Canucks GM denies Luongo trade request, says Kesler had “no excuses” this season

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We had a feeling this would happen – Canucks GM Mike Gillis spoke to Team 1040 radio in Vancouver today and once again stated it was possible goalie Roberto Luongo could be back with the team next season.

As for coach Alain Vigneault’s widely reported comments on French-language TV that seemed to confirm Luongo wanted out of Vancouver?

“Alain also went back and corrected that, which is my understanding,” said Gillis. “I haven’t heard the interview, but he went and told whoever was conducting [the interview] that he had misspoke.”

All Gillis would say is that Luongo told the Canucks he’d accept a trade if they felt it was the best for the team.

Anyway, no surprise there. Even if trading Luongo were a fait accompli, the Canucks wouldn’t want to admit it publicly.

Perhaps more interesting were Gillis’s comments on the Ryan Kesler-related drama that unfolded this week.

To refresh your memory, it all started Wednesday when Vigneault told reporters that Kesler’s shoulder injury that required offseason surgery “was not in our mind the reason for his diminished production. That shoulder wasn’t 100 percent, but our medical staff and Ryan did a great job of maintaining the strength. The injury wasn’t the reason his production fell.”

To which Kesler’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, responded with, “I am not a doctor, I’m a lawyer, but after having conversations with the player and with the club, anyone who thinks this injury did not affect his play must have fallen off a turnip truck.”

Gillis’s take?

“[Kesler] was cleared for play and he wanted to play and clearly he wasn’t as effective as he had been the year before and there’s probably a lot of reasons that went into that,” he said. “Injuries are part of it, but if you’re cleared to play and you play, there’s no excuses. You have to perform. This year, among others, he didn’t perform at the level that he expected or we expected.”

In other words, the GM and coach are on the same page.

On top of that, Gillis addressed Kesler’s – how to put this – theatrical performance in the playoffs.

“I’m not fine with it. We have had discussions about it,” he said. “Sometimes players in the heat of the moment, they don’t use their best judgment occasionally.

“Ryan understands his role. He understands the process of becoming a great player, and he accepts it. Occasionally there are some lapses, and I think that’s what happened in the first game in particular against Los Angeles in the playoffs. And we’ve addressed it and we’re moving on.”

In addition to the alleged embellishing, Gillis might also have been referring to Kesler’s decision to give Kings goalie Jonathan Quick a snow-shower early in Game 1 while the Canucks were leading, 1-0 – a decision that led to an unsportsmanlike penalty and a Los Angeles power-play goal. Questionable call or not, Kesler’s reputation likely played a role in the referee’s verdict.

Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

For example…

Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

Their production together can not be understated.

Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

No word yet on financials for either guy.

Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.