Saturday, June 21, 2014

Coyotes are ‘very flexible’ about moving up or down from 12th pick


When the 2014 NHL Draft kicks in, the Phoenix Coyotes will transform into the Arizona Coyotes. That’s not the only reason why the events of June 27-28 will be a big deal, though, as GM Don Maloney explains.


“It’s the Super Bowl for our scouts,” Maloney said. “It’s really the foundation of your whole franchise. If you do a good job at the draft table you acquire assets that can be used not only for yourself but also assets maybe you can use in other deals… The draft weekend is as important as they come.”


(Feel free to insert your favorite halftime show performer/expensive commercial jokes here.)


Maloney indicates that the team might want to call an audible around draft time, either moving up or down from their No. 12 pick.


“We like the top end of the first round,” Maloney said. “If we could get ourselves up into the top four or five picks we’d certainly look to do it. I don’t know how realistic that is for us. I think we’re more inclined to move down from our pick at No. 12 depending on how it flows… These decisions all come down to the draft table and what the flow is like and what the phone calls are like.”


” … It’s important to do your homework and kind of reach out to everybody and let everybody know ‘Listen, we’re very flexible where we’re at.’”


Even if they stay put in their current position, the Coyotes could stock up on some solid talent in Philadelphia. They own that No. 12 pick along with two second-rounders (43rd and 58th overall) giving them three picks in the top 60. With the 73rd pick, they also have four choices in the top 80. Overall, they have eight selections in the draft; that’s not half-bad, as four nhl teams are tied in front of them with nine picks.


Interestingly, the Coyotes chose 12th overall in 2013, picking up an intriguing talent in Max Domi, so it’s a familiar spot for Phoenix.



All Toronto Maple Leafs Goals 2013-2014



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2014-15 home openers for all 30 teams




2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four



From the NHL:

NHL ANNOUNCES HOME OPENERS FOR 2014-15 SEASON


NEW YORK (June 21, 2014)—The NHL today announced the home openers for all 30 clubs for the 2014-15 regular season. The League’s complete 1,230-game schedule will be released tomorrow, Sunday, June 22 at 4:00 p.m. ET.


FULL LIST OF HOME OPENERS, 2014-15 SEASON

Anaheim Ducks: Friday, Oct. 17 vs. Minnesotarangers report logo



  • Arizona Coyotes: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Winnipeg

    Boston Bruins: Wednesday, Oct. 8 vs. Philadelphia

    Buffalo Sabres: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Columbus

    Calgary Flames: Wednesday, Oct. 8 vs. Vancouver

    Carolina Hurricanes: Friday, Oct. 10 vs. NY Islanders

    Chicago Blackhawks: Saturday, Oct. 11 vs. Buffalo

    Colorado Avalanche: Saturday, Oct. 11 vs. Minnesota

    Columbus Blue Jackets: Saturday, Oct. 11 vs. NY Rangers

    Dallas Stars: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Chicago

    Detroit Red Wings: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Boston

    Edmonton Oilers: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Calgary

    Florida Panthers: Saturday, Oct. 11 vs. New Jersey

    Los Angeles Kings: Wednesday, Oct. 8 vs. San Jose

    Minnesota Wild: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Colorado

    Montreal Canadiens: Thursday, Oct. 16 vs. Boston

    Nashville Predators: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Ottawa

    New Jersey Devils: Saturday, Oct. 18 vs. San Jose

    New York Islanders: Saturday, Oct. 11 vs. Carolina

    New York Rangers: Sunday, Oct. 12 vs. Toronto

    Ottawa Senators: Thursday, Oct. 16 vs. Colorado

    Philadelphia Flyers: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. New Jersey

    Pittsburgh Penguins: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Anaheim

    San Jose Sharks: Saturday, Oct. 11 vs. Winnipeg

    St. Louis Blues: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. NY Rangers

    Tampa Bay Lightning: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Florida

    Toronto Maple Leafs: Wednesday, Oct. 8 vs. Montreal

    Vancouver Canucks: Saturday, Oct. 11 vs. Edmonton

    Washington Capitals: Thursday, Oct. 9 vs. Montreal

    Winnipeg Jets: Friday, Oct. 17 vs. Nashville

    Photo by Getty Images.


    Twitter: @RangersReport.








