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Bluelines: Award Season, and an Early Look at Key Offseason Issues

• The best, concise, 20-20 hindsight in favor of zebras comes from Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, “The referees have a hard job. They see it live,” the future Hall of Famer explains.

• If you’re wondering why the Rangers are on their Cup Crusade, all you have to do is check out candidates for NHL awards. John Tortorella is a finalist for the Jack Adams award, presented to the NHL’s top coach. His competition is Ken Hitchcock of St. Louis and Paul MacLean of Ottawa. And how about Henrik Lundqvist! The King is a finalist for both the Hart Trophy, as NHL MVP, and Vezina Trophy, as the best goalie. For the Hart he is up against Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh and Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay. Jonathan Quick of Los Angles and Pekka Rinne of Nashville are the other two Vezina finalists.

• If anybody knows about character in NHLers, it’s 22-year veteran Gary Roberts. That’s why it was neat to read John Vogl’s Buffalo News feature in which Roberts defended the Sabres late acquisition of Cody Hodgson from Vancouver. Canucks g.m. Mike Gillis drew and quartered Hodgson for Cody’s three years on the Left Coast. Gillis recently said he was tickled to deal the young center, “I spent more time on Cody’s issues than every other player combined on our team the last three years,” said the Vancouver g.m. Here’s Roberts retort via Vogl: “If anybody knew this kid, this young man, to know what he went through mentally and physically for two summers trying to find out what the heck was wrong with him – of course they dealt with his issue more than anybody else in the organization because he was injured and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. It almost was like they thought he didn’t want to work. Well, I can tell you that this kid out of all the kids that I train, he’s up there in the [Steven] Stamkos group as far as commitment and determination. What I tell him, he does, so I know he’s coachable and I love working with him.”

• The Islanders have reason to crow over Matt Moulson’s accomplishments. He’s already been named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. The others are Brian Campbell of Florida and Jordan Eberle of Edmonton. Meanwhile, Moulson was named a finalist for the NHL Foundation Award. This prize is given annually to the player who applies the values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community. Mike Fisher of Nashville and John-Michael Liles of Toronto are also up for the award. Some of Moulson’s community initiatives this season included the creation of the 326 foundation, which includes a “goals for charity” program, the Matt Moulson Wounded Warrior Program, in which he hosts military personnel at every Islanders home game, and the Islanders Fight Cancer campaign and Movember – the fight against prostate cancer campaign. Moulson has already received a pair of Islanders awards this season. He was honored with both the Islanders Community Service Award and the Islanders Good Guy Award. The Islanders Community Service Award is presented annually to the player who makes the strongest impact on the Long Island community throughout the year.

• Remember Paul Kelly? He’s the former head of NHL Players’ Association. More recently he was Executive Director of College Hockey, Inc. The latest on Paul is that he’s joined the prestigious Collegiate and Professional Sports Industry Group of the national law firm of Jackson Lewis. An accomplished trial lawyer for over 25 years before being appointed to lead the NHL players’ union in October 2007, Kelly signs on with the firm as partner in its Boston office. Jackson Lewis is the leading management-side labor and employment firm in the U.S., with over 700 attorneys in 47 offices across the country.

• This from The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson: The best signing Dale Tallon made last summer was Tomas Fleischmann. You don’t think the Colorado Avalanche are kicking themselves for letting him go because they were worried about his blood-clot issues? He played six games on Florida’s top line in the Devils series with a broken finger.

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons writes: “Team Canada g.m. Steve Yzerman will have to bite his lip next summer and invite Mike Smith to the Olympic training camp, should Smith continue to play this kind of goal for the Coyotes. Smith, you may remember, was waived by Yzerman, and then offered a pay cut to remain in Tampa Bay. He declined and signed with Phoenix. Meanwhile, Tampa needs a goalie.”

• Whether they are ousted by Phoenix or not, the Predators remain committed to signing top players to lucrative contracts. The ownership group has already had to put in $60 million of its own money over the last five years. 

Here’s a rundown of key players that the Predators have either already awarded a big contract or who figure to earn significant raises before the deadline on July 1: 

- Shea Weber: The All-Star defenseman will be a Restricted Free Agent, which will open the door for teams to throw him offer sheets, which can be matched by the Predators. His current contract sits at a cool $7.5 million, but is appropriate for a cornerstone D-man like Weber.

- Alexander Radulov: The 25-year-old enigmatic forward left the KHL earlier in the season to play for Nashville prior to the playoffs. Only time will tell if he’ll stay in Nashville or be swayed by the lure of the KHL and the giant paydays they hand out to top-tier players.

- Ryan Suter: The 27-year-old defenseman is due a significant pay raise from his current salary of $3.5 million per year. He will be an Unrestricted Free Agent and will surely be courted by any team in the NHL looking for a top four defenseman.

- Pekka Rinne: The All-Star goalie and Vezina Trophy nominee is signed on to be a Predator until the 2019 season for a reasonable $49 million. Rinne is 29 years old and entering his prime at the right time for Nashville.

A question: what if the unthinkable happens and Phoenix knocks Nashville out of the playoffs?


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