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Connor Brown ‘confident’ contract situation with Maple Leafs will get figured out

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The Big Three — Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner — gained so much attention last season that a forward like Connor Brown may have been able to slip under the radar.

But after a breakout 20-goal, 36-point season, his first full campaign in the NHL, Brown is due for a raise from the $894,167 annual average value of his three-year entry-level contract.

As of Friday, he’s still a restricted free agent, the only one the Leafs still need to get under contract, with training camp about a month away.

“Obviously it’s my first time going through something like this,” Brown told TSN, per the Toronto Sun. referring to his status as a restricted free agent. “I don’t think it’s as stressful as the media would make it out to be. I’m very confident things will get sorted by season time.

“We’ll get it figured out.”

One issue is the Maple Leafs are currently in a cap crunch at this point in the summer.

From the Toronto Star last month:

The good news for the Leafs is that Brown is patient and wants to remain with the team. He is not interested in signing an offer sheet and appears ready to wait out the Leafs’ cap crunch.

The situation began when the Leafs signed Patrick Marleau to a cap hit of $6.25 million. The first casualty was prospect forward Dominic Toninato, who will become a free agent on Aug. 15. Marleau took the last available NHL contract roster spot. But it also created the summertime salary cap issue, as exposed by capfriendly.com.

In the summer, teams can exceed the cap by 10 per cent, meaning they can carry contracts worth $82.5 million.

The Maple Leafs selected Brown in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

He made his NHL debut on March 17, 2016 and then posted six points in his first seven games.

He was able to carry that over into last season, becoming one of five Toronto players to reach at least 20 goals and helping the young Maple Leafs make the playoffs.

After a serious leg injury last season, Richardson expects to be ready for training camp

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Arizona Coyotes forward Brad Richardson shared some good news this week.

After suffering a broken fibula and tibia in a collision with former Canucks’ defenseman Nikita Tryamkin last November, undergoing surgery the next day, and a long road to recovery, the 32-year-old forward expects to be ready for training camp when it begins next month.

“If training camp started tomorrow I’d be out there,” Richardson told the Coyotes website. “I feel night-and-day different than I did four months ago.”

There seemed to be nothing malicious about the collision involving the much larger Tryamkin, but Richardson was in immediate pain, signalling for the training staff. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher.

He recalled, in rather vivid detail, what he remembered about the incident, including an ominous reaction from a fan.

“When I think about that night it’s hard,” said Richardson.

“I kind of get hot and sweaty when I do because the pain was so unbelievable. When it happened I knew it was really bad right away. I could feel my leg snap. But I can still see that fan in the crowd and see his face vividly. His expression was like ‘Oh my God!’ and I remember thinking ‘Oh boy, I’m in trouble.’ Even though I knew it was pretty bad, that fan’s face summed up just how bad it really was.”

With a new deal in Dallas, Radulov must prove himself once again

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This post is part of Stars Day on PHT…

Alex Radulov returned from the KHL, had a productive season while exciting hockey fans in Montreal, and then cashed in on a long-term contract with the Dallas Stars.

It was argued in February by Washington’s head coach Barry Trotz that Radulov was “maybe the best signing of the year,” which Habs general manager Marc Bergevin deserved credit for during a period of controversy in his tenure thanks to the P.K. Subban trade.

One season is all Radulov spent with the Habs, scoring 18 goals and 54 points, finishing second on the team in total scoring.

He then turned that into a five-year deal worth $31.25 million with the Stars — the contract announced two days before his 31st birthday. He’s now the third highest paid forward in Dallas, per CapFriendly. It’s a large sum of money for a player that will be nearing his 36th birthday when the contract expires.

For the Stars, it’s the addition of a forward they’ll hope can have an immediate impact on an already skilled team at a time when Dallas is in its window to win. The moves general manager Jim Nill has made this summer would certainly suggest the time is now for this group of players he has assembled.

Based on reports, term was what separated the Canadiens and Radulov during their contract talks. Much will be made about the microscope Nill will be under following such an active offseason — this deal included — and missing the playoffs in 2017. There will be considerable pressure on Radulov to perform, as well, under this new contract.

It sounds like Radulov could get the opportunity to start on the wing with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, at least based on comments coach Ken Hitchcock made earlier this summer. If so, that should give their prized free agent signing the best chance to be successful.

“I’ve coached against Radulov both in the NHL and internationally, and he brings an intensity to the game,” said Hitchcock. “You notice him and you have to account for him. Now, put Jamie Benn on the other wing, and you have the same thing. You know he’s there, and you know you have to account for him. Same with Seguin.

“I just think they will all feed off of each other if that’s the line we come up with.”

There is always risk in signing any free agent to a new team.

There are the usual questions: How will they handle a different market? How quickly can they adjust to a different coach? Different system? Different linemates? The Stars have placed their bets on a few key players this summer, with the additions of Ben Bishop, Marc Methot and Martin Hanzal.

Radulov, at a $6.25 million cap hit per season, is the most expensive.

Radulov was able to prove himself with the Habs. Trotz was certainly on to something with his comments this past winter.

With greater term and salary, Radulov will need to do it again in Dallas. If he does, it could help lead to a lofty reward for the Stars.

It’s Dallas Stars day at PHT

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The Dallas Stars entered last season with high expectations, but didn’t deliver.

They failed to qualify for the playoffs, finishing 11th in the Western Conference, forcing general manager Jim Nill to make several significant changes to not only the roster but the coaching staff.

