Ducks hand coach Randy Carlyle a three-year contract extension

There are plenty of teams that seem unpredictable heading into the 2011-12 season, but the Anaheim Ducks might be the toughest to gauge.

On one hand, they have the best trio of power forwards in the league: 2011 Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, outstanding center Ryan Getzlaf and still-improving American winger Bobby Ryan. The Ducks also have explosive offensive defensemen in Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler (who just completed an impressive rookie season).

The problem is that the Ducks’ question marks are just as big as their burly, high-scoring forwards. Their defense ranged from mediocre to awful last season and it didn’t get much better during the summer. (In fact, hard-shooting defenseman Kurtis Foster might be a downgrade from Andy Sutton – at least in the Ducks’ end.) Of course, the biggest problem is that goalie Jonas Hiller’s vertigo issues seem unresolved. If you ask me, Hiller deserves consideration among the NHL’s most valuable goalies because of all the leaks he plugs with his leg pads. The Ducks might also have even more trouble providing secondary scoring if Teemu Selanne retires.

In other words, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has his hands full. On the bright side, contract worries won’t be at the top of his mind, though; the team handed him a contract extension that runs through the 2013-14 season today. It’s technically a three-year extension, although the 2011-12 season will be part of the deal. Financial terms haven’t been disclosed.

Carlyle has enjoyed a great run behind the Ducks’ bench, which you can see from this summary from the team.

Carlyle, 55 (4/19/56), was named the seventh head coach in team history on Aug. 1, 2005 and has since led the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup championship (2007), Pacific Division championship (2007) and five playoff appearances in six seasons (2005-09, 2011). Only one NHL coach has won more postseason games than Carlyle’s 36 since 2005-06 (Mike Babcock). Carlyle has the most wins and highest winning percentage in Ducks history, compiling a 266-169-57 record in 492 regular season contests (.599 winning percentage).

There were some who were calling for Carlyle’s head early last season when the team got off to a very slow start, but the Ducks stood by him and it paid off with a breathtaking run to the playoffs. The Ducks have provided him with some nice talent over the years, but his track record is still very impressive considering the rigors of the Pacific Division and Western Conference.

That being said, the 2011-12 season could be his toughest test yet. If he can get this talented but deeply flawed Ducks team to the playoffs again, then he deserves every undisclosed penny he’ll receive.

Report: Skinner among leading candidates for Hurricanes captaincy

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The Carolina Hurricanes went last season without a captain. That will change once training camp is over, and, according to a recent report, Jeff Skinner is one of the prime candidates to possibly wear the ‘C’ for this season.

The Hurricanes selected Skinner seventh overall in 2010. He made an instant impact on the NHL club, scoring 31 goals and 63 points in his rookie season as a teenager. He’s been a valuable offensive weapon for Carolina ever since.

This past season, he scored 37 goals — a career best. Although the consideration to potentially make him the next captain goes beyond his skills around the opposing net.

From NHL.com:

“He’s a passionate guy and he’s a passionate player,” Peters said. “He’s a real good pro in the fact that he looks after himself, he trains properly and the guys have unreal respect for the way he looks after his body. The maturity shows. I know guys bring it up quite a bit.”

To that end, Peters said he was at a staff golf outing prior to the start of training camp with about 16 people, including members of the Hurricanes’ medical and strength training staffs, and he polled as many people about the captaincy candidates as he could.

“[Skinner’s] name came up in the conversation quite a bit, and they bring up that type of stuff, the way he looks after himself and the way he prepares,” Peters said. “He’s passionate about it and he’s hungry to win.”

The Hurricanes have, over the past few years, done a nice job of building a talented young roster that has shown signs of being able to compete in the Eastern Conference. They do, however, play in a difficult Metropolitan Division, which features the Blue Jackets, Penguins, Capitals and Rangers.

The biggest change in Carolina this offseason was in net, with the addition of Scott Darling, who was the capable back-up in Chicago but is now taking over the No. 1 role with the Hurricanes.

Another change is still upcoming. Eric Staal was the captain in Carolina for six years, but the team is expected to soon name a replacement. There are other candidates for the Hurricanes captaincy, as well, like Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal.

“Someone is going to wear one, for sure,” said Peters earlier this month, per TSN. “Our leadership group is fine and we’ve got real good candidates. They’ll all provide leadership whether they wear a letter or not.”

Islanders sign 2016 first-round pick Bellows to entry-level deal

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The New York Islanders made a few roster moves Friday. That included sending 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows back to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

Shortly after that, it was announced that Bellows and the Islanders agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract.

The Islanders originally selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The 19-year-old left winger played one year at Boston University, tallying seven goals and 14 points before deciding to leave school to play this season in the WHL, which has a completely different schedule from college.

“Play more games,” Bellows told NHL.com in July. “I think just the 72 games in the [WHL] regular season is the biggest thing. I can’t thank [Boston University coach David] Quinn enough and all the guys on the team. I had an unbelievable first year at Boston University, but I just felt it was best for me to go and play more games.”

Stamkos to make preseason debut tonight vs. Predators

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For the first time since Nov. 15, 2016, Steven Stamkos will be in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup.

Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the prolific scorer will play tonight for the Bolts, as they continue the preseason against the Nashville Predators.

Stamkos suffered a knee injury last November. He underwent surgery but didn’t make it back to the lineup for the remainder of the year, marking the second time in four years his regular season was derailed by a significant injury.

“Listen, I snapped my leg in half and came back and was playing the best hockey of my career,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times, referring to his broken leg suffered during the 2013-14 season.

“So this is another hurdle. I’m confident that when you put in the work, you’re going to find ways. It may be different ways. You may have to adjust certain parts of your game. But we’ll handle that when I see how it feels in a game situation. We’ll know more tonight.”

Given such a lengthy time away from game action, it might be wise — at least early on — to temper expectations of Stamkos.

He is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers. But he also hasn’t played a game in 10 months. In a conversation with the Tampa Bay Times, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, who had the same surgery in 2010, said it “took probably a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal.”

It appears Stamkos will center a line tonight with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, who should certainly be pleased to be playing alongside No. 91.

Habs place Redmond on waivers — again

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A number of players found themselves on waivers Friday, including Montreal depth defenseman Zach Redmond.

(CapFriendly has an extensive list of players on waivers, which you can check out here.)

Redmond is in the final year of a two-year contract with the Habs, who already had a crowded blue line with eight defensemen signed for this season and Jakub Jerabek making the move from the KHL and looking to earn a roster spot out of camp.

Noah Juulsen was also a prospect defenseman to watch in camp, however, he recently suffered a fractured foot and is out six weeks.

Redmond, who was previously placed on waivers in January, split last season between Montreal and the Habs’ AHL affiliate in St. John’s, where he had 18 points in 26 games.

Now 29 years old, Redmond has 130 games worth of NHL experience with Winnipeg, Colorado and Montreal.