No longer ‘young and naive,’ Kane aims for Olympic redemption in Sochi


SOCHI, Russia — Well-spoken and seeming totally at ease with the intense media glare, Patrick Kane chatted amiably with reporters Tuesday in Sochi, two days before his United States hockey team was scheduled to open its Olympic tournament against Slovakia.

What a nice young man, you might’ve thought listening to him. Which is worth mentioning, because he hasn’t always left that impression.

Most hockey fans don’t need to be told what we mean by that. Just Google “Deadspin Patrick Kane” if you don’t.

One can never be sure, but those days of youthful indiscretions seem in the past now.

Also in the past is Kane’s first Olympic experience in Vancouver, where four years ago he was part of the U.S. team that won silver, ultimately falling victim to Sidney Crosby’s golden goal.

“In 2010, I was kind of young and naive to know what was really going on,” Kane said. “Looking back at that game, I actually watched it for the first time this year, that gold-medal game, just to kind of relive the situation, and see how important it was to the game of hockey.

“I feel I’ve grown a lot and matured a lot, just like any 21-year-old would to being 25 four years later. It was a great experience [in Vancouver], but I think I know a little more this time around.”

Indeed, Kane’s been through a lot in the last four years — both good and, well, not so good — and he’s added some serious credentials to a resume that already included being drafted first overall in 2007. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks now. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in June.

He also enters the Olympics as the NHL’s fifth-leading scorer, with 63 points in 59 games for the ‘Hawks, and will be counted on to produce offense for the American side, along with the likes of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and Joe Pavelski.

In Sochi, Kane is looking forward to getting back on the bigger international ice surface, where he thinks the extra time and space he’ll get with the puck will work to his advantage. During the NHL lockout, he played 20 games in Switzerland.

“I’m kind of glad I went through it for this experience now, to know what to expect,” he said. “Different ways I can use it to my advantage. I think anytime you give a player time and space, he should be able to use that to his advantage, and try to make more plays out there.”

While a shot at Olympic redemption is Kane’s ultimate goal in Sochi, he doesn’t want to get caught looking ahead to a possible return to the gold-medal game.

“It’s still a long tournament,” he said. “You still have five, six games to get to that situation. Take one game at a time. Try to get better each game as a team.”

After three-game absence, Johnson back for Bolts this week

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The Lightning have a busy stretch of the schedule coming up, with three games in the next four nights.

And it sounds like they’ll get a big lineup reinforcement to help them through it.

Per LA Kings Insider — the Kings are in Tampa tonight — Bolts head coach Jon Cooper confirmed that Tyler Johnson will be back in the lineup “at some point” this week, after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury.

Johnson has been out of the lineup since taking a Dave Bolland hit on Nov. 14. The timing of the injury was lousy, especially since Johnson looked to be rounding into form — after a rough October in which he failed to score a goal and had just five points in 12 games, Johnson was playing well in November, with three goals and five points in his first six games.

There’s no denying the Bolts could use Johnson back in the mix.

The club has been ravaged by injury lately and is currently without the services of Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette at forward.

The injuries are a big reason why Tampa is off to a mediocre 10-9-3 start. That said, the team has looked good in each of its last two games — a 2-1 win over the Rangers in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final, followed by a 5-0 blowout of the Ducks on Saturday.

As for when Johnson might get back in? The Bolts play tonight at home against L.A., on Friday in Washington, then back at home on Saturday against the Islanders.

Will the Bruins re-sign Loui Eriksson?

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Loui Eriksson, one of the key pieces Boston acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade, is in the last of his six-year, $25.5 million deal and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

And, at least for now, there doesn’t appear to be much certainty about his future as a Bruin.

“I’ll never, ever comment publicly in regard to individual players and negotiations and such,” B’s GM Don Sweeney told the Boston Herald this week. “Whether (comments) come out from the other side or wherever, they’re not going to come from me.

“He’s a big part of our team and he’s off to a really good start.”

Eriksson is certainly off to a good start — nine goals and 18 points in 20 games, his highest points-per-game average (.90) since coming to Boston, and the second-highest of his career.

He’s also playing nearly 20 minutes per night, enjoying great chemistry playing alongside David Krejci and, after an injury-riddled first year as a Bruin followed by last year’s playoff miss, seems to have really found his groove.

So why the silence on the extension front?

Two weeks ago, Eriksson told the Globe his agent, J.P. Barry, hasn’t had any discussions with Sweeney about re-signing in Boston.

“There’s not much you can really do about it now,” the 30-year-old Swede explained. “I’m trying to focus on playing good and trying to help this team as much as possible. Then we’ll see what happens after this year.”

Obviously, money is a factor.

Looking ahead, Boston’s current cap crunch doesn’t project to get much lighter. The club already has $61 million in salary committed for next season (per War On Ice), and Sweeney has to be mindful of other important contracts on the horizon.

Torey Krug is a restricted free agent at year’s end, and in line for a raise on the $3.4 million he made this season. Brad Marchand will be a UFA following the ’16-17 campaign.

And you’d think Sweeney would want to keep money free to eventually sort out Boston’s defense. The blueline has been an issue this season; it’s also getting old and will likely need an injection of new blood in the near future.

There’s also the question if, should he head to free agency, Eriksson couldn’t be replaced internally. The B’s are flush with young wingers — Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Seth Griffith, David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano and Alexander Khokhlachev are all 26 or under — which could make Eriksson expendable.

PHT Morning Skate: There’s a third Strome brother on the horizon

Ryan Strome, Johnny Boychuk
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Matthew Strome — the younger brother of the Isles’ Ryan and the Coyotes’ Dylan — is making waves as a 16-year-old rookie with OHL Hamilton. (NHL.com)

Vern Fiddler caught country legend George Straight’s hat at a concert this summer. He’s apparently received big money offers for the lid, but isn’t willing to sell. (Ottawa Sun)

Is Anders Nilsson the Oilers’ No. 1 goalie? (Edmonton Journal)

Good piece here on Max Pacioretty‘s captaincy in Montreal. (New York Times)

Some appreciation for gritty Leafs forward Leo Komarov. (Toronto Sun)

According to this piece, GM Marc Bergevin has been the Habs’ MVP this season. (Montreal Gazette)

Forbes: Rangers most valuable NHL franchise at $1.2 billion

Rick Nash

NEW YORK (AP) The New York Rangers are the most valuable NHL franchise at $1.2 billion, taking the top spot on the Forbes list for the first time since 2004.

The magazine said Tuesday that Montreal is second at $1.18 billion, followed by Toronto at $1.15 billion. The Maple Leafs had been the most valuable team since 2005, but they’ve reached the playoffs only once since 2006 and their 13-year home sellout streak ended in March.

Chicago, winner of three of the last six Stanley Cups, is fourth at $925 million, with Boston next at $750 million. Completing the top 10 are Vancouver, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington.

The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014 and the conference finals in 2015. Madison Square Garden recently underwent a $1 billion renovation.

Online: http://www.forbes.com/nhl-valuations