Rick Carpiniello, 26, was born and raised in Harrison and began working in The Journal News' sports department (back when it was The Reporter Dispatch and eight other newspapers) in October of 1977 after a year of covering high school sports as a stringer. For more than 20 years he covered the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. Carpiniello has been writing columns on everything from local sports to the big leagues since 2002.




LoHud.com Copyright 2014 | Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, updated September 2010.



Pick of the litter: Panthers hire Gerard Gallant as coach


The Florida Panthers have found their man to lead the team.


The team announced they’ve hired Gerard Gallant to be the new head coach. He was an assistant coach for Michel Therrien with the Montreal Canadiens the past two seasons and is a former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach.


Panthers GM Dale Tallon had glowing words for Gallant in the team’s press release.


“We are pleased to welcome Gerard as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers,” said Tallon. “He is an individual with tremendous character, integrity and a strong passion for the game and has experience as an NHL head coach. Gerard is an excellent teacher and motivator who possesses the leadership qualities and hockey knowledge that are necessary to lead our team.”


The Panthers chose Gallant out of a field of hopefuls that included recent Carolina Hurricanes hire Bill Peters, former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, and former Stanley Cup winner Marc Crawford among others. Crawford just verbally agreed to return to his job in Switzerland.


Gallant has a lot of experience behind the bench as both an assistant and a head coach.


He worked as an assistant for three seasons in Columbus before ascending to the top job for parts of three more seasons. He’s also been an assistant with the New York Islanders as well as the Habs.


More importantly for the current Panthers roster, he was head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL and led them to back-to-back Memorial Cup titles. His best player on those teams? Panthers young stud forward Jonathan Huberdeau.


Gallant has a very young roster to work with in Florida headed up by Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Erik Gudbranson. He’ll have his hands full in getting this green team together and trying to get back to the playoffs.


The team will formally introduce Gallant at a press conference on Monday.



Crawford bows out of NHL job race, returns to Switzerland


It looks like former NHL coach Marc Crawford won’t be coming back to North America.


The former Avalanche, Kings, Canucks, and Stars coach has verbally agreed to return to the ZSC Lions in the Swiss National League according to the team’s Twitter feed.


Crawford had been in the running for the head coaching jobs with both the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins. But with the Panthers looking at Gerard Gallant and the Penguins moving on from Willie Desjardins and Bill Peters to other candidates, he’s not waiting around to see what they decide.


Crawford coached ZSC to the championship as well as the best record in the Swiss League. ZSC finished 20 points ahead of second place HC Gotteron and beat Kloten for the title. That’s probably more than you’ve ever read about the Swiss League.


Crawford won the Stanley Cup as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and won the Jack Adams Award in 1995.



Friday, June 20, 2014

Oilers set to add another high pick to cadre of talent


Edmonton Oilers head amateur scout Stu MacGregor doesn't believe the 2014 NHL Draft is as deep as previous years, but is confident several prospects within this class will ultimately develop into solid NHL performers.


The Oilers hope to target one of those future stars with the third choice in the first round slated to kick off at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on June 27. It marks the sixth straight year the Oilers will be picking among the top 10 and fourth time in the past five years they will hold a choice in the top three.


One thing is certain, MacGregor and his staff need to make the pick count as the organization currently doesn't own another selection until the fourth round (No. 91).


"We have to start making some moves, and by moves I don't necessarily mean trades, but moves as a team in moving forward to build our prospect base and make some strides," MacGregor said. "Everyone has asked me why it isn't happening right now with the young core we have in place.


"But keep in mind our best players, and the players we rely upon, are still only 21, 22, 23 years old, so some of those players are still learning the NHL."


MacGregor makes a legitimate point, as forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011, No. 1) and Nail Yakupov (2012, No. 1) are still adjusting to the rigors of an 82-game regular season and Taylor Hall (2010, No. 1) is now beginning to find his niche within the system. Hall is 22, Nugent-Hopkins 21 and Yakupov 20.


"These guys have been able to gain that experience early in their career and hopefully that will be an advantage in the end," MacGregor said. "It's been challenging for them and us to be able to try and produce these players slightly earlier than most."


The Oilers will likely take the best available player with the third pick, meaning if defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts is off the board then the next best forward will be selected.


