Five things the Canucks could do

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1. Get rid of Alain Vigneault

The easiest change general manager Mike Gillis could make. All he’d have to do is pull the trigger. “You’re fired.” Anyone could do that. Of course, it also means Gillis would have to find a competent replacement, and that’s less easy. Does he go with an experienced candidate like Lindy Ruff? Does he look within the organization? Or, is there a young, innovative mind out there — maybe an assistant in the NHL, or a head coach in the AHL — that can give the Canucks the fresh voice so many believe they need? Someone like Adam Oates. Because if the Capitals’ offense can be brought back to life, maybe the Canucks’ can, too.

2. Trade Cory Schneider and keep Roberto Luongo

There’s no question Schneider would garner the bigger return. He’s seven years younger (27 versus 34), has a far less risky contract, and his numbers were better than Luongo’s during the regular season. But is this even an option with all that’s happened (see: the Great Canucks Goaltending Soap Opera)? Does Luongo want out so badly at this point that not trading him would create an even bigger problem? Or, does he just want to start somewhere — anywhere— in the NHL? Whatever happens, one of Schneider or Luongo has to be gone by training camp. There’s no question there.

3. Trade Alex Edler

The 27-year-old defenseman only recently signed a 6-year, $30 million extension. But as any regular Vancouver observer can tell you, there are games when Edler looks like a future Norris Trophy candidate, and games when he…doesn’t. Moving him isn’t something the Canucks will want to do, but if he could be dealt to, say, Philadelphia for, say, Sean Couturier, wouldn’t they at least have to consider it? Vancouver would still have three solid veteran d-men in Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, and Jason Garrison, plus youngsters Chris Tanev and Frank Corrado. If they buy out Keith Ballard, there would be more room to add blue-line depth in free agency or via trade.

4. Sign David Clarkson

The 29-year-old Devils’ winger is an unrestricted free agent whose toughness and goal-scoring ability could make for a welcome addition. We can probably assume speedy-but-slight winger Mason Raymond and undersized center Derek Roy have played their last games in Vancouver uniforms — both are pending unrestricted free agents. There’s also the potential to buy out David Booth, though the fact he’s injured may affect that. There will be lots of competition for Clarkson, if he doesn’t re-sign in New Jersey. So even if they do decide to make a pitch, the Canucks could hardly count on landing him.

5. Take a deep breath

What if Jannik Hansen hadn’t missed the open net in Game 2? What if the referees hadn’t whistled Bieksa and Daniel Sedin for penalties in Game 4? The Canucks were swept by San Jose, yes. They deserved to lose, absolutely. But it was a lack of discipline combined with uncharacteristically poor penalty killing that really killed them. Do you blow up a team that still managed to win its division without Ryan Kesler for more than half the season and without Booth for all but 12 games?

Gillis, by the way, will meet with the Vancouver media on Thursday at noon local time.

Oilers re-sign Pakarinen for one year

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The Edmonton Oilers have given winger Iiro Pakarinen a one-year contract extension.

From the release:

Pakarinen just finished his third season with the Oilers organization, appearing in 14 regular season games in 2016-17, posting four points (2 goals, 2 assists).  The 25 year old forward missed 53 games due to an injury suffered during the pre-season. He appeared in one playoff game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Oilers brought Pakarinen over from Finland in 2014. Since then, he’s split his North American career between the AHL and NHL while drawing praise for his versatility and hard-nosed style.

Per CapFriendly, Pakarinen’s cap hit will be $750,000 in 2017-18. It’s a one-way deal.

Market heating up for prized Czech d-man Rutta

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Coming off an impressive performance for the Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, Jan Rutta is now being courted by a number of NHL clubs.

Per The Athletic, the Blackhawks are in contention for securing Rutta’s services. That comes on the heels of earlier reports from TSN’s Darren Dreger, who said there are “multiple” offers for the 26-year-old, including ones from Edmonton and Calgary.

