Florida Panthers v Colorado Avalanche

Six months after ACL surgery, Florida’s Versteeg cleared to play


Kris Versteeg is ready to go.

That’s the news out of Florida on Wednesday, and it’s no small news — Versteeg has been medically cleared to return to game action for the first time since tearing his ACL in March.

Recovering from major knee surgery in six months? Pretty impressive. How did he manage to pull it off?

“I’ve talked to a lot of guys who have had it done like [Tomas] Kopecky and [Scottie] Upshall, you just trust their opinion, more so you got to trust  your doctor, trust your surgeon what he did to you is going to make you better first, and understand that and go through your physical therapy,’’ Versteeg told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “The staff here in Florida did a tremendous job with me the first two months, then I went home [to Lethrbridge] and worked with a guy named Tim back home and my own trainer and they got me to where I am today.”

Versteeg, 27, tore up his knee during a game against Tampa Bay on Mar. 12 and underwent surgery shortly thereafter. While some thought he wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season, Versteeg — third on the Panthers in scoring (54 points) during the 2011-12 campaign — trained extensively over the summer to get healthy.

Now he figures to be a big part of a young Florida team looking to make amends for last year’s disastrous 30th-place finish.

“It’s definitely a lot of commitment,” Versteeg said. “I’m excited to what I can do this year.’’

Versteeg will make his preseason debut on Thursday in Tampa Bay.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.