take some of the pressure off of young defensemen Stephen Johns and Esa Lindell, both of whom are being counted on to step up in larger roles and are capable of it.

Other previews: Colorado Avalanche

Four takeaways: Blackhawks fall to Red Wings, but there were plenty of positives

Four takeaways: Blackhawks fall to Red Wings, but there were plenty of positives

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday:

1. Dominik Kubalik's big night

The Blackhawks acquired Kubalik's rights from the Los Angeles Kings in January for a fifth-round pick. And this could end up looking like a steal when it's all said and done.

GM Stan Bowman said in April that he expects Kubalik to be a solid offensive player for the Blackhawks this season, and the 24-year-old Czech native showed why.

Kubalik found the back of the net twice in his preseason debut, with the second one displaying his absolute rocket of a shot. That's his strength and he's going to be a player to watch for the Blackhawks this season and someone who certainly helped his case as the team looks to finalize its Opening Night roster in the coming weeks.

2. Hello, Philip Holm

The Blackhawks made a low-key signing in August when they agreed to a one-year deal with Holm, a 27-year-old Swedish defenseman who spent the 2018-19 season in the KHL. He might've been the most noticeable player on the ice in Detroit.

Holm scored a goal, added an assist, and led all skaters with 11 shot attempts (six on goal). He also registered a hit and one takeaway, and logged a game-high 21:58 of ice time. Add him to the list of guys who find themselves among the pool of players vying for everyday roster spots.

3. Robin Lehner and Kevin Lankinen split duties

Collin Delia started and finished the preseason opener in Washington, and the plan was for Lehner to do the same in Detroit but the coaching staff called an audible and decided to share the duties between he and Lankinen.

Lehner started the game and was sharp early on before allowing a goal to Red Wings forward Matt Puempel, which Lehner would've liked to have back. The second goal was a fluky one that was put in by his own player. There was nothing Lehner could do. He stopped 15 of 17 shots for a save percentage of .882, but overall it was a successful debut.

Lankinen replaced Lehner near the halfway mark of the second period and he was immediately tested. He faced 10 shots in the first 7:08, which included a Red Wings power play. Lankinen gave up two goals on 21 shots and finished with a .905 save percentage. He was good.

4. DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw trio effective

The Red Wings didn't dress any of their top players so this should be taken with a grain of salt, but the line of Alex DeBrincat, Andrew Shaw and Dylan Strome showed some good chemistry together. Shaw and Strome each recorded an assist, and the trio generated three scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.

DeBrincat, Shaw and Strome were also on the first power play unit together and recorded eight shot attempts (four on goal) and were on the ice for Kubalik's power-play goal that tied the game up at 3-3.

Note: DeBrincat had an injury scare in the final seconds of the first period when he got the worst of a knee-on-knee collison. He wasn't on the bench to start the second period, but he only missed a shift before returning.

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The NHLPA is continuing its deal with the CBA—here’s what that means

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USA Today

The NHLPA is continuing its deal with the CBA—here’s what that means

It was announced on Monday the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) has decided to continue its contract with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The CBA sets out the terms and conditions of employment for professional hockey players playing in the NHL, according to the CBA’s website. The current agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA was ratified in January of 2013 and is set to last ten years, expiring in September 2022. The NHL and the NHLPA had the opportunity to opt-out of the deal but have decided to remain for the duration of the agreement.

"While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement. "We have been having discussions with the league about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue."

The current CBA came about after a four-month lockout in 2013. Under this agreement, the league has grown in revenue, alongside adding the Vegas Golden Knights to the league in the 2017-18 season. There are plans to add a 32nd team to the league for the 2021-22 season in Seattle.

Why was the CBA under contention? While NHL players have benefited under this agreement, many feel frustrated by the escrow system. Under this system, a percentage of players’ salaries are withheld every season to cover potential owner shortfalls. A portion of this is refunded to the players at the end of season.

Where do the Blackhawks stand on the issue? Captain Jonathan Toews isn’t a huge fan. In 2018, he told ESPN about his dissatisfaction with the escrow system, saying "the No. 1 thing fans don't know about is that we're paying 10 to 20% [of our salary] in escrow every year."

NHL players would also like to revisit the current resolution on international play. Specifically, players would like the NHL to break for them to go to the Olympics. NHL players were noticeably absent from the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, which ended a streak of five Olympic games with NHL players participating. This matter won’t be easy to fix before the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. The NHL will have to make deals with both the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The main takeaway from the NHLPA sticking with the current CBA is that they’re deciding to keep the peace, avoiding another lockout. Fans and players alike will just have to wait and see how the chips will fall in the next few years in the league.

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