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Devils acquire d-man Mirco Mueller from Sharks

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The New Jersey Devils have added a young defenseman to their organization, acquiring Mirco Mueller from the San Jose Sharks.

The Devils also picked up the Sharks’ fifth-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft, in exchange for New Jersey’s second-round pick and fourth-round pick this year.

Mueller, who just turned 22 years old in March, was selected 18th overall by the Sharks in the 2013 NHL Draft. He’s played in 54 games for the Sharks, splitting his professional career so far between the NHL club and their minor league affiliate.

His play in the minors this past season had given the Sharks reason for optimism, with coach Pete DeBoer speaking highly of the prospect blue liner when he was recalled earlier in the year.

“All the reports out of the American League team were that that he’s been excellent,” said DeBoer in December. “I think he’s really taken a step maturity-wise as a player and as a kid this year. Everybody’s saying that he looks like he’s ready for full-time NHL duty. … He’s a guy that belongs up here.”

But, as a young and developing defenseman, gaining the trust of the coach through consistent stretches of play was also something DeBoer stressed upon Mueller as he went up and down between the NHL and AHL.

He’s also a pending restricted free agent, at the end of his entry-level deal.

Mueller becomes another former San Jose first-round pick to be traded. The Sharks also dealt Nikolay Goldobin to Vancouver prior to the trade deadline.

“This will be an excellent opportunity for Mirco to continue his development and with our organization’s depth on the blueline, an opportunity for us to acquire assets for the future,” said Sharks GM Doug Wilson.

In order to ‘accelerate our process,’ Vegas GM wants to acquire more draft picks

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The big day is almost here.

Next Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights will make their selections in the expansion draft, building their roster for their inaugural NHL campaign in October.

But it also appears that general manager George McPhee is also looking to pick up additional draft picks in order to build the prospect talent pool for the long-term future of his club.

Right now, the Golden Knights have seven picks in this year’s entry draft — one in every round — including the sixth overall pick.

From USA Today:

McPhee said the Golden Knights’ objective is to find the “right balance” between putting a competitive team on the ice quickly and acquiring enough draft picks to expedite their building process.

“You usually have seven draft picks, but if we could have two or three drafts where we have 10 or 12 picks, it would accelerate our process,” McPhee said.

McPhee said he is also listening to offers from teams looking to dump a contract. He said he will proceed cautiously in that direction.

“We’re keeping an eye on the money, because it adds up in a hurry,” he said.

McPhee and the Golden Knights have already been connected to a few trade rumors.

One such report from the Columbus Dispatch suggested Vegas and the Blue Jackets already have a deal in place ahead of the expansion draft, and it could include a prospect or draft pick going to the Golden Knights.

Related:

Reminder — key dates and rules before expansion draft

Expect some big trades before tomorrow’s freeze kicks in

Report: Coyotes have ‘serious interest’ in Rangers’ Stepan

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The Arizona Coyotes made a trade Friday evening, acquiring Nick Cousins from Philadelphia. And they may not be done there.

According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, the Coyotes are among multiple teams that have “serious interest” in New York Rangers center Derek Stepan.

Stepan, who turns 27 years old on Sunday, has consistently been able to go beyond the 50-point plateau, with 17 goals and 55 points last season, and would certainly be a boost to Arizona’s crop of talented young forwards.

He’s entering the third year of a six-year, $39 million contract that comes with an annual cap hit of $6.5 million. That deal also includes a no-trade clause that kicks in for next season, per CapFriendly.

The expansion draft trade/waiver freeze goes into effect on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.

Stay tuned, because it might get crazy before then.

Coyotes acquire Nick Cousins from Flyers (Updated)

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We have a trade.

According to Craig Custance, the Arizona Coyotes have added some depth up the middle by acquiring center Nick Cousins from the Philadelphia Flyers.

In 60 games this season, Cousins had six goals and 16 points on a one-year, $840,000 contract. He’s currently a pending restricted free agent.

“We are very pleased to acquire Nick,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka. “He is a tenacious, versatile, two-way center who will add grit and energy to our lineup. We’re excited to have him join the Coyotes.”

The Coyotes pick up Cousins and Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen from the Flyers, in exchange for University of Michigan forward Brendan Warren and a fifth-round draft choice in 2018.

Cousins has been quite productive at the AHL level, posting 56 points in 64 games two years ago, and averaging a point per game in 38 contests with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2015-16.

