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Bruins owner says decision to fire Julien was ‘overdue’

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BOSTON (AP) Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs acknowledged Tuesday that he might have held up the coaching change that helped the team turn its season around and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

But in his first public comments on the team since the fall, Jacobs expressed appreciation for general manager Don Sweeney’s decision to hire Bruce Cassidy as coach and the job Cassidy did after taking over for Claude Julien on an interim basis on Feb. 7.

The Bruins were 26-23-6 when they made the switch and went 18-8-1 under Cassidy. Sweeney removed the interim tag for Cassidy and made him the full-time coach last week.

“The decision was very much made here in Boston and the leadership here,” Jacobs said during a news conference at TD Garden. “My own impression was it was overdue, we were a little late. Maybe I precipitated part of that in having misplaced loyalty in that sense. But it was the right move. …

“It was a very prudent move and it was a prudent hire. Under those circumstances I would say that Don did a terrific job in selecting him and motivating him and motivating the team.”

Read more: Neely defends David Backes contract

The Bruins lost their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Ottawa Senators, their first playoff appearance since 2014, in six games. All six games were decided by one goal, including four overtime games. The Bruins gained postseason experience and several younger players took strides in their development.

It’s been two seasons since the Bruins made the change from Peter Chiarelli to Sweeney in the GM’s chair, and Jacobs believes that the results of 2016-17 and the influx of younger talent has proven that the move was the right one.

“I think we had a successful season because of what evolved, the changing of the guard … in our coaching ranks and I think our leadership showed itself very well,” Jacobs said. “I think hope springs eternal. … I think the direction is good and I think we did a tremendous job once we had Butch in place. So I’m happy with where we are and I’m happy looking at the next generation of players coming into this organization.”

In some regards, this season resembled 2008, when the Bruins under first-year coach Julien went to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and pushed the Montreal Canadiens to seven games before succumbing. Three years later, the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.

“It remains to be seen, but I think it’s beneficial,” Bruins president Cam Neely said. “For players that hadn’t played in the playoffs before to really get an understanding of what playoff hockey’s all about is what you want for your team.

“Now we’re not satisfied with losing out in the first round and winning two games. But it was a series we felt could’ve went either way.”

If competing for the Stanley Cup, or winning it, again takes three years, Jacobs intends to be around for the run. Jacobs, who passed the role of CEO to son Charlie Jacobs in January 2015, just completed his 42nd season of ownership. He doesn’t expect to relinquish his current role in the near future.

“This is a wonderful property that my whole family has enjoyed and it should be preserved for the next generation,” the elder Jacobs said. “I’m hopeful that that’s the way it goes. It’s obviously out of my hands at some point. But I think the next couple of years is predictable for me. Beyond that I don’t know.”

Oilers re-sign Pakarinen for one year

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The Edmonton Oilers have given winger Iiro Pakarinen a one-year contract extension.

From the release:

Pakarinen just finished his third season with the Oilers organization, appearing in 14 regular season games in 2016-17, posting four points (2 goals, 2 assists).  The 25 year old forward missed 53 games due to an injury suffered during the pre-season. He appeared in one playoff game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Oilers brought Pakarinen over from Finland in 2014. Since then, he’s split his North American career between the AHL and NHL while drawing praise for his versatility and hard-nosed style.

Per CapFriendly, Pakarinen’s cap hit will be $750,000 in 2017-18. It’s a one-way deal.

Market heating up for prized Czech d-man Rutta

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Coming off an impressive performance for the Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, Jan Rutta is now being courted by a number of NHL clubs.

Per The Athletic, the Blackhawks are in contention for securing Rutta’s services. That comes on the heels of earlier reports from TSN’s Darren Dreger, who said there are “multiple” offers for the 26-year-old, including ones from Edmonton and Calgary.

“He’s a steady defenseman with size, and he had a strong finish of the season,” an NHL scout told The Athletic. “He was very good in the playoffs and played his best at the Worlds.”

Rutta, who was never drafted by an NHL club, has spent his professional career with Czech League outfit Pirati Chomutov. He’s blossomed into a talented offensive defenseman — finishing second among Czech League d-men with 32 points in 46 games this year — and, as mentioned above, has good size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds.

Last week, Rutta’s agent — longtime Octagon Hockey representative Allan Walsh — tweeted that his client would make a decision on NHL offers soon.

 

Sharks keep stockpiling European free agents, land Sandberg

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Doug Wilson is at it again.

On Thursday, the Sharks GM confirmed yesterday’s news — the signing of Czech d-man Radim Simek — and announced that Swedish forward Filip Sandberg had agreed to a two-year deal.

“Filip is a very creative player who sees the ice well and can create offense in limited space,” Wilson said in a release. “He plays a high-pressure, puck-pursuit game and his battle level is something we have been impressed with, especially against older players.

“We are excited for him to join our organization.”

Sandberg, 22, is fresh off a Swedish League title with HV71. The club announced Sandberg would be headed overseas last week, but didn’t divulge what team had signed him.

It wasn’t surprising NHL clubs had interest. Sandberg had a good offensive campaign in Sweden, scoring 25 points in 52 regular season games, then broke out for six goals and 14 points in 16 playoff contests.

Prior to this year, Sandberg twice represented Sweden at the World Juniors, including the 2013 tournament where the country won silver. He finished with two goals in six games playing alongside the likes of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

As for Simek, he inked a one-year deal.

“Radim is a quick transition defenseman who drives the play offensively and plays with a physical edge,” said Wilson. “We like his offensive instincts especially on special teams and think his game will translate well in North America.”

Simek just finished representing his native Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, where he had two points in eight games.

According to a report from Radio Praha, the Sharks beat out the Rangers to acquire Simek. Passed over in his draft year, the 24-year-old has spent his entire pro career with Liberec Bili Tygri.

As mentioned above, Wilson has done well finding European skaters in their early-to-mid-20s, ones that can contribute right away at the NHL level: Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, most specifically.

The hope now is that Simek and Sandberg will continue that trend.

Avs dismiss three from coaching staff, but Bednar remains

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Colorado GM Joe Sakic said there would be turnover this offseason, but that head coach Jared Bednar was safe.

On Tuesday, Sakic followed through.

The Avs have parted ways with two of Bednar’s assistants — Tim Army and Dave Farrish — and also relieved goalie coach Francois Allaire of his duties.

Army, 54, has been with the club for the last six years, having previously served as the head coach at Providence. He served under three different head coaches in Colorado — Bednar, Patrick Roy and Joe Sacco — and was largely tasked with running the team’s power play (which finished 30th in the NHL this year).

Farrish, 60, just wrapped his second year on the job with the Avs after coming over from Toronto. A veteran of nearly 30 years in coaching, Farrish was brought aboard by Roy, and brought “a wealth of experience and hockey knowledge to our organization.” A journeyman blueliner who playecd 430 games at the NHL level, Farrish ran the club’s defense last season.

Allaire, 57, has been coaching goalies at the NHL level for over 25 years, with previous stops in Montreal, Anaheim and Toronto. His ties to Roy ran deep — he mentored the former Avs coach with the Canadiens, and the pair won two Stanley Cups together (in 1986 and ’93). Allaire has been with the Avs for the last four years, on the heels of an acrimonious departure from Toronto.

Today’s shakeup is a significant one, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Bednar was essentially forced into retaining all of Roy’s staff following the latter’s shock resignation last August, and probably wants to bring in some of his own guys.

Sakic, meanwhile, had to make some sort of changes after the worst regular season in franchise history — and today’s could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Related: Avs president gives Sakic vote of confidence