Cam Tucker

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 20:  Chris Higgins #20 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on before a face off in the second period against the New Jersey Devils on February 20, 2015 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Report: Canucks plan to buy out Higgins, keep Burrows (Updated)


Like every other team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks go from the draft to a pivotal week in their off-season, with free agency set to open on Friday.

General manager Jim Benning has already declared his intentions to at least call representatives for pending unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos, as well as his interest in forward and pending UFA Milan Lucic.

(For the former move, as well as revealing that he spoke with the Montreal Canadiens about P.K. Subban, Benning now finds himself in hot water, facing discipline for tampering.)

While it looks like the Canucks will try to make a splash in free agency, the organization also has important decisions to make when it comes to veteran forwards Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins.

For months, there has been talk the Canucks could potentially buy out both players. The window to do so closes Thursday.

From ProHockeyTalk earlier this month:

Burrows, 35, and Higgins, 33, each have a year left on their contracts, with cap hits of $4.5 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Buying out the former would mean a $2.5 million cap hit next season, and a $1 million hit in 2017-18. Buying out the latter would mean an $833,333 hit in each of the next two seasons.

Matthew Sekeres of TSN 1040 radio in Vancouver provided this report Sunday morning:

The Canucks have not made an official announcement.

Updated: Speaking to CKNW in Vancouver on Sunday, president Trevor Linden said “there’s been no determination” about the futures of Burrows and Higgins with the team. (Click here to listen.)

Higgins, 33, was cleared waivers in January and was assigned to the AHL’s Utica Comets. He was later recalled in March, finishing the NHL season with three goals and four points in 33 games.

In Vancouver, the rags-to-riches rise to prominence on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, not to mention scoring one of the biggest goals in franchise history — in overtime, Game 7, against Chicago in the first round of the 2011 playoffs — has made Burrows a popular figure with Canucks fans.

But as mentioned, he’s 35 and coming off a season in which his production declined.

Following Vancouver’s final regular season game, Burrows admitted he needed to be better in order to remain with the Canucks, adding days later that his summer workouts for the 2015-16 season started late because of a rib injury.

Even if the Canucks land a notable free agent, they still have a host of young players — Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Brendan Gaunce and third-year center Bo Horvat up front. At the end of the season, Burrows believed he could help provide leadership as the organization looks to transition to a new core.

U-S-A! Record 12 Americans taken in first round of draft


The 2016 NHL Draft started with Auston Matthews going first overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It ended with a record number of American-born players getting selected in the opening round.

A total of 12 American-born players were taken in Friday’s first round, with Trent Frederic of St. Louis, Missouri, the last as he went to the Boston Bruins with the 29th overall selection.

As per Adam Kimelman of, the previous record of 11 American players selected in the first round was set back in 2010.

Matthews also became the first American-born player to go No. 1 overall since the Chicago Blackhawks took Patrick Kane in 2007. The move served Chicago well, with three Stanley Cup championships in seven years and Kane capturing the Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Hart Trophy for the 2015-16 season.

A historical night for Matthews. He’s also from Scottsdale, Ariz., which wouldn’t necessarily strike people as a hockey-mad region.

“I mean, it’s been a great reception,” said Matthews about what people in his home state have been saying to him about the top pick.

“I think it’s been great not only for Arizona, but the whole southwestern region. It’s continuing to grow, and it’s just cool to be a part of it.”

There were a few trends in this draft.

Finland saw three of its players taken in the top five.

The British Columbia Hockey League, a tier II junior circuit, had three players taken in the top 20.

But as the night went along, the number of American players hearing their name and taking those cherished steps to the podium kept increasing. Five of those players — Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Luke Kunin and Trent Frederic — grew up in the St. Louis area.

Tkachuk, who has experience with the U.S. U-18 and world junior teams, went sixth overall to Calgary.

Keller of the U.S. U-18 team went seventh overall to the Arizona Coyotes.

“It’s huge, and nobody would have ever thought that there would be this many Americans projected to go in the first round . . . but it’s going to continue in the right direction for USA Hockey,” said Tkachuk.

“And the U.S. National Team Development Program has done everything in its power to make sure that we’re ready for the NHL and we’re ready for this draft stuff and media and all that, and they do everything.”

It also helps having NHL experience within your family lineage.

Tkachuk and Kieffer Bellows can now call themselves first-round picks, just like their respective fathers, Keith Tkachuk and Brian Bellows, while Brown and Jakob Chychrun had fathers that also played in the NHL.

Jeff Brown played 747 games in the NHL and Jeff Chychrun played 262 games.

List of American-born players selected in first round of 2016 NHL Draft:

Canucks opt to bolster blue line, select Olli Juolevi fifth overall


In January, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning declared his intentions that he’d like to take a defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft.

On Friday, that’s exactly what he did.

After the Columbus Blue Jackets made waves by taking Pierre-Luc Dubois at third overall and the Edmonton Oilers had Jesse Puljujarvi fall into their lap at fourth overall, the Canucks opted to bolster their blue line by selecting Olli Juolevi at fifth overall.