Taken in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft, Cousins posted strong possession numbers in his time with the big club in Philly, but was also eligible for the Vegas expansion draft. In this case, the Flyers now have one less player to worry about protecting, while acquiring a draft pick and a young forward in Warren, who concluded his sophomore season at University of Michigan.

The expansion draft trade/waiver freeze for all clubs except Las Vegas commences at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Sports hernias impacting NHL players of all ages, including potential No. 1 pick Nolan Patrick

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Months removed from sports hernia and hip surgeries, Claude Giroux still didn’t feel like himself.

The Philadelphia Flyers’ captain finally got back to normal by the end of the season, roughly nine months after going under the knife.

“I thought it’d be quicker, to be honest,” Giroux said. “It’s harder than I thought it would’ve been.”

Because of the unnatural motion of skating, hockey is among the most common sports for sports hernias, a catch-all term for what are also called core muscle injuries. Within the past couple of years, Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild, Karl Alzner of the Washington Capitals, Shayne Gostisbehere of the Flyers and goaltender Mike Smith of the Arizona Coyotes are among the NHL players to have an operation to repair a sports hernia or core muscle injury.

Dr. L. Michael Brunt, who has been a St. Louis Blues team physician since 1994, estimates that anywhere from six to 15 players each year undergo some type of sports hernia surgery – and it’s on the rise across all ages. Brunt, who has performed the surgery on Joel Ward, Mike Green, Matt Cooke, Doug Weight and others, believes the increase over the past 10 to 15 years has to do with better recognition of abdominal and groin injuries that are common in hockey, soccer and football players.

He also believes that too much repetition among young athletes in a single sport can cause problems, something others have blamed for more Tommy John surgeries among younger and younger pitchers.

“It’s because of the sudden propulsive movements: turning, cutting, etc., that occur at high rates of speed,” Brunt said. “Young athletes are committed to one sport very, very early on, and so there are these repetitive movements that occur because they’re not doing three or four sports year-round and mixing up their physical sports activity. They concentrate on one sport, and it’s that gradual wear and tear over the years that tends to predispose them to developing something like this.”

The recovery from surgery varies drastically from player to player, too. Nolan Patrick, who’s expected to be a top pick in the NHL draft next week, had surgery on his right side last summer, came back too soon and missed three months of his season.

Read more:

Potential No. 1 overall pick Nolan Patrick to miss world juniors

Nolan Patrick, potential top pick, dealt with two hernias

“Everybody’s different so it’s hard to put a blanket on it,” said veteran Dallas defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who played a full 82 games and had one of the best seasons of his career after summer sports hernia surgery in 2011. “There’s lots of variables: different surgeons doing it, different levels of tears. Some guys it’s just a simple hernia and mesh insertion. Other guys have (adductor muscles that) could be torn and then it’s a whole thing. … I think rehab was a huge part of it, and of course everybody has different rehab programs.”

Dr. William Brown , a California-based sports hernia specialist, said many different muscles, nerves and tendons can be injured – and inexperienced surgeons can miss other injuries in the area.

“Some of the athletes respond poorly because not everything’s fixed appropriately at the time of surgery,” Brown said. “If (other injuries) are missed, then that could be another one of those reasons why the athlete doesn’t heal quickly after the operation’s over.”

That’s one explanation for Patrick being limited to 33 games for the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings during his draft year. The 18-year-old center said he should have had two surgeries but isn’t dwelling on the situation as he looks forward to the draft.

“There’s a ton of guys that have these injuries these days and everyone bounces back from it,” said Patrick, who took two full months off skating from October to December before returning in January. “It happens to a lot of hockey players and mostly comes from over-usage. … It’s a tough bounce, but you know it’s the way it goes sometimes.”

When he came back, Patrick put up 16 goals and 42 assists in 28 games before a leg injury ended his season. Former NHL executive Craig Button, now a draft analyst for Canadian sports network TSN, said Patrick was more careful when he came back the second time and looked like an elite prospect again.

“Initially there was a little bit of a working-in process,” Button said. “But after he got right up to speed, I thought he was right back to where he was at.”

Patrick’s injury history is a question for the New Jersey Devils, who have the top pick, and it led the Flyers, who draft second, to bring him in to see their doctors after the scouting combine.

“I’ve had to take care of my hips and groins for my whole career, so I’ve learned how to manage that properly,” Hamhuis said. “To stay around in this league, you’ve got to stay healthy and allow your body to be in a good position.”