"That's what makes this year's draft interesting at the top end," MacGregor said. "What do you want? Do you want bigger, smarter, most driven, highest skilled? We're going to be sitting there waiting to see what the team holding the No. 1 pick and No. 2 pick do and react from there. There are a few scenarios we have mapped out. Sometimes things change, so we try and develop a plan for that."


It has been rumored that the plan for the Oilers would be targeting German power forward Leon Draisaitl if still available.


"He's determined to make plays and can speed it up when he needs to and slow it down," MacGregor said. "The draft is traditionally strong at wing, and this year's crop has some good centers in the early stages. It's not deep on defense, but there will be some good defensemen available later, but not a plethora of high-end blueliners in the early going."


Draisaitl is probably the most physical of the top five players ranked on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters eligible for the draft. Ranked No. 4 on the final list, he has played left wing and most recently center, so he is not only bullish, but versatile.


He finished in a fourth-place tie with Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice for the Western Hockey League scoring crown with 105 points (38 goals, 67 assists) in 64 regular-season games. Reinhart, No. 3 on Central Scouting's final list, did it in four fewer games.


"What sets Draisaitl apart from other prospects is his ability to protect the puck; he's very Jaromir Jagr-like in that sense," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald said. "He's got that same style. He'll connect with guys coming in late and hold onto that puck until the right play is there. He's got a great wrist shot and snap shot and has surprised a lot of goalies."


Draisaitl and Reinhart were named First Team All-Stars in the WHL's Eastern Conference this season.


MacGregor was asked about the differences between Central Scouting's No. 1-ranked North American prospect, Samuel Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League, and Reinhart.


"Bennett can keep the play alive by battling to continue to make it happen; he enjoys the contact in the corners," he said. "Reinhart is a thinking player and he always seems to be in the right position. If the play breaks up, he's looking to create a turnover and get it back in the other direction."


---



Sabres' Devine sees strength up front in 2014 draft


Buffalo Sabres assistant general manager Kevin Devine knows nothing is guaranteed, even with a multitude of high draft picks past and present.


"We're excited about our prospects, but at the same time, just because we get all these picks doesn't mean it's not going to be a challenge," Devine said. "We've seen other teams have early picks for a long time and struggle, so nothing is guaranteed when you go down this route.


"It's just something you hope turns out well and you can surround the younger players with guys who can support them, develop them the right way, and hopefully it all works out in the end."


The Sabres made 11 selections at the 2013 NHL Draft, including two defensemen in the first round, Rasmus Ristolainen at No. 8 and Nikita Zadorov at No. 16.


The Sabres have the No. 2 pick at the 2014 draft and have three first-round picks in the bank for next year: their pick, plus selections from the New York Islanders via the Thomas Vanek trade and St. Louis Blues from the Ryan Miller trade.


Buffalo, which finished with the fewest points in the League in 2013-14, could have had the No. 1 pick this year but the balls at the NHL Draft Lottery didn't bounce their way. Instead the Florida Panthers won the lottery and the right to pick first at the when the first round of the draft is held June 27 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.


"I was a little upset after first hearing the news, but there really isn't one guy … I think everybody has a different list and there's not one guy that's probably outstanding on everyone's list," Devine said. "It's not a Sidney Crosby, John Tavares or Steven Stamkos type of year, so while I'm a little disappointed we didn't get the top pick I believe we're still going to get a good player."


While Devine wouldn't share the organization's draft plan for obvious reasons, he did acknowledge he considers Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League the best defenseman available in the this year's draft.


"There is a gap between Aaron and every other defender at that point," Devine said. "It's not a real strong year for defensemen. Last year was and we had a couple years ago [2012] with [Mathew] Dumba and [Jacob] Trouba. This year it's more a forward draft."


If the Panthers decide to keep the No. 1 pick and draft Ekblad, the Sabres will have several top-end point-producers to choose from, including Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart, Prince Albert Raiders center Leon Draisaitl and Oshawa Generals left wing Michael Dal Colle among NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skaters.


Bennett was named the top prospect in the Canadian Hockey League, while Reinhart and Draisaitl were named First Team All-Stars in the Eastern Conference of the Western Hockey League. Ekblad was named the defenseman of the year in the Ontario Hockey League and Dal Colle was named an OHL Second-Team All-Star.


