Pucks can play key roles in concussions

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This post is part of a series looking at the issue and impact of concussions in the NHL. ProHockeyTalk and Comcast SportsNet are featuring pieces today as a lead-in to tonight’s special edition of NHL Live on Versus (6:30 p.m. EST.)

The official puck of the NHL is small in stature — one inch thick, three inches in diameter, between 5.5-6 ounces in weight — but its impact on head injuries and concussions can be large.

Recently, Philadelphia Flyers rookie Sean Couturier was knocked out of a game after taking a Kimmo Timonen slapshot to the head:

Couturier left the game and didn’t return. While he appears to have gotten off lightly — Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said he’s day-to-day with a head injury — it reminded many of two careers cut short by pucks to the head.

One career was that of Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens. He suffered a concussion after being hit by this Pavel Kubina slapper during the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs:

Stevens played through the injury en route to winning the Cup with the Devils that spring, but retired the next season after experiencing post-concussion symptoms.

Another career that was derailed in a similar fashion was Ian Laperriere’s. He suffered a brain contusion after blocking a Paul Martin slapshot during the 2010 playoffs:

Lapierre briefly returned to the lineup before shutting it down for good.

“They say I have a bruise in my brain and they don’t want any bleeding in there,” Laperriere said at the time. “We’re hockey players. We take pride in playing with injuries, but that’s one thing I just can’t afford to do for the sake of my family. Trust me, I want to be out there. It’s the type of play I’ve done 10,000 times in my career and I’m going to do it again.”

Unfortunately for Laperriere, he never played again. The contusion has forced him to miss each of the last two seasons with post-concussion symptoms — he’s since been advised by doctors to retire. (Laperriere still hasn’t formally done so, but is on long-term injured reserve. Ironically, the Flyers assigned his old No. 14 to Couturier.)

The aforementioned injuries beg the question: Is a better puck out there?

According to Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail, maybe there is.

MacGregor tells the story of Harry McEachern, who a half-century ago developed a new puck aimed at replacing the frozen rubber disc developed by Art Ross, Eddie Shore and others.

[McEachern] came up with a puck made of butyl rubber that was the same size and weight as the puck in the rulebook but had somewhat different characteristics.

The new puck required no freezing, as is still done to NHL pucks in order to keep them from bouncing. Butyl rubber, McEachern says, is an “energy-absorbing material” that doesn’t bounce well. The puck appeared to slide more easily on the ice and, mysteriously, caused very few cuts when flying up into players’ faces.

“If it came in touch with the skin,” McEachern says, “it didn’t break. I can’t explain it.”

Local leagues experimented with the new puck for a couple of seasons in the late 1950s and the Red Wings tried them out in practice and were suitably impressed. But the league never adopted it.

There’s no magic bullet when it comes to solving the concussion problem in hockey, but it will be important to examine every facet of the game — from pucks to shoulder pads to trapezoids on the ice — to minimize the impact of head injuries on the players.

Kings sign Andreoff to two-year extension

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The L.A. Kings have brought back pending restricted free agent forward Andy Andreoff.

The Kings announced Saturday that they have re-signed Andreoff to a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $677,500.

He appeared in only 36 games last season, spending time on injured reserve, adding two assists. The previous year, however, he played in 60 games for L.A., scoring eight goals with 10 points.

At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Andreoff is known more for his physical style and checking abilities than offensive production, with 146 penalty minutes combined over the last two seasons.

Stars hope they got a second-round steal in Robertson

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CHICAGO — His stats jump right off the page.

On a Kingston Frontenacs squad that really struggled to score, Jason Robertson had 42 goals as a 17-year-old. Nobody else on his team had more than 26 goals.

For that reason, the Dallas Stars are hoping they got a steal in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft. Robertson, a winger, went 39th overall Saturday at United Center. A lot of scouts had him pegged as a first-rounder.

So why didn’t he go earlier?

Probably his skating.

“Everyone needs to work on stuff,” Robertson said. “Obviously, for me, I need to work on that. It’s something I’m always going to keep working on.”

But skating didn’t stop Robertson (6-2, 192) from shooting up the prospect rankings in 2016-17. At the midpoint of the season, NHL Central Scouting had him as the 34th-best North American skater. By season’s end, he was 14th.

“I think a lot of it came from confidence,” he said. “I gained more confidence in my game, my skating, my shot. Once I did that in the second half of the year, I really took off.”

He sure did, with 30 of his 42 goals coming in the final 40 games of the regular season. He then added five goals and 13 assists in 11 playoff games.

Robertson was born in Los Angeles, where his dad and grandpa were Kings season-ticket holders. He started playing hockey in L.A., then moved to Detroit when he was 10.

Isles keep dealing, send Hamonic to Calgary (Updated)

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It’s been rumored for days that Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic might be on the move.

And now it’s happened.

Per Sportsnet, the Isles have dealt Hamonic to Calgary. It’s the second significant move of the draft weekend from GM Garth Snow who, on Thursday, acquired Jordan Eberle from Edmonton in exchange for Ryan Strome.

Hamonic, 26, is coming off a difficult campaign in which injuries limited him to just 49 games. That said, he’s still a well-regarded blueliner that will make Calgary’s defense one of the deepest in the league.

There, he’ll play alongside Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie, putting the Flames in the conversation with Nashville for the best top-four in the NHL.

Hamonic had made waves during the ’15-16 campaign, when it was learned he’d requested a trade from the Islanders due to a family issue. That request had since been rescinded.

It’s worth mentioning that Hamonic has one of the more club-friendly deals in the league. He has three years left on a seven-year, $27 million deal, one that carries a $3.857M average annual cap hit. For a top-four defenseman that can log big minutes and post solid possession metrics, that’s a pretty low price to pay.

No word yet on what the return is for New York. The Isles selected a pair of defensemen — Robin Salo and Benjamin Mirageas — with their second- and third-round picks on Saturday morning.

UPDATE: Looks as though the Isles are only getting picks in return.

If Calgary misses the playoffs on 2019, the Isles get the pick that year. That condition stems from an earlier one in which Arizona would get the Flames’ second-rounder in 2019 if the Flames make the playoffs.

Got all that?

Jets extend Chiarot — two year, $2.8 million

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Winnipeg has retained some of its defensive depth, re-signing Ben Chiarot to a two-year deal worth $2.8 million.

It’s a $1.4 million average annual cap hit for the 26-year-old, and a nice pay bump from the $850,000 he was making on his previous deal.

Chiarot had a nice campaign in ’16-17, scoring a career-high 12 points while appearing in 59 games. The season ended on a down note, however, as he suffered an upper-body injury in mid-March and was shut down for the year.

Looking ahead, Chiarot will likely continue to serve in a depth role for the Jets. The club is bringing back nearly all of the same defensemen it had last year, and it’s expected youngster Josh Morrissey will take on an even bigger role.