The Montreal Canadiens have a new approach to fighting

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Interesting piece from the Globe and Mail on what Brad Staubitz represents for the Montreal Canadiens.

Staubitz, 27, was claimed off waivers from Minnesota at the trade deadline. Prior to joining the Habs, Staubitz had eight goals, 10 assists and 432 penalty minutes in 196 career games — and upon donning the bleu, blanc et rouge, he racked up 17 more PIM in his first game against Tampa Bay.

In case you were wondering, those penalties weren’t for hooking and/or interference. Staubitz likes to chuck knuckles — he’s fought 45 times since making his NHL debut in 2008-09 — and his Habs debut featured him defending teammate Alexei Emelin (who was jumped by Tampa’s Ryan Malone) and a spirited tilt with Lightning tough guy Pierre-Cedric Labrie.

“That’s a big part of my game,” Staubitz said. “I’m going to stick up for my teammates.”

The Staubitz acquisition represents a change in Montreal’s approach to on-ice retribution. The team hasn’t employed a legitimate enforcer since Georges Laraque was released midway through his three-year, $4.5 million deal — Travis Moen has been the de facto fighter ever since, but he’s a middleweight at best.

Head coach Randy Cunneyworth sees the value in retaining a heavyweight.

“Nobody will admit it openly, but I think I can admit it makes a team more cohesive when you’ve got that element,” he explained. “Players can back up certain actions on the ice. The other team knows, players of that nature can even out things or just not allow things of that nature to go on.

“It makes everybody a little bit more physical, a little bit braver to some extent. Nobody’s going to admit that personally, but I think I’m allowed to, and that’s the element we’re trying to create, but it’s more about a team toughness.”

GM Pierre Gauthier wouldn’t go as far as Cunneyworth (calling it “an adjustment” rather than a philosophy change) but several Habs players were on board with the increase in team toughness.

“I love it, I think [Staubitz is] a great acquisition,” said RW Ryan White. “He does his job well.”

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.

3 KHL players suspended after testing positive for banned substances

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The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced that three KHL players have been suspended after testing positive for banned substances.

Here’s an excerpt from the KHL’s website:

The IIHF has informed the KHL that three players – forward Danis Zaripov (then with Metallurg Magnitogorsk), defenseman Andrei Konev (Admiral Vladivostok) and defenseman Derek Smith (Medvescak Zagreb) – have tested positive for banned substances.

Derek Smith tested positive for a category S6.а stimulant.

Andrei Konev tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant.

Danis Zaripov tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant plus category S5 diuretics and masking agents.

Zapirov, who was part of Team Russia at the 2010 Olympic Games, has been banned from suiting up in “competitive hockey” until May 22, 2019. Konev will be unable to play until Nov. 19, 2017, while Smith, who is Canadian, will be suspended until Sep. 2, 2018.

Smith, 32, played in 94 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames between 2009-10 and 2013-14.

Report: John MacLean could join Tocchet’s coaching staff in Arizona

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The Arizona Coyotes have a new head coach, but Rick Tocchet still has to fill out the rest of his staff.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the ‘Yotes might be looking to add John MacLean to their coaching staff.

MacLean, 52, spent six years as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils (2002-2009) before becoming the head coach of their AHL affiliate. After one year of coaching in the minors, MacLean was promoted to head coach of the Devils. His tenure didn’t last very long, as he was fired after just 33 games (they were 9-22-2 under his watch).

He spent the following three seasons as an assistant in Carolina, but he was let go after the 2014 season.

MacLean hasn’t been back behind an NHL bench since being let go by the ‘Canes. Instead, he’s served as a hockey analyst on various television networks.

Related:

Tocchet wants Coyotes’ young players to be ‘creative’ and ‘calculated’

Tocchet brings lessons from past mistakes (and successes) to Coyotes

Sabres re-sign Robin Lehner to one-year, $4 million deal

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The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with goalie Robin Lehner, as they inked him to a one-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday morning.

Lehner and the Sabres were scheduled to have their hearing on July 27, but that obviously won’t be necessary anymore.

The 26-year-old played a career-high 59 games in 2016-17. He finished the year with a 23-26-8 record, a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.

There’s no doubt that he’s a talented netminder, but he’s had his share of struggles when it comes to staying healthy and being consistent. Of course, the team in front of him hasn’t been very good either.

Both of Buffalo’s goalies (Lehner and Chad Johnson) will have something to prove this season because they’re both on one-year contracts. When their deals expire next summer, Lehner will be a restricted free agent again, while Johnson will be free to test the market on July 1st.

The Sabres now have just over $10.9 million in cap space with RFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Beaulieu and Evan Rodrigues still needing new contracts.

A huge extension for Jack Eichel is also on the horizon, but his new salary won’t count on the cap until 2018-19.