Alex Ovechkin calls his body ‘perfect,’ signs endorsement deal with Bauer

While many justifiably blamed his perceived beer belly at least partially on bad posture, it was still easy to be a bit concerned about Alex Ovechkin’s physical condition during this off-season. That being said, even if those images were as bad as they looked, they surfaced in July – giving Ovechkin plenty of time to sand that supposed gut down into a bump (at worst). Ultimately, I think that Washington Capitals shouldn’t be too concerned with their superstar captain’s fitness level.

Apparently Ovechkin agrees that everything will be OK. When asked about his weight, he told reporters that his “body is perfect right now.” If you take his comments at face value, then it might be safe to believe that Ovechkin will return to the beast-like form he exhibited in each of his seasons before (a notably unlucky) 2010-11 season. Here’s the full quote from Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com.

“People were a little bit scared about what happened to my body, but my body is perfect right now,” Ovechkin told reporters after announcing a six-year agreement with Bauer Hockey. “It was interesting for me because that’s never happened to me, people saying I’m in bad shape.”

While Mr. Big candy bars might be a bit obscure to American chocolate eaters (at least personally speaking), Ovechkin keeps adding more high-profile endorsements to his portfolio. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Ovechkin would boost Nike products. Now it’s clear that he will team up with Nike’s former partner Bauer.

There are two interesting things about the Bauer partnership. The first is more on the heartwarming side, as hockey programs in Ovechkin’s native Russia and his home-away-from-home will both benefit from donations.

To that end, Bauer Hockey and Ovechkin have agreed to donate 108 sets of equipment to the Dynamo Hockey School in Ovechkin’s hometown of Moscow. Another 108 sets of equipment will go to the Kettler Capitals Iceplex and the Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association in Washington.

One program that will benefit from the equipment donation will be the Fort Dupont Hockey Club, which was founded in 1977 in the driveway of Neal Henderson’s home in Springdale, Md. The club, which now has 65 players, teaches hockey and life skills to children in Washington’s poorest districts.

As Gormley points out, the goal isn’t just to benefit others with free equipment. Ovechkin seemed to quietly struggle with his previous skates and sticks, which means that the endorsement changes might not be for money-related reasons alone.

Ovechkin hopes his switch to Bauer produces more than just good will. Notorious for breaking sticks like toothpicks, Ovechkin is counting on Bauer to provide him with a sturdier product, which in turn should produce more goals.

“He’s been trying his hardest to break a stick and so far they seem to be indestructible,” Leonsis said, “and that makes us all smile.”

As long as he’s healthy, Ovechkin should have a much better campaign in 2011-12 by the law of averages alone. Most hockey players would consider selling their souls for a 32-goal, 85-point season, but for a phenom like Ovechkin, it was a down year. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though; Ovechkin took 367 shots in 10-11, just one less than in 09-10. He just wasn’t getting the bounces that went his way for most of his career. Ovechkin connected on just 8.7 percent of shots, well below his career average of 11.9 percent.

The change in equipment will probably only make a subtle difference, if any at all. Yet if he feels more confident shooting with different sticks – and gets the bounces he should – then it’s easy to picture a 40+ or even 50+ goal season for Ovechkin … whether he has a “perfect body” or not.

Lightning re-sign journeyman forward Conacher

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Cory Conacher has turned an impressive Calder Cup Playoffs run into a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Per the club, it’s a one-way deal in the first season and a two-way deal in the second, paying $650,000 annually at the NHL level.

Conacher, 27, had 12 goals and 16 assists in 22 playoff games as the Syracuse Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final.

The undrafted and undersized forward was also productive during the regular season, racking up 60 points (17G, 43A) in 56 games for the Crunch and four points (1G, 3A) in 11 games for the Lightning.

Conacher has been quite the traveler in recent years, making numerous stops in both NHL and AHL markets. He spent the 2015-16 season in Switzerland, before returning to North America to sign with the Bolts last summer.

Sens keep Condon with three-year, $7.2 million extension

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Ottawa was thrilled with the way Mike Condon played last year.