The Stars fired coach Lindy Ruff and wasted little time hiring his replacement behind the bench — Ken Hitchcock. Dallas boasts a talented core with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin up front and John Klingberg on defense. Now, the question is how will the structure Hitchcock introduces impact this Stars team as it looks to get back into contention in the Western Conference, at a time when the franchise is in go-for-it mode?

Another priority was goaltending. Nill acquired the rights to Ben Bishop from L.A., and then signed him to a six-year contract extension worth $29.5 million in total, while buying out Antti Niemi.

The Stars also added Marc Methot, making a deal with Vegas to acquire the defensive minded blue liner.

After two years in Dallas, Patrick Sharp went to the open market and signed with his old team in Chicago. The Stars went out and signed center Martin Hanzal and landed prized free agent Alexander Radulov, who leveraged an impressive season with the Habs in his return from the KHL into a five-year, $31.25 million contract.

Today at PHT, we’ll discuss the key storylines surrounding the Stars heading into training camp.

USA, Canada preparing for NHL-less Olympics very differently

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Former Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins turned down offers to work in the NHL this season so he could be behind the bench for Canada at the Winter Olympics.

Tony Granato gets to keep his day job at the University of Wisconsin and still coach the United States.

Six months from the start of the Olympics in South Korea, picking coaches is just one of the many contrasts between Hockey Canada and USA Hockey. Their rosters will be more similar to each other’s than Russia’s star-studded group, but the two North American countries are embarking on drastically different approaches ahead of the February tournament that will be the first without NHL players since 1994.

Canada is taking no risks with its thorough preparation as it tries to win a third consecutive gold medal, while the United States sees a benefit in a less-is-more approach in trying to return to the podium.

“There’s no guarantee, so that’s why you get yourself prepared as well as you can,” Canada assistant general manager Martin Brodeur said.

Read more: Minor leaguers on NHL contracts can’t go to Olympics

The best way to prepare is a matter of opinion.

The U.S. and Canada will each rely heavily on professionals playing in European leagues and mix in minor leaguers on American Hockey League contracts . While Russia will likely have a team with former NHL stars like Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Andrei Markov , who went home to join the Kontinental Hockey League, Canada has former NHL players like Derek Roy, Max Talbot, Mason Raymond, Kevin Klein and Ben Scrivens to look to in Europe. The U.S. has Nathan Gerbe, Keith Aucoin and former AHL goalies David Leggio and Jean-Philippe Lamoureux.

Because there are fewer experienced American players in Europe, the U.S. is far more likely to call on recent world junior and current college players, skewing younger at skill positions. Boston University’s Jordan Greenway and Denver’s Troy Terry, who led the U.S. to gold at the world juniors last year, could be among the selections.

Canada GM Sean Burke began preparing a year ago for a no-NHL Olympics, scouting to find potential fits to fill the positions previously held by Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Drew Doughty and Carey Price. U.S. GM Jim Johannson began touching base with players on a serious level in June, after roster rules were set . He doesn’t plan to put a lot of mileage into in-person scouting over the next couple of months.

“In many cases we know what those players are,” said Johannson, who has been in charge of recent U.S. world junior and world championship teams. “I don’t think our goal is prior to December go running all across the world to see what do these guys got. Let their season get going.”

Canada has already gotten started as a group on the ice, playing this week in the Sochi Hockey Open and taking another group of prospective Olympians to St. Petersburg, Russia, next week for the Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov. Those are the first two of five tournaments in which Canada will participate before the final 25-man team goes to Pyeongchang, along with the Karjala Cup in Finland in November, the Channel One Cup in Russia in mid-December and the Spengler Cup in Switzerland at the end of December.

Vice president of hockey operations Scott Salmond said Hockey Canada is “not starting at ground zero” and plans to fine-tune its Olympic roster over the next several months. That’s not all that will come together in those five tournaments.

“We will have a better understanding of the players we have, what system we can put in and adjustments we need before it starts,” said Brodeur, who serves as assistant GM of the St. Louis Blues.

Burke believes he’ll have a good idea of what Canada’s Olympic team will look like by the Moscow-based Channel Cup, which also includes teams from Russia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and South Korea.

“That’ll be the majority of our team that we’ll head into February with,” Burke said. “That’ll depend on guys, the way they play early in the season. Some guys may emerge. Other guys may drop off. But I do feel that when we get to December, we’ll have put enough work and enough effort into this to have narrowed what we think will be most of our Olympic team down.”

The U.S. has all its focus on November’s Deutschland Cup, which will be full of Europe-based pros and include teams from Russia, Slovakia and host Germany, as its only pre-Olympic tournament. Despite playing almost 50 pre-Olympic games for the U.S. in 1988 before the Calgary Olympics, Granato believes it’s a positive that the coaches and players will be able to continue with their regular teams with limited interruption.

Johannson considered a more comprehensive pre-Olympic schedule but ruled against extra evaluation time to balance out possible fatigue.

“The NCAA programs, to me, just do an unbelievable job of developing players,” Johannson said. “I don’t need to fly the guy across the world for an event when he’s going to get great competition that weekend at school and we know him as a player.”

Developing familiarity is a challenge for the U.S. and Canada, and Burke said team-building will get going right away. It’ll be easier for Canada than the U.S., so Granato expects he and his assistants will have to “get creative” to establish relationships with players – whoever they may be.

“We don’t want to leave any stones unturned,” Burke said. “We’re going to use all our resources. And we’re going to make sure that when we head to South Korea, we haven’t left anything to chance and we’re going to be as prepared as we can possibly be.”

Related: Ovechkin is still ‘hopeful’ he’ll participate in 2018 Olympics