Bennett was ninth in the OHL with 91 points in 57 games. He led his team in points, goals (36), assists (55), plus/minus rating (plus-34) and power-play goals (10). He had a league-best 25-game scoring streak, during he had 17 goals and 46 points.


The 6-foot, 178-pound forward is No. 1 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the draft.


"He plays the kind of game you think cannot be sustained for a whole season because it's a high-energy game and compete game at all ends of the ice," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He ends up playing that game for the whole year and has led his team. He just never stops. And put that with the skill package he has and how well he thinks the game, he's pretty much a top-notch player."


Devine likes that top-five group of players but doesn't view them potential saviors.


"We're not going to force kids into a situation where they feel pressure to be the guy to turn the franchise around," Devine said. "We're going to bring them around slowly until we believe they are ready to play and ready to take on that challenge of what might be a difficult one or two years. We're trying to grow [all our young] prospects together to where they can have some success and grow together. But that won't come at the expense of rushing any of these kids unless they're ready."


Sabres general manager Tim Murray joined Devine and several other members of the scouting team at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto last month. Murray recently said he'd like to add another first-round pick this year if possible.


"I can't imagine I would trade the second overall pick," Murray told ESPN.com. "I'd like to get a couple of more first-round picks and I have those three second-rounders [in 2014]. I certainly know you can't trade a second for a first, but you might take some money back in a deal to do that and I do have to get to the [cap] floor. There are different ways to get to the floor so I'm exploring all that."


The Sabres will have three picks in the second round for the second consecutive season, joining the Dallas Stars (2002-04) and New Jersey Devils (2000-01) as the third team in the last 15 drafts to have three or more picks in the first or second round in consecutive drafts.


It remains to be seen if Murray can acquire a second first-round pick, but the organization conducted interviews with 72 players at the Combine, so there are more than just a handful of prospects the organization could be interested in selecting.


"There are some good players at the top, but there's no Crosby or Tavares," Devine said. "Maybe the draft tapers off a little bit after the top six or seven. The guys in the five to 20 range are probably as strong as we've seen in that range in the past, but there's no one player this year that really jumps out as the No. 1 guy."


---



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sabres GM has extra picks, options for building


BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres head into the 2014 NHL Draft with eight picks, and general manager Tim Murray has numerous options for what he wants to do with them.


Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart, and Price Albert Raiders forward Leon Draisaitl lead the discussion of top players, and with each there's hope he can help move a franchise forward. With the Sabres holding the No. 2 pick Friday in Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS) and in the midst of a rebuild, making the right choice is vital.


"Every draft is important," Murray said. "This draft is obviously important, but next year's draft is important, the year after is important. You have to continuously stock your system. You can't miss in drafts. If we become a Stanley Cup finalist or a Stanley Cup contender and we're picking 28th in the draft, I expect to hit on our first-round pick and I expect him to be an asset down the road. Obviously when you're picking as high as we are … it's important. They're all important."


As for who the Sabres are looking to pick, Murray said they'll take the best player available, but he believes there's one player in particular who won't be there for them at No. 2.


"I believe that Ekblad is going to go one and then we pick who we have left; the next guy on our list," Murray said. "If he doesn’t go one, I'd be surprised, I guess, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."


Reinhart and Bennett have been speculated as potential choices for the Sabres, but there are others that have grabbed their attention, including Draisaitl.


"He's right there," Murray said. "There are some guys that aren't being talked about that are potentially part of that [group of high-end talent]. It's a copycat League, so L.A. wins the Cup again and the terminology that they're 'heavy' and you've got guys like [Nick] Ritchie and [Jake] Virtanen that are good players that are 'heavy' and teams are looking for 'heavy.'


"We know there are one or two players there that aren't going to have an impact in the National Hockey League, it's which one or two. We hope we know which one or two it is."


Ritchie is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound right wing out of Peterborough; Virtanen is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward from Calgary. Each has big-league size already at his age and represents the kind of player Murray may be trying to acquire a second first-round pick to grab.


"I have been trying hard to do that," Murray said. "The people I've talked to haven't said no, but nobody's called back and said, 'Yeah, let's do this deal.' But I've got a lot of potential deals out there that have a [first-round pick] coming back involved. I just feel if I can just get something in the 20s or the teens that maybe you can do something with that too."


