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In farewell to Vancouver, Desjardins defends his approach to young players

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Willie Desjardins had one last press conference this morning in Vancouver. He spoke about his three years as head coach of the Canucks, a tenure that ended with his dismissal after a 29th overall finish in 2016-17.

For Desjardins, the one thing he kept coming back to was injuries. The Canucks have been decimated the past two years. For a retooling team already short on talent, it was simply too much to overcome.

“Over 450 man games lost. That’s a lot to lose,” said Desjardins. “It’s nobody’s fault. Our roster was thin. … When you have a thin roster to start, you just can’t afford to have injuries and guys missing. You can’t. And that’s not a cop out. It’s just a fact.”

He did not blame the general manager.

“Jim Benning was outstanding,” said Desjardins. “It was a good relationship. Jim and I, we didn’t have one fight. There wasn’t once we blew up at each other. Not once. There’s always a little difference with management and coaches. There just is. Coaches are a little more short term, management’s a little more long term. But it would’ve been hard to have a better relationship with a general manager than I had with Jim.”

Desjardins did take issue with one thing, and that was the notion that he didn’t trust young players.

“There is a misconception,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem playing young guys. You look at (Bo) Horvat, you look at (Brock) Boeser. Boeser’s a young guy, came in, played all the time, played power play. That wasn’t ever an issue with me.

“I knew where the organization was and where we had to go. I have my beliefs in how you develop young guys, and maybe that was a little different than the media thought. I’ve developed a lot of young players in my coaching career, and a lot of my guys have turned out.”

The next coach of the Canucks, whether it’s Travis Green or someone else, will have similar challenges going forward.

“We’re going to be young,” president of hockey ops Trevor Linden said earlier this week, per The Globe and Mail. “Young players make mistakes. There’s going to be some growing pains. We need a coach that understands exactly where we are.”

Related: Desjardins calls out Goldobin, says he needs to work harder

Carolina re-signs ‘physical, smart’ McGinn — two years, $1.775 million

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After a breakout campaign, Brock McGinn has cashed in with the Hurricanes.

McGinn has signed a two-year, $1.775 million extension, the club announced on Wednesday. The deal carries a $887,500 average annual cap hit, and comes on the heels of a campaign in which he scored 16 points in 57 games, averaging 12 minutes per night.

“Brock took a step forward last season and was a regular presence in our lineup,” GM Ron Francis said in a release. “He is a young player who plays a physical, but smart brand of hockey, and can contribute offensively.”

McGinn, 23, is the youngest of the McGinn brothers. Tye spent last year with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse, while Jamie wrapped the first of a three-year deal in Arizona.

 

Avalanche re-sign Andrighetto to two-year deal reportedly worth $2.8 million

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Sven Andrighetto was one of the few bright spots on the Colorado Avalanche this past season — and he didn’t even join the last-place club until the beginning of March.

On Wednesday, he was rewarded with a new two-year contract extension,  reportedly worth a total of $2.8 million, per Adrian Dater of BSN Denver. That’s a raise from the $650,000 he made in 2016-17 while on a one-year contract and a pending restricted free agent at its conclusion.

Originally taken by the Montreal Canadiens in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft, the now 24-year-old Andrighetto was traded to Colorado at this year’s deadline, after scoring just two goals and eight points in 27 games this season with the Habs.

While the Avalanche was once again mired in a disastrous campaign, falling all the way to the bottom of the overall standings, Andrighetto put up some impressive numbers in a short amount of time in Colorado, leading the team in points (11 points in 14 games) during the month of March.

He scored five goals and 16 points in 19 games following the trade, while posting strong offensive and puck possession numbers in nearly 200 minutes of five-on-five time with Nathan MacKinnon.

“We were pleased with what Sven added to our team at the end of last season,” said Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic in a statement. “He sees the ice well and brings speed and scoring to our lineup. We’re excited to have him under contract.”

Signing pending RFA Parayko is priority for Blues — and it won’t be cheap

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The St. Louis Blues kickstarted their prospects camp on Wednesday, however their greatest offseason priority right now is getting pending restricted free agent defenseman Colton Parayko under contract.

The Blues recently extended Parayko a qualifying offer to retain his negotiating rights, and general manager Doug Armstrong is fully aware that the 24-year-old defenseman will require a significant raise from the two-year, $1.85 million (including $925,000 in NHL salary this past season) entry-level deal he has now concluded.

In two seasons, Parayko has transformed into a valuable player with the Blues. He not only brings size on the blue line at an intimidating 6-foot-6 tall and 226 pounds, but he’s been a strong contributor in the offensive end of the rink and boasts impressive puck possession numbers, as well.

He set new single-season career highs for assists (31) and points (35) with the Blues in 2016-17, while taking on a larger role as a top-four defenseman behind Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo.

“We’ve got a defenseman to take care of financially,” said Armstrong, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “Last time I talked to him, he wasn’t ready to play for the love of the game anymore.”

Going back to the days immediately following their second-round playoff loss, Armstrong referred to Parayko as a “cornerstone player” and admitted he wanted to get him signed to a long-term contract. It was suggested that Parayko may be able to look toward Morgan Rielly (six-year, $30 million extension with Toronto) or Hampus Lindholm (six-year, $31.5 million extension with Anaheim) as possible comparables.

The Blues currently have five defensemen under contract for next season, with about $17 million currently committed to the position. They also have about $11.6 million in projected cap space right now, per CapFriendly.

The Blues also had some bad news on Wednesday, as forward Patrik Berglund underwent shoulder surgery and is out until December. His absence isn’t likely to be filled through free agency, based on Armstrong’s comments.

“There are some internal options and we’ll explore those,” he said. “We’re always looking to see if we can get creative maybe.

“We’re talking to some potential free agents, but I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up that there will be a lot of change to this roster.”

The Blues did, in fact, announce the re-signing of a defenseman on Wednesday, inking Chris Butler to a two-year, two-way deal. However, right now, the priority is to get their young blue liner Parayko signed to a long-term deal.

Lightning re-sign journeyman forward Conacher

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Cory Conacher has turned an impressive Calder Cup Playoffs run into a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Per the club, it’s a one-way deal in the first season and a two-way deal in the second, paying $650,000 annually at the NHL level.

Conacher, 27, had 12 goals and 16 assists in 22 playoff games as the Syracuse Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final.

The undrafted and undersized forward was also productive during the regular season, racking up 60 points (17G, 43A) in 56 games for the Crunch and four points (1G, 3A) in 11 games for the Lightning.

Conacher has been quite the traveler in recent years, making numerous stops in both NHL and AHL markets. He spent the 2015-16 season in Switzerland, before returning to North America to sign with the Bolts last summer.