Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams hopes to shake the injury bug

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justinwilliamsinjury.jpgYou know what they say: age is just a number.

Yet, in the realm of sports, you can seem old even if you’re not yet 30. Take a look at Patrice Bergeron, a 24-year-old player who seemingly experienced a career’s worth of highs and lows already.

Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams is only 28 years old, yet he’s had a very bumpy nine-season NHL career.

He began his career as a young forward in the Philadelphia Flyers system but never really met his potential until he became a member of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. In a peak 2005-06 season, Williams scored an impressive 31 goals and 76 points in the regular season while adding 18 points in 25 playoff games. His mixture of grit, great skating and scoring panache were a fantastic fit in Carolina, but injuries curtailed that success. He’s shown flashes of that 05-06 brilliance in L.A. – after all, for a very brief period of time he joined Ryan Smyth and Anze Kopitar as one of the most underrated lines in the NHL – but hasn’t been able to fight off the injury bug.

The Northlumberland News shares his hopeful journey toward reasonable health.

Justin Williams is hoping that bad things really do come in threes.

Cobourg’s NHL star has had a rough go since he won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. In three of the ensuing seasons, he has suffered debilitating injuries that kept him out of action for long stretches of time. He missed 43 games during the 2007-08 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and returned just in time for the playoffs, only to be sidelined again with a back injury. The next season he missed games thanks to injuries to his Achilles tendon as well as a broken hand and last season he missed 28 more games with a broken leg.

“I’ve had a tough three years,” said Williams during his trip home to Cobourg last week. “It was tougher mentally than it was physically. You need to have faith in yourself, and know that this isn’t going to break you.”

He’s been one of the NHL’s most fragile players, but if he could actually manage to avoid breaking/straining/tearing something, Williams could be a real asset.

In fact, if the team bows out of the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, a healthy Williams could soothe some of what ails them. Not all by any means – he’s only hit the 30 goal mark twice in his career and hasn’t even hit 30 goals total the last three seasons – but he’s they type of player who slips under the radar.

He’s played 49, 44 and 37 games the last three seasons. This is the last year of his five-year contract, so if there ever were a season for him to get his health together, 2010-11 would be that campaign. He hasn’t had much, if any luck, with his body the last few years but a good bill of health would be a plus for the Kings and Williams alike.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M

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Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.

Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.

Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.

But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.

Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon

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There’s just one piece of business left for Minnesota this summer — a new contract for RFA defenseman Matt Dumba.

And it sounds like that piece of business will soon be attended to.

From the Star-Tribune:

There have been ongoing talks between Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr and [Dumba’s] agent Craig Oster.

The two are expected to meet face to face in Calgary at the Hockey Canada camp.

Dumba, the former No. 7 overall pick, just wrapped his entry-level deal, coming off a campaign in which he set career highs in games played (81), goals (10) and points (26).

He also notched a pair of assists in the Wild’s six-game loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

Dumba, 22, did see his name surface in trade talks this season. There was a report in late January that he was the return piece in a potential swap for Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, and he’s been tied to teams looking for a blueline upgrade.

A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).

Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.

There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).

The Wild are in control of the Dumba situation and can slow play negotiations, possibly while re-exploring trade scenarios. Don’t forget the Bruins are still in search of the “transitional” defenseman they desperately want.

But should things go the expected way and Dumba re-signs in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune said a bridge deal is the “likeliest” outcome.

Journeyman enforcer Rosehill signs with Scottish team

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Noted pugilist Jay Rosehill has followed in the footsteps of his fellow tough guys, and will try his hand overseas.

Specifically, in the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, the EIHL’s Scottish-based outfit in Braehead — the Clan — announced it had signed Rosehill for the upcoming campaign. The move comes after the 31-year-old spent each of the last two seasons with Philly’s AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.

Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.

Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:

As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.

 

 

Veteran d-man Foster retires, moves into coaching

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Kurtis Foster #26 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during their NHL game against the New York Islanders on December 13, 2005 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  The Wild defeated the Islanders 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Kurtis Foster, who appeared in over 400 games during a 10-year NHL career, is hanging up his skates to enter the next phase of his hockey life — coaching.

Foster, 34, has rejoined his former junior team in OHL Peterborough as an assistant coach, per the Examiner. The decision comes after Foster spent the last three years playing overseas in the KHL and, most recently, in the German League.

The 40th overall pick in 2000, Foster is often remembered for a horrific leg break while playing for Minnesota during the 2007-08 campaign, in which his femur was shattered by Torrey Mitchell after Mitchell tried to prevent an icing call.

The severity of the collision and Foster’s injury — he underwent emergency surgery, nearly bled out and almost lost his leg — prompted an immediate rule tweak from the NHL, and has since been viewed as a catalyst for the league’s adoption of no-touch icing.

Impressively, Foster recovered from the broken femur to post a career-high 42 points in 74 games with the Lightning in ’09-10.

In addition to the Wild and Bolts, Foster spent time with the Thrashers, Oilers, Ducks, Devils and Flyers.