Potential Wizards, Capitals move to Virginia hits roadblock with funding bill rejected in state senate

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It doesn’t sound like the Washington Wizards will be moving to Virginia just yet. Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas said on Monday that the proposed Virginia Senate bill that was meant to fund a potential new arena in Alexandria, Virginia that would house both the Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals won’t be approved, at least not as currently constructed.

“As long as the full faith and credit of the commonwealth is backing this project, my answer continues to be an absolute no,” Lucas said.

Lucas has issues with the bill because of how it would be funded, which would fall on the shoulders of taxpayers if enough revenue isn’t generated as expected. While the Senate version of the bill looks unpromising to pass, there is a bill in the House of Delegates that could get passed, though it would still need to be approved by the Senate.  

Back in December, Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonisis announced plans with Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin to move both teams out of Washington, D.C. and over into Virginia. It was a controversial decision at the time, one that former Wizards guard Bradley Beal publicly pleaded with Leonisis to not do. And while the move still could happen in the future, the bill presented to fund the new arena doesn’t look like it was be passed at the Senate level. 

The project would include building a $2 million sports district where the arena will be, while also housing a reported 3,000-seat music venue, hotels and the headquarters for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Leonisis’ business. During an event regarding the new project back in December, Leonisis said that the move was meant to build up the entire DMV area. 

“That notion of community in the DMV really is what our business is about,” Leonsis said. “That’s the higher calling for sports. That is the higher calling on everything that we do – to build these legacies through winning championships from doing the right things in the right way by our fans, so that people can appreciate the community that they live in. It’s no secret that this great airport here was considered Washington National, and yet it’s in Virginia.”

If funding is eventually approved, construction could begin as early as 2025, with the Wizards and Capitals moving to Virginia in 2028.

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Ted Leonisis, owner of both teams, is trying to move to a potential new arena in northern Virginia

WATCH: Wild celebrate Marc-Andre Fleury’s career milestones before win over Penguins

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The Minnesota Wild honored Marc-Andre Fleury with a pregame ceremony ahead of their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, his former team. Fleury hit a pair of major milestones last month, and he got to celebrate those achievements with some old teammates by his side.

On New Year’s Eve, Fleury played in his 1,000th NHL game. Just a couple weeks later, on Jan. 15, Fleury passed the great Patrick Roy on the NHL’s all-time wins list with his 552nd victory. With the Penguins in town on Friday, the Wild honored him for both of those accomplishments.

Before the teams took the ice, Sidney Crosby presented Fleury with a gift from the Penguins, a painting of Fleury with the four teams he has played for throughout his career.

Prior to the puck drop at Xcel Center, the Wild played a tribute video that included messages from Crosby, Wild teammate Filip Gustavsson, Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, Fleury’s children and more. It was an emotional moment for one of the most well-respected players in the league.

In the game itself, Fleury added win No. 553 to his resume. The Wild had a 3-2 lead over the Penguins late in the third period when Fleury made a series of outstanding saves to preserve the win for Minnesota. The entire crowd was on its feet as Fleury capped off another career highlight.

Fleury has now played in 1,009 career games – 691 of those were with the Penguins, and 81 have been with the Wild. Fleury won the Stanley Cup three times while in Pittsburgh, and he took the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. Fleury has four All-Star appearances and a Vezina Trophy to his name to go along with a career GAA of 2.59 and a .912 save percentage.

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Fleury celebrated two big milestones with his old teammates in attendance

NHL trade deadline tracker: Flames’ Noah Hanifin, Penguins’ Jake Guentzel among players likely to get moved

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The NHL trade deadline may be one month away, but that doesn’t mean that some teams haven’t gotten an early start when it comes to improving their rosters for a potential Stanley Cup Playoff run.

The Vancouver Canucks made the first big splash in terms of the trade market when the team acquired center Elias Lindholm from the Calgary Flames in a massive deal. In exchange for Lindholm, the Flames acquired forward Andrei Kuzmenko, defenseman Hunter Brzustewicz, defenseman Joni Jurmo, a 2024 first-round pick, and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick.

