Luke Schenn; Jeff Carter

With negotiatons stalling, Luke Schenn’s agent says that new contract might be an ‘August issue’

While teams were chomping at the bit to splurge on unrestricted free agents on July 1, the atmosphere for restricted free agents has been very different.

Tampa Bay Lightning fans agonized over every ridiculous (and even maybe the occasional semi-legitimate) rumor about Steven Stamkos before he was finally re-signed to an “everyone wins” deal. While talks of a stalemate between Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators might amount to his agent’s posturing, there’s a genuine concern that his contract negotiations might hamper the team’s ability to keep its “Big Three” in Tennessee. It’s even tough to praise Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi for his shrewd series of off-season moves because he still needs to sign Drew Doughty to what might be a legacy-defining contract.

One player who might fly under the RFA radar a bit (except in Toronto, of course) is Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn. While Schenn’s game leans far more toward defense (he lead all NHL defensemen in hits during the 2010-11 season with 251 and was the team’s leader in shorthanded ice time) he really captured a lot of hearts when things were especially bleak during his 2008-09 rookie season. Maybe worries haven’t reached a fever pitch because the Leafs signed most of their free agents already and the team showed far more promise in 10-11 – or perhaps because rival general managers simply aren’t sending offer sheets these days – but Schenn’s situation might remain a concern for some Leafs fans.

Then again, when you consider context, Schenn’s stalling situation might have as much to do with his representation as it does with his asking price. Schenn is represented by big-time agent Don Meehan, who has plenty on his plate this off-season since he also represents the likes of Stamkos, Doughty and Zach Parise. (Maybe Schenn needs an agent with a more personal, Jerry Maguire-like approach?)

When asked about Schenn’s negotiations, Meehan told the Toronto Sun that a deal probably won’t get done until next week … or maybe even later next month.

“It’s more of an August issue,” Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, said on Tuesday.

Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle is probably going to be one of the point men in contract negotiations with Schenn, and he is on vacation.

Considering Brian Burke’s burgeoning fleet of assistant general managers, the Leafs should probably be able to get a deal done sooner or later. They should be able to get a solid deal considering comparable restricted free agents (Meehan probably hopes the name “Karl Alzner” doesn’t come up too often). Yet even if he proves to be a tough nut to crack, the Leafs should have at least $5.2 million in cap space to work with. They’ll want to save some of that for trade deadline flexibility, but the takeaway is that Schenn probably won’t be playing anywhere else anytime soon.

Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

He left the game and didn’t return.

Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).