And so, they’ve rewarded him.

Condon has signed a three-year, $7.2 million extension, the club announced on Monday. It carries a $2.4 million average annual cap hit, and makes him the only Sens goalie under contract beyond next season. Both Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond are UFAs in 2018.

Condon, 27, found stability in Ottawa after a whirlwind start to the year. He was waived by Montreal out of training camp and picked up by Pittsburgh, but only saw 20 minutes of action before the Sens acquired him.

His acquisition was necessary after news broke that Anderson’s wife, Nicholle, had been diagnosed with cancer. And as Anderson took leaves from the team to be with his wife, Condon got plenty of opportunities to play, and found his groove.

His first season in Ottawa featured several team records, including playing in a franchise-best 27 consecutive games between Dec. 1, 2016, and Feb. 4, 2017. He became the fastest goaltender in franchise history to record five shutouts, when he did so in his 32nd game on Feb. 16 versus the New Jersey Devils.

That performance led some to speculate Condon would test the market this summer, possibly for a No. 1 gig somewhere — or, the opportunity to compete for one.

That said, he and the Sens had started extension talks all the way back in February, suggesting both parties wanted to continue working together.

This means that another potential UFA goalie is now off the market. With reports that Ryan Miller is on his way to Anaheim, the pool of available guys is now led by Brian Elliott, Steve Mason, Jonathan Bernier, Chad Johnson, Anders Nilsson, Darcy Kuemper and Ondrej Pavelec.

Rangers reportedly on verge of re-signing Brendan Smith

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The New York Rangers are “close to finalizing” a contract extension with defenseman Brendan Smith, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

The deal is expected to be four years long with a cap hit of $4.35 million.

Smith, 28, was traded from Detroit on Feb. 28, and the Rangers clearly liked what they saw.

In the playoffs, Smith played all 12 games, averaging 19:41 of ice time while adding four assists and finishing a team-high plus-8.

It remains to be seen if signing Smith makes it less likely that the Rangers pursue Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency.

Don’t forget the Blueshirts got Anthony DeAngelo in the Derek Stepan trade, and DeAngelo’s game is quite similar to Shattenkirk’s — albeit far less proven at the NHL level.

Related: Smith, Rangers still talking

Report: Kings land Sabres goalie prospect Petersen

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Sounds like Cal Petersen is headed to Los Angeles.

Per LA Kings Insider, Petersen — the star Notre Dame goalie taken by Buffalo at the 2013 draft — has decided to sign with the Kings when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 16.

The decision comes just days after Petersen told the Sabres he wouldn’t be signing with them.

“I’ve spoken to Cal. At this time I think he’s going to probably move to free agency and we’ll go from there,” GM Jason Botterill said, per the Buffalo News. “Disappointed, but we’ll move on.”

Petersen, 22, is coming off a great junior year for the Fighting Irish. He went 23-12-5 with a .926 save percentage and 2.22 GAA, helping the club advance to the Frozen Four. Petersen was also named a finalist for this year’s Mike Richter Award, given annually to college hockey’s top goalie.

In April, he was named to the U.S. team at the World Hockey Championships in France and Germany. He was one of three goalies on the squad — along with Connor Hellebuyck and Jimmy Howard — but didn’t appear in any games.

In late May, Petersen announced he was forgoing his senior year at Notre Dame to turn pro, but declined to say which club he would be signing with. Buffalo’s rights to Petersen expire on Aug. 15.

With the Kings, Petersen finds himself in a good situation. Jonathan Quick is entrenched as the No. 1, but turns 32 next season and missed most of last year with a groin injury. The backup battle will be between 30-year-old Jeff Zatkoff and 25-year-old Jack Campbell.

Organizationally, the club doesn’t have a ton of depth. L.A. cut ties with Czech goalie Patrik Bartosak following his assault charges in a domestic violence case in 2015. Jack Flinn, 21, saw a bit of time with AHL Ontario last year, and the club has used draft picks on the likes of Alec Dillon and Matthew Villalta.