Jim Lites, Tom Gaglardi, Joe Nieuwendyk

Dallas could be a major player in free agency, trade talks

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Some interesting quotes came from Dallas last week after Fox Sports Southwest’s Bob Sturm spoke with the Stars braintrust.

Owner Tom Gaglardi, President Jim Lites and GM Joe Nieuwendyk were all on hand to welcome back Bob Gainey to the organization in a consulting role and shed light onto what Dallas might do this offseason.

If their words were any indication, it could be a big summer in the Big D.

“We are without budget,” Lites said. “As crazy as that sounds. We are restricted by only the CBA and fitting long and short term into that system. This is a different situation than we have been in for the last four seasons –- which is we have an owner who is willing to spend and not being run by the league.

“We are prepared to spend what we need to spend.”

More, from Sturm:

I asked Tom Gaglardi if he anticipated the Stars being front and center on July 1 with all of this cap space. His response? “Uh, Yes. We have identified some guys we are going to pursue hard. And so we expect to be in the mix.”

The boldness and confidence with which these two men speak is quite wonderful to see. I think we can examine the shallow pools in free agency and see this is not the greatest summer to have loads of money. But, there are more than just one way to do this. You also have a number of teams who are now squeezed badly by the cap and are looking for some relief by dealing away a piece.

Lites: “You know what is out there now? The Brad Richards type. The reason we got Brad Richards is that he became available for prospects because Tampa Bay fell apart after they paid him. Other teams have lost flexibility and they may want to move that guy. Contracted players who either have no trade clauses but will waive it to come here and you may be able to work things through with that guy who may have a burdensome contract for their team. For instance, you see Jeff Carter in Los Angeles who Columbus didn’t want to keep.”

The Stars project to have $20 million in available cap space, depending on what they do with UFAs Sheldon Souray, Radek Dvorak and Sheldon Souray Adam Burish. What’s key is that Dallas sounds like it’ll take on money in any way, shape or form — and that’s huge, considering the number of cumbersome contracts currently out there.

Remember, we’ve seen players with mega-deals moved in recent years: Mike Richards (12 years, $69 million), Brian Campbell (eight years, $57 million) and Carter, who has seen his 11-year, $58 million deal traded twice.

Therrien refutes report that Price is likely done for the season

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Contrary to a report by La Presse newspaper, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien says that Canadiens goalie Carey Price could still play again this season.

“We know what’s going on with Carey,” Therrien told reporters today. “It takes more time, obviously, than we were expecting. Like I said, he’s working extremely hard and he’s put in a lot of hours to make sure that he’s going to make that comeback. The fact that he’s working extremely hard is not to make sure that he’s going to look good this summer on the beach; he wants to come back and play for the Montreal Canadiens.”

That being said, Price does not appear close to a return. He’s yet to practice with teammates. He’s yet to even skate in goalie gear.

The Habs have 27 games left to get back into a playoff spot. They close out the regular season on April 9, less than two months from today.

Related: With Price possibly done for the season, Scrivens has Dubnyk-like opportunity

With trade deadline approaching, Canucks announce Edler out 6 weeks, Sutter 6-8 weeks

Washington Capitals v Vancouver Canucks
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The Vancouver Canucks announced today that they’ll be without defenseman Alex Edler (fractured fibula) for six weeks and center Brandon Sutter (broken jaw that required surgery) for six to eight weeks.

So basically those two are gone for the remainder of regular season, save for possibly a few games at the tail end of the schedule.

For a bubble team that doesn’t boast a ton of depth, the injuries are significant. Edler leads the Canucks in ice time, averaging almost 25 minutes per game. Sutter, arguably their best defensive center, already missed a big chunk of games earlier in the season following sports-hernia surgery.

But GM Jim Benning still isn’t giving up on the playoffs. Yesterday, he went on Vancouver radio and suggested the Canucks could actually be buyers at the trade deadline.

Benning only has a couple of weeks to decide what to do with pending unrestricted free agents defenseman Dan Hamhuis and winger Radim Vrbata. The trade deadline is Feb. 29.

The Canucks, currently just two points back of Nashville for the final wild-card spot, have a pair of winnable games coming up. They host Toronto Saturday and Minnesota Monday.

Related: Preds entering key (and tough) stretch before trade deadline

Jets activate Pavelec from IR, send Hellebuyck back to minors

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Winnipeg’s goalie of the future is off to continue his development in the AHL.

On Friday, the Jets activated veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from injured reserve and, in a subsequent move, sent rookie netminder Connor Hellebuyck back to their affiliate in Manitoba.

Hellebuyck, 22, arrived in Winnipeg with great fanfare, having starred for Team USA at the 2015 Worlds while being named an AHL All-Star as well.

This was his first-ever stint with the Jets, and it went OK — Hellebuyck posted an 13-11-1 record, .918 save percentage and 2.34 GAA — but he did struggle of late, getting hooked in two of his last three outings.

Now, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Pavelec.

His numbers prior to getting hurt weren’t any better than Hellebuyck’s — .906 save percentage, 2.82 GAA — and there will be considerable rust to knock off, given he’s been out since late November with a knee issue.

There’s also the long-term implication.

Pavelec, a lightning rod for criticism over the last few seasons, has one year left on his five-year, $19.5 million extension, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July of ’17.

It could be his last season in Winnipeg (assuming he’s not bought out of the final year of his deal), which makes one wonder what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has in store.

It’s also worth noting there’s a third goalie in this equation: Michael Hutchinson, who’s a pending RFA.

Kuznetsov passed concussion test, expected to play Saturday

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, from Russia, celebrates his goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Washington. The Capitals won 5-3. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Feel free to breath a sigh of relief, Capitals fans — Evgeny Kuznetsov is okay.

“During the end of the third period, Evgeny underwent and passed all tests pertaining to the league’s concussion protocol evaluation,” the Caps said today in a statement. “We expect him to take the morning skate tomorrow and play against the Stars later that night.”

Kuznetsov left last night’s game versus the Wild in the third period after appearing to take the butt-end of Mikael Granlund’s stick to the face.

Kuznetsov leads the Caps with 54 points.