Yzerman and Stamkos not worried about a contract extension just yet

stevenstamkos2.jpgWhile we’ve paid more than enough attention to the players that are restricted free agents this year, next year one of the biggest names in the NHL is set to become a restricted free agent. Steven Stamkos of the Lightning is in the final year of his entry-level contract and after scoring 51 goals last year, it’s time for the Lightning and GM Steve Yzerman to step up and lock him in for the foreseeable future. The contract process hasn’t begun yet with Stamkos, but as Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune finds out, neither side seems to be worried about getting something done.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who has plowed through plenty of other items on his docket in his first summer at the helm, wants to ensure Stamkos never hits the free agent market. Although there have not been any discussions between the Lightning and Stamkos’ agent to this point, Yzerman said re-signing Stamkos remains a priority.

“I haven’t had a chance to really start on that, but once we get into (training) camp … I will start to get prepared and make contact with Steven’s representation at some point,” Yzerman said. “I would prefer (it didn’t linger) but you can never be really certain as to which direction it will go, but he is an important part of the organization and we will make our best effort to get it done as quickly as possible.

“Our goal is to get Steven re-signed and he is an important part of the franchise, which is an understatement.”

Whether a new contract gets hammered out quickly or it takes time to come to terms, Stamkos said the process won’t weigh heavily on his mind.

“There is no rush for me, I’m not pressing on anything to get done on a certain timeline,” he said. “I have thought about it, for sure, but not to any kind of big extent. It’s obviously a big year because it’s the last year of a contract, but … there have been some others in the past who struggle in those years and let it get to them.

“For me, I’m lucky to have great guys on this team to be here with and our team is looking really good. I’m just excited to get the season going, contract or not.”

Must be nice to have a situation that isn’t fraught with anxiousness to get something done and squared away. With what we’ve seen this off-season concerning Bobby Ryan in Anaheim and Marc Staal with the Rangers, having both Yzerman and Stamkos say that they’re not concerned about things and eager to get something done is a nice change of pace. Yzerman has yet to make a seemingly bad move as GM, seeing how he handles a contract extension of this magnitude will be interesting to watch. It’ll also be interesting to see what Stamkos does for an encore following his breakout season.

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    Report: Former Canucks bench boss Desjardins to coach Canada at Olympics

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    Willie Desjardins’ time behind the Canucks bench ended in April, following three seasons, one playoff appearance, two years in which they finished near the bottom of the standings, and plenty of questions about deployment issues and his usage of younger players.

    However, it seems he’ll soon find himself back behind the bench.

    According to Steve Simmons of Postmedia, Desjardins is expected to be named coach of Team Canada for the upcoming 2018 Olympics. Nothing has been announced from Hockey Canada.

    Desjardins has experience coaching on the international stage. He was an assistant working with Pat Quinn when Canada took gold in the 2009 World Juniors, and was the head coach the following year when Canada took silver.

    Now, it will be interesting to see how respective hockey nations fill out their Olympic rosters for 2018. The NHL has announced its schedule for the upcoming season — cementing the fact the league will not be participating in South Korea.

    Based on earlier reports, Canada will look to build a roster with players competing in Europe and in the American Hockey League.

    Related: In farewell to Vancouver, Desjardins defends his approach to young players

    Patrick thinks he can make immediate NHL jump with Flyers

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    The New Jersey Devils opted for Nico Hischier over Nolan Patrick, but time will be the ultimate judge in that debate. The Philadelphia Flyers also might see their guy make a more immediate jump to the NHL.

    Patrick made it clear: he wants to go straight from the 2017 NHL Draft to training camp to opening night in 2017-18.

    “Yeah, I think after a good summer of training, that’s my goal,” Patrick said.

    The second pick of the draft noted not just his size, but also his two-way acumen when explaining why he believes he’s ready for the immediate turnaround. Patrick also brings up an interesting point: he’s already experienced three years of junior. He didn’t come out and say it, but the implication would be that his development might stagnate against lesser competition.

    MORE: Check out all 31 first-round picks here

    CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio got that same sense from Patrick in a one-on-one interview, and noted that the consensus is that he’ll make a difference from Game 1.

    Scouts are unanimous in predicting Patrick will play this season in the NHL. He turns 19 during training camp.

    One might read the decision to trade Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues as the Flyers’ way of agreeing that Patrick is probably ready, yet GM Ron Hextall wouldn’t just come out and say it. While praising Patrick, Hextall noted that he’ll need to “get to work” and earn a spot.

