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Report: Slovakia hires Craig Ramsay to coach Olympic team

Another hockey nation has named its coach for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

According to John Shannon of Sportsnet, Slovakia has tabbed former NHL coach Craig Ramsay to be the bench boss for its national team and Olympic squad.

Ramsay was last an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers in 2014-15. His coaching experience in the NHL, which includes three stints as a head coach, dates all the way back to 1986-87 with the Buffalo Sabres.

Four years ago, Slovakia was defeated by the Czech Republic in the qualification playoff and failed to make it to the quarter-final round.

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    Despite impressive young core, Predators need Rinne to step up again next season

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    This post is part of Predators Day on PHT…

    Pekka Rinne wasn’t unbeatable in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. But by the time Nashville completed its sweep of the Blackhawks, his opponents from Chicago may have felt that way.

    He gave up only three goals in four games versus Chicago, and while he didn’t maintain that torrid puckstopping pace throughout the playoffs, he was an integral member of the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final.

    It was great for Rinne, who has been with Nashville since his selection in the 2004 NHL Draft.

    It was in the final series where he struggled with consistency.

    He was excellent in Games 3 and 4 in Nashville, as the Predators evened the series. He was good again in Game 6 but was unlucky on what would be the Stanley Cup winning goal to Pittsburgh. It was in Games 1, 2 and 5 that Rinne struggled, allowing a combined 11 goals against on 45 shots faced and getting the hook early in the fifth game. It was a strange, up-and-down way to end the playoffs during a two-month stretch when Rinne was otherwise excellent.

    The Predators certainly have the makings of a team that can compete for the Western Conference title again next season, with an impressive young core group of forwards and a dangerous blue line, particularly with their top four.

    Where things could get interesting is in goal.

    Rinne turns 35 years old in November and has two more years remaining on his contract, with an annual $7 million cap hit.

    He’s been the workhorse in Nashville for years. Since the 2010-11 season, Rinne has on five occasions played 60 or more games in a single season, reaching 73 games played in 2011-12. He’s averaged almost 64 games played over the last three years, and even during the lockout shortened year, he played in almost 90 per cent of the Predators’ regular season games.

    It’s been well documented in the analytics community (check out some pieces here and here) that goalies start to decline through their 30s.

    Goalies like Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller — all in their mid to late 30s — have all been relied on heavily earlier in their careers and their respective teams certainly benefited. Luongo had four consecutive seasons with 70-plus starts, as did Lundqvist. That’s a lot of mileage. The days of such usage appear to be in the rear view mirror, according to Habs goalie coach Stephane Waite last month when he discussed the need for a capable back-up in order to give the starter some rest, to keep them refreshed.

    These playoffs put the Predators right in the spot light, revealing to a greater audience just how good this team was and could still be over the next few years. It revealed that, when at the top of his game, Rinne could be spectacular. Nashville is still going to need him to help the franchise in achieving its goals next season.

    But he also isn’t getting any younger.

    Last season, 22-year-old Juuse Saros played in 21 games, posting a .923 save percentage in that time.

    It may benefit the Predators in the long run to give their back-up an increase in playing time to keep Rinne refreshed throughout the season.

    Stars ‘strongly opposed’ to Texas ‘bathroom bill’ (Updated)

    NHL.com
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    The Dallas Stars on Wednesday issued a statement, publicly opposing the controversial “bathroom bill” in Texas, becoming the first professional sports team in the state to do so against the proposed legislation, according to reports.

    The proposed bill would restrict transgender people to using restrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate, per the AP.

    “When the Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 we were fortunate to encounter success early on, and we’ve cultivated what we consider to be the best fan base in the National Hockey League. Dallas was warm and welcoming when we came to this great city 25 years ago, and it remains so today,” said Stars president and CEO James Lites in a statement.

    “The Dallas Stars stands strongly opposed to any legislation perceived as discriminatory, including proposed bathroom legislation. We welcome fans from all over the globe, and our roster boasts players from half a dozen countries. Dallas welcomes all, and we welcome all.”

    Updated: The NHL has also responded to the proposed legislation through an email to Sportsnet.

    “We strongly oppose the bill in its original form,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet. “We hope and expect that bill in that form will not be passed into law. We would obviously have to reassess the situation in the event that happens.”

    The Stars will host the 2018 NHL Draft. The You Can Play Project, which advocates for equal treatment of athletes regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, praised the Stars following their announcement.

    Canucks re-sign Gaunce to two-year, one-way deal

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    The Canucks signed one of their remaining restricted free agents on Wednesday.

    No, it wasn’t Bo Horvat.

    The Canucks announced a two-year, one-way contract with forward Brendan Gaunce. The deal comes with an annual average value of $750,000.

    Vancouver’s first-round pick in 2012, the now 23-year-old Gaunce appeared in 57 games for the Canucks last season, recording five assists.

    At 6-foot-2 tall and 217 pounds, he can play both the wing and center, while bringing an element of size and physical play to Vancouver’s group of bottom six forwards.

    The organization would probably like to get more offense out of him next season, and perhaps having Travis Green — the former Utica Comets bench boss when Gaunce was in the midst of his most productive AHL season — coach in Vancouver will help.

    His season came to an end in early March because of a shoulder injury. The club announced several weeks later in April that Gaunce would have shoulder surgery with a recovery timeline of four to six months.

    With Gaunce now signed, the Canucks have one remaining restricted free agent to get under contract. That would be Horvat, the 22-year-old center who took a major step forward in his development last season and is due for a substantial raise.

    With Gaunce signed, the Canucks should have about $7.375 million remaining in cap space.

    Related: Canucks expect to have Horvat signed before training camp

    Dany Heatley awarded $6.5 million in lawsuit against former agent

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    Former NHL forward Dany Heatley has been awarded about $6.5 million after a judge ruled in his favor for a lawsuit against his former agent Stacey McAlpine, according to CTV Calgary on Wednesday.

    Heatley played in 869 NHL games throughout his career, scoring 372 goals and 791 points while playing on five different teams. Twice, he reached the 50-goal plateau as a member of the Ottawa Senators.

    While playing for the Minnesota Wild, Heatley sued McAlpine and his parents, Gerald and Eugenia, in 2012 for $11 million for a number of faulty real estate investments throughout North America, according to reports.

    The Globe and Mail has more details of the lawsuit:

    Heatley, a left winger with the Minnesota Wild, alleges that his former agent and business adviser, Stacey McAlpine, as well as McAlpine’s parents, Gerald and Eugenia, lured him into several real-estate ventures across Canada and the United States with promises of huge returns that never materialized. The lawsuit, filed last week in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary, also alleges that Heatley’s former agent dipped into his bank accounts and made unauthorized withdrawals of more than $4-million.

    Per CTV Calgary, Heatley was awarded about $4.167 million from defendant company Presidential Suites Inc., and $2.348 million from the second defendant company Waterfront Development Inc.

    Heatley is not the only NHL player to sue McAlpine.

    In 2016, former Senators defenseman Chris Phillips waged a court battle with McAlpine after filing a $3.2 million lawsuit, alleging “shoddy investments and unauthorized real estates deals,” according to the Ottawa Sun.