Players taken early have been able to make the jump to the NHL right away in the recent past. Five of the top six players taken in the 2013 draft, and eight overall, played at least part of the season with the team that picked them last June. Two of those players (Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov) were Sabres. Murray was cautious about how many players in this draft could make the jump right away.


"Depends on who drafts them," Murray said. "Patrice Bergeron (a second-round pick in 2003) made Boston right off the get-go. Did we think he was ready when we saw him play his last game in junior hockey in March? I can't imagine there's one scout that said that. Eighteen-year-old kids mature at different times. The summer after their draft is huge.


"That's just a guessing game, I guess. But talent-wise there are quite a few guys that can play in the [NHL] right now. Are they going to put the time this summer? Is the team going to give them the opportunity that drafts them? I don't have that answer."


One of the questions surrounding the draft class this year is the quality and depth of talent. Though Murray hopes to gain another first-round pick, he warns about judging an entire group of players before they've had a shot to mature.


"I think there's talent in every draft," Murray said. "If you go back and do that exercise in every draft you'll see there's a guy who was taken in the fourth round, the fifth round, the sixth round; our job is to find those guys. It's the bottom of the barrel that affects the averages. I think there are good players in every draft that a good staff will find. Is this the strongest draft since I've been in hockey? No, it's not. It's not the weakest either though."


With the number of picks the Sabres have, further bolstering the collection of young talent is vital for the franchise. After the work Murray has done with the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators, he has a good idea what a successful draft day looks like.


"Our first pick is going to be what we consider a very good player. Use assets to get back into the first-round and pick a player that we feel down the road is going to be a real Buffalo Sabre, size, whatever it is," he said. "Hit on one or two of your seconds and hit somewhere else in the draft. I would consider that a very good draft."



Monday, June 16, 2014

Kings, fans celebrate second Cup in three seasons


LOS ANGELES -- Jonathan Quick looked like he hadn't slept since Friday night. Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and Trevor Lewis still had their beards. Coach Darryl Sutter's face was slightly drained, and he could only joke when asked about how much the Los Angeles Kings love playing together.


"They don't love it that much because they could have been playing tonight," Sutter responded.


Monday would have been Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Kings and New York Rangers, but instead the city celebrated the Kings' second Cup title in three seasons with a parade and rally after the longest run in playoff history -- 26 games -- ended in Game 5 with the longest game in Kings history, a 3-2 win on Alec Martinez's goal with 5:17 left in double overtime.


"It was an emotional, exhausting ride," Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams said. "For us to come out on top after you poured everything that you had into it, and it was good enough, words can't describe it."


More than 300,000 fans lined the streets surrounding Staples Center on a bright, mild day downtown, two years to the day of the parade to celebrate the 2012 Cup. This time there was a sense that something truly big is growing here. The Kings have the foundation for a modern-day dynasty, with most of their team intact for the future, and their faces and blue-collar ethic are now forever engrained in the local sports landscape.


"We're starting to become a hockey town," captain Dustin Brown said to the crowd before The Briggs' song "This Is L.A." blared throughout L.A. Live and confetti came raining down.


Luc Robitaille, president of business operations and the public face of the team, said he feels the Kings have further strengthened their bond with the city.


"The parade was very special last time, and I think today was even more special," Robitaille said. "It seemed bigger. When we turned that last corner, it was unbelievable. It was overwhelming. It's pretty special and it's pretty special for those players. A lot of guys come from back East, and they don't know how big they are in this town because L.A. is such a big city. You get into a thing like that and you see that many people, it's pretty amazing."


At the rally inside Staples Center following the parade, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, "We have the best sunshine in the world, but we own the ice too."


The biggest cheers were for Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi, who began laying the groundwork for the Cup runs when he arrived in Los Angeles in 2006.


The Kings took the path of most resistance each Cup-winning season. They barely made the playoffs in 2012, qualifying as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and became the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s, all on the road, to get to the 2014 Final. Los Angeles also became the fourth team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit and win, in the Western Conference First Round Series against the San Jose Sharks this spring.


Lombardi tried not to get emotional during his speech.


"This franchise has now evolved to a different level," he said. "I feel like the luckiest man in the world."


