Cam Tucker

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It’s an ‘important year for me,’ says Nash, who enters final year of deal

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Rick Nash has seen his goal and point production drop in the last two years, but there should be plenty of motivation for him to try to turn that around this season.

Nash, who turned 33 years old in June, is now in the final year of an eight-year, $62.4 million contract and is eligible to hit the open market at the end of the season.

It wasn’t that long ago, Nash, already an accomplished scorer, had wrapped up his best season ever in terms of goal production with 42. That number dropped by quite a bit — as did his shooting percentage, shots-on-goal total, and number of games played — to 15 goals the following season in 2015-16.

Read more: Rick Nash at career crossroads in contract year

Last season, which was again interrupted by injury, he scored 23 times, which is a step back in the right direction for the veteran forward.

He’s made it no secret that this contract year is significant for his future.

“Every year I want to have the best year possible. But this year, it’s an important year for me personally,” said Nash, per the New York Daily News. “It’s an important year for the Rangers, too. We still haven’t achieved that goal (winning the Stanley Cup) that we all want to achieve.”

The big question over the next few months will be about whether or not the Rangers decide to bring him back following this season. If they do, what will the price be? Nash has only twice in his 14-year career fallen short of the 20-goal mark, with that most recently occurring in 2015-16. But he will also be 34 years old when free agency opens again next July.

The Rangers have already started the transition of getting younger and faster, and, following another playoff loss, the offseason produced more changes to the roster with the buyout of Dan Girardi and the trade of Derek Stepan.

“It’s sports,” said Nash, per the New York Post. “That’s what happens with contracts — your contract is up and you play for another contract. That’s what I’m facing this year.”

Therrien is back with the Habs — as a scout

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After getting fired as coach of the Montreal Canadiens in February, Michel Therrien has reportedly returned to the Habs.

He won’t, however, be behind the bench.

According to reports on Friday, Therrien has re-joined the Canadiens as a scout for this season. Per NHL.com, he will scout Panthers and Lightning games.

“I want to be out there, I want to see games and I want to be ready,” Therrien told TSN 690, per NHL.com. “I’m not going to stay in my place and wait for the phone call. I did that before when I lost my job in Pittsburgh [as Penguins coach in 2009]. I want to see as many games as I can and this is what I’m expecting to do next year [for the Canadiens].”

The Habs came flying out of the gate last season, going 13-1-1 in their first 15 games. But they struggled after that with only 18 wins in their next 43 games, leading to Therrien’s dismissal. He was replaced by Claude Julien, who had been let go by the Bruins.

Therrien was among the candidates for the Florida Panthers head coaching gig before Bob Boughner was named to the position.

A fantasy draft sleeper? McDavid hypes up newcomer Ryan Strome

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Go through Yahoo’s Fantasy Hockey draft analysis and it will take a while to find Ryan Strome.

He currently has an average draft position of 167, right in between sophomore Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov and Rangers forward J.T. Miller.

But Strome may soon see a boost to his ADP after Connor McDavid, the top-ranked player for obvious reasons, spoke highly of the 24-year-old forward as a potential fantasy draft sleeper heading into his first season with the Edmonton Oilers.

“I think it could be [Strome], honestly,” McDavid recently told NHL.com. “He’s a guy that is going to come in and I think he’s going to get a pretty good opportunity to play with some good players and maybe take a little bit of power-play time and help. I think he’s going to do well with it.”

The Oilers traded proven regular season scorer Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders in June, while getting Strome in return. The latter had 17 goals and 50 points in his sophomore season, but hasn’t been able to match that same production in the two years since, as he’s dealt with injury and was made a healthy scratch at times by former Islanders coach Jack Capuano.

The prospect of playing with McDavid and/or Draisaitl is an exciting one for Strome, but exactly where he fits into the lineup will be determined over the next few weeks.

His ability to play both wing and center should give Edmonton flexibility to move other forwards — particularly Leon Draisaitl — around the lineup. Draisaitl spent significant time last season on a line with McDavid but he can also play in the middle and may be used as the Oilers’ No. 2 center at times throughout the season.

Habs prospect Reway: ‘It’s going to be difficult’ in comeback from heart condition

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BROSSARD, Quebec (AP) Martin Reway was happy just to be on the ice with other prospects when the Montreal Canadiens opened rookie camp Thursday.

The 22-year-old Slovak missed a full season recovering from a heart problem, setting back the development of one of the most gifted players in the Canadiens’ system.

Reway would not say exactly what the illness was, other than it was a virus that put him in hospital for a month and required most of a year to overcome.

“After a long time, it’s a great opportunity for me to be back,” the 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward said. “I know it’s going to be difficult to get on track again but I’m working hard in practice here, trying to get better and I’m hoping it’s going to go as quickly as possible.”

The Canadiens are just as anxious to see what effect a year off has had on Reway, who dazzled while leading underdog Slovakia to a bronze medal at the 2015 world junior championship.

He was drafted in the fourth round in 2013, while he was putting up 112 points in 90 games over two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He later played for Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic and had a short stint with Fribourg in Switzerland before falling ill.

Doctors found a problem during a routine checkup a week before Reway was to leave for the Canadiens’ rookie camp last summer.

“I didn’t feel well so they kept me there and found out I had a serious problem with the heart, so I had to rest,” he said. “I had high fever. It happened so quickly I don’t know. I wasn’t able to do any workouts or any movements in the first three or four months. When you’re a hockey player, you know how hard it is to stop doing what you love. I had to rest up for a bit. But when you come back, you’re more excited, I think.”

Reway spent the season resting and resuming the economics studies he’d let slide when he joined Gatineau. He described his year as a “bore,” adding “I hope I’m not going to have to study any more because I’m not interested. I spent more time with my family. That was the positive part of the virus.”

Now he wants to make up for lost time. Reway received the green light by Canadiens doctors to resume skating five weeks ago and was working out with a Slovak team before heading to camp.

On the first day, he didn’t look up to full speed but said his fitness will come gradually. He’s to take part in the main camp next week. It would be a longshot for him to make the NHL club this season, so he’s expected to begin the season with team’s AHL affiliate, which starting this season will be based nearby in Laval.

“I was surprised that my hands weren’t as bad as I expected,” he said. “Obviously, the legs, the cardio, weren’t that good, but that’s understandable after a year of not playing.

“Now I think it’s getting better every day that I’m on the ice. I believed all the time that I was going to come back. Sometimes in life, the things that happen to you, you can’t change. You have to fight it. I’m really happy I came through. It’s a good experience for me and I hope nobody’s going to see the difference.”

Reway said no longer needs to take medication and is confident there should be no further problems with his heart.

Reway was among 23 prospects in camp. They leave Friday for a rookie tournament in Toronto against Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators hopefuls.

Erixon will attend Devils training camp on a PTO

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After spending the last two seasons in the American Hockey League, Tim Erixon will be given a chance to crack an NHL lineup for this season.

The 26-year-old defenseman has been signed to a professional tryout and will attend training camp with the New Jersey Devils, the team announced Thursday.

Selected 23rd overall by the Calgary Flames in 2009, Erixon has yet to make the leap to the NHL on a full-time basis. He played with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for each of the last two years, scoring four goals and 17 points in 54 games this past season.

The Devils have added Mirco Mueller and college free agent Will Butcher to their defensive unit for the upcoming season. However, 23-year-old blue liner and restricted free agent Damon Severson remains without a contract, with training camps set to open next week.

Erixon has played in 93 career NHL games, with stops in New York, Columbus, Chicago and Toronto.