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Firing Bylsma, Murray was a ‘bit of a shocker’ to Sabres star Eichel

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Despite speculation of a rift between Jack Eichel and Dan Bylsma this past season, the Buffalo Sabres star forward has expressed his surprise with the organization’s decision to clean house, firing both the head coach and general manager Tim Murray.

The Sabres fired Bylsma and Murray on the same day, following reports earlier that same week of internal turmoil, most notably between Bylsma and Eichel, the latter being the 20-year-old face of the franchise.

Eichel, in conversation with the Buffalo News, said in a report published Wednesday that it was “a bit of a shocker” to him that both Bylsma and Murray were fired. He then added: “I think the Pegulas and the rest of the organization, if they think that was best for the future, then that needed to happen.”

Eichel had a late start to his sophomore season due to an ankle sprain, but still managed 24 goals (which tied his total from his rookie campaign) and career highs in assists (33) and points (57), despite playing in 20 fewer games from his first year.

Still, the Sabres finished 26th in the overall standings, prompting Eichel to sound off following such a disappointing season, admitting frustration with the team’s culture.

More than a month after the organizational shakeup, it seemed Eichel still couldn’t put his finger on exactly why it went so wrong for the past regime of Bylsma and Murray, or future developments for the Sabres, particularly behind the bench.

“I’m not really sure,” Eichel continued to tell the Buffalo News. “I went through both of my end-of-the-year meetings, and I thought things were all right. You don’t really know what’s going to happen. That’s not my position really. I’m more in terms of playing, as you know. Whoever the GM, whoever the coach are, I’ll just try and show up with a good attitude and be a good player.”

The Sabres have since hired a new general manager, naming Jason Botterill to the position. The search for a new coach still continues. The latest is that San Jose assistant coach Bob Boughner has reportedly interviewed with the Sabres.

Related: ‘I want to be here for a long time’: Eichel says he isn’t interested in leaving Buffalo

All charges against Predators’ catfish-throwing fan will be dropped

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Catfish Thrower scandal update: All charges will be dropped.

“Having reviewed the affidavit involving Mr. Waddell as well as the television coverage of the incident, District Attorney Zappala has made the determination that the actions of Mr. Waddell do not rise to the level of criminal charges,” said Allegheny County District Attorney spokesman Mike Manko in a statement.

“As such, the three charges filed against Mr. Waddell will be withdrawn in a timely manner.”

On Tuesday, Nashville Predators fan Jacob Waddell was charged with disorderly conduct, disrupting a meeting and possessing instruments of a crime for throwing a catfish on the ice at PPG Paints Arena early in the second period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Throwing a catfish on the ice during Predators games has become a tradition at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. However, in Pittsburgh, Waddell was quickly escorted out of the arena, and charged the following morning.

Of course, such a fish story — and the subsequent fallout — has created plenty of headline material. The mayors of both cities got involved yesterday, as did PETA.

But the best was a play-by-play description of the events before, during and after the incident that Waddell provided to a Nashville radio station and later detailed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“I thought ‘Man, wouldn’t it be awesome to get to go to that game?’” said Waddell. “And then, like an ignorant redneck, I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to throw a catfish on the ice at this game?’”

Game 2 goes tonight in Pittsburgh.

Talks continue with pending UFA Miller, but Markstrom is Canucks No. 1 goalie … eventually

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The Canucks finally made the definitive statement last month that they are, in fact, rebuilding.

On Tuesday, another proclamation, this time from general manager Jim Benning: Jacob Markstrom will be the team’s starting goaltender.

Benning, in conversation with Pierre LeBrun of TSN, again admitted that he continues to talk with Ryan Miller‘s camp. Miller turns 37 years of age on July 17, and is a pending unrestricted free agent, having spent the last three seasons in Vancouver. The last two have certainly been difficult, with the team plummeting near the bottom of the NHL’s overall standings.

“We’re in conversations with [Miller’s] agent and with him,” Benning told TSN.

“Jacob Markstrom’s going to be our No. 1 goalie going forward. We feel like Ryan — he had a really good year last year, and he can help Jacob in that transition to being the No. 1 guy. We feel with where we’re at, we need good goaltending every night to be competitive with these young players up front.”

Oh, wait a minute. . .

This past season, Miller was actually pretty good considering how bad the team in front of him was, as they went through a rapid fall that culminated in the Canucks trading away veterans Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen for talented forward prospects Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen.

In a bid to keep the Canucks — as they further the transition of younger players into their roster — “competitive,” Benning has expressed his interest in keeping Miller in Vancouver. However, that same transition will continue in goal. Markstrom, who is about to enter the first year of his three-year, $11 million extension, played only 26 games last season, with a .910 save percentage, and eventually had to undergo knee surgery.

Goalie prospect Thatcher Demko saw improvements as his rookie AHL season continued, and he could be the future in net for Vancouver. At 27, the need to get Markstrom more playing time was a hot topic of conversation during the season in Vancouver.

It appears the Canucks are finally going to allow him that opportunity.

At some point.

Senators ink d-man Jaros to entry-level deal

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A day after Pierre Dorion outlined a myriad of postseason injuries and a potentially difficult decision ahead of the expansion draft, the Ottawa Senators general manager got some work done, signing a prospect defenseman.

The Senators on Tuesday announced the signing of 21-year-old defenseman Christian Jaros to a three-year entry-level deal.

Jaros has represented Slovakia at numerous international events, including the World Juniors and World Hockey Championships, and recently finished his third season in the Swedish Hockey League.

The Senators selected Jaros in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft. He scored five goals and 13 points in 36 games this season with Lulea HC in Sweden.

His offensive numbers certainly don’t jump off the page, but his size (6’3″ tall and 201 pounds) and physical play seemed to gain the attention of scouts. It was suggested earlier this season Jaros plays a style similar to current Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki.

Here’s an example of Jaros’ physical style.

That’s quite a hit.

Flyers sign prospect Oskar Lindblom, who could challenge for a roster spot next season

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After a breakout season in the Swedish Hockey League, Oskar Lindblom has signed an entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flyers selected Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Now 20 years old, the prospect left winger led Brynas IF with 22 goals and 47 points in 52 games.

That’s a substantial increase in production from the 25 points he had the previous season, and that improvement wasn’t lost on the staff in Philadelphia.

Earlier this spring, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said a number of Philadelphia’s young prospects were going to get a “long look” at making the team next year.

Lindblom, who stands six-foot-one-inch tall and 192 pounds, certainly falls into that category.

The opportunity to further advance the youth movement in Philly has been well documented, particularly on defense with the club parting ways with Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz. The move to get younger doesn’t seem restricted to just the blue line.

“Oskar, he’s had a great year,” Hextall told CSN Philly. “He’s in a really good league. He’s a good hockey player. He’s come a long way since his draft year. The Swedish Elite League is a very good league and he’s done a good job.

“I hope he’s here in September fighting for a spot along with a number of other guys.”