Coyotes’ Kurt Sauer still dealing with concussion effects from 2009 injury

Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Kurt Sauer is a guy we haven’t heard from much in the last couple of seasons. Last year, Sauer played in just one game last season on October 3, 2009 against Los Angeles. In that game, Sauer suffered a neck injury that translated into a concussion.

Sauer hasn’t played another game since then and while many fans can get impatient waiting and hoping for their favorite player to get back from a concussion (as is the case with Sidney Crosby, Mike Green, and David Perron), as we’re finding out getting healthy from a brain injury like that is of vital importance.

As we learned from the sad tale of former Red Wings and Blackhawks enforcer Bob Probert, concussions take their toll over time as Probert was discovered to have CTE, a degenerative brain disease. While Sauer is out with a concussion of his own, we’re finding out that the recovery from such an injury can be debilitating, frustrating, and disheartening. Sarah McLellan of The Arizona Republic caught up with Sauer to see how he’s doing and his story is a must-read for anyone trying to get an idea of how tough it can be to bounce back from a concussion. This excerpt deals with how he handled things in 2009 after being injured.

He worked on his conditioning in practice, but one day he did a figure 8 and never stopped spinning. He started doing balance therapy and worked at it until the All-Star break. When he returned from a five-day hiatus, he wore an extremely loose helmet. After a brief workout, Sauer felt dizzy, and all of a sudden his helmet was hugging his skull.

That was the last time he trained on the ice.

Since then, Sauer continued therapy for a 16-week period to no avail. He’s seen doctors specializing in the neck, spine and brain, and no one has a clear diagnosis.

“It’s a peculiar set of symptoms,” Sauer said. “It doesn’t fit into one category.”

When he wakes up at 6:30, it takes him an hour and a half to get out of bed. A headache persists for most of the day, and his eyes hurt and ears ring. The right side of his neck aches, as does his right shoulder. If he deals cards, his right hand turns a shade of purple, almost green, and his veins bulge. If something startles him, he feels nauseous. Whenever he helps out at Kohl’s hockey practice, he leaves the ice feeling sick. He needs a nap after trying to teach Kade how to ride a bike.

McLellan’s look into what Sauer’s life is all about now as the symptoms and ailments that still linger is both touching and sad. While he gets to be the house dad to his four children (Kade, Kohl, Kasen, and Kruz) his inability to even be a fully functional and fun-loving dad is hindered by the lingering effects of his injury as he’s unable to sit through a full hockey practice or teach them how to ride a bike without feeling nauseous or needing a nap.

Stories like this from Sauer should be the sort of thing the NHL and NHLPA take a closer look at as it’s an example of just how bad things can be for what was always treated as a minor injury. While Major League Baseball has gone the proactive route instituting a trial seven-day disabled list for those with concussion symptoms, the NHL (and NFL likewise) are more high-contact sports where physicality is part of the nature of the beast. Sauer’s story as well as the long recovery time for other stars like David Perron and Sidney Crosby should be all the proof the NHL needs to know they need to be more vigilant in protecting the players in one way or another.

Stories like Sauer’s should be used as a prime example of why things must be improved and while things are moving in the right direction thanks to what happened to Crosby, it shouldn’t take a superstar’s absence to get the wheels spinning faster in the right direction for player safety.

McPhee says Golden Knights ‘accomplished a lot of things’ in first draft

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No team was busier at the NHL draft this weekend than the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Armed with 13 draft picks thanks to their dealings in the expansion draft, the Golden Knights began the process of building the real future of their team. It started on Friday night when they kept all three of their first-round selections and used them to select a pair of centers along with a puck-moving defenseman. They continued the process on Saturday with the remainder of their picks.

A quick look at the selections indicates McPhee tried to begin by building his roster down the middle by selecting six centers, two defensemen and a pair of goalies.

“We accomplished a lot of things in this draft,” McPhee said, via Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review Journal. “We got some skill, we got some size and we got some goaltending.”

Their entire draft haul ended up as follows

1 (6) — Cody Glass, center

1 (13) — Nick Suzuki, center

1 (15) — Erik Brannstrom, defense

2 (34) — Nicolas Hague, defense

2 (31) — Jake Leschyshyn, center

3 (65) — Jonas Rondbjerg, right wing

4 (96) — Maksim Zhukov, goalie

5 (127) — Lucas Elvenes, center/right wing

5 (142) — Jonathan Dugan, left wing

6 (158) — Nick Campoli, center

6 (161) — Jiri Patera, goalie

7 (189) — Ben Jones, center

Along with those picks, they also traded one of their second-round picks (No. 45 overall) to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for prospect Keegan Kolesar, a 6-2, 223-point forward that is ready to make the jump to pro hockey after averaging a point-per-game the past two seasons in the Western Hockey League.

Size did seem to be a common trend with their picks as eight of their selections were listed as 6′ or taller, including Hague, a 6-5, 207-pound defenseman.

