Three major signings could make or break Canes for years

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The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t have the most eventful of summers, but that’s because they made their big moves ahead of time.

Forwards Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin, and Jeff Skinner are all entering the first season of their respective long-term deals and while they are all are great players, each of them come with a significant amount of risk too.

Among them, Staal’s 10-year, $60 million deal is in some ways the safest. Although it’s also the longest contract by far, Staal is only 24 years old. When Carolina originally acquired him, there was some speculation that he would end up playing primarily with his older brother, Eric, but instead Staal fell into the role of the team’s second-line center.

Staal scored 10 goals and 31 points in 48 games last season, although he also finished near the bottom of the league with a minus-18 rating. Still, it’s not hard to envision Staal being a good top-six forward for years to come provided he can stay healthy, which leads us to Skinner.

There’s no question that the 2010-11 Calder Trophy winner is talented, but he’s just 21 and has already dealt with concussions in back-to-back seasons. Skinner is also coming off of a disappointing campaign on the ice. He got off to a strong start, but fizzled with just five goals and nine points in his final 28 games. Skinner is about to begin a six-year, $34.35 million contract.

Both forwards have sizable cap hits, but they’re exceeded by Alexander Semin’s five-year, $35 million deal. Semin disappointed in 2011-12 and that combined with questions about his attitude led him to eventually settle for a one-year “prove it” contract with Carolina. He responded with 13 goals and 44 points in 44 games.

Still, Semin has now had four fantastic seasons and three that left something to be desired, not counting his 22-point rookie campaign. Even during his rougher seasons, Semin is at least serviceable, but Carolina is paying him far too much to be happy with a moderate level of production.

At the end of the day, all long-term contracts come with a certain degree of risk. Whether or not these pay off could dictate the Hurricanes’ fate for years to come.

VIDEO: Canucks’ Brock Boeser scores first goal in NHL debut

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What a day it has turned out to be for Brock Boeser.

Just hours after signing his first NHL contract with the Vancouver Canucks, the 2015 first-round draft pick was making his NHL debut in his hometown against the Minnesota Wild.

As if that wasn’t enough, he also ended up scoring his first career goal in the second period when he pounced on a loose puck that was sitting in the goal crease to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead. You can see the entire play in the video above.

Along with the goal Boeser also recorded a team-high four shots on goal through the first two periods while mostly skating on a line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi.

Jack Skille would add another goal for the Canucks just two minutes later to give them a 4-0 lead against a Wild team that has lost nine of its past 12 games heading into Saturday.

Flames sign free agent defenseman Josh Healey

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The Calgary Flames announced on Saturday that they have signed undrafted free agent defenseman Josh Healey to a two-year entry level contract. He will join the Stockton Heat of the AHL for the remainder of this season on an Amateur Tryout contract before his entry level deal begins next season.

Healey, 22, has spent the past four seasons playing for Ohio State and has developed a reputation for being one of the biggest hitters and most physical players at the NCAA level.

“Hits too hard for college,” is how one NHL scout described his play back in February.

That style of play has resulted in him getting himself into hot some water in the form of several ejections and suspensions over the past two seasons.

Along with his willingness to play a physical game, Healey’s offensive game took off a bit during his junior and senior seasons, including the 2016-17 season when he finished as the top scoring defenseman on the Buckeyes with 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) in 35 games.

In 133 games over four years at Ohio State he has accumulated 212 penalty minutes, leading the team by a pretty wide margin the past two years.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe wishes he didn’t play Aaron Ekblad this week

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A miserable season for the Florida Panthers got a little bit worse earlier this month when defenseman Aaron Ekblad was sidelined with another concussion on what coach and general manager Tom Rowe called “a real cheap shot from behind.”

After missing a few games, he was cleared to play by the team’s medical staff and returned to the lineup on Tuesday, 10 days after the injury, and played 18 minutes in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Based on what happened in the aftermath of that game, it seems pretty obvious he may not have been completely ready to return to the ice.

Ekblad will not play in Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks and will not accompany the team on its upcoming road trip after he complained of a sore neck following Tuesday’s game. He was also dealing with headaches on Friday that were attributed to a neck injury and not the concussion.

On Saturday, Rowe was asked if he regretted playing Ekblad earlier this week and he was quite honest in his assessment.

“I’m not going to lie, I wish we didn’t,” Said Rowe, via George Richards of the Miami Herald. “That’s on me. The doctors cleared him, our medical staff cleared him but I had some reservations and I wish I stayed with my gut. That’s no one’s fault but my own.

Ekblad wanted to play in Tuesday’s game but Rowe insisted he should have used his experience to hold his top defenseman out of the lineup.

“I’ve have a lot more experience in this business than he does,” said Rowe, again via the Herald. “I have had a ton of experience with those types of injuries. I usually give those guys two or three days of practice and I wish I had done that. It’s no one’s fault but my own.”

Ekblad has had some significant head and neck injuries over the past couple of years. This is the second time in the past two seasons he has missed time due to a concussion, and he was also sent home from the World Cup of Hockey earlier this year with what was said to be “whiplash.”

The 21-year-old Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, has 10 goals and 11 assists in 68 games for the Panthers this season. With only four games remaining following the team’s upcoming four-game road trip it is not out of the question to think that Ekblad’s season could be over.

The Panthers are only 4-10-1 in their past 15 games and have pretty  much fallen out of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Ryan O’Reilly comments on Sidney Crosby spearing incident: ‘It happens’

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has made some headlines this week for a couple of stick infractions that were overlooked by the on-ice officials during his games.

They were not overlooked by everybody else.

On Thursday, he caught Marc Methot with a slash to the hand that ended up busting the defenseman’s finger on a play that made Senators owner Eugene Melnyk go berserk on Ottawa radio the next day. On its own it would have been an incident that received a ton of attention, if for no other reason than the gruesome image of Methot’s finger dangling around. But what added to it was the fact that two days before that incident there was the spearing incident involving Buffalo Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly that you see in the video above.

On Saturday, O’Reilly was asked for his thoughts on the play after everything that has happened with Crosby over the past couple of games.  He does not seem to have any hard feelings regarding the play, via TSN’s Mark Masters:

“It was a weird thing,” said O’Reilly. “You know, it happens. I didn’t expect it and he apologized after the play and it was understood. It just threw me off. I wasn’t expecting anything and then something happens, but he’s a good guy and he is just playing hard and he takes a beating every night too so it happens.”

He was then asked if he knew who initially hit him, and O’Reilly said he did not until Crosby apologized later in the game.

“No, I didn’t,” said O’Reilly. I was watching the puck and the next thing I know I had a stick right to the crotch and it threw me off for sure. I got up slowly and turned around to see who it was, and then off the won faceoff he comes up as we’re skating down the ice and says, ‘yeah, sorry about that, I was kind of going for your stick.’ I go, ‘meh, it happens, I guess. Would’ve been nice to have a penalty, but it happens.”

Crosby was not penalized for either play and received no supplemental discipline from the league. The latter part is not a surprise, and it is not because of some sort of preferential treatment from the league. Since the NHL’s department of player safety has been put into place it has never suspended a player for spearing (it has fined seven players) and suspended only two players for slashing (it has fined six).