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As the Canucks fall out of the playoff picture…decisions, decisions

The Vancouver Canucks were on a nice little run for a while there.

But that run is over now  — and given their remaining schedule, it’s going to be very tough for them to get back into a playoff spot.

Vancouver never stood a chance last night against the San Jose Sharks, who rolled into Rogers Arena, dominated the first period, then coasted to a 4-1 win.

“We were a little bit sluggish in the first,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin told reporters. “After that I thought we played a good-enough game.”

But with just three wins in their last 10 games, the Canucks have fallen three points back of the second wild-card spot in the West. Vancouver doesn’t hold any games in hand on the St. Louis Blues, who got a big win last night in Mike Yeo’s debut behind the bench.

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Next up for the Canucks? A home game Saturday against the Central Division leaders from Minnesota, followed by six straight on the road against Nashville, Columbus, Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

Yikes.

According to Sports Club Stats, Vancouver’s chances of making the playoffs have slipped to just 7 percent. To make the cut, the Canucks will need to go in the neighborhood of 17-10-4 down the stretch.

Not likely.

As far as the March 1 trade deadline is concerned, management has called it a “fluid” situation. The Canucks will in no way be in the market for rental players, but they have not ruled out making moves. And with the expansion draft on the horizon, that’s not going to quell speculation about veterans like Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows.

Of course, Hansen and Burrows each have a no-trade clause, and GM Jim Benning vowed back in December that he wasn’t going to ask any of his players to waive their no-trades — even if the team is out of playoff contention at the deadline.

“There’s a couple reasons why I wanted to put it out there about not trading guys with no-trade contracts,” said Benning, per Canucks Army. “The first reason is I wanted to be honest with our players and fans about not asking players to waive their no-trade contracts. The other reason is I want to try to limit the unnecessary distractions so our players can focus on getting better and winning games.”

He added, “We’ve moved some no-trade contracts the last few years, but the players we have left are important veteran players who bring our team experience and leadership. We’re going to keep them.”

Benning did allow that if a player came to him and requested a trade to a contender, he’d try to facilitate a move. So that possibility remains. Burrows is a 35-year-old pending unrestricted free agent. He may relish a chance to win a Stanley Cup elsewhere.

Hansen, meanwhile, is signed through next season with an attractive cap hit of $2.5 million. The 30-year-old winger is an obvious trade candidate to many, given he’s on a team that can’t afford to lose assets for nothing in the expansion draft.

He wants to stay, though.

“I want to play here,” Hansen told The Province after Benning’s remarks in December. “I love being around the guys. I love the city and I want to win here. And I’ve been here for a very long time. It’s nice that you don’t have to speculate as to whether they’re going to come in five days or five weeks to ask you for a list of (trade) teams.”

So, it should be an interesting month. The Canucks had a disastrous deadline experience last year. The pressure’s on for management to avoid a repeat performance.

Video: Whoa, this is one sweet Mike Hoffman backhand goal

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Monday’s game won’t help the Ottawa Senators defy critics about last season running on luck, at least in that it doesn’t count in the standings.

Senators sniper Mike Hoffman didn’t seem to care.

Hoffman owned last night’s pre-season NHL highlight reel (sorry Nico Hischier), scoring two very different goals.

The best one can be viewed in the video above this post’s headline, as he burst through the Maple Leafs defense for a ridiculous backhander on the rush. Wow.

His first of the night was memorable for a different reason, as Hoffman shook off a near-miss (eventually) to score this goal.

Weird/cool/good, indeed.

Prediction: Hoffman will score a lot of goals that will “count” in 2017-18, too.

Wild extend captain Mikko Koivu’s contract for two years, $11M

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Minnesota Wild fans fearing that the 2017-18 season could be Mikko Koivu‘s last can breathe a sigh of relief, and that suspense didn’t even carry into opening night.

Instead, the Wild signed Koivu to a two-year contract extension worth $11 million.

That $5.5M cap hit kicks in during the 2018-19 campaign and ends after 2019-20. It represents a minor cut in pay for Koivu, as he’s entering the final year of a deal with a $6.75M cap hit.

Koivu, 34, enjoyed a strong first season under Bruce Boudreau, becoming a Selke finalist for the first time in his underrated career. He’s been Minnesota’s captain since 2008-09.

Koivu’s deal would qualify as a 35+ contract, according to Cap Friendly.

The Finnish forward likely valued stability, maybe taking a little less in AAV for the sake of peace of mind.

This continues a busy week-or-so for the Wild, who also broke their impasse with RFA Marcus Foligno by handing him a four-year, $11.5M deal.

Opinion: this Koivu deal is a much, much easier decision to justify, even taking into account his advanced age.

Predators captain announcement looming; they have some great options

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Multiple reporters* indicate that the Nashville Predators will name their captain (and alternates) on Wednesday.

Mike Fisher briefly held the title, and before him, Shea Weber wore the “C.” Both were safe, obvious choices; this time around, there are some intriguing options. The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan reports that the Predators themselves realize that there are quite a few logical captains in their midst (which probably isn’t a bad problem to have).

“It’s totally different this time around,” Pekka Rinne said. “I think Mike last year, I think everybody saw that coming. Everybody agreed. Everybody was really comfortable with it. I think now we have, in my opinion, at least four great options to choose from.”

Note: the Predators would be wise not to pull a Canucks with Roberto Luongo as captain experiment, even if Rinne’s easily one of the team’s leaders.

Some of the most obvious options include young-yet-veteran defenseman Roman Josi, big-dollar-center Ryan Johansen, and star blueliner P.K. Subban.

(Honestly, though, it’s difficult to imagine Subban wearing the “C” after all the weird, Listerine-scented stuff with the media happened during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.)

As strong as those options are, it sure feels like Josi is the favorite, especially since he’s been around longer than Subban, Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson.

Vegas oddmakers agree:

And so do reporters covering the team on a day-to-day basis:

One moment of devil’s advocacy, though: Subban, Johansen, Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Mattias Ekholm all have more term on their contracts than Josi, who is a bargain at $4M for three more seasons.

OK, that’s kind of a weak argument, but hey … sometimes it’s a pain to have to deal with captain questions so often, and you never know if the team might determine that Josi is expendable, considering their deep war chest on the blueline.

Nah, Josi’s probably the easy and correct choice. Right?

* – Including Cory Curtis of WKRN-TV and Justin Bradford of 102.5 The Game.

Duchene dusts off ‘one day at a time’ for Avalanche trade questions

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The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers posted an exclusive video interview with Matt Duchene, who was verbose …

… Compared to the terse statement he provided, without questions, last week regarding what must seem to him like ubiquitous Colorado Avalanche trade rumors.

Check out Duchene’s comments in the video below, which seem to mix saying a lot of the right things – and finding a new way to use the “one day at a time” cliche – with a little bit of edge that makes you wonder how well he’ll contain his frustration in other situations.

How often will he be available for such questioning on the road, particularly in big media markets and/or around reporters covering teams who’ve long been connected to Duchene?

Either way, Chambers’ video is another reminder that, for all the times people roll their eyes at canned responses during press conferences and locker-room interviews, reporters can get less-guarded moments where you can parse out greater truths.

(And, hey, it’s nice to give Duchene a chance to make faces that seem a little less … depressed?)

Chambers transcribes an especially intriguing part at the end of the interview (click here for more transcriptions from Chambers at the Denver Post, if video isn’t an option or your preference).

What if he’s not traded? “I’m not looking that far (ahead),” he said. “I’m taking one day at a time.”

Hmm, interesting, right?

/Refreshes the #FreeDuchene hashtag.