Varlamov speaks to media, childhood dream was to play for Avalanche

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One week after the July 1st trade that brought Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche, he was formally introduced to the Denver media. In addition to performing the entire press conference (and subsequent interview session) in English, the 23-year-old Russian netminder surprised most people in attendance by telling everyone that his “childhood dream was to play for the Avalanche.” It shouldn’t be shocking considering the quality of the Avalanche teams during his formative years. None the less, it’s always fun to hear that a player dreamt of playing for a team that was the 2nd worst team in the league last season.

“It’s funny, but its true… my childhood dream was to play for the Avalanche.

And here’s the rationale:

“My favorite NHL player and NHL goalie played here. Patrick Roy. They’ve had lots of good players playing here, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote. They had lots and lots of good players.”

Here’s the entire press conference and highlights from the media scrum afterwards (via the Avalanche’s official site):

It’s good to hear that he’s excited because he has plenty of work ahead of him. After making the playoffs in 2009-10, the Avalanche saw their season fall off of a cliff in 2010-11. An optimist will tell you that they didn’t even finish last in their own division. A realist will point out that only one team finished with a worse record—marking the second time in three seasons they had a top 3 pick in the draft. To make matters worse, they traded John-Michael Liles to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a draft pick and only added Jan Hejda and Chuck Kobasew to the team for next season. Unless Varlamov does his best Craig Anderson circa 2009 impression, it’s hard to see how the Avalanche are going to compete for a playoff spot.

At least Varlamov has a job in the NHL. Adrian Dater of the Denver Post asked Varlamov if there was a chance that he was going to go to the KHL:

“Uh, no. I don’t want to talk about that right now. It’s none of my business. I just want to talk about the Avalanche.”

Ignoring the ridiculous “it’s none of my business” part of the quote, he’s making a concerted effort to move onto his future with the Avs. Within the interview package, Varlamov said that he plans on staying in North America for another month, will head to Russia to visit family for a couple of weeks, and then return in mid-August to get ready for the season. For a man who was rumored to be heading to the KHL, he’ll be seeing much more of North America in the coming year than his native Russia.

Varlamov said that he has no idea who’s going to be the number one goalie, but it’s safe to assume that he’ll be given every opportunity to earn the starting job in training camp. JS Giguere and he both want the #1 spot, but the Avalanche didn’t give up a 1st and 2nd round pick for Varlamov just so he could sit on the bench.

The Avalanche think they have their franchise netminder for the future. Now it’s just time for him to prove it.

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”

Panthers didn’t want to trade Crouse, but Bolland contract was ‘strangling’ them

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Interesting note here from Florida head coach Tom Rowe who, last night, watched former Panther prospect Lawson Crouse play in Florida for the first time since being traded to Arizona.

Crouse was the price the Panthers had to pay to unload Dave Bolland‘s contract on the Coyotes last summer. Rowe wasn’t involved with the Bolland signing, but was involved in dumping the contract — he was Florida’s assistant GM at the time the deal went down.

His take, from the Miami Herald:

Florida traded Crouse to the Coyotes last summer as part of a salary cap dump; Arizona took on the final three years and $16.5-million of Dave Bolland’s contract in exchange for a top prospect — in this case, Crouse.

“We got criticized for giving up on a great young prospect but we had to,” Rowe said. “That contract was strangling us, cap-wise. …

“When we traded him, our scouts were furious. I’m not going to lie. But we had to do something and that was trade Lawson. I’m sure, to this day, he’s still sour about it.”

Crouse, who Florida took 11th overall at the 2015 draft, has five goals and 11 points through 64 games this year, averaging 11:50 TOI per night. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they do need to be taken in context — Crouse is only 19 years old, and the 10th-youngest player to play in the NHL this season.

Bolland, meanwhile, hasn’t played since December of 2015, due to a variety of back and ankle injuries. His time in Florida was largely forgettable — after scoring the $27.5 million pact, he played just 78 games in a Panthers uniform, scoring 28 points.  It’s widely regarded as the worst deal GM Dale Tallon has made during his time with the organization.

Shortly after taking on his contract, Coyotes GM John Chayka said Bolland wouldn’t be healthy for the “foreseeable future.” The 30-year-old has two years remaining on his deal, at $5.5 million annually.

 

Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

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Arizona Senate President Steve Yarbrough does not expect a piece of legislation to pass that would give the Coyotes millions of dollars in public financing to build a new arena.

That being said, Yarbrough thinks the Coyotes may be able to gain some “traction” if they offer to put in more of their own money.

Under the current plan, the team has pledged $170 million of the arena’s total cost, which is estimated at almost $400 million. The difference would be made up by new sales taxes, plus $55 million from the still-to-be-determined host city.

“If you are getting no traction the way the bill is designed, you could see if the hockey team paid a greater portion,” Yarbrough told the Arizona Republic yesterday. “I have been around this business long enough to know that if it’s not working in this format, you change the format to make it more attractive.”

For their part, the Coyotes have not said whether they’d be willing to pay a greater portion of the project, only that they’ll continue to “work hard to find a viable arena solution in the greater Phoenix area, a market that both the club and the NHL believe is a strong hockey market capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise.”

Related: Bettman says Coyotes “cannot and will not remain in Glendale”