Jason Brough

VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 28:  Sean Day #4 of Team Cherry skates up ice during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game January 28, 2016 at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
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Rangers take a gamble on ‘a new Sean Day’

There was a time not long ago when Sean Day was destined to be a star defenseman in the NHL. In 2013, at the age of 15, he was granted exceptional status to play in the OHL, just like John TavaresAaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid had been granted before him.

But Day’s OHL career hasn’t come close to matching the hype. In fact, it’s been dogged by questions about his commitment to staying in shape

From Sportsnet’s report from the Draft Combine earlier this month:

Body fat:
Sean Day went off at 1-5 odds to have the worst result here and he did at 14.9 per cent.

More:

Okay, he’s down 20 pounds at least from last summer. At 230 he still looks like a beer leaguer but it’s a start. It didn’t look like he bought into the idea that the combine was a chance to make a big impression.

He went from ordinary to very ordinary to below average at the stations, and seemed sort of nonchalant.

And so Day’s draft stock fell. Saturday morning, the New York Rangers used their third-round pick, 81st overall, to gamble his talent wouldn’t go to waste.

He said he’s already started to get leaner:

So we’ll see how it goes.

“I think it’s a long-term commitment,” an NHL executive told Yahoo Sports. “This is just the start of it for him. I don’t think you can make that judgment until a couple years down the road. He’s obviously put in some work. He’s a really talented kid. Maybe it works out for him. You can’t overlook the talent.”

The Bruins still haven’t added that ‘transitional’ defenseman they wanted

of the meets with the media following the NHL General managers Meetings at the Bellagio Las Vegas on June 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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If there was one thing the Boston Bruins were going to do this offseason, it was upgrade their