NHL Daily Links - Dec. 31

UPDATE: Seven-year, $49-million deal for Phaneuf has been made official by Maple Leafs ... One day ahead of the annual Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, the participating Toronto Maple Leafs are attracting a significant amount of attention for their off-ice dealings. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos suggests the club is about to announce (Tuesday?) a long-term deal with its captain, defenseman Dion Phaneuf. The extension is rumored to be worth in and around $49 million over seven years. On a recent episode of HBO’s “24/7”, assistant general manager Claude Loiselle told GM Dave Nonis that a limited no-trade clause was the only sticking point between the two sides. Kypreos also claims the Maple Leafs are open to trading young center Nazem Kadri.

In other Leafs’ related news, Leo Komarov is apparently keen to return to the NHL; ideally with the Toronto club, which owns his NHL rights until July. The gritty defensive forward is currently competing for Dynamo Moscow of the KHL.

Even though he played poorly in his first game after missing nearly three weeks with a knee injury, goalie Jimmy Howard is pegged to get the start for the Detroit Red Wings against the Leafs at the Big House.

Forward Roman Horak is fixed to make his Edmonton Oilers debut Tuesday on a line with Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle. Horak has been skating with the AHL Oklahoma City Barons since being traded from the Calgary Flames in November. Winger Nail Yakupov is expected to sit out against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Boston Bruins could have defenseman Dougie Hamilton (lower-body injury) back in a matter of days, not weeks. Injured forwards Loui Eriksson (concussion) and Carl Soderberg (unconfirmed concussion) also skated Monday. And defenseman Zdeno Chara appears to A-Okay after missing Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators with some mysterious injury.

Acting GM Brian Burke added toughness to his Calgary squad by trading center Greg Nemisz to the Carolina Hurricanes for enforcer Kevin Westgarth (6-foot-4, 234lb). As Brian Burke is wont to do.

The Colorado Avalanche will have to manage without winger P.A. Parenteau for the next six weeks or so. Parenteau suffered a sprained knee in Sunday’s tilt with the Winnipeg Jets. Nathan MacKinnon is expected to sub in for Parenteau on a forward line with Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny, while Jamie McGinn will join the top-six and play with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly.

Goalie Corey Crawford (groin) hopes to return for the Chicago Blackhawks this Thursday (vs New York Islanders) or Friday (vs. New Jersey Devils). Friday might be the safer bet, since Antti Raanta may be afforded an immediate follow-up start to his first NHL shutout (Monday, 1-0 over the Los Angeles Kings). Crawford has been out since the first week of December.

In case you missed it earlier this week, goalie Michal Neuvirth wants out of Washington. Neuvirth hasn’t suited up for the Washington Capitals since Nov. 22. The 25-year-old has one year left (cap hit: $2.5 million) on his contract after this season. ESPN Insider Craig Custance suggests the Islanders and Panthers might consider trading for Neuvirth as a "possible long-term option in goal".

The Detroit Free Press reports Team USA’s three goalies for the Olympics will be Jonathan Quick (Kings), Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) and Howard (Red Wings). Official announcement is to come Wednesday during the Winter Classic.

Ottawa forward Chris Neil could be out a while with a lower-body injury. Coach Paul MacLean hinted as much after the forward left during the first period of Monday’s 3-1 win over the Capitals. On the upside, both forward Jason Spezza (hip) and defenseman Chris Phillips (foot) are considered “maybes” for Thursday’s contest with the Winnipeg Jets.

No timetable for Tommy Wingels of the San Jose Sharks, who fell hurt during Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. The winger will miss Tuesday’s game against the Ducks, at the very least. Related: ESPN Insider Craig Custance looks at who the Sharks might lean on at forward, in light of injuries to Wingels, Tomas Hertl, Martin Havlat and others.

The general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ray Shero, has an alleged interest in trading for Jets Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler (aka Winnipeg’s three best forwards not named Bryan Little). Obviously the price for each would be awfully steep.

Goalie Brian Elliott is to start for the St. Louis Blues against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday. Not because Elliott has been better than No. 1 Jaroslav Halak, but because Halak is feeling fluey. Hmm.

Veteran Jaromir Jagr insists he won’t ask the Devils for a trade at the deadline “if everything stays the same”. “I’ll fight to the end. I like it here too much,” Jagr told The Star-Ledger. “I would hate to go to some team just to help them. I’d feel like a rented guy.” Assuming the “everything stays the same” bit is to mean the Devils are still in realistic contention for a playoff spot.

Defenseman Marc Staal is expected to compete for the New York Rangers Tuesday after missing 10 games with a concussion. With Staal in the lineup, ESPNNY.com’s Katie Strang suggests Michael Del Zotto and Justin Falk are the top contenders to sit against the Florida Panthers.

We knew the “who”, and now it seems we know the “where”. A source has told ESPN.com that the Capitals are favored to host the 2015 Winter Classic at Nationals Park. No hint yet as to an opponent.

“… While there has still not been any official decision, the source said it's likely that Nationals Park -- home to the Washington Nationals -- will be the chosen venue because of possible scheduling issues with the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field and because Nationals Park presents a relatively new venue …”