Shortly after Lindholm was dealt, the Winnipeg Jets acquired center Sean Monahan in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens landed a 2024 first-round pick and a 2027 conditional third-round pick in exchange for Monahan’s services.

In the span of a few days in late January, two of the biggest trade targets were off the board to teams that were attempting to add veteran centers to help cement themselves as Stanley Cup contenders. Even with Lindholm and Monahan being off the board, there’s still plenty of talent that is up for grabs leading up to the NHL trade deadline, which is on March 8.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the top trade candidates leading up to the deadline.

1. Noah Hanifin (D, Flames)

The Calgary Flames made it clear that they were sellers at the deadline when they unloaded Elias Lindholm earlier this month. However, it’s likely not going to be the last move that the Flames end up making.

It’s very possible that Flames general manager Craig Conroy will trade multiple members of the team’s blue line prior to the March 8 deadline. The biggest name that could be on the move is defenseman Noah Hanifin.

Hanifin, 27, had been negotiating with Calgary early in the 2023-24 season, and were reportedly making progress towards a massive contract extension. However, Hanifin never ended up inking a new deal. It appears as though the Flames still prefer to re-sign Hanifin, but if they’re unable to in the next week or two, the team may move on from him considering that he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer.

In Hanifin, NHL teams would be getting a very offensive-minded defenseman who possesses a blistering point shot. Hanifin is among the league leaders in goals on the year and isn’t afraid to jump into the play to provide offense. He’s also a very physical blue-liner on the defensive end, so a team is getting the total package.

2. Jake Guentzel (F, Penguins)

Jake Guentzel would be the top available trade candidate if there was a larger possibility that he was getting moved at the trade deadline. The Pittsburgh Penguins are still within striking distance of a Wild Card playoff spot with over two months remaining in the regular season. The next month will be very telling in terms of how Kyle Dubas ends up handling his first deadline in Steel City. 

If the Penguins fade out of playoff contention, it’s very possible that Guentzel could be on the move. Guentzel is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so the Penguins really can’t afford to get nothing for him. Then again, when it seemed like the Penguins may be blowing up their veteran core, they re-signed the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, so nothing can be ruled out when it comes to a player of Guentzel’s caliber.

The Penguins did reportedly extend an offer to Guentzel in the $50 million range, but Guentzel declined. According to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, that particular offer was a six-year deal that would’ve broken down to a yearly cap hit of $8.5 million.

Guentzel has really thrived playing alongside Sidney Crosby in recent years and currently ranks second on the team in goals (22). If the Penguins do decide to trade Guentzel, there are going to be several teams that are likely interested, and he could command quite a large group of assets.

3. Chris Tanev (D, Flames)

As was mentioned above, the Flames aren’t going to stop working the phones after the Elias Lindholm trade. The Flames have an aging roster and are clearly attempting to get younger by moving their veteran pieces.

Defenseman Chris Tanev may not be flashy, but he’s the type of glue guy that any contender could use in their top six. Tanev is a gritty defenseman who does the little things that are necessary on the defensive end. The 34-year-old has proven that he’s not afraid to get what it takes to help his team win. Tanev sells out to block a ton of shots, while also not hesitating to lay a big hit on the opposition.

Considering his age, Tanev may be more likely to be dealt than Hanifin. Tanev isn’t the elite defenseman who is going to put a contending team over the top but provides incredible depth for a team that is close to having a complete roster.

4. Vladimir Tarasenko (F, Senators)

Over the past couple of seasons, the Ottawa Senators have been a team that was expected to take the next step and make a push for a playoff spot. However, that hasn’t exactly come to fruition as the Senators find themselves in last place in the Atlantic Division.

As a result of the Senators being out of contention, the team could elect to unload some of their veterans, including Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko signed a one-year deal in the offseason with Ottawa after receiving interest from the Carolina Hurricanes and a few other teams. The veteran forward may not be an elite winger at this stage of his career, but is still an extremely productive winger that belongs in the top-six forward group.

Could a potential reunion with the New York Rangers be a possibility? It’s definitely something that could be on the table given the Rangers’ need for some secondary scoring. If the Senators don’t see Tarasenko re-signing with the team, it would make a ton of sense to ship him out of town prior to the trade deadline.