Lombardi has a few roster decisions to make this summer. Left wing Marian Gaborik, who finished the final year of a contract that paid him $7.5 million this season, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, as can defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene. Gaborik had 22 points, including a League-leading 14 goals, in the playoffs. Left wing Dwight King can become a restricted free agent.


But the bulk of the team will return.


"We're happy with what we've done, but do we feel we have a lot more, and the potential to be a great team for years to come?" Williams said. "Yeah."


Sutter told his players that the path they took in 2012 -- taking a 3-0 lead in every series -- probably won't happen again. He allowed that this season's difficult road was special, but said winning is what he expected when Lombardi called him late in 2011 to offer him the coaching job.


"The team was in 12th place," Sutter said. "I was in the middle of winter, feeding 800 head of cattle, and my family was living four hours away, and I was being paid to do that. You don't say no because somebody offered you a job. I'm not in that position. I was in a position of whether I wanted to win or not, and whether I thought we could. It's not that hard to figure out."


In 2012, the Kings had five days between winning the Cup and the parade. There were two days this time, so players had not done as much touring with the Cup. Lewis tweeted a photo of the Cup at the beach, and more celebratory adventures should follow in the South Bay community where a lot of Kings live. They will take the Cup to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday for a pregame ceremony before the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Colorado Rockies.


By then, the Kings might be coming out of their celebratory haze.


"Party a bit. Relax a little bit," Quick said of his past two days. "You get to eat some greasy food. You're not worried about your diet for a few days, which is fun. It's good. It's a good experience."


Greene said he will probably take the Cup back home to Michigan again this summer. Figuratively speaking, though, the Cup might not be leaving Southern California anytime soon.


"You see this baby, right here?" Sutter said as he tapped the trophy. "She's been gone for a couple of years, and we're happy she's home."



Stanley Cup Final loss continues to sting for Rangers


GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Three days later, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is still a picture of devastation.


"It's going to be a couple of weeks now where it's going to hurt," Lundqvist said Monday as he put a bow on the 2013-14 season while sitting in his locker stall at the Madison Square Garden Training Center.


Lundqvist will spend the next few weeks trying to come to grips with having his dream die on the ice Friday night at Staples Center, when Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings beat him for a double-overtime, Stanley Cup Final-clinching goal Lundqvist won't soon forget.


The Kings beat the Rangers 4-1 in the Cup Final. They won three games in overtime, including two in double overtime. Lundqvist knows he'll eventually have to move on. He knows he'll have to soon start preparing for next season. But not yet.


It was apparent Monday that starting over again next season was the furthest thing from Lundqvist's mind. He's not alone.


Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the outcome in the Cup Final will "haunt" him and the team for some time.


"Three games, two of them in double overtime and one of them in overtime, with some of the looks we had to score …" Vigneault said. "I firmly believe that if we got that done, that fifth game -- I know in L.A. they didn't believe in momentum, but I thought we would have had a little momentum there. But we didn't get it done."


Rangers wing Rick Nash said watching the light at the end of the tunnel go dark is "pretty tough to digest."


"We still felt we had a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in each other, and at any point in the series we felt we were going to turn it around, make it happen, accomplish what we were trying to do," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "When it ended, it's pretty shocking. It's a pretty devastating feeling."


That devastation is going to linger, especially for Lundqvist, who is replaying Martinez's Cup-clinching goal over and over in his mind, searching for answers for why the Rangers lost four out of five games, why they lost three in overtime.


"Eventually you have to stop," Lundqvist said.


The hurt is still raw, the wound still open for him to stop thinking about it now.


"It's always like that when the season is over, you keep thinking about things and you try to learn from it, but after a while you kind of move on," Lundqvist said. "I think this year, after this season, it's going to take a little longer, at least for me, to take that step."


Lundqvist will continue his coping back home in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he hopes being around family and friends will push him into the future. He's confident it will, eventually.


"It's a good first step to put this season behind you and move on," Lundqvist said. "I appreciate a lot of what happened this year. It's been a good year."


He thinks the Rangers should have better years ahead, even though there is so much uncertainty surrounding the club heading into the offseason.


Eight of the 18 skaters who dressed for the Rangers in the Cup Final can become free agents on July 1, including six who can become unrestricted. The club has to figure out what to do with center Brad Richards. Do they issue him a compliance buyout or do they keep him?


