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Ryan Shannon signs with Lightning; A new Sean Bergenheim?

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the free agent market on Thursday as they signed speedy Ryan Shannon to a 1-year, $625,000 contract. Shannon is expected to immediately compete for a bottom six role on a team that was one game away from the Stanley Cup Final last year. What he lacks in size (he’s only 5’9”), he makes up for his elite level skating and a strong understanding of the game.

The Lightning will be Shannon’s fourth NHL team in the last five years. He bounced between the AHL, Ducks, Canucks, and Senators before he finally solidified his place in the NHL in 2009-10. His versatility was one of the major sales points for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman:

“”He can really skate. He’s a smart player. He’s got good skills and he can play any of the three forward positions, and his contract fits in with what we’re trying to do right now.”

Just take a quick look at their roster and it certainly looks like he’ll be filling the role Sean Bergenheim played a season ago. Last year, Yzerman and the Lightning signed Sean Bergenheim away from the New York Islanders with a 1-year, $700,00 contract offer. He rewarded the team’s optimism by scoring 29 points and playing solid two-way hockey on Tampa’s third line. More importantly, he caught fire in the playoffs as he netted 9 goals in only 16 games. For the first time in his career, he started to show the world why the Islanders used a first round pick on him back in 2002. He parlayed the breakout performance into a 4-year, $11 million contract from the Florida Panthers. But for one year, the Lightning got a tremendous bang-for-the-buck value.

This season they’ll hope to replicate their success with former-Senator Ryan Shannon. His 11 goals and 27 points are similar to Bergenheim’s regular season stats—albeit without the successful playoffs that lead to Bergenheim’s huge payday. Also like Bergenheim, he’s struggled to find his way in the NHL—but has the skill set to be a good depth player on a good team. The Lightning aren’t acquiring him to be a star forward that fills up the net; they’ll expect him to play good two-way hockey, get in on the forecheck, and play responsible hockey for head coach Guy Boucher. Shannon is excited to join the Lightning and show them what he can do:

“”The impression I got from playing against them and then watching them in the playoffs is like a boxer always hitting the body and then just pouncing on teams as the game went along,” Shannon said. “It’s a winning culture and to be part of that, there really is nothing better in the league. I think it’s a great fit the way they team plays.”

Sure, the Lightning would be pleasantly pleased if Ryan Shannon explodes in the playoffs like Bergenheim did this year. However, the main reason the Lightning are bringing Shannon into the fold is because he’s the right kind of player for their system. Like Bergenheim, he’s a very good skater who’s just a good hockey player. The Lightning hope he scores approximately 30 points like he did last season and be a dependable player that Guy Boucher can put on the ice in any situation.

If he can play responsible hockey for about 15 minutes per game, he’ll be a great acquisition for only $625,000 next year.

Report: Bruins’ Khokhlachev to sign in KHL

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Alexander Khokhlachev’s time with the Boston Bruins is up, according to a report out of Russia that has the 22-year-old forward signing with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

The deal reportedly won’t be announced until after June 30; Khokhlachev is under contract with the B’s until then. But the fact he’s apparently decided to depart for the KHL should come as no surprise.

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine NHL games.

Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

SKA acquired Khokhlachev’s KHL rights last summer.

Related: Khokhlachev just wants a chance

Jackets not expected to sign Quebec league prospect Pelletier

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Julien Pelletier meets his team after being drafted #107 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Julien Pelletier, the QMJHL Sherbrooke forward taken in the fourth round of the ’14 draft, is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract from the Blue Jackets, per the Columbus Dispatch.

The move would mean Pelletier could re-enter this year’s draft. The Blue Jackets have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sign him, or trade his rights to another team.

Taken five spots ahead of Viktor Arvidsson — who’s become a nice young player for Nashville — Pelletier had a solid season in Sherbrooke, finishing second on the team in goals (with 27).

This year, he was in training camp with the Jackets but sent home early.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets are also unlikely to sign another ’14 draftee — Olivier Leblanc, who was taken in the seventh round.

‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs for one final year in St. Louis

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Ken Hitchcock is taking one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

The club announced today a one-year contract extension for the 64-year-old head coach. Hitchcock then confirmed during a press conference that 2016-17 will be his final year. He plans to retire from coaching once it’s over.

“I just feel like I’ve got this really good year in me,” Hitchcock said. “This season has invigorated me like no season before.”

The Blues, of course, made it all the way to the Western Conference Final this year. The previous four postseasons under Hitchcock, they made it to the second round once, then lost three straight times in the first round.

“This group of players, their dynamic has changed, and it’s really exciting right now,” he said.

There will be at least one change to the coaching staff. GM Doug Armstrong said today that associate coach Brad Shaw will not be back. The rest of the staff has been offered one-year extensions to match Hitchcock’s.

Now that the decision has been made on the head coach, Armstrong can turn his full attention to the roster. Getting Jaden Schwartz, a pending restricted free agent, signed to a long-term deal will be his initial focus.

As for the captain, pending unrestricted free agent David Backes, there’s interest in bringing him back, but the numbers have to make sense. Forwards Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall are also UFAs.

On the back end, Kevin Shattenkirk is probably the biggest wild card. He can become unrestricted next summer, and there has been speculation he could be traded this summer. But as of right now, Armstrong expects him to be back.

Armstrong also said there’s a chance Vladimir Sobotka could return to the Blues next season. Sobotka has spent the last two years in the KHL.

However the roster looks next season, it will be interesting to see what Hitchcock can get out of it. The Blues got over a big hump in 2016, but they only got halfway to winning it all.

One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s this:

Related: Parayko’s ‘memorable’ season has extended into the playoffs

NHL explains no suspension for Marleau, says he didn’t ‘pick’ Rust’s head

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PITTSBURGH — Shortly after reports surfaced that San Jose’s Patrick Marleau wouldn’t face supplemental discipline for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Bryan Rust in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a series of tweets explaining their decision.

Following last night’s game, Marleau said he didn’t think he’d be suspended for the hit, explaining that he “kind of let [Rust] skate into me.”

“I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

Marleau’s assessment was in direct contrast with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

As for Rust, Sullivan listed him as day-to-day with an upper-body injury following the contest. The hit knocked Rust out of last night’s game, and the Penguins haven’t began their off-day practice yet.

More to follow…