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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.”

 

Benning: ‘Nothing’s set in stone’ as Canucks mull expansion draft options

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Brendan Gaunce or Brandon Sutter?

With the approaching Saturday deadline (5 p.m. ET) for NHL teams to submit their protection lists ahead of the expansion draft, there was quite a debate in Vancouver this week about whether the Canucks should protect the 23-year-old Gaunce and expose the 28-year-old Sutter.

Sutter played in 81 games this season for the Canucks, scoring 17 goals and 34 points. He was highly coveted as a foundation piece by general manager Jim Benning, who acquired Sutter from Pittsburgh in a trade involving Nick Bonino. But he also has a rather pricey contract that still has four years remaining on it and an annual cap hit of $4.375 million.

In addition to Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson tied into no-movement clauses, it appears the Canucks will also be protecting Sutter. He’s never posted more than 40 points in a single season, but beyond an aging Henrik Sedin and 22-year-old Bo Horvat, the Canucks don’t have much going for them up the middle.

Meanwhile, Gaunce didn’t score a single goal this season, playing in 57 games. He did have five assists, playing mostly on the fourth line. He began to carve out a niche as a checking forward, but the Canucks could use more scoring production from the former first round pick and pending restricted free agent.

If Gaunce is exposed, a shoulder operation in April — and the reported four-to-six month recovery period — may make him a less desirable option for Vegas.

Of course, Benning isn’t tipping his hand.

“We have an idea of who we’re going to protect, but I’m not going to let anybody know what those players are because we’re still talking to different teams and we still might make a move,” Benning told Canadian Press. “Nothing’s set in stone until Saturday at 5 o’clock eastern when we have to submit the list.”

Matthews had high praise for Crosby and Malkin

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Auston Matthews took the NHL by storm as a rookie, reaching the 40-goal plateau. Only four back of Sidney Crosby.

As impressive as Matthews’ season was, helping the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs into the playoffs where they met the Washington Capitals in the first round, he was highly complimentary of Crosby and fellow Penguins star Evgeni Malkin for their performances in the postseason.

The Penguins dealt with a myriad of injuries, but still won the Stanley Cup in six games against the Predators, despite missing Kris Letang for the entire playoff. Malkin and Crosby led the league in playoff scoring, combining for 55 points. No. 87 won the Conn Smythe Trophy for a second consecutive year.

“It’s no secret he’s the best player in the world for a reason,” Matthews told the Toronto Star. “Watching — not only him but Malkin as well — when the Penguins needed a boost or a big play or a lift, it seemed to come from one of those two guys. That exemplifies their leadership and what they mean to that team.

“It was definitely different watching this year than years before, having played in the playoffs and wanting to be in that position. Definitely, there’s a lot to be learned.”

The rebuild in Toronto has certainly accelerated with the first overall selection of Matthews a year ago, with the Maple Leafs giving the Capitals everything they could handle in the opening round. The 19-year-old center could be in line for some hardware of his own in a few days, as a finalist for the Calder Trophy.

Related: Sidney Crosby had some high praise for Auston Matthews

Report: Habs will not qualify Nesterov

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It appears Nikita Nesterov will go to the open market in July.

Per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the Montreal Canadiens will not qualify the 24-year-old defenseman, which means he will become an unrestricted free agent.

The Habs acquired Nesterov from the Tampa Bay Lightning in January, parting ways with Jonathan Racine and a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft as part of the deal. He was on a one-year contract, worth $725,000 and a pending restricted free agent when the season ended.

He appeared in 13 regular season games for the Habs, as well as two playoff games before Montreal was eliminated in the first round.

It was suggested in April, when KHL blue liner Jakub Jerabek had reportedly signed in Montreal, that the left-shooting defenseman Nesterov may not be back with the Habs for next season.

There had been talk a few days ago that Nesterov was on his way to the KHL, although his agent, Dan Milstein, shot down those rumors, writing on Twitter that they were “ABSOLUTELY FALSE” and that his client wants to play in the NHL.