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Minus an AHL affiliate next season, Blues sign one-year deal with ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers

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The St. Louis Blues have announced an agreement with a minor league team — just not in the American Hockey League.

On Tuesday, the Blues announced a one-year affiliation agreement for the 2017-18 season with the Tulsa Oilers in the ECHL.

“We are proud to extend our footprint to Tulsa and partner with the Oilers for the 2017-18 season,” said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said in a press release. “The Oilers are a strong organization from top to bottom and will provide a great opportunity for our young prospects to continue to develop their game.”

The Blues will play this upcoming season without a true AHL affiliate after the Vegas Golden Knights signed a multi-year deal with the Chicago Wolves, who had previously been the farm team for St. Louis.

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

This season, the Blues will send some of their players to Chicago, last season’s AHL affiliate, though the Wolves will now be the affiliate of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The Blues will also loan some players to San Antonio and to other AHL teams if needed.

The ECHL is the Class AA level of minor-league hockey, so it’s not an option for players who figure in the Blues immediate plans, though it would give the Blues a place to put a young goalie to get some work.

It was, however, reported last week that the Blues are set to announce a five-year agreement with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, currently the minor league team for the Colorado Avalanche.

Temper early expectations of Steven Stamkos in return from knee injury

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This post is part of Lightning Day on PHT…

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the organization’s fans received some promising news last month.

After playing in only 17 games last season due to a knee injury and surgery in November, Steven Stamkos has “no issues,” according to his agent Mark Guy, and is expected to be ready for training camp in September.

Since the 2013-14 season, Stamkos has endured a substantial amount of time out of the Bolts’ lineup.

Prior to his injury last November, he suffered a broken leg that reduced his 2013-14 campaign to 37 games. In April of 2016, he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his arm that required surgery and kept him out of all but one playoff game that year, even as the Bolts made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Since the clot was discovered, Stamkos has played in a total of only 18 games, which, given his propensity for scoring goals, has been a significant loss for a team with aspirations of getting back into contention for the East.

But exactly how will Stamkos perform when he does return to game action, following an operation to fix a lateral meniscus tear that came with a recovery window of at least four months?

From the Tampa Bay Times in February:

Just ask Wild wing Zach Parise, who had Stamkos’ surgery to the same knee in November 2010.

“I’d say it took probably a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal,” Parise said. “That’s what my therapist said, six months to heal, a year you feel better. But to get back to that level for me, I feel like it was almost the following Christmas.”

Everyone heals differently. And not every tear is the same size. But if Stamkos’ recovery is similar to Parise’s, that would mean he might not feel the same until midseason next year. The good news, Parise says, is he hasn’t had any issues with the meniscus in the six seasons since.

Having a healthy Stamkos heading into training camp should provide excitement for the Bolts and their fans. In a perfect world, he would immediately re-discover the scoring touch that makes him such a special player and helps make the Lightning such a dangerous team.

Given this latest injury, surgery, and recovery time, however, it might be wise to temper expectations early on.

NBC’s Eddie Olczyk undergoing treatment for colon cancer

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NBC Sports lead hockey analyst Eddie Olczyk is said to be “recovering well” from surgery to remove a tumor after being diagnosed with a form of colon cancer last week, Chicago Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement Tuesday.

Olczyk played 1,031 NHL games for six teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, L.A. Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins, from 1984 to 2000, scoring 342 goals and 794 points.

After coaching the Penguins during the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons, Olczyk moved to the broadcast booth as an analyst for NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL and also Blackhawks games on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

“I have been diagnosed with a form of colon cancer and am currently undergoing treatment for the disease. I have been working with outstanding health care professionals and expect to be back in the broadcast booth after I complete my treatment,” said Olczyk in a statement.

“Having the support and encouragement from my family, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, NBC Sports and all my friends and fans means the world to me and will give me continued strength to beat this. My family and I appreciate privacy during this time as we focus our attention on my treatments.”

Terry said that Olczyk will undergo further treatment, including chemotherapy, over the coming weeks.

“We look forward to his return to good health after the completion of his treatment,” said Terry.

The Blackhawks selected Olczyk third overall in the 1984 NHL Draft. He returned to Chicago to finish his playing career, appearing in 33 games for the Blackhawks in 1999-2000. Five years ago, he was named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

“Eddie Olczyk is a treasured member of the Chicago Blackhawks family and we will be supportive of him as he fights this disease,” said Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough. “We encourage our fans to keep him in their thoughts as we all look forward to having him back in good health as soon as possible.”

Messages from fans and media wishing Olczyk well have been circulating social media throughout the afternoon since the announcement.

“On behalf of everyone at NBC Sports, we wish Eddie and his family all the best as they cope with this health issue,” said NBC Sports executive producer and president of production Sam Flood in a statement.

“Our top priority is for Edzo to get healthy, so he won’t be joining us at the beginning of the season. We’ll have information on how we’ll staff those games soon. But most of all, we’re looking forward to the day when Edzo comes off IR, and rejoins Doc and Pierre to call the great game of hockey.”

Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights NHL preseason schedule

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With training camp approaching, the NHL announced a busy slate of exhibition games that will include travel to a variety of different locations and new venues, most notably in China.

The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings kick off the exhibition schedule on Sept. 16, and will make history a few days later with a two-game series, beginning first at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai (Sept. 21) and then Wukesong Arena Beijing (Sept. 23), marking the first-ever NHL games to take place in China.

The Vegas Golden Knights will also make history with their first exhibition game, which takes place on Sept. 17 against the Canucks in Vancouver. The home debut will have to wait until Sept. 26, when the Golden Knights host the Kings at T-Mobile Arena.

The Detroit Red Wings will move into their new digs with four exhibition games at Little Caesars Arena, beginning Sept. 23 against the Boston Bruins.

Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, will host Kraft Hockeyville 2017, as the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues come to town on Sept. 24. Those two teams will square off later that night at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, PA. The New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators will then take over O’Leary, P.E.I., as the Kraft Hockeyville festivities head to Canada on Sept. 25. The Devils and Senators face off that night in nearby Summerside, P.E.I.

Travel across the hockey landscape don’t end there.

Here is a detailed list of games in other non-NHL communities:

— Allentown, Pa. (NY Islanders vs. Philadelphia, Sept. 20)

— Bridgeport, Conn. (NY Islanders vs. NY Rangers, Sept. 22)

— Kansas City, Mo. (Minnesota vs. St. Louis, Sept. 28)

— Quebec City, Que. (Montreal vs. Boston, Sept. 18, and Montreal vs. Toronto, Sept. 27)

— Saskatoon, Sask. (Carolina vs. Edmonton, Sept. 27)

— State College, Pa., on the campus of Penn State University (Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh, Sept. 19)

— Tucson, Ariz. (Anaheim vs. Arizona, Sept. 25)

— Uniondale, N.Y. (NY Islanders vs. Philadelphia, Sept. 17).

Another reminder that hockey season is quickly approaching.

Islanders re-sign Gionta to one-year, two-way contract

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The New York Islanders made a depth move Tuesday, re-signing Stephen Gionta to a one-year, two-way deal.

Gionta, who will be 34 years old in October, played in 26 games for the Islanders last season, scoring once with six points. He also spent time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the American Hockey League.

Gionta has 296 career games in the NHL, most of them with New Jersey, with 16 goals and 56 points.

Last year, the Islanders inked him to a two-way deal before recalling him in December.