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Bergeron says he’ll be ready for Bruins camp following off-season surgery

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With training camp quickly approaching, Patrice Bergeron has provided an optimistic outlook on his status, after the Selke Trophy winner underwent sports hernia surgery in the spring.

The Boston Bruins’ center had the operation in May after his team was eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the opening round.

“Still doing some rehab. I’ll be ready for camp,” said Bergeron, per NHL.com.

“I feel good. There’s still some restriction there that we have to work on, but overall, I feel pretty good. I feel good on the ice, I feel good in the gym. We still have to definitely do some treatments, but definitely I feel good and I know I’ll be ready for camp.”

So, overall, he’s feeling good.

That is … good news for the Bruins, who rely heavily on the 32-year-old Bergeron as an anchor at both ends of the ice and in numerous key situations, including faceoffs, where he cleaned up with a 60.1 winning percentage on draws.

True, Bergeron’s offensive numbers dipped last season, but he still contributed 21 goals and 53 points to help the Bruins qualify for the post-season.

The key takeaway though from the NHL.com report: With the surgery behind him, Bergeron is now pain-free for the first time since last fall, and that could perhaps help him to a quicker, more productive start out of the gate this season.

Related: Hey! Another funny commercial featuring Patrice Bergeron

‘Don’t be afraid’ — Panthers’ Ekblad voices support for LGBT athletes

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Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad has recently voiced his support of the LGBT community — and LGBT athletes in particular.

The 21-year-old Ekblad recently made the comments to Boca Raton Magazine, following an appearance in a Nike commercial supporting the LGBT community.

From Boca Raton Magazine:

“Don’t be afraid. You’ll be surprised by how many people are accepting,” he says, elaborating on how sports teams across the U.S., particularly hockey teams, have become friendlier in recent years—at least in official parlance—toward LGBT individuals.

Although homophobic talk still occurs in locker rooms, Ekblad believes that overall, society’s tolerance for and acceptance of LGBT people has progressed. Though Ekblad is not LGBT, he says he identifies as an ally, someone who is openly supportive of the LGBT community.

“Do I think it’s getting better? I think so. People are getting more educated and more understanding,” he says. “I would like to think the climate is getting better.”

Over the years, hockey figures like Brian Burke and Sean Avery have made it clear they are ready to support any player that comes out as openly gay, while a number of NHL players on different teams have taken part and marched in Pride parades throughout various cities across the league.

Canucks sign Vanek to one-year, $2M deal

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The Canucks were busy when the free agent market opened July 1, and apparently they weren’t done there, signing another unrestricted free agent forward on the first day of September.

Thomas Vanek is now a member of the Canucks.

On Friday, the team announced a one-year contract for Vanek, worth $2 million.

“Thomas has been a prolific scorer throughout his career and we’re excited to add his offence and experience to help with the continued growth of our forwards,” said general manager Jim Benning.

“His skill and ability to contribute on the scoresheet, combined with his lead-by-example style will help our team this year, and will benefit our younger players as they continue to develop their game.”

Now 33 years old, Vanek scored 17 goals and 48 points last season, as he split his time between Detroit and Florida. That total would’ve put him third on the 2016-17 Canucks in points. Vancouver has struggled mightily to score goals over the past two seasons and fell near the bottom of the overall standings.

Once a dominant scorer in the NHL, Vanek’s numbers aren’t what they used to be, but he should still be able to offer something offensively to his new team, which finished 29th in the league last season in goals-for per game.

This deal leaves the Canucks with about $5.375 million in available cap space, with 22-year-old restricted free agent center Bo Horvat still unsigned and due for a raise after progressing as the team’s most productive player during what was a dreadful 2016-17 season for the organization.

Of course, it adds another winger to the roster — Vancouver now has 16 forwards under contract on the roster, per CapFriendly — with youngsters like Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin looking to crack the NHL club for the upcoming season.

Blue Jackets sign Wennberg to six-year deal, reportedly worth $4.9M AAV

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Alexander Wennberg has a new contract — just weeks before the start of training camp.

The Blue Jackets announced on Friday that they had signed the 22-year-old center to a six-year contract. The team didn’t disclose financial details, but according to Darren Dreger of TSN, the new deal has an annual average value of $4.9 million.

It’s obviously a sizable raise from the money he made in his entry-level contract, but it’s still reasonable for a center that has improved his offensive totals in each of his first three NHL seasons, including a 13-goal and 59-point campaign in 2016-17, and is part of a core group of young players on a Columbus roster looking to build off a franchise-recording breaking season.

“We are excited to have signed Alexander to a long-term contract through the 2022-23 season, ” said general manager Jarmo Kekalainen in a statement.

“He has shown steady improvement throughout his young NHL career and is coming off a very good 2016-17 campaign. At just 22-years-old, he has tremendous opportunity to become an integral player for our organization for years to come.”

The Blue Jackets still have to get restricted free agent winger Josh Anderson under contract, and they have about $7.98 million in available cap space, according to CapFriendly.

Datsyuk believes ‘recharge started’ after Red Wings miss playoffs

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The Red Wings’ streak of playoff appearances came to an end this spring. Twenty-five straight years, Detroit’s NHL club qualified for the post-season, but their entry into the Stanley Cup tournament had featured especially early exits in four of those last five years.

The Red Wings had gone from a Stanley Cup contender — with a championship and back-to-back appearances in the final in 2008 and 2009 — to a team on the decline.

Sure, the streak endured a little longer, but the Red Wings posed hardly a threat to contend for a championship toward its end.

Not making the playoffs? That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Red Wings, according to one of their former great forwards Pavel Datsyuk, who now plays in the KHL.

“In most recent seasons, there was constant talk: will Detroit make or miss the playoffs,” Datsyuk told Sport-Express, per Sportsnet. “Can Detroit win the Cup did not seem to be of interest to anybody. Everybody talked only about making the playoffs.

“So, it’s very good the Red Wings missed the playoffs. The recharge started. … Now everything will change, there will be no such pressure and they will be to see the ultimate goal. In reality you need to fight for the Cup and not just to make the playoffs.”

Last season’s fall out of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference has resulted in plenty of talk about a Red Wings rebuild — an idea general manager Ken Holland initially seemed hesitant about. But he’s also aware that the team’s future success will depend on some of their young prospects taking a step and challenging for roster spots for the upcoming season.

Tyler Bertuzzi and Evgeny Svechnikov — had standout performances during the Calder Cup playoffs while playing with Red Wings’ farm team in Grand Rapids.

“To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding,” Holland told MLive midway through last season. “I don’t know of anyone that wants to sign up for that program. We’re trying to win every year. What’s winning? Winning is making the playoffs and you’re in the top half of the league.”

Related:

Poll: Is it time for the Red Wings to go through a full rebuild?

Calder Cup win, bounty of picks show pluses of Red Wings rebuild