Alain Vigneault on Manny Malhotra return talk: ‘Don’t go there’

As we’ve noted before, the mere fact that Manny Malhotra is already skating again with the Vancouver Canucks is pretty amazing. Of course, when a player starts popping up at practices more often, it’s only natural for media members to ask if that person might return to his team’s lineup. Malhotra sparked some comeback chatter when he practiced in full gear on Tuesday, although he didn’t participate in full contact drills.

In case you’re not up to speed about Malhotra (seen speaking to GM Mike Gillis in this post’s main photo), a late season eye injury threatened not only his career but also his long-term vision. He underwent at least two surgeries on that eye, making the prospect of a quick return very unlikely. Such a grim scenario might lead some to wonder why people are asking about his odds of a comeback, but then again there’s also that underlying factor that hockey players are ridiculously tough.

Vancouver media members are asking those obvious questions about Malhotra, but Canucks coach Alain Vigneault isn’t too pleased with the speculation. He was quick to shoot down rumors that Malhotra might play for Vancouver at some point in this postseason.

“It’s just about having him around the team,” Vigneault explained. “He’s been a very important part of our leadership group. I want him around the team and it’s that simple. We’re not going to discuss his physical situation, his eye. All I can tell you is I want him around the team, and that’s it.”

Last week, Canucks GM Mike Gillis declared it was “extremely unlikely” Malhotra would suit up again this season.

Then associate coach Rick Bowness said it would take “a complete miracle” for Malhotra to play in a game. Is this miracle happening?

“Don’t, don’t, don’t go there,” Vigneault snapped. “I just told you we’re not discussing that. Anything else?”

(Am I the only person who imagines a valley girl’s inflection upon reading Vigneault’s “Don’t, don’t, don’t go there” statement? Let’s just move on.)

Malhotra might not be a top goal scorer, but his two-way play (most apparently shown in his elite faceoff skills) will be missed even as the Canucks continue to march toward June. He’s most likely sticking around for moral support, yet it’s understandable that some might wonder if could inspire his teammates even further by improbably playing during the 2011 playoffs.

It’s far fetched, but we’ll keep you updated about his status either way.

Habs address blueline, acquire Schlemko from Vegas

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Having already moved on from Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin and Mikhail Sergachev, the Habs continued to remodel their defense on Thursday by acquiring David Schlemko from Vegas.

Schlemko, who spent last season with the Sharks, was acquired by the Golden Knights at last night’s expansion draft. Vegas will receive Montreal’s fifth-round pick in 2019 as part of the deal.

Signed to a four-year, $8.4 million deal last summer, Schlemko had high expectations in San Jose. GM Doug Wilson trumpeted him as a “solid puck-moving defenseman” and while Schlemko did show it at times, he also had his low points.

He was a healthy scratch midway through the year, and missed some time with a lower-body injury. All told, he had 18 points in 62 games, while averaging 16:45 TOI per night.

It’s unlikely that Habs GM Marc Bergevin is done here. While Schlemko is a decent pickup, he’s only one of five d-men under contract for next season, along with Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Brandon Davidson and Jordie Benn. Andrei Markov is an unrestricted free agent, and it’s unclear if he’ll be brought back.

Related: Vegas has 15 d-men, but won’t keep them all

 

Kings add ‘tremendous all-around teacher’ Nachbaur to coaching staff

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John Stevens has added a familiar face to his coaching staff.

On Thursday, the L.A. Kings announced the hiring of Don Nachbaur as an assistant coach.

Nachbaur has spent the last seven seasons as bench boss of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. He has worked with Stevens before, although it’s been a while.

Their paths crossed during their playing days with the Philadelphia Flyers and American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears in the late 1980s. After that, they coached together with the Philadelphia Phantoms in the AHL. Nachbaur was an assistant coach with the Phantoms for two seasons (2000-01 and 2001-02) while Stevens was the head coach.

They made the playoffs both years but didn’t go beyond the second round.

“Don is a great addition to our coaching staff. I personally have known him 30-plus years,” said Stevens. “I played with him and have coached alongside him. He has played the game at a high level and he is a tremendous all-around teacher who is very well-rounded.”

Nachbaur joins a Kings staff that includes assistant coach Dave Lowry and goaltending coach Bill Ranford.

Here’s the new first-round draft order

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A week ago, we released the full order of selections for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Well, some stuff has happened since.

So here’s the new order for the first round, which will be selected Friday evening at United Center in Chicago:

1. New Jersey Devils
2. Philadelphia Flyers
3. Dallas Stars
4. Colorado Avalanche
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. Vegas Golden Knights
7. Arizona Coyotes
8. Buffalo Sabres
9. Detroit Red Wings
10. Florida Panthers
11. Los Angeles Kings
12. Carolina Hurricanes
13. Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg)
14. Tampa Bay Lightning
15. Vegas Golden Knights (from NY Islanders)
16. Calgary Flames
17. Toronto Maple Leafs
18. Boston Bruins
19. San Jose Sharks
20. St. Louis Blues
21. New York Rangers
22. Edmonton Oilers
23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota)
24. Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas)
25. Montreal Canadiens
26. Chicago Blackhawks
27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington)
28. Ottawa Senators
29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim)
30. Nashville Predators
31. Pittsburgh Penguins

That order could still change, as there’s been plenty of speculation that some of the top picks could be in play.

Are teams like the Devils, Flyers, and Stars willing to deal?

We’ll find out soon.

Trade: Isles get Eberle from Edmonton for Strome

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Everyone knew this was going to be a massive offseason for Islanders GM Garth Snow.

And Snow has now responded in kind.

Per TSN, the Isles are on the verge of acquiring Jordan Eberle from Edmonton. No word yet on what’s headed to New York in return. Sportsnet has confirmed the move, saying all involved parties are being informed of the move.

Update: Ryan Strome headed to Edmonton in exchange, per TSN’s Darren Dreger.

The move comes after weeks of speculation about Eberle’s future with the Oilers. He had a solid regular season in Edmonton, with 20 goals and 51 points through 82 games, but struggled mightily in the postseason. He went scoreless through 13 games, finishing with just two points while watching his ice time dwindle to 14:32 per night.

Eberle is still a quality offensive talent, though, and should be thrilled about the prospect of playing with Isles captain John Tavares. Tavares, in turn, will undoubtedly be pleased with Snow’s bold move to bring in additional scoring up front, which could go a long way towards signing an extension with the Isles.

It’s safe to assume Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli will feel some heat for this deal. While he did get out from under Eberle’s contract — $6 million annually for each of the next two years — Strome is coming off a disappointing year, and was exposed by the Isles at last night’s expansion draft.

That said, Chiarelli does have bigger fish to fry. Connor McDavid, the Hart Trophy winner, is eligible to sign an extension soon. Ditto for Leon Draisaitl.

Needless to say, those two contracts could be rather large.