In this edition of NHL Quick Hits, I’m going to take a quick swing around the NHL to gather some news about both teams and players. These teams are the Edmonton Oilers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Winnipeg Jets, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The players (or in the first case coach) are Jay Woodcroft, Kris Letang, Paul Stastny, and Brayden Point.
Related: Edmonton Oilers 2022 Playoff Story: Amazing, Just Not Good Enough
Quick Hit One: The Oilers Want Woodcroft to Stay as Coach
Yesterday, in a report from the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland took time to make it crystal clear that he wants Jay Woodcroft to hang around and become the full-time Oilers’ head coach next season. Obviously, Holland wasn’t too concerned about giving Woodcroft more bargaining chips when he noted to the media:
“I think he (Woodcroft) did a fabulous job. The team responded to him and I told him he and I would meet early next week, Monday or Tuesday, and have a discussion.”
Holland transparently admitted: “Yes, I am interested in him coming back. I want to hear what he’s thinking. But I think he did a great job and was a big part of what we accomplished.”
The numbers speak for themselves. The Oilers put together a 26-9-3 record starting when Woodcroft took over for Dave Tippett, who was fired. Woodcroft also led the Oilers past the Los Angeles Kings and the Calgary Flames to advance to the Western Conference Final. Sadly, the Oilers’ season came to an end when they were eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche in four games.
Quick Hit Two: Will Kris Letang Sign on Again with the Penguins?
Kris Letang probably realizes he’s not the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first order of business; still, the Penguins let him know they would like to have him back if a mutually-agreeable contract settlement can be reached. Toward that end, both sides have been engaging in ongoing contract talks.
The problem for the Penguins, as it is for many NHL teams, is their salary-cap situation. That situation is even more complicated this offseason because the team is working to re-sign pending UFA Evgeni Malkin in addition to Letang.
Although Letang might seem as if he’s getting a bit long in the tooth, having just completed his 16th season with the Penguins, the 35-year-old right-shot defender (which is a premium in the NHL) seems to be getting better with age. Last season he set his career-high with 68 points (10 goals and 58 assists); and, that might warrant a raise even if it’s over a shorter-term deal.
Still, Malkin might be mission number one for the Penguins; and, Letang might just have to wait to see where Malkin’s contract talks land. Still, the Penguins and Letang are talking, and that should make Pittsburgh fans happy.
Quick Hit Three: Point Might Be Coming Back to the Ice Soon
Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but Brayden Point’s lower-body injury might be healed enough to allow him to return to the ice with his Tampa Bay Lightning team tied with the New York Rangers two games each in the Eastern Conference Final.
In fact, Point might be coming back sooner rather than later. Or, maybe he won’t be. To hear head coach Joh Cooper tell it, he’d be surprised if Point came back. Then, again, Point hasn’t been ruled out of Game 5 action.
Coach Cooper told the media the same things yesterday as he did last week. He simply doesn’t know. In fact, Cooper’s specific comment about whether Point might play on Thursday was that “I’ll find out when I get on the plane so I’ll have an answer for tomorrow. Now, we’re getting to the point where, every day, I don’t know if there will be definitive outs. … I’d be surprised if he plays this next game, honestly, but I’m not going to sit here and say he’s out for the series anymore.”
The report from The Athletic is that Point has been skating in full gear with the team’s Black Aces and his right leg injury seems to be progressing. But again Cooper warned fans not to get their hopes up because the organization was not going to rush Point back from what he called a “significant” injury.
Related: Love Him or Hate Him: P.K. Subban Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is
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