5. Jakob Chychrun (D, Senators)

It seems crazy to think that the Senators could move on from defenseman Jakob Chychrun just one year after acquiring him. Still, that’s a world that we could be living in when the trade deadline rolls around.

It all comes down to the Senators struggling and not looking like they’re anywhere close to being a contender in the near future. According to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, Chychrun has reportedly been inquired about by multiple teams, and the Senators haven’t said he’s untouchable at this stage. The Senators also have a surplus of left-handed defensemen in the form of Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson that they’ve already extended with $8 million cap hits. 

Would the Senators be willing to cough up a massive amount of money for a Chychrun extension in the near future? That’s something that the Senators are going to need to decide, but it would certainly make sense to move on from the veteran blue-liner if they aren’t willing to sink more money into their defensive core. It’s safe to say that many teams will come calling if Chychrun is on the trade block.

6. Adam Henrique (F, Ducks)

With Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan off the board, there aren’t a ton of game-breaking centers that are available in the trade market. That’s certainly good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who could be offloading at least one center prior to the deadline.

It’s possible that Trevor Zegras could be on the move for the right offer, but considering that he just signed a three-year contract extension in October, it’s likely a longshot that he gets traded. Still, it’s not going to come as a big surprise if center Adam Henrique switches addresses over the next month.

Obviously, Henrique isn’t quite the marquee option that Lindholm and Monahan are, but he’s a very solid option that can serve as a second or third-line center on a contender. Henrique may not be the most lethal goal scorer, but he really thrives in front of the net. While he’s not quite as fast as he used to be, the Ducks forward is an extremely smart hockey player who can stickhandle when he needs to.

7. Pavel Buchnevich (F, Blues)

Much like a few players on this list, the availability of Pavel Buchnevich is going to come down to where the St. Louis Blues are at when the trade deadline gets closer. The Blues are currently in the second Wild Card playoff spot in the Western Conference, but a lot can change between now and March.

Buchnevich could be one of the more gifted forwards that teams could acquire at the deadline. After all, Buchnevich has registered 25-goal seasons in each of the last two years since he was acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers. Buchnevich currently has a $5.8 million cap hit in the third year of a deal that he signed with the Blues back in 2021. 

Considering he’s under team control through the 2024-25 season, that makes Buchnevich a very attractive option that St. Louis may choose to move before he’s going to need to be re-signed to a larger contract. Buchnevich could be one of the biggest offensive difference makers in the trade market if Blues general manager Doug Armstrong decides to take advantage of his value.

8. Scott Laughton (F, Flyers)

If a team doesn’t want to acquire a rental like Adam Henrique, Scott Laughton could be the next best option. The former Philadelphia Flyers first-round pick has spent his entire 11-year career in the City of Brotherly Love, but it’s very possible that the team could elect to move him for the right price.

Laughton is currently in the third year of a five-year contract extension that he signed back in 2021. That means that an acquiring team would have two more full seasons of control when it comes to Laughton, plus his $3 million cap hit isn’t going to destroy any team’s payroll. 

Laughton is never going to be confused for being a flashy offensive forward, but he’s physical and provides a ton of grit. The 29-year-old did score a career-best 18 goals a season ago, so the scoring numbers can be there at times. Laughton can slide into the middle of a contender’s third or fourth line and really make a difference on a potential Stanley Cup run. Considering that the Flyers have overachieved as a rebuilding team, it wouldn’t be shocking if they took calls on Laughton.

9. Marc-Andre Fleury (G, Wild)

This is a situation where you can connect the dots to see what could potentially happen leading up to the trade deadline. The Minnesota Wild aren’t currently in playoff contention and should they fall even further heading into March, it would make a ton of sense to approach Marc-Andre Fleury about being moved.

Fleury is 39 years old and probably doesn’t have a ton of run remaining in his Hall of Fame career. The veteran netminder does have a no-trade clause, so he can dictate where he wants to be moved if he so choses. While his days of being an elite goaltender are probably in the rearview mirror, Fleury still would bring some terrific stability to a team that is a Stanley Cup contender.

