Flyers

NHL Notes: Jack Eichel, Sabres reportedly negotiating 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Jack Eichel, Sabres reportedly negotiating 8-year contract

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A person familiar with negotiations tells The Associated Press the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel are discussing a contract extension that could run the NHL maximum eight years.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity on Wednesday because the talks have been private since formal negotiations began a little over a month ago.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula declined to assess the status of negotiations except to say no deadline has been set and that both sides are committed to reaching a deal.

"I can tell you this, We want Jack and Jack wants to be in Buffalo," Pegula said during a news conference at the Buffalo Bills training camp site in suburban Rochester. Pegula also owns the Bills.

In a text to The AP, Eichel's agent Peter Fish wrote: "We are talking and I would say that we will be continuing to talk" (see full story).

Wild: Granlund says team ‘can do some damage’ in playoffs
This offseason for the Minnesota Wild was never going to be about making major additions.

This was simply the summer of maintenance and sustenance, with a new contract for Mikael Granlund one of the biggest priorities.

Now that Granlund has agreed to the deal, for $17.25 million over three years, the dynamic Finnish forward has his focus on a much deeper push by the Wild through the playoffs. Performing up to the value of the contract is not his concern.

Even without obvious roster upgrades after a five-game loss in the first round to St. Louis, the strength of the core that fueled a top-five finish in the NHL regular season has not diminished.

"There's always something to prove, but I think the biggest thing is as a team I really want us to make a deeper playoff run," Granlund said Wednesday on a conference call. "Obviously we need to make it to playoffs first, but I think we have a really good group of guys and we can do some damage" (see full story).

Penguins: Preseason game moved from ‘Hockeyville’ winner
PITTSBURGH -- A suburban Pittsburgh ice rink that won the right to host a Pittsburgh Penguins preseason contest will instead have to settle for a ticketed practice by the Stanley Cup champions after the facility was deemed unfit to host an NHL game.

Rostraver Ice Rink in Belle Vernon -- about 20 miles southeast of Pittsburgh -- won an online contest sponsored by Kraft to receive $150,000 worth of arena upgrades as well as a preseason game between the Penguins and the St. Louis Blues on Sept. 24.

Kraft announced on Wednesday it was moving the game from Rostraver Ice Rink to the Penguins' practice facility in Cranberry -- about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh. Members of the Belle Vernon community and youth hockey players from Rostraver Ice Garden will receive the majority of the game tickets.

The rink will still receive the upgrades. The Penguins will hold a practice at Rostraver on Sept. 24 as part of four days of festivities. Pittsburgh plans to bring its game-night entertainment operation -- including music, videos, anthem singer Jeff Jimerson, P.A. announcer Ryan Mill and the Penguins Ice Crew -- to a Rostraver youth hockey game that week.

Flyers weekly observations: Wayne Simmonds' trade deadline audition, Cam Talbot deal, more

Flyers weekly observations: Wayne Simmonds' trade deadline audition, Cam Talbot deal, more

The Flyers are 12-1-1 with 25 points and a plus-18 goal differential since Jan. 14.

They have passed 13 teams after residing in the NHL basement on the morning of Jan. 13 with 38 points.

Twenty-three games remain in their playoff pursuit, which had the Flyers six points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot entering Monday.

With all that said, let's get into our weekly observations:

• It looks like Wayne Simmonds has himself audition time Tuesday night.

TSN's Darren Dreger reported in late January that the NHL-leading Lightning had inquired about Simmonds.

What do you know, here comes Tampa Bay visiting the Wells Fargo Center less than a week before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. The Lightning will get a firsthand look at the 30-year-old power forward who is Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher's biggest decision ahead of next Monday.

A game won't completely sway Tampa Bay one way or the other. However, say Simmonds scores a goal, puts his toughness and net-front prowess on display, it wouldn't hurt the Lightning's interest (and potential offer) to solidify a Stanley Cup run.

Former Lightning and Flyers player Vinny Lecavalier had this to say about Simmonds to The Athletic's Joe Smith:

He protected me in two line brawls. He's just a great teammate. He's not afraid of anybody.

Not a bad quality to have when you'll be the No. 1 target in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

• The Cam Talbot trade made perfect sense for the Flyers.

If Carter Hart is the Flyers' No. 1 of the future, then Anthony Stolarz is at best their backup. The 25-year-old has overcome a lot but his track record of knee injuries was a concern and there would have been challenges in retaining him (see story).