This season in the Ontario Hockey League, Juolevi scored nine goals and 42 points in 57 games with the London Knights. He followed that up with 14 points in 18 playoff games.

From Ryan Kennedy, in PHT’s Get To Know a Draft Pick segment:

“Intelligent, smooth with the puck and blessed with pretty good size, Juolevi models his game after Hampus Lindholm and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Juolevi was an all-star at the world juniors, where he helped the Finns win gold at Hartwall Arena, his dream rink as a kid in Helsinki.

By taking the Finnish defenseman, the Canucks decided to pass on forward Matthew Tkachuk.

For the first time since 2005, the Canucks have selected a defenseman in the first round.

That year, they took Luc Bourdon, however he tragically lost his life in a motorcycle accident at the age of 21.

A true stud for a No. 1 defenseman is something you can argue the Canucks are lacking and have been for years, even decades.

Interesting to note that Benning admitted he wasn’t sure if there was a true No. 1 defenseman in the opening round of this year’s draft, but can Juolevi eventually evolve into a top-pairing defenseman?

Benning seems optimistic, especially after watching Juolevi play for Finland as a 17-year-old at the world juniors, recording nine assists in seven games.

“He’s a high hockey sense guy. In his own end, we call it defensive awareness where he uses his hockey sense to get in lanes, to put sticks in lanes. He gets the puck and he can move it up ice fast,” said Benning, as per TSN 1040.

“He’s the new style of transitional defenseman that we’re seeing a lot of in today’s game.”

It’s the second high-profile move Benning has made this off-season to help build their defensive corps. Earlier he moved rookie forward Jared McCann and a second-round pick to the Florida Panthers for Erik Gudbranson, who can now slot into their top-four mix.

The Canucks’ defense now includes Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Ben Hutton and Gudbranson in the top four, while their bottom five through seven — with Luca Sbisa, Nikita Tryamkin, Andrey Pedan and Alex Biega vying for spots — is a work in progress and needs improvement.

They also needed to stock up on more defensemen in their prospect pool, which right now includes Jordan Subban and Troy Stecher, among others.

Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber, pending unrestricted free agents, will not be back in Vancouver next season. Dan Hamhuis is also a pending UFA.




WATCH LIVE: First round of the 2016 NHL Draft

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06:  (L-R) Top Prospects Alexander Nylander, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matthew Tkachuk and Auston Matthews talk prior media availability for the 2016 NHL Draft Top Prospects ahead of Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It’s here! The first round of the 2016 NHL Draft goes tonight (7 p.m. ET) from Buffalo.

We’re about to learn if Auston Matthews indeed goes first overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs, or if Patrik Laine jumps up into the No. 1 slot. And with general managers meeting and trade speculation heating up, we’ll see which teams can make those big deals, perhaps even a blockbuster.


Here are some links to check out for tonight’s draft:

Jackets have received ‘some serious and real offers’ for third overall pick

Draft Day! Here are all of PHT’s prospect profiles

No hard feelings between top draft prospects Matthews and Laine

Not lacking confidence, Laine’s goal is to be drafted No. 1

Edmonton’s blueline search is on, and Chiarelli’s ‘listening to offers’ for No. 4 pick

Report: Canucks GM Benning could face tampering punishment



Bolts re-sign Brown to two-year, one-way contract (Updated: Paquette, too)

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21), of Slovakia, checks Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown (23) into the boards during the third period of Game 1 in a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 3-2. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
AP Photo

The Tampa Bay Lightning got some work done, re-signing forward and pending restricted free agent J.T. Brown to a two-year, one-way contract, the team announced Friday prior to the NHL Draft.

Brown was at the end of a two-year, $1.9 million deal.

The 25-year-old Brown hit a single-season career-high in goals with eight and points with 22 during the regular season, and then appeared in nine playoff games, adding two assists. He was also used on the penalty kill during the regular season, averaging 1:26 of PK time per game.

His post-season was interrupted by an upper-body injury suffered blocking a shot, but he returned for the entire Eastern Conference Final versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Updated: The Bolts have also re-signed forward and pending restricted free agent Cedric Paquette to a two-year deal.

The Lightning still have a lengthy list of pending RFAs, most notably 26-year-old center Alex Killorn (14 G, 40 PTS, 81 Games in 2015-16), 23-year-old center Vladislav Namestnikov (14 G, 35 PTS, 80 Games in 2015-16), and 23-year-old right winger Nikita Kucherov (30 G, 66 PTS, 77 Games in 2015-16).

Meanwhile, the big storyline following the Lightning at this draft is about the future of Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay.

He’s a pending unrestricted free agent, and would be the most highly touted UFA in this year’s class if he does go to the open market. General manager Steve Yzerman said the door hasn’t “closed” on re-signing Stamkos, however teams will be allowed to begin talking to representatives for the coveted forward tomorrow.