Fleury is still a capable starting option and would make a ton of sense for a team like the Colorado Avalanche. Starter Alexandar Georgiev could certainly use a breather down the stretch, and having Fleury as an insurance policy come playoff time would be huge. Fleury will likely want to go somewhere that he has a chance to play a decent amount down the stretch, so there may only be a few options for him to go to.

10. Jake Allen (G, Canadiens)

There don’t appear to be a ton of high-profile goaltenders that will be available leading up to the deadline. If Marc-Andre Fleury gets moved or doesn’t become available, Jake Allen could be an option for a team that is seeking help in net.

It’s a logjam in the crease when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens. Sam Montembeault signed a three-year contract extension in December 2023 and looks to be the goaltender of the future in Montreal. In addition, 24-year-old Cayden Primeau has also played considerable time in between the pipes this season. As a result, that makes Allen expendable considering that Montreal doesn’t need to carry three goaltenders going forward.

While his Canadiens tenure hasn’t been rousing, Allen had some very productive years with the St. Louis Blues earlier in his career as he registered a 2.50 goals-against-average and a .913 save percentage in seven seasons with the team. For a franchise that is looking for a veteran presence in net, Allen could be their meal ticket. Allen is also a very affordable cap hit and is under team control for the 2024-25 season as well.

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The NHL trade deadline is on March 8

Trade Grades: Jets pay hefty price to bolster power play with Sean Monahan

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On Friday morning, the NHL trade market continued to heat up when the Winnipeg Jets added veteran forward Sean Monahan from the Montreal Canadiens. The Jets got some badly needed power play help, but they might have been forced to overpay in a very shallow market for centers.

The Jets sent a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2027 third-round pick to the Canadiens in order to acquire Monahan, who has bounced back this season after injuries knocked his career off track for a few years. The main reason for Monahan’s rebound has been his performance on the power play, where he has tallied six of his 13 goals and 10 of his 22 assists.

On the Montreal side of things, a rebuilding franchise was able to add another first-round pick to its chest of draft capital over the next few years. The Habs had a highly-coveted player, and they took advantage of that after the top center on the market, Elias Lindholm, got dealt to the Vancouver Canucks one day earlier.

Let’s evaluate both sides of this trade and see which team came out with the better deal.

Winnipeg Jets

Let’s start with the positive side of this deal for the Jets. They’ve been one of the NHL’s best teams all season, but the one area where they have a clear need is on the power play. Winnipeg’s power play ranks 24th, converting on just 15.7% of its attempts, and that has to improve if the team is going to get through the gauntlet that is the top of the Western Conference.

Unfortunately for the Jets, that conversion rate is no fluke caused by poor puck luck. When it comes to creating expected goals and high-danger scoring chances on the man advantage, they have been a bottom-three team, according to Natural Stat Trick. Monahan should give them more of a presence in those high-danger areas.

Monahan got quite comfortable in front of the net on the Canadiens’ first power play unit, and that helped him revitalize his career. Coming into the season, Monahan hadn’t tallied more than 10 goals or 18 assists since 2019-20. This year, Monahan already has 13 goals and 22 assists, and 45.7% of that production has come with the man advantage. That’s no knock on Monahan. Those goals count the same as even strength ones, but that does seem to be where his effectiveness begins and ends.

Taking a more cynical look at this deal for Winnipeg, it seems like it might’ve been a knee-jerk reaction to the Vancouver Canucks adding Elias Lindholm on Wednesday night. That may not actually be the case, but that is how it appears on the surface, and the Jets probably did overpay to land a player who is essentially a power play specialist.

When the game is played at even strength, Monahan has really struggled, especially on the defensive side of things. The Canadiens have allowed 3.26 xGA/60 with Monahan on the ice at five-on-five, which is tied for 633rd among players with at least 200 minutes played, per Natural Stat Trick. Monahan hasn’t done enough at the other end of the ice to make up for those deficiencies either, and that has resulted in a five-on-five goals share of 45.2%, which ranks 527th.

Look, there is no question that the Jets have a much better roster than the Canadiens. Playing alongside Jesse Ylonen, Josh Anderson, and Jake Evans probably hasn’t done Monahan’s five-on-five profile many favors. Monahan will be insulated with far better linemates in Winnipeg, and his underlying numbers should improve to some degree.

