Chris Pronger expects to play a full season in 2011-12

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It’s easy to dislike Chris Pronger considering his tendency to bend or even break the rules, but you have to give him his due. When Pronger plays in front of a netminder, they often enjoy a mysterious ascent; a mediocre goalie starts to look good and a good goalie might even seem great.

Of course, for him to make that impact, Pronger actually needs to be on the ice. That was a pretty big problem during an injury-ravaged 2010-11 season he referred to as “the year from hell.”

There’s more than a little worry that Pronger’s current contract might be a deal with the devil for the Philadelphia Flyers, but the more immediate concern revolves around his rehab from back surgery and problems with an injured hand. A recent post revealed that Pronger is “progressing nicely” but could miss the beginning of Flyers training camp. The bigger question for the Flyers is whether or not he could play when the games start to count, though. The latest reports indicate that Pronger thinks he’ll play a full 2011-12 season, although much of the evidence about his training regimen make that hard to believe.

CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio caught up with Pronger, who reportedly hasn’t lifted a heavy weight in six months and is about two months behind where he would normally be when it comes to strength training. Although he had surgery for a herniated disk in his back this summer, Panaccio reports that his biggest issues have been with that injured hand.

Pronger said his right hand is holding him back from resumption of a full workout schedule. The hand surgery came last March.

He estimated that his hand is 80 to 85 percent healed. The screws have been removed and subsequent holes need to be filled in. Pronger won’t be permitted to begin heavy weight training for about another week, he estimated.

While Pronger is the aggressor far more often than he’s not, his bruising and unforgiving style – not to mention the accrued hockey mileage from all those long playoff runs – might be catching up to him at 36 years old. The towering defenseman brushed off the talk of his body “breaking down,” though.

“I don’t know if you could say I was breaking down with broken bones and being hit by pucks and all the rest of that,” Pronger said. “Those are things that can sometimes be avoided. Perhaps now I may not block as many shots. I might just get out of the way and let our million dollar goaltender [Ilya Bryzgalov] stop those things.”

Pressed further about his durability, he replied, “If I’m going off last year, I guess I’d call myself a Band-Aid. But I’ve got many other years where I’d say I wasn’t a Band-Aid. Sometimes you just have years where things don’t go your way.

When it comes to injuries, players generally exprience more years that don’t go their way once they get older. Barring a new loophole from a future Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Flyers are on the hook for his near-$5 million annual salary cap hit through the 2016-17 season whether Pronger keeps playing or retires altogether. They better hope that his “Band-Aid” years are few and far between, beginning with the pivotal 2011-12 season.

It’s hard to imagine Pronger being 100 percent healthy next season, but we’ll keep you updated regarding the big blueliner’s attempt to back up his hopeful claims that he’ll play all 82 games next season.

Oilers re-sign Pakarinen for one year

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The Edmonton Oilers have given winger Iiro Pakarinen a one-year contract extension.

From the release:

Pakarinen just finished his third season with the Oilers organization, appearing in 14 regular season games in 2016-17, posting four points (2 goals, 2 assists).  The 25 year old forward missed 53 games due to an injury suffered during the pre-season. He appeared in one playoff game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Oilers brought Pakarinen over from Finland in 2014. Since then, he’s split his North American career between the AHL and NHL while drawing praise for his versatility and hard-nosed style.

Per CapFriendly, Pakarinen’s cap hit will be $750,000 in 2017-18. It’s a one-way deal.

Market heating up for prized Czech d-man Rutta

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Coming off an impressive performance for the Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, Jan Rutta is now being courted by a number of NHL clubs.

Per The Athletic, the Blackhawks are in contention for securing Rutta’s services. That comes on the heels of earlier reports from TSN’s Darren Dreger, who said there are “multiple” offers for the 26-year-old, including ones from Edmonton and Calgary.

“He’s a steady defenseman with size, and he had a strong finish of the season,” an NHL scout told The Athletic. “He was very good in the playoffs and played his best at the Worlds.”

Rutta, who was never drafted by an NHL club, has spent his professional career with Czech League outfit Pirati Chomutov. He’s blossomed into a talented offensive defenseman — finishing second among Czech League d-men with 32 points in 46 games this year — and, as mentioned above, has good size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds.

Last week, Rutta’s agent — longtime Octagon Hockey representative Allan Walsh — tweeted that his client would make a decision on NHL offers soon.

 

Sharks keep stockpiling European free agents, land Sandberg

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Doug Wilson is at it again.

On Thursday, the Sharks GM confirmed yesterday’s news — the signing of Czech d-man Radim Simek — and announced that Swedish forward Filip Sandberg had agreed to a two-year deal.

“Filip is a very creative player who sees the ice well and can create offense in limited space,” Wilson said in a release. “He plays a high-pressure, puck-pursuit game and his battle level is something we have been impressed with, especially against older players.

“We are excited for him to join our organization.”

Sandberg, 22, is fresh off a Swedish League title with HV71. The club announced Sandberg would be headed overseas last week, but didn’t divulge what team had signed him.

It wasn’t surprising NHL clubs had interest. Sandberg had a good offensive campaign in Sweden, scoring 25 points in 52 regular season games, then broke out for six goals and 14 points in 16 playoff contests.

Prior to this year, Sandberg twice represented Sweden at the World Juniors, including the 2013 tournament where the country won silver. He finished with two goals in six games playing alongside the likes of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

As for Simek, he inked a one-year deal.

“Radim is a quick transition defenseman who drives the play offensively and plays with a physical edge,” said Wilson. “We like his offensive instincts especially on special teams and think his game will translate well in North America.”

Simek just finished representing his native Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, where he had two points in eight games.

According to a report from Radio Praha, the Sharks beat out the Rangers to acquire Simek. Passed over in his draft year, the 24-year-old has spent his entire pro career with Liberec Bili Tygri.

As mentioned above, Wilson has done well finding European skaters in their early-to-mid-20s, ones that can contribute right away at the NHL level: Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, most specifically.

The hope now is that Simek and Sandberg will continue that trend.

Avs dismiss three from coaching staff, but Bednar remains

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Colorado GM Joe Sakic said there would be turnover this offseason, but that head coach Jared Bednar was safe.

On Tuesday, Sakic followed through.

The Avs have parted ways with two of Bednar’s assistants — Tim Army and Dave Farrish — and also relieved goalie coach Francois Allaire of his duties.

Army, 54, has been with the club for the last six years, having previously served as the head coach at Providence. He served under three different head coaches in Colorado — Bednar, Patrick Roy and Joe Sacco — and was largely tasked with running the team’s power play (which finished 30th in the NHL this year).

Farrish, 60, just wrapped his second year on the job with the Avs after coming over from Toronto. A veteran of nearly 30 years in coaching, Farrish was brought aboard by Roy, and brought “a wealth of experience and hockey knowledge to our organization.” A journeyman blueliner who playecd 430 games at the NHL level, Farrish ran the club’s defense last season.

Allaire, 57, has been coaching goalies at the NHL level for over 25 years, with previous stops in Montreal, Anaheim and Toronto. His ties to Roy ran deep — he mentored the former Avs coach with the Canadiens, and the pair won two Stanley Cups together (in 1986 and ’93). Allaire has been with the Avs for the last four years, on the heels of an acrimonious departure from Toronto.

Today’s shakeup is a significant one, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Bednar was essentially forced into retaining all of Roy’s staff following the latter’s shock resignation last August, and probably wants to bring in some of his own guys.

Sakic, meanwhile, had to make some sort of changes after the worst regular season in franchise history — and today’s could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Related: Avs president gives Sakic vote of confidence