While the inaugural Golden Knights roster will be made up primarily of players taken in the expansion draft this past week, most of them will not be with the team for more than a year or two as the organization begins to take shape.

Some of them probably will not even begin the season on the team as McPhee continues to wheel and deal.

This weekend is where the real building of the organization started.

Treliving: Flames paid price in Hamonic deal, but ‘you can never have enough top d-men’

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Two years ago, Brad Treliving acquired Dougie Hamilton at the draft. On Saturday, he picked up Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders.

Those are two moves that have significantly helped the Flames build a formidable top-four defense in the Western Conference, and it’s already been suggested it could be in the conversation with Nashville’s group that includes Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm.

Yes, the Flames paid a price — first and second-round picks in next year’s NHL Draft and a second-round pick in either the 2019 or 2020 NHL Draft.

But after making the playoffs this season and then making a recent trade with Arizona to acquire goalie Mike Smith, the Flames seem to feel they’re in their window to win now. Today’s move further solidifies that notion.

“You’ve got to give to get,” said Treliving, the Flames general manager, of the Hamonic deal. “You hate paying the price. But we looked at a lot of things: We looked at the makeup of our team, where he fits. He’s a right shot. We think he fits in real good with our team.

“I like the looks of our top-four. He moves pucks. He’s a character kid. He’s got some bite to him.”

The Flames now have their top four defensemen locked into contracts through at least 2020, which was one of the important factors in acquiring Hamonic, according to Treliving. Mark Giordano, who turns 34 in October, is signed through 2022 and Hamilton is signed through 2021.

Treliving lauded the puck-moving ability of Giordano, Hamilton and T.J. Brodie — who combined for 31 goals and 125 points, led by Hamilton’s 13-goal, 50-point campaign. But, he said, the move to acquire Hamonic brings added toughness and versatility into the group.

“He checks a lot of boxes for us,” he said. “I think you build up through the middle. This, to me, solidifies our defense. I like our center ice position. There’s depth there and we’ll keep tweaking at it, but I like the looks of that defense.”

As a result of injuries, Hamonic played in only 49 games last season.

With the way Hamonic plays, Treliving admitted there may be greater risk for injury, but the Flames don’t have any concerns about that heading into next season.

The Flames also have some young, up-and-coming defensemen in their system, most notably 20-year-old prospect Oliver Kylington, who fell to 60th overall in 2015, even though there was talk he could be a first-round pick.

“I think we’ve got some young kids coming. It allows them to progress and develop at their own timeline,” said Treliving. “But you can never have enough defensemen. You can never have enough top defensemen.”

Snow open to trading picks, prospects to improve roster now

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CHICAGO — Garth Snow may not be done dealing.

After trading defenseman Travis Hamonic to Calgary, the New York Islanders’ general manager said the return from the Flames could be used as “currency” to bolster the roster.

The Isles received a first-round pick in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2018, plus other considerations, for Hamonic.

“I don’t envision anything happening here in the next two days, though that could always change,” said Snow. “We feel we have a good hockey team. We have a team that’s built for now and for the future. I mean, you look at our prospects and the draft picks, we also have the ability to use some of those assets to bring in a player that can improve our club in the near term.”

Snow has reportedly had his eye on Colorado forward Matt Duchene, but so far has been unable to make a deal with the Avalanche.

As for trading Hamonic, Snow said it was made more palatable by the “great depth” the Isles have got on the back end.

That said, it was a tough, emotional decision.

“I think the world of him, on and off the ice,” Snow said of Hamonic. “Just a first-class player and first-class person.”

Snow would not divulge if the move was related to Hamonic’s trade request from 2015.

“I think he’s in a good place to play for his family, and the Islanders got a solid return,” said Snow. “I think it’s a win-win for both teams.”

Report: Rangers to hire Lindy Ruff as an assistant coach

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More coaching news on Saturday.

Lindy Ruff’s time with the Dallas Stars ended in April following a disappointing regular season, but it appears he’s found another coaching gig in the NHL.

It is, however, a different role than what he’s been used to for the past 20 years.

Per Larry Brooks of the New York Post, a deal has not been done yet, however, Ruff will join the Rangers as an assistant coach on Alain Vigneault’s staff. He’ll reportedly replace Jeff Beukeboom and will be in charge of New York’s defense.

Ruff certainly brings experience, with 1,165 games coached in the NHL. He’s been a head coach since 1997 when he joined the Buffalo Sabres, and hasn’t been an assistant since a four-year tenure with the Florida Panthers from 1993 to 1997.

The Rangers’ defense has undergone notable changes this offseason, with Dan Girardi getting bought out of his six-year, $33 million contract. With about $20 million now in cap space, New York may not be done making moves to their blue line this offseason.

The Rangers made a blockbuster trade with the Coyotes on Friday, sending Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes in exchange for the seventh overall pick and 21-year-old defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.