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‘I think we were literally watching that guy’s dream come true right before our eyes’

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Jorge Alves usually sharpens the Carolina Hurricanes’ skates. Lately, the team’s equipment manager has been lacing up his own.

It’s been a wild past few days for Alves. The 37-year-old former Marine, ex-minor leaguer and veteran of the team’s equipment staff suddenly found himself in uniform for an NHL game — and even, for 7.6 unforgettable seconds, on the ice — as the Hurricanes’ emergency goalie while regular backup Eddie Lack was too sick to play.

And when the Hurricanes returned to practice Monday, he was back on the ice again – he regularly suits up during morning skates when one of the goalies on the roster is unavailable – and trying to get comfortable with the attention his unusual story has generated.

“This is the brightest stage in our sport, and it’s just, to have the honor to do this, everybody dreams about it,” Alves said. “Just working out and running and stuff, I’m always thinking about it — what if it ever happened? What would I do? How would I react? And then, when it actually did happen, I kind of went blank. You can’t prepare for that. It was unexpected and it was just quite a memory.”

It’s not like Alves doesn’t know his way around a rink: After serving four years in the Marines, he played club hockey at North Carolina State from 2002-04 and skated in the ECHL and the low-level Southern Professional Hockey League. He first worked with Carolina’s equipment staff during the 2003-04 season and became a full-time equipment manager in 2012-13.

The Hurricanes found themselves in a pinch when Lack fell ill before Saturday night’s game at Tampa Bay. Roughly two hours before the puck drop, they announced the signing of Alves to a professional tryout contract and issued him jersey No. 40. His mask – which he painted himself, based on drawings by a local illustrator – features caricatures of the team’s other equipment men.

“I think we were literally watching that guy’s dream come true right before our eyes,” starter Cam Ward said. “Seeing how emotional he got before that game made everybody emotional. And I said to him right before the game, `They don’t ask how or why, but you made it to the NHL.”‘

Ward bucked the tradition of having the starting goalie lead the team onto the ice for pregame warmups, letting Alves have the spotlight for himself. And with 7.6 seconds left and the outcome all but decided – the Lightning led 3-1 – coach Bill Peters sent Alves onto the ice to replace Ward. He didn’t have to face a shot but was handed the puck by teammate Jeff Skinner.

“Every time I see it, I kind of get choked up,” Alves said. “Seven-point-six seconds is going to be near and dear to me.”

A repeat doesn’t seem likely Tuesday night when New Jersey visits: Peters says if Lack is too sick to skate against the Devils, the team will recall someone from its AHL affiliate in Charlotte.

That seems fine with Alves, who joked with alternate captain Jordan Staal that the Hurricanes’ shooters weren’t about to take it easy on him during his first practice since his big debut.

“I told Jordan, ‘It was only 7.6 seconds, guys,”‘ Alves said. “I’m not an NHLer.”

Hurricanes give Di Giuseppe a two-way deal for 2017-18

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The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, two-way contract on Thursday.

The team announced that Di Giuseppe’s deal is worth $725K at the NHL level and $125K in the AHL in 2017-18.

Di Giuseppe, 23, was the 38th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s been getting some looks at the NHL level with Carolina:

2015-16: 17 points in 41 games
2016-17: seven points in 36 games

He’s also been splitting time between the AHL and NHL lately, so a two-way deal works well enough.

Carolina doesn’t have much more to do on the free agent front, but that doesn’t mean that their off-season is wrapped up, as there’s still that whole ownership situation to settle.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eichel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least develop into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.