“He’s a steady defenseman with size, and he had a strong finish of the season,” an NHL scout told The Athletic. “He was very good in the playoffs and played his best at the Worlds.”

Rutta, who was never drafted by an NHL club, has spent his professional career with Czech League outfit Pirati Chomutov. He’s blossomed into a talented offensive defenseman — finishing second among Czech League d-men with 32 points in 46 games this year — and, as mentioned above, has good size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds.

Last week, Rutta’s agent — longtime Octagon Hockey representative Allan Walsh — tweeted that his client would make a decision on NHL offers soon.

 

Sharks keep stockpiling European free agents, land Sandberg

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Doug Wilson is at it again.

On Thursday, the Sharks GM confirmed yesterday’s news — the signing of Czech d-man Radim Simek — and announced that Swedish forward Filip Sandberg had agreed to a two-year deal.

“Filip is a very creative player who sees the ice well and can create offense in limited space,” Wilson said in a release. “He plays a high-pressure, puck-pursuit game and his battle level is something we have been impressed with, especially against older players.

“We are excited for him to join our organization.”

Sandberg, 22, is fresh off a Swedish League title with HV71. The club announced Sandberg would be headed overseas last week, but didn’t divulge what team had signed him.

It wasn’t surprising NHL clubs had interest. Sandberg had a good offensive campaign in Sweden, scoring 25 points in 52 regular season games, then broke out for six goals and 14 points in 16 playoff contests.

Prior to this year, Sandberg twice represented Sweden at the World Juniors, including the 2013 tournament where the country won silver. He finished with two goals in six games playing alongside the likes of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

As for Simek, he inked a one-year deal.

“Radim is a quick transition defenseman who drives the play offensively and plays with a physical edge,” said Wilson. “We like his offensive instincts especially on special teams and think his game will translate well in North America.”

Simek just finished representing his native Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, where he had two points in eight games.

According to a report from Radio Praha, the Sharks beat out the Rangers to acquire Simek. Passed over in his draft year, the 24-year-old has spent his entire pro career with Liberec Bili Tygri.

As mentioned above, Wilson has done well finding European skaters in their early-to-mid-20s, ones that can contribute right away at the NHL level: Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, most specifically.

The hope now is that Simek and Sandberg will continue that trend.

Avs dismiss three from coaching staff, but Bednar remains

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Colorado GM Joe Sakic said there would be turnover this offseason, but that head coach Jared Bednar was safe.

On Tuesday, Sakic followed through.

The Avs have parted ways with two of Bednar’s assistants — Tim Army and Dave Farrish — and also relieved goalie coach Francois Allaire of his duties.

Army, 54, has been with the club for the last six years, having previously served as the head coach at Providence. He served under three different head coaches in Colorado — Bednar, Patrick Roy and Joe Sacco — and was largely tasked with running the team’s power play (which finished 30th in the NHL this year).

Farrish, 60, just wrapped his second year on the job with the Avs after coming over from Toronto. A veteran of nearly 30 years in coaching, Farrish was brought aboard by Roy, and brought “a wealth of experience and hockey knowledge to our organization.” A journeyman blueliner who playecd 430 games at the NHL level, Farrish ran the club’s defense last season.

Allaire, 57, has been coaching goalies at the NHL level for over 25 years, with previous stops in Montreal, Anaheim and Toronto. His ties to Roy ran deep — he mentored the former Avs coach with the Canadiens, and the pair won two Stanley Cups together (in 1986 and ’93). Allaire has been with the Avs for the last four years, on the heels of an acrimonious departure from Toronto.

Today’s shakeup is a significant one, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Bednar was essentially forced into retaining all of Roy’s staff following the latter’s shock resignation last August, and probably wants to bring in some of his own guys.

Sakic, meanwhile, had to make some sort of changes after the worst regular season in franchise history — and today’s could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Related: Avs president gives Sakic vote of confidence