Cam Tucker

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After a ‘rough year’ for Duclair, Coyotes pursue short-term deal

It’s been an up-and-down two seasons for Anthony Duclair in Arizona.

In 2015-16, he scored 20 goals. He had 44 points. He hit those marks while at the age of 20, a few months removed from Arizona acquiring him as a key and youthful component in the Keith Yandle trade two years ago.

But that impressive production dipped last season to just five goals and 15 points in 58 games with Arizona, and Duclair was eventually sent to the minors for more than a month to re-discover his scoring capabilities.

There were trade rumors. He was a healthy scratch from the Coyotes lineup at certain times.

Duclair is now a restricted free agent, following the completion of his entry-level contract that paid him $832,500 last season, per CapFriendly.

The Coyotes, according to AZCentral Sports, are seeking a short-term deal of only one or two years for the now 21-year-old forward.

“That’s just the reality of the situation,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka. “I like ‘Duke’ as a player a lot, as a person a lot, but he had a rough year. I think it’s more just about getting him back on the horse, getting him going. For both the team and the player, short-term is the best.”

In addition to trying to get Duclair signed to a new deal, the Coyotes and fellow restricted free agent Jordan Martinook have a player-elected arbitration hearing scheduled for July 26.

It will be interesting to see what impact a new coach, Rick Tocchet, has on Duclair’s play in the upcoming season.

He expressed the importance of creativity with his players, which may help a player like Duclair regain his form from only two seasons ago.

Capitals bring back gritty forward Liam O’Brien with one-year, two-way deal

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The Washington Capitals have now signed all their remaining restricted free agents, inking Liam O’Brien to a one-year, two-way contract worth $650,000 at the NHL level.

O’Brien, 22, played in one game last season for the Capitals, going without a point. He has 14 career NHL games under his belt with Washington dating back to the 2014-15 season, when he made the club out of training camp despite never being drafted.

Known more for his toughness, O’Brien scored 10 goals and 30 points in 64 games with Hershey last season, his most productive campaign in the AHL. He also had 117 penalty minutes.

The Capitals have undergone significant changes throughout their roster this offseason since getting bounced again in the second round by the Penguins.

They currently have $70.9 million committed to 17 players, which means they’ll likely look to their younger prospects on more affordable contracts to supplement the remainder of their roster.

“We’re going to be getting younger, our prospects are developing and they’re going to take a bigger role. It’s just going to be a different feel to it,” said general manager Brian MacLellan in May.

In 2014, O’Brien got his chance in part because of numerous injuries up front. He did, however, take the opportunity afforded to him in camp. In the words of coach Barry Trotz, he “demanded to be noticed.”

Three years later, there should be spots up for grabs when camp begins in September. It will be up to O’Brien to once again grab the attention of the coaching staff.

Stars won’t rush Heiskanen’s development, says Nill

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Miro Heiskanen hasn’t even turned 18 years old yet, and already he’s under contract.

The Dallas Stars signed the third overall pick to an entry-level contract yesterday, taking another official step with the talented defenseman, who joins a pool of skilled blue liners that also includes Julius Honka and John Klingberg.

It’s a selection and move that bodes well for the future of the Stars’ blue line, especially with Klingberg signed for another five years. Dallas, however, is in the win-now part of its evolution and the many different roster moves they’ve made since missing the playoffs in 2016-17 signifies that.

Heiskanen’s impact on this team may not be felt in the immediate short-term, and there isn’t any sense in hurrying his development.

From the Dallas Morning News:

He’ll get a chance to earn a spot on the NHL roster, but his odds of making it this season are probably slim. With Dallas already carrying nine defensemen, the best thing for Heiskanen’s development would probably be returning to HIFK in the Finnish Elite League, where he played 37 games last season and tallied five goals and five assists as a 17-year-old.

“He’s a very good player,” general manager Jim Nill said. “He’s a very level-headed kid, he’s already played against men, really it’s just a maturing thing. In the end, his play will dictate where he ends up, but we’re not going to rush him.”

After finishing 24th in the overall standings, the Stars had a 5.8 per cent chance of winning the draft lottery. They moved up enough to secure the third overall pick, leading them to Heiskanen, who celebrates his 18th birthday on July 18.

Flyers prospect Laberge ‘had to sleep all day’ after suffering concussion

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Months after getting drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, Pascal Laberge suffered a concussion on a vicious head shot during a QMJHL regular season game last October.

He then missed all but two games over essentially a two-month period as a result. In the end, he was held to just 46 games for the Victoriaville Tigres, scoring 12 goals and 32 points. He then had two goals in four playoff games.

This week at Flyers’ development camp, the 19-year-old Laberge went into detail about the difficult times he endured during his concussion and how difficult it was to come back from once he was healthy enough to play.

From CSN Philly:

Regaining confidence was a barricade for Laberge following his return from his concussion, especially when going toward the boards. “You’re kind of shy to go there,” he said. He often played looking over his shoulder and said it took about two months for him to fully recover.

“The first month,” he said, “I couldn’t wake up. I had to sleep all day.”

Laberge has battled through an immense amount of adversity away from the rink as a teenager.

In a piece for the Players’ Tribune, he talked about the passing of his stepmom after a brief battle with cancer, his father’s cancer diagnosis and his mother’s battle with multiple sclerosis.

Despite everything he faced, Laberge was able to score 23 goals and 68 points in his draft year, eventually going in the second round, 36th overall, to the Flyers. He signed his entry-level deal a few weeks later.

Shero remains hopeful, but admits signing Kerfoot is beyond his control

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Alex Kerfoot is just over a month away from potentially hitting unrestricted free agency.

But New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero still seems hopeful they can get a deal done with the 22-year-old center before that day comes.

After completing his senior year at Harvard, with 16 goals and 45 points in 36 games to earn a Hobey Baker Award nomination, the Devils’ draft pick is eligible for free agency on Aug. 15, at which point he’d be able to sign with any NHL team of his choosing.

He’s already been linked to the Vancouver Canucks — a team that has added depth up the middle for next season with a couple of their free agent signings.

Kerfoot is from West Vancouver and played his junior hockey for the nearby Coquitlam Express in the BCHL. He posted 69 points in 51 games with the Express in 2011-12 and was subsequently drafted in the fifth round by the Devils a few months later.

Last summer, former Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey — originally drafted by Nashville before his negotiating rights were traded to Buffalo — eventually made it onto the open market and then signed with the New York Rangers.

“It’s the same thing with Alex. Get through the Draft, get though free agency, see how we look, see how other teams look,” Shero told NJ.com.

“They have until August 15 to do that and that’s what the CBA grants them. I hope Alex signs with us. He knows that, would love to have him. I think what we’re doing, he’d fit in the way he’d play. The speed he brings, the hockey sense, would love to have him. But I don’t control that, he does.”

The Devils have been able to bolster their offensive attack this summer, with the selection of Nico Hischier first overall and the acquisition of Marcus Johansson from Washington.

There had been speculation that Ilya Kovalchuk would return to the NHL. But on Sunday, his one-year contract extension with St. Petersburg SKA in the KHL was made official.