Canucks defense injuries at critical mass; Kevin Bieksa out 2-3 weeks with broken foot


Things are getting a bit out of hand for Vancouver now. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa will miss the next 2-3 weeks of action with a broken foot. You can add Bieksa to the Canucks defensive injured list that includes Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Alex Edler, Lee Sweatt, and Andrew Alberts. Getting to join the party from the AHL to take Bieksa’s place is Evan Oberg.

After an off-season that was filled with trade rumors for Bieksa, he’s emerged to be one of their best blue liners this year. With six goals and 13 assists and a ridiculous +26 plus/minus rating he’s been the rock they could count on with a constant cycle of guys in and out of the lineup. Now he goes on the shelf with three other starting defensemen leaving Vancouver a top six that is overrun with AHL players.

Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, and Aaron Rome are their veteran guys while Oberg, Chris Tanev, and Yann Sauve make up their bottom three. Rome gets veteran status even though he wouldn’t be a fixture in the lineup if it weren’t for injuries. It’s a stunning array of “who’s that” players and yet through all of this the Canucks still maintain the best record in the NHL and have the most points with 83. To give you an idea of how inexperienced the trio of Oberg, Tanev, and Sauve are they have combined for 15 games played in the NHL and 12 of those belong to Tanev this season.

If the Canucks can maintain their dominance through all of this it will be one of the more impressive feats of the season and make them an even more dangerous team come playoff time when they get their lineup back to full health.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.