The Jets are competing atop the Western Conference this season, and they needed to improve their power play. Landing Sean Monahan should help them achieve that goal, but a first-round pick is somewhat of a steep price to pay for a player who hasn’t shown an ability to produce consistently at even strength. Grade: C-

Montreal Canadiens

On August 22, 2022, the Calgary Flames sent Sean Monahan and a first-round pick to the Canadiens in exchange for future consideration. That move alone is worthy of some high praise, but to flip Monahan for another first-round pick roughly 17 months later is an impressive piece of business by Montreal general manager Kent Hughes.

The Canadiens are still very much in rebuilding mode, so they took on Monahan’s contract to get the first-round pick, probably hoping they could flip him for another mid-round pick at a later date. I doubt the Habs ever thought they would get another first-round pick, especially after an injury limited Monahan to six goals and 11 assists in 25 games last season.

Far too often in this league, teams make one of two mistakes. Either they get frustrated with an underperforming player and ship him out when his value is at its lowest, or they get mesmerized by a player performing over his head in a contract year and overpay to retain him for almost a decade. The Canadiens did neither in this instance. Instead, they realized Monahan’s trade value may never be higher, and they took advantage of a thin center market.

As a result of his savvy dealings involving Monahan, Hughes now has two first-round picks to work with in each of the next two drafts. One of those picks is the Flames’ first-rounder in 2025, and considering how that team looks at the moment, that one could wind up being extremely valuable. Montreal has to be thrilled with how their future looks after getting a premium for a veteran forward like Monahan. Grade: A+

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Monahan will give the Jets’ power play a boost, but the price might have been too high

NHL announces return to Winter Olympics in 2026 and 2030, unveils plans for ‘4 Nations Face-Off’

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Hockey fans hoping to see the return of international best-on-best competition are going to get their fill over the next few years. On Friday, the NHL announced that NHL players would participate in the 2026 and 2030 Winter Olympics, as well as a “4 Nations Face-Off” in 2025.

NHL players have not competed at the Olympics since 2014, when Canada defeated Sweden to win the gold medal. In recent years, NHL players have been clamoring for a return to Olympic play, and that is now a reality.

In a joint press conference at the NHL All-Star Weekend in Toronto, the NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF announced the Olympic news.

“The international composition of National Hockey League rosters is unparalleled, and NHL Players take great pride in representing their countries,” Bettman said in a statement. “We are pleased that today, after intense collaborative efforts with the NHL Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation, we can formally announce that NHL Players will participate in both the 2026 and 2030 Olympic hockey tournaments.”

When discussing the biggest hurdles to getting NHL players back to the Olympics, Bettman said he needed assurances about who would pay for the “big ticket items.” Funding for insurance, travel and lodging for the families were among the most important parts of the discussions between the NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF.

IIHF president Luc Tardif also confirmed that ice hockey at the 2026 Olympics in Italy will be played on NHL-sized rinks (200 ft. x 85 ft.).

Following the press conference regarding the Olympics, the NHL and NHLPA unveiled plans for the 4 Nations Face-Off, involving Canada, the United States, Sweden and Finland. The event will be held in two North American cities, one in Canada and the other in America.

NHL stars Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Sebastian Aho and Elias Pettersson were on the stage with Bettman and NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh to discuss the tournament.

“It means a lot, obviously,” Matthews said. “At any level, to be able to represent your country is a big honor. … I think it’ll be great for the players and obviously great for the sport and the fans. I think we’ll really enjoy it.”

The four teams will each play three Round Robin games, and the top two teams at the end of that will play in a one-game final to determine the winner.

Starting in 2028, the NHL wants to involve more countries in a true World Cup of Hockey every two years so fans still get to see best-on-best competition in non-Olympic years.

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The NHL will get back to participating in international competition soon.