    The odds seem to be in Patrick’s favor, but perhaps it’s better to see him battle for it.

    Either way, don’t expect a long wait.

    After major changes, Bowman believes Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

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    CHICAGO — Stan Bowman received a lot of kudos for getting the old Blackhawks defense together for another kick at the can.

    But the way it played out, bringing back two aging veterans in Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya was a mistake by the general manager. The magic just couldn’t be recreated, and Chicago was swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators.

    Then came the offseason changes. Not just on the blue line, either. Brandon Saad is back, while Artemi Panarin is gone. Marian Hossa is gone, too — a huge loss for the ‘Hawks, even if he can be put on LTIR.

    So the forward group is going to look quite different next season.

    The blue line could look very different, though. Oduya and Campbell are both unrestricted free agents and may not be back. Trevor van Riemsdyk was lost in the expansion draft. And last but not least, Niklas Hjalmarsson is a Coyote now, traded to Arizona for d-man Connor Murphy.

    In other words, of the six defensemen who lost to the Predators, only Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are still under contract in Chicago.

    “A lot of stuff going on,” Bowman said Friday at United Center. “Sometimes, change is good. You have to make some tough decisions. But at the same time, we’re really excited about our team next year.”

    Much will be expected of Murphy, a 24-year-old who’s been toiling in Arizona anonymity since being drafted 20th overall in 2011.

    “Connor’s a little bit of a different player (than Hjalmarsson),” said Bowman. “Obviously, he’s a bit bigger, he plays probably a more physical game. But he’s a good skater and he’s six years younger. It’s really hard to find young defensemen like that. He’s got a great contract, too. He’s a guy we’re going to have for a long time.”

    Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling will also be expected to take on bigger roles in 2017-18.

    “It’s up to them to take hold of it, but I think the opportunity is going to be there for them,” said Bowman. “It’s time to give these guys a chance to grow and take on bigger responsibilities.”

    Speaking of young defensemen, the Blackhawks added another to their stable Friday, drafting Henri Jokiharju with the 29th overall pick.

    “Henri’s a player we’ve been high on all year,” said Bowman. “A right-shot defenseman. Those are a commodity in today’s game. It’s hard to find them. He plays a modern style of hockey. Great skill-set, good skater, can handle the puck, make plays. I guess what you would term the modern-day defenseman.”

    As for Bowman, he believes his big moves have been made. He promised changes, and changes he delivered.

    “I think we’re in a good spot,” he said.

    Related: Blackhawks sign Czech defenseman Jan Rutta

    Penguins spend big to get bigger, land Reaves from Blues

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    Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said he wanted to add some snarl to protect stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. You won’t find many – if any – forces more intimidating than Ryan Reaves.

    That’s who the Penguins reportedly acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Blues, who suddenly became very busy toward the end of the 2017 NHL Draft’s first round on Friday.

    MORE: Blues acquire Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera, picks

    Moments ago, Gary Bettman announced the details of the move.

    Penguins receive: Reaves, 51st pick of 2017

    Blues receive: Oskar Sundqvist, 31st pick of 2017

    Penguins’ perspective

    Rutherford believed that the NHL was allowing teams to take liberties with star players, particularly Crosby and Malkin. Even after winning consecutive Stanley Cups, it was clearly something important to him.

    Rutherford reiterated that thought after the move.

    One can debate how much an enforcer such as Reaves really “deters” such behavior, especially since he won’t be on the ice with star players in most close situations. There’s little denying that he’s a fearsome fighter, with six in 2016-17 and as many as 10 in a single season.

    Reaves carries a $1.125 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

    A busy night for Doug Armstrong

    Moments ago, the Blues drafted Kim Klostin with the 31st pick, grabbing a player some expected to go much earlier in the first round.

    They also acquired Oskar Sundqvist, the 81st pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. The 23-year-old was unable to score a point in 10 games with the Penguins last season, but he was productive in the AHL, scoring 20 goals and 46 points.

    Blues GM Doug Armstrong absorbed some serious criticism for protecting Reaves instead of David Perron, but now both players are gone. One would assume that’s likely by design, although it’s also possible that the Penguins simply provided an offer he couldn’t refuse.

    Armstrong made another big splash by sending Jori Lehtera and draft picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for Brayden Schenn. Getting the 31st pick was helpful for the Blues after they sent the 27th choice to Philly.