Agent: Hayes ‘identified’ himself as ‘Hawk, but unlikely to sign

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It sounds like the Kevin Hayes era in Chicago is over — before it ever really got started.

Hayes, Chicago’s first-round pick (24th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, is unlikely to sign with the Blackhawks prior to his Aug. 16 deadline, at which time he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.

Claiming the decision is “nothing against the Blackhawks,” agent Robert Murray said the choice to pass on the Windy City was tough for Hayes.

“This has been a difficult decision for Kevin,” Murray said, per ESPN Chicago. “He’s identified himself with the Blackhawks. He was drafted by them. His brother [Jimmy] played for them.

“But after his college career, he had a chance to step back and look at everything.”

Hayes, 22, is coming off a tremendous final season at Boston College, finishing third in the country in scoring while capturing the 2014 Beanpot MVP. But he was also a fourth-year senior, and one of the biggest players in the country (the BC website lists him at 6-foot-4, 216 pounds.)

As such, there’s varying opinions of how effective he’ll be as an NHLer, which could be why he’s looking somewhere other than Chicago to begin his career. It’s no secret the ‘Hawks are stacked; they’ve traded away a number of good young forwards that couldn’t get a regular chance to play in the top six, like Brandon Pirri and, as Murray mentioned above, Kevin’s older brother Jimmy.

The elder Hayes was sent packing to Florida this season as part of the Kris Versteeg trade and, upon moving to the Panthers, scored 11 goals and 18 points in 53 games before inking a one-year, $950,000 extension on Tuesday.

Related:

Report: Rangers eyeing unsigned ‘Hawks prospect Hayes

Columnist says Bruins should target Kevin Hayes

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”