"Obviously there's a decent probability he'll be an unrestricted free agent, or at least would have been if he stayed with us," Fletcher said last Saturday.

So the Flyers capitalized on Stolarz's positive stock by acquiring a 31-year-old goalie with experience as a No. 1 and No. 2, who can help now and possibly down the road. With Talbot compared to Stolarz, they actually have more flexibility (see story).

"Every summer there are goaltenders available," Fletcher said. "I think this is an opportunity for us to evaluate Cam down the stretch and see if there's a fit. As importantly, hopefully give us a boost as we continue to push for a playoff spot."

• The relationship between Talbot and Hart has been well-documented.

Talbot, who has become a mentor for Hart, offered a noteworthy quote last Saturday on the 20-year-old sensation:

It started a couple summers ago, we skated once or twice together. Then this past summer, every time we were on the ice, we were on the ice together. I've been watching Carter do his thing since he has been called up. 

He gave me a call before his first NHL game, just asked a few questions, wanted to pick my brain about a few things. I think that's what makes him as good as he has been — he's willing and eager to learn, he's a hard-worker and he wants to get better, he wants that help and guidance from people, he's not afraid to ask for it. 

I think that's what's making him so successful right now.

• A Sean Couturier appreciation observation:

Since Jan. 8, the 26-year-old center is tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) over 17 games. 

Only Patrick Kane (31), Vladimir Tarasenko (27) and Brad Marchand (26) have scored more.

Couturier is projected to finish with a new career-high 34 goals. He'll be up for the Frank J. Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) yet again.

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Is the Carolina Hurricanes' postgame celebration over the top, or are they just having fun?

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Is the Carolina Hurricanes' postgame celebration over the top, or are they just having fun?

The Carolina Hurricanes are determined that all that attention the state of North Carolina receives this time of year will no longer be reserved for Blue Devils or Tar Heels basketball.

This season, the Canes have turned their postgame ritual into something that resembles the intersection of an NFL end zone celebration and an elementary school playground.  

After every win on home ice (16 so far this season), the Hurricanes have given their devoted fans, the “Caniacs," reason to stick around for the third period and beyond with some sort of choreographed postgame skit.  

Here’s just a few of their greatest hits from this season:

The limbo …

The knock-it-out-of-the-park home run trot …

Duck, duck, goose ...

These pre-meditated antics have driven hockey purists and traditionalists to the point of coming down with HDS, or Hurricane Derangement Syndrome. Those who have been around the game for years are completely beside themselves and feel this is merely a travesty to their beloved sport. 

That feeling couldn’t have been articulated more strongly than by Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry, who went on a minute-long rant Saturday calling the players “jerks” for their behavior. Check it out here:

Off-air, Cherry may be one of the nicest, most pleasant guys you will meet. But even the brash, outspoken 85-year-old hockey icon can see the utter hypocrisy to which he describes. I suppose only Cherry is permitted to be flamboyant or even obnoxious while calling attention to himself for his outrageous appearance. Shame to anyone else who steps outside those boundaries.     

The Hurricanes wasted little time to profit off an opportunity that fell right into their laps this weekend, and I’m guessing there will be a backorder for this shirt in the next 24-48 hours.    

My feeling is that as long as it’s in good taste, anything that grabs the attention of the sports world even for a couple of minutes is good for the game. 

There aren't very many hockey markets where you can pull this off. Toronto, Montreal? No way. New York, Boston? Are you kidding? 

But what does Raleigh, North Carolina, have to lose? The franchise has missed the postseason for nine straight seasons and their attendance has been at the bottom for the past five years. The Hurricanes have given fans a reason not to come since winning a Stanley Cup in 2006. 

For a league that is a distant fourth when it comes to the Big 4, the publicity that comes from these celebrations can only draw in fans that may not have been attracted to the sport previously. 

Now, the team is knocking on the door of their first playoff berth since 2008-09. I commend head coach Rod Brind’Amour and captain Justin Williams for bringing a little bit of fun to the team while knowing they would receive plenty of heat outside their dressing room.

Sometimes you have to think a little differently when you’re fighting for revenue shares in a very competitive sports world.

Like unveiling a big, orange, oversized googly-eyed mascot that everyone seemed to hate when it first rolled out.

Take that to your jerk store. 

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