Cam Tucker

SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 22: Reilly Smith #18 of the Florida Panthers prepares for a face-off against the New York Islanders during second period action in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the BB&T Center on April 22, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Islanders defeated the Panthers 2-1 in double overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Panthers sign Reilly Smith to five-year contract extension


The Florida Panthers remain busy this off-season.

Updated: The Panthers announced Sunday that they have signed forward Reilly Smith to a five-year contract extension.

Smith had 25 goals and 50 points in 82 regular season games, before four goals and eight points in the opening round of the post-season before Florida was eliminated. Smith, 25, was at the end of a two-year, $6.85 million deal, so this new deal comes with a substantial raise, plus term.

“Reilly was a key player for our team last season,” said Panthers GM Tom Rowe in a statement. “He is a valuable contributor to our offense and special teams and is an important part of our talented group of forwards.”

Yesterday, the Panthers signed free agent defenseman Jason Demers (read about it here and here) and re-signed forward Vincent Trocheck to a six-year contract (read about it here), which was officially announced Sunday.

Former first-round pick Conner Bleackley finally signs — with the Blues

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 23: Conner Bleackley #9 of the Red Deer Rebels celebrates after scoring against the Calgary Hitmen during a WHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 23, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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It’s been a long time coming for Conner Bleackley.

He was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, but never signed. His rights were eventually traded to the Arizona Coyotes, but again he wasn’t offered a contract and ended up re-entering this year’s draft.

Talk about a difficult start his Bleackley’s pro career, as outlined by ProHockeyTalk last month:

Upon getting drafted, Bleackley’s Red Deer coach, Brent Sutter, said the kid wasn’t ready for NHL hockey. Bleackley then arrived at his first Avs camp out of shape, and was sent packing early. Colorado balked on signing him, and shipped him to Arizona.

Bleackley learned of the trade while recovering from a broken kneecap.

Two weeks after returning, he suffered the aforementioned wrist tendon laceration.

In the fifth round, 144th overall, the Blues finally took Bleackley, the WHL center for the Red Deer Rebels.

On Saturday, the 20-year-old Bleackley was one of nine players signed by the Blues, as he inked an entry-level contract.

Related: Avs’ first-rounder Bleackley says lack of contract is ‘in the back of my mind a lot’

‘It will get done,’ says Hextall of re-signing Brayden Schenn

Philadelphia Flyers' Brayden Schenn (10) celebrates his goal in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins  in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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With the chaos of free agency slowing down to some degree over the weekend, Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall will turn his attention toward getting Brayden Schenn signed to a new deal.

Schenn, 24, scored a career high 26 goals and 59 points this past season, while in the final year of a two-year deal worth an AAV of $2.5 million. Following the season he had, spending a good chunk of time on a line with Claude Giroux, he’s due for a significant raise.

Together, Schenn and Giroux had strong possession numbers and favorable production per 60 minutes at even strength.

From the Burlington County Times:

Hextall said he will intensify negotiations with restricted free agent Brayden Schenn, who’s coming off his best season in the NHL. Schenn figures to command at least $5 million on a multi-year deal in the four-to-five-year range. “It will get done,’’ Hextall said. “That’s not an issue.’’

The Flyers have about $8.6 million in cap space right now.

While Schenn is looking for a new deal, he’ll miss the first three games of the Flyers’ 2016-17 regular season due to a suspension he received in the playoffs for charging T.J. Oshie.

Vegas owner hopes to have new GM by beginning of August

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  New Las Vegas NHL franchise owner Bill Foley and commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League pose for a photo during the Board of Governors Press Conference prior to the 2016 NHL Awards at Encore Las Vegas on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The NHL's board of governors approved expanding to Las Vegas, making the franchise the 31st team in the league. The team will start play during the 2017-18 season and play at the newly built T-Mobile Arena.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Work has started on the next step in building the Las Vegas NHL franchise, including securing a front office and hockey operations staff.

As per Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Owner Bill Foley and his staff are off to Montana to meet and discuss different issues. But putting together a list of candidates for the general manager position is probably the most pressing, with the expansion draft less than a year away.

It’s possible the successful candidate could be found by the beginning of next month, and Foley told the publication he hopes to have a shortlist of three to five candidates for upcoming interviews.

“My hope is we’ll have our general manager on board no later than Aug. 1,” said Foley, as per the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“We’ve had a lot of people reach out to us, and we’ve got some people we’re interested in who we’ve yet to speak to. We hope to identify who we want to speak to from these meetings.”

Even though the expansion draft may seem like its far away, teams have already started the process of figuring out which players they may want to protect.

The Anaheim Ducks traded goalie Frederik Andersen last month, and GM Bob Murray added that with the expansion draft, it would’ve ultimately been impossible to keep both Andersen and John Gibson.

With teams already preparing for the expansion draft, Vegas must quickly build a staff in order to keep up. Hence the importance of finding a GM.

“We’re going to have a lot of interviews to do, a lot of flying in and out (of Las Vegas). We want to make sure we hire the right person. I’m not worried about who the coach is going to be right now. The coach can happen next April, after the season. If someone gets fired before the season ends, we can maybe look at that person,” Foley said last month.

“But the window is now for the GM and the scouts. That’s where our focus is.”

After signing Hutton, Blues trade goalie Anders Nilsson to Sabres

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Anders Nilsson can't stop a shot from the Minnesota Wild during the exhibition overtime of an NHL preseason hockey game Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP Photo

The St. Louis Blues traded goalie Anders Nilsson to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, getting a fifth-round pick in next year’s NHL Draft back in return.

Nilsson, 26, appeared in three games for the Blues during the 2015-16 season, after he was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers when Brian Elliott went down with an injury.

In 26 games with the Oilers, Nilsson posted a record of 10-12-2, a goals-against average of 3.14 and a save percentage of .901.

For the Blues, Saturday’s deal coincides with yesterday’s news that they signed Jake Allen to a four-year, $17.4 million contract extension, making him the outright No. 1 goalie in St. Louis heading into the upcoming season, and signed free agent puck stopper Carter Hutton to a two-year, $2.25 million contract.

For the Sabres, acquiring Nilsson comes after losing Chad Johnson on the open market to Calgary.

Nilsson then reportedly signed a one-year deal worth a $1 million.