"We've got a core group that I'd like to see if we can't keep together, but there are limitations to that," Vigneault said. "There are financial restrictions that come into the process and decision making, but there are some real good people in that dressing room, just some real quality individuals. Hopefully we can do a good job of keeping these parts together."


One thing that is for certain is Lundqvist will still be the star of the team even if his supporting cast changes. His seven-year contract extension kicks in next season, and he thinks the Rangers are on track for even bigger things ahead.


"A lot of times it starts with what we expect from each other, not only as players but from the entire organization," Lundqvist said. "To be close and to get closer, I think it raises your expectations for next year. That's important, that you want to be there and you really need to challenge yourself to get there too.


"You just have to make sure you make it all the way next time."


Because when you don't, the devastation lingers. Lundqvist is still a picture of that. He likely will be for a while.


"It kills you," Lundqvist said, "but you just have to get up again and try and do it again."


---



Five questions for the Rangers this offseason


GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers were still dealing with a whirlwind of emotions as they cleaned out their lockers Monday following their defeat in five games against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. With the Rangers' front office facing a series of difficult decisions this summer, the emotional start to the offseason may be a sign of things to come.


The Rangers lost three games in extra time during the best-of-7 Cup Final, including a devastating double-overtime loss in Game 5 on Friday in which Alec Martinez's game-winner lifted the Kings to the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.


"It was a tough loss that's going to haunt me and my group for some time," New York coach Alain Vigneault said. "I'm hoping we're going to learn from this and we as management are going to work on putting a good team on the ice. But every year is different. Next year's team is going to be different, and we've got to go through the same process."


Here are five questions the Rangers must answer in that process:


1. Will center Brad Richards be back?


Richards enjoyed a bounce-back season, but he is a prohibitively expensive player with six seasons remaining on the nine-year, $60 million contract he signed in 2011. Considering Richards has proven to be inconsistent and finished the Final playing on New York's fourth line, he is an ideal candidate for the Rangers' final compliance buyout, which would remove Richards' considerable annual salary-cap charge of $6.67 million.


Richards was not available at New York's breakdown day, and Vigneault said the Rangers are still mulling their options when asked about the possibility of Richards being bought out.


"Brad's an experienced guy that knows that we've got some decisions to make that aren't easy. He's going to be a pro," Vigneault said. "I'm a big fan of Brad Richards. I've said it from Day 1. He's a classy individual there. We'll see what happens."


It's a tough spot for the player who was hailed for his leadership after former captain Ryan Callahan was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the NHL Trade Deadline. But the move appears likely if the Rangers hope to deal with a long list of impending free agents.


2. Can New York re-sign Anton Stralman ?


A number of players flourished under Vigneault after he was named New York's coach last summer. Few benefitted quite like Stralman, who cemented his place among the Rangers' top-four defensemen and emerged as a reliable stay-at-home force in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


Stralman, 27, has seven goals in three seasons with the Rangers, but has made a number of big defensive plays since arriving in New York, none bigger than a game-saving play in Game 4 of the Cup Final in which he swiped a loose puck out of the crease after a shot squeaked past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.


Eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, Stralman could be an important piece moving forward for the Rangers, who don't have a wealth of young defensive prospects waiting in the wings. The combination of Stralman and Marc Staal was a consistent, smart pairing the Rangers would hate to see broken up.


"The only thing in my mind really is security for me and my family. We've been moving a lot. We've been with four teams in seven years now," Stralman said. "All we're really looking for is stability; we want to stay in one place. This is obviously where we'd like to stay. I hope it's going to happen. We'll see."


3. How will the Rangers handle their other free agents?


New York's list starts with Stralman, but several other players can become unrestricted free agents, including forwards Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore.


There are also several important players slated to become restricted free agents this summer, including forwards Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, all of whom had breakout seasons and are crucial pieces of the Rangers' core moving forward. The focus on New York's list of restricted free agents, which includes defenseman John Moore, is even more magnified since forwards Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan can become RFAs next summer.


Two of the Rangers' top veterans, Staal and Martin St. Louis, can also become unrestricted free agents in 2015, so re-signing each before he can test the market could also be part of New York's immediate plans.


"I think any hockey player would prefer to be locked up before you start playing," Staal said. "It's not going to be the end of the world if nothing happens, but obviously you'd rather it be done than not."


