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Neal out for start of Golden Knights camp with hand injury

The Vegas Golden Knights’ first-ever training camp will begin with an unfortunate development.

James Neal, who the Golden Knights picked up from Nashville in the expansion draft, is out two-to-four weeks with a hand injury, said general manager George McPhee on Thursday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“He may be a little bit behind everybody else — two, three, four weeks. It’s hard to say at this point,” said McPhee. “The hand is taking some more time to recover than anticipated.”

Neal suffered the injury at the beginning of the Western Conference Final but remained in the Predators’ lineup for the remainder of the post-season, including the Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh.

This is a big year for Neal.

At 30 years of age, he’s playing in a brand new market for the NHL and he’s in the final year of his six-year, $30 million contract. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent next summer.

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    Former NHLer Jeff Parker dies at 53, family will donate brain for CTE research

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    Former NHL forward Jeff Parker has passed away, according to numerous reports. He was 53 years old.

    More from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

    A former NHL hockey player from the Twin Cities, whose career was cut short by head injuries and is part of the concussion lawsuit against the league, has died and will have his brain donated for examination.

    Jeff Parker, who turned 53 a week ago and played in parts of five seasons in the NHL in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Monday, the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office said Thursday.

    His longtime partner, Melina Miller, of Minneapolis, told the Star Tribune that Parker died at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis from cardiopulmonary hypertension that brought on heart and lung infections.

    Miller said Parker’s brain will be donated to Boston University to determine whether he suffered from the debilitating disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

    According to TSN.ca, Parker joined the lawsuit against the NHL in February 2015.

    Parker played 141 games in the NHL, mostly for the Buffalo Sabres, before a brief four-game stint with the Hartford Whalers during the 1990-91 season.

    During his time in the league, Parker scored 16 goals and 35 points, and recorded 163 penalty minutes.

    Wild agree to terms with Foligno on four-year, $11.5M deal

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    The list of remaining restricted free agents still waiting for new contracts is down to three, after the Wild announced a deal for Marcus Foligno.

    The Wild announced the contract on Thursday. It’s a four-year deal, worth a total of $11.5 million and an average annual value of $2.875 million.

    That’s a bump up from the $2.25 million he earned last season in Buffalo.

    Minnesota acquired the 26-year-old Foligno — as well as Tyler Ennis — on June 30, while sending Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella to Buffalo.

    Foligno isn’t known for producing big offensive numbers, scoring a career best 13 goals last season. His career high for points in a single season is 23 — a mark he set in two consecutive years with Buffalo. That said, he has quite the goal in mind for 2017-18 with his team, aiming for 20 goals as a member of the Wild.

    “We are happy to officially have Marcus as a part of our club for the next four seasons,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement.

    “Marcus is a big, physical forward who is capable of playing a heavy game while also contributing offensively. We are excited to add his presence to our lineup and watch him continue his growth as a player.”

    Per Michael Russo of The Athletic, Foligno is expected to join the Wild on Friday.

    Marc Staal is ‘fighting for a spot’ with Rangers, says Vigneault

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    The New York Rangers have opened training camp, with head coach Alain Vigneault emphasizing the competition for ice time on his blue line.

    Among those vying for minutes? Veteran defender Marc Staal, who has played in 689 career NHL games, turned 30 years old in January and is currently the second highest paid player on the Rangers’ defense, with an annual cap hit of $5.7 million.

    He still has four years remaining on that deal, which includes a no-movement clause, per CapFriendly.

    The Rangers have undergone significant changes throughout the roster this offseason. On defense, they bought out Dan Girardi while Kevin Klein moved on from his NHL career. They signed free agent defender Kevin Shattenkirk and acquired 21-year-old Anthony DeAngelo as part of the Derek Stepan trade with Arizona.

    After an impressive first full year on the Rangers roster, Brady Skjei could also take on a larger role this season and former KHLer Alexei Bereglazov, who signed with New York in the spring, could challenge for minutes with the NHL club.

    The Rangers will also have college free agent signing Neal Pionk at camp, and he could contend for a spot, as well. He’s certainly aiming to make the roster, and the fact he’s a right-handed shot may add further appeal.

    So, there is plenty of competition on the Rangers’ blue line.

    “It would be safe to say there are a few guys for the first time in a long time — Marc being one of them — that are fighting for ice-time, fighting for a spot on the team,” Vigneault told reporters, per The Sporting News.

    “If we decided to bring Marc Staal back, it’s because we believe in him. I like Marc Staal, I believe in Marc Staal, but at the end of the day he’s fighting for a spot, and he knows it. Nick was a real effective player for us last season, both offensively and defensively, but it’s a new season for everybody. His play will dictate how much he plays, and that’s probably the same for everybody at this point.”

    Fellow 30-year-old Rangers defenseman Nick Holden also found his name in the trade rumor mill this summer.

    Maple Leafs ‘don’t think it’s necessary’ to have a captain right now

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    No captain? No problem last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Maple Leafs will go without a captain for the 2017-18 season, as well.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello suggested a few months ago that this was a possibility, and on Thursday, both him and coach Mike Babcock confirmed the news.

    “When it’s the right time, there will be a captain,” said Lamoriello, per the Toronto Star. “If it was the right time, we would have a captain. It’s something internal. Right now where we are as a team, and the number of leaders that we have in that room, we don’t think it’s necessary. It’s as simple as that.”

    Auston Matthews has been mentioned as the likely candidate to eventually become the next captain of the Maple Leafs.

    With a talented young roster and Matthews at the centerpiece as a rookie, Toronto jumped from being a lottery team in 2016 to a playoff team in 2017, giving Washington a difficult first-round series. Matthews, who scored 40 goals in his freshman year, won the Calder Trophy.

    “It would be a privilege and honour,” said Matthews earlier this summer, per Sportsnet. “If you look at the line of captains that have come before us, the players that have come before us, it would definitely be a pretty big honour.”