2024 NHL All-Star Game prediction, odds, bracket: Picks, best bets from hockey expert on 175-123 roll

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The 2024 NHL All-Star Game captains had their pick of top talent, and Saturday will be the time to see who built the best team. The All-Star Game is in Toronto for the ninth time, and first since 2020, and fans are sure to be on Auston Matthews‘ side. Teams were drafted for the first time since the 2015 All-Star Game, and as one of the four captains, the Toronto star’s top two picks are Maple Leafs, and so is his co-captain. Team Matthews will face the side selected by the Hughes brothers — Vancouver’s Quinn and New Jersey’s Jack — in the second 20-minute semifinal. First up is the semifinal between teams led by Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, and the semifinal winners will then face off for the title.

Saturday’s 2024 NHL All-Star Game is at Scotiabank Arena, and face-off for the first game is set for 3 p.m. ET. The latest NHL All-Star Game 2024 odds list Team MacKinnon as a slight -120 favorite (risk $120 to win $100) in its matchup with Team McDavid (-105). Team Matthews also is favored at -125 against Team Hughes (+100). Team Matthews is the +250 favorite to win it all, followed by Team Hughes (+265), Team MacKinnon (+280) and Team McDavid (+285). Before making any 2024 NHL All-Star Game picks, be sure to see the NHL predictions from SportsLine’s Matt Severance.

Severance is a well-connected writer and handicapper who has worked in the industry since 2005. He went an amazing 175-123-3 in 2023, earning profits on both goal totals and spread picks. He heads into All-Star Weekend on an 18-6 run on puck-line plays, bringing a profit of $744 for $100 players. Anyone who has followed him is way up.

Now, Severance has set his sights on the 2024 NHL All-Star Game. You can visit SportsLine now to see the picks. Here are the latest NHL odds and trends for All-Star Weekend:

Team MacKinnon vs. Team McDavid money line: MacKinnon -120, McDavid -105Team Mathews vs. Team Hughes money line: Matthews -125, Hughes +100MAC: Sidney Crosby is averaging 0.59 goals per game, his highest since 2010-11.MCD: Sam Reinhart’s 37 goals are already his most in a 10-year career. MAT: The four Maple Leafs have combined for 90 goals and 122 assists.HUG: Co-captain Quinn Hughes leads the NHL in plus-minus at plus-34.NHL All-Star Game picks: See picks at SportsLine

Why Team McDavid can win it all

McDavid went against conventional wisdom and snapped up the top goaltender with his No. 1 pick. Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck has the best goals-against average (2.20) and save percentage (.924) in the league aside from Adin Hill (1.94, .936), who has missed 33 games. McDavid is fourth in the league in assists (47), and he is joined by teammate Leon Draisaitl, who has 57 points as the Oilers are on the brink of a record-tying 17th straight victory. Florida’s Sam Reinhart (37 goals) and Boston’s David Pastrnak (72 points) add to the potent attack. See which team to back here.

Why Team Hughes can win it all

Jack Hughes is injured and will not play in the games, but brother and co-captain Quinn Hughes will, and they should have a hungry young team. Team Hughes had the top pick in the draft and went with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, the NHL’s points leader with 85. Quinn Hughes leads the league’s defensemen in assists with 50, behind only MacKinnon and Kucherov overall. Team Hughes also grabbed hungry young players like Brady Tkachuk (41 points) and Jesper Bratt (51), so they might try harder than the veterans. See which team to back here.

Why Team Matthews can win it all

Home ice and the familiarity among Leafs players should help in a game like this. So should having the NHL’s top scorer in Matthews (40 goals). Defenseman Morgan Rielly is his assistant captain and has 33 assists this season, while wingers William Nylander and Mitch Marner both have 47 points for Toronto. The goalie tandem of the Stars’ Jake Oettinger and the RangersIgor Shesterkin might be the best duo among the teams. Matthews has other playmakers, including Nashville’s Filip Forsberg (51 points) and the IslandersMathew Barzal (38 assists). See which team to back here.

How to make 2024 NHL All-Star Game picks

Severance is not picking Team MacKinnon, even though the captain and his Colorado teammate Cale Makar have the Avalanche sitting atop the West. They are joined by a resurgent Sidney Crosby, but Severance thinks other teams will be hungrier. 

Instead, Severance believes one crucial X-factor will help another division win it all, making them a must-back. He’s sharing who it is over at SportsLine.

So who wins the NHL All-Star Game 2024?, and what crucial X-factor makes one team a must-back? Visit SportsLine right now to get Severance’s overall champion, all from the NHL handicapper who is 175-123-3 in his past 301 NHL picks.

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SportsLine’s Matt Severance has made his 2024 NHL All-Star Game bracket picks and predictions for Saturday’s action

Penguins sign forward Jesse Puljujarvi to two-year contract

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Free agent forward Jesse Puljujarvi signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins that will run through the 2024-25 season, according to an announcement from the team. The deal will hold an average-annual-value of $800,000.

Puljujarvi signed a professional tryout with the Penguins on Dec. 10 after he had undergone double hip surgery during the 2023 offseason.

Since signing the professional tryout, Puljujarvi has registered nine points (four goals & five assists) in 13 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Puljujarvi was selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers. The 25-year old spent the six seasons as a member of the Oilers before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in February 2023 prior to the trade deadline.

Puljujarvi has tallied 114 points (51 goals & 63 assists) in 334 career games with the Oilers and Hurricanes.

It’s likely that Puljujarvi will skate on Pittsburgh’s third or fourth line upon joining the team. The Penguins currently have a 22-17-7 record (51 points) and are seven points out of a playoff spot as the league returns from the All-Star break.

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Puljujarvi signed a professional tryout with the Penguins on Dec. 10 and was playing for the team’s AHL affiliate

Devils’ Michael McLeod charged with two counts of sexual assault amid investigation into multiple NHL players

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Amid an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of Canada’s 2018 gold medal-winning junior team, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, New Jersey Devils forward Michael McLeod, Devils defenseman Cal FooteCalgary Flames forward Dillon Dube and former Ottawa Senators draft pick Alex Formenton have all been charged with sexual assault. 

On Monday, the London Police Service announced in a press conference that McLeod has been charged with two counts of sexual assault, while Hart, Foote, Dube and Formenton are all being charged with one count of sexual assault.

All five players had their first court appearance Monday. 

London Police Service Chief Thai Truong described the case as a “lengthy and complex process,” and stated that Monday’s charges serve as a “critical step” in the case.

Attorneys representing Hart, McLeod, Foote and Dube announced last week that each player had been charged with sexual assault by London, Ontario police. On behalf of their clients, they have denied the players committed such a crime.

“He is innocent and will provide a full response to this false accusation in the proper forum, a court of law,” Hart’s lawyers, Megan Savard and Riaz Sayani, said in a statement.

Legal representation for McLeod and Dube also stated their clients would be pleading not guilty to their respective charges.

“[We] will vigorously defend the case,” McLeod’s lawyers, David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein, said in a statement. “We ask that the public respect Mr. McLeod’s privacy, and his family’s privacy. Because the matter is now before the court, we will not comment further at this time.”

Dube’s attorneys, Louis Strezos and Kayleigh Davidson, stated that their client “maintains his innocence [and] will defend the allegations in court.”

“We have now become aware of the charge of sexual assault that has been laid against Dillon Dube,” the Flames said in a statement after the charge was made public. “We take this matter very seriously. Because the matter is now pending legal proceedings, we will have no further comment at this time.”

In addition, Foote’s lawyer, Julianna Greenspan, stated that Foote is “innocent of the charge and will defend himself against this allegation to clear his name.”

Formenton’s attorney, Daniel Brown, stated that his client is innocent, and he “asks that people not rush to judgment without hearing all of the evidence.”

Before the charges were made public, all five players took a leave of absence from their respective teams.

London, Ontario police began an investigation back in 2022 after it was revealed that Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior team following a Hockey Canada Foundation gala.

Per court documents, the victim, who was 20 years old at the time, alleged that a man, “John Doe #1,” took her back to a hotel room, and invited seven other individuals in that hotel room to engage in sexual acts. The woman stated in the lawsuit that the men asked her to take a shower and say that she was sober in a recorded message.

As a result, the woman sought $3.55 million in damages and ended up settling with Hockey Canada.

The NHL launched its own investigation in 2022 and stated it would make the results public. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that the league would release a statement once it was appropriate.

The Flyers and Devils both granted leave of absences to their players in late January and didn’t give a reason as to why those were being awarded. However, the Flames released a statement saying Dube was taking a leave of absence to deal with his mental health.

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McLeod and four of his ex-Hockey Canada teammates are facing sexual assault charges over an alleged 2018 incident

Golden Knights snap Oilers’ 16-game winning streak behind supreme effort from Adin Hill

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The Edmonton Oilers fell one win short of making NHL history on Tuesday. The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Oilers 3-1 and snapped Edmonton’s 16-game winning streak in the process.

The Oilers were just one win away from tying the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins for the longest winning streak in league history.

The Golden Knights scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal just 1:24 into the third period when Chandler Stephenson found the back of the net. Following a forced turnover in the neutral zone, Jonathan Marchessault was able to scoop the puck up behind the net and found Stephenson for a scorching one-timer from the face-off circle that made its way past Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner.

At the 19:27 mark of the final period, Golden Knights winger William Karlsson, who was playing for the first time since the Winter Classic, deposited an empty-netter to put the game away.

“I liked a lot of the parts of our game,” Oilers star Connor McDavid said following the game. “I thought it was a similar type game that we’ve played throughout the streak. We just didn’t find a way to get a win. Their goalie played well, and made some big saves.”

Golden Knights goaltender Adin Hill continued to have a sensational season as he turned aside 30 shots in the victory. Hill currently leads the NHL in goals-against-average (1.94) and save percentage (.936).

“Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short,” Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch added. “I think a big turning point in the game was the late goal [Vegas] scored in the first period. And then for us, it was just missed opportunities. I think the chances were there.”

McDavid opened the scoring in the first period when he converted a two-on-zero opportunity on a pass from teammate Leon Draisaitl. That came on the heels of McDavid dominating All-Star weekend as he won the Skills Competition on Friday.

However, the Golden Knights were able to tie the contest at the 18:06 mark of the third period when forward Nicolas Roy scored a rebound goal off a shot from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

The Oilers have had their fair share of ups and downs throughout the 2023-24 season. Edmonton started off the campaign 3-9-1 and the franchise decided to fire head coach Jay Woodcroft on Nov. 12. The Oilers have an NHL-leading 26-7-0 record since Knoblauch took over behind the bench.

Before their 16-game winning streak, the team had just a 13-15-1 record. Edmonton hadn’t dropped a game since Dec. 19 when they fell 3-1 in a regulation loss to the New York Islanders. Since then, the team has produced a 29-16-1 record (59 points) and now sits in third place in the Pacific Division.

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The Oilers fell just one victory short of tying the 1992-93 Penguins for the longest winning streak in NHL history

Winter Classic 2025: Chicago’s Wrigley Field to host Blackhawks vs. Blues in annual outdoor game

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The Winter Classic will be making a return to Chicago for the 2025 installment. The Chicago Blackhawks will host the St. Louis Blues at Wrigley Field in the 2025 Winter Classic, according to an announcement from the NHL.

This will mark the second time the annual outdoor game will be played at Wrigley Field. The Blackhawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field back in 2009 in a game the Red Wings won 6-4.

The 2024 Winter Classic featured the host Seattle Kraken defeating the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Park on Jan. 1, a contest that drew low ratings despite being on a big stage.

This will be the Blackhawks’ fifth time competing in the Winter Classic and the third time hosting it. Chicago will pass the Boston Bruins for the most Winter Classic appearances by any NHL franchise.

Meanwhile, the Blues will be participating in the Winter Classic for the third time. They hosted the 2017 Winter Classic at Busch Stadium and defeated the Blackhawks 4-1 in that contest. The Blues also competed in the 2022 Winter Classic, beating the Minnesota Wild 6-4.

Wrigley Field, home of the MLB’s Chicago Cubs, is one of the most iconic stadiums in any sport, so having it host another Winter Classic isn’t all that surprising. Wrigley Field also becomes the second venue to host multiple Winter Classics along with Fenway Park.

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This will be Wrigley Field’s second time hosting the Winter Classic