4. Who will be the Rangers' next captain?


After Callahan was traded, the Rangers decided to play the remainder of the season without a captain. The unusual tactic allowed other players to emerge as leaders, most notably Richards and St. Louis, who was acquired in exchange for Callahan.


Vigneault has already started thinking about who he will name captain.


"I've got an idea where I'm leaning, but I'm not going to share that," Vigneault said. "I'm going to let training camp unfold or maybe I'll make the decision prior to it."


One of the most obvious candidates is defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who has emerged as both a leader off the ice and an elite player on it. McDonagh, 25, is signed through 2018-19 and is entering his prime after being named New York's most valuable player in 2013-14. Also the recipient of the Players' Player Award, which goes to the Ranger who "best exemplifies what it means to be a team player," McDonagh is ready to assume the captain's role.


"This year, the way my play was escalating, I felt more confident as the year was going on," McDonagh said. "I think when given a lot more responsibility, I was able to step up and help our team win a lot of games."


5. Will the Rangers build off their experience?


The answer here will be predicated by the moves New York makes this offseason. How the Rangers handle the pressure of being the defending Eastern Conference champions will dictate how deep they make it in the postseason in the coming years.


"It's a great core group," forward Rick Nash said. "I've played a few years in my career and I haven't seen a group as tight as this one. I think it's pretty special when you find that."


If that core group can stay together, the Rangers could be poised to make another playoff run. But they'll have to harness the lessons they learned this season and apply them moving forward.


As they cleaned out their lockers Monday, each player admitted the bitter taste of losing to the Kings would keep them motivated when next season starts.


"Obviously we're not happy we're not the Cup champions," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "It gives us even more incentive next year to be a little more hungry."


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Busy calendar remains for NHL teams


Just because the Stanley Cup has been awarded doesn't mean the end credits have rolled on the 2013-14 NHL season.


There are a number of big events coming in the next few weeks that will go a long way toward deciding which team is the final one standing a year from now.


The hard work started Monday when the window opened for teams to offer compliance buyouts to players. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams were given two special buyout provisions that allow them to buy out a player's contract while not having it count toward the salary cap. And those compliance buyouts only could be used following the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.


Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on June 30 to decide to use a compliance buyout. The Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs have previously used their two compliance buyouts. The Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals all have used one.


In addition to dealing with their current roster, NHL teams also will get to look to the future at the 2014 NHL Draft, to be held June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The first round starts Friday at 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN, TSN). Rounds 2-7 start will start Saturday at 10 a.m. ET (NHLN-US).


The Florida Panthers have the top pick, but Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said he is open to trading the selection if the right offer came along.


The Buffalo Sabres have the No. 2 pick, followed by the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and New York Islanders.


The Anaheim Ducks have two first-round picks, the Ottawa Senators' pick at No. 10 and their pick at No. 24. The Tampa Bay Lightning also have two picks in the first 30, their choice at No. 19 and the New York Rangers' pick at No. 28.


Among the top prospects are Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart and Prince Albert Raiders center Leon Draisaitl.


Once the draft settles comes the start of free agency at noon ET on July 1. Among the top unrestricted free agents expected to be available are forwards Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Paul Stastny and Matt Moulson. Among the top defensemen are Matt Niskanen, Andrei Markov, Dan Boyle and Anton Stralman. Available goaltenders include Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller, Martin Brodeur and Evgeni Nabokov.


Also becoming available if not signed by July 1 will be an impressive class of restricted free agents, a list topped by 2013 Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban of the Canadiens. Also open to offer sheets are forwards Derick Brassard of the Rangers, Ryan O'Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan Johansen of the Columbus Blue Jackets; defensemen Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins and Danny DeKeyser of the Detroit Red Wings; and goaltenders Darcy Kuemper of the Minnesota Wild and James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs.


There will be some fun had among the hard work with the NHL Awards on June 24 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC). The show will be broadcast from the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas and hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos, the recently named host of NHL on Rogers.


Among the awards presented will be the Hart Trophy for League MVP (finalists are Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers; the Norris Trophy for the League's best defenseman (finalists are the Bruins' Zdeno Chara, the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators); and the Vezina Trophy for top goaltender (finalists are Ben Bishop of the Lightning, the Bruins' Tuukka Rask and the Avalanche's Semyon Varlamov.


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