2010 NHL Free Agency: Blackhawks keep some size, re-sign bruiser Bryan Bickell

bryanbickell1.jpgThe Chicago Blackhawks lost a ton of muscle this off-season. Thanks to salary cap headaches, the team purged bruisers such as Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd. Those loses may not mean much in the box scores (aside from Byfuglien, I guess), but in tough battles with feisty squads such as the Vancouver Canucks, Chicago cannot afford to let its smaller players like Patrick Kane get pushed around.

The team took one step to keep some size in its lineup today, signing hefty forward Bryan Bickell to a three-year contract, according to ESPN Chicago. Bickell is a 6-4, 223 lbs. presence who may not have Byfuglien’s offensive ceiling but should fill some of the void left by the heavyweight nuisance.

Financial terms haven’t been released just yet, but considering the fact that the team still has some salary shedding to do, my guess is it will be a pretty frugal deal.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?

Goalie nods: Jones makes Sharks debut against ex-Kings mates

Martin Jones
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News and notes from around the crease…

Jones goes for San Jose

Martin Jones, acquired by the Sharks this summer, will make his first regular-season start for the club tonight against his old team — the Los Angeles Kings.

Jones, 25, spent the last two years in L.A. as Jonathan Quick‘s understudy. He was flipped to Boston at the NHL Entry Draft, then shipped to San Jose. Sharks GM Doug Wilson wasted little time locking Jones in — signing him to a three-year, $9 million extension — and Jones wasted little time locking up the No. 1 gig, putting together a stellar preseason.

For the Kings, Quick will get the start in goal.

Markstrom out for Vancouver

Jacob Markstrom wasn’t scheduled to start for the Canucks tonight — No. 1 Ryan Miller is getting the call — but the Swedish ‘tender won’t even dress when his club takes on the Flames in Calgary.

Markstrom suffered a lower-body injury at practice this week and is being held out of tonight’s action. In his place, the Canucks called up AHL netminder Richard Bachman, who’ll serve as Miller’s backup.

For the Flames, Karri Ramo is the opening-night starter.


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