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Hurricanes lock up top defenseman Joni Pitkanen for three years, $13.5M

While one can debate whether or not he actually should be a big-minute defenseman, Joni Pitkanen plays that role for the Carolina Hurricanes. Only 12 other players averaged more than the Finnish blueliner’s 24:55 minutes per game in 2010-11 and that was actually a step back to the norm after he averaged a whopping 27:23 time on ice in 09-10.

The Hurricanes rewarded Pitkanen for his big minutes and solid offensive contributions (35 points in 10-11, 46 in 09-10) with a three-year, $13.5 million contract extension today. That amounts to a $4.5 million annual salary cap hit, which is a $500K per year raise from his soon-to-expire three year deal for $12 million.

That’s not a bad deal for the Hurricanes considering how much they depend on Pitkanen. It also might be a bit generous of Pitkanen when you take into account how weak the market is for unrestricted free agent defensemen. That’s not to say that he would be guaranteed to make more money on the open market, but with few other options, it is at least conceivable that he might receive more.

Still, he probably enjoys his role and time in Carolina and they’re paying him a nice sum. This leaves the Hurricanes with about $28.7 million of cap space and 7-10 roster spots to fill. The team has some questions left to answer, with Erik Cole and Jussi Jokinen being there most prominent unrestricted free agent and Brandon Sutter headed for restricted free agency.

It’s quite possible that their defense might be more or less set after today’s signing, though.

Video: Mika Zibanejad’s check to Tyler Bozak’s head

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Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).

The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.

You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.

It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.

Malcolm Subban hospitalized after taking puck to throat

Malcolm Subban
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Scary stuff on Saturday: multiple reporters (including the Maine Hockey Journal’s Chris Roy) note that Malcolm Subban was taken to a hospital after a puck struck his throat during warm-ups.

There’s no word yet on Subban’s condition beyond that he was taken away in an ambulance.

The AHL’s Providence Bruins seem like they’ve been left scrambling for a backup goalie in Subban’s absence.

Subban stated days ago that he’s taken some significant steps forward during the 2015-16 season.

 

Senators get Kyle Turris back on Saturday

Ottawa Senators' Kyle Turris celebrates his game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens during overtime of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The Ottawa Senators cannot pin all of their troubles on missing their No. 1 center, yet it probably feels like a huge relief to get him back.

After missing six games with his latest injury, Kyle Turris is in the lineup as the Senators take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Again, it’s not all a matter of missing Turris, but the Senators went 1-5-0 during his six-game absence. They’ve really been falling since late December, to be honest.

Will Turris be enough to stop the bleeding? Perhaps to an extent, but the Senators are in for a serious battle if they hope to fight through the East bubble.

Habs’ win was a showcase for P.K. Subban, Connor McDavid

Montreal Canadiens defensemen  P.K. Subban (76) holds off Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.

Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.

Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.

Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:

From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.

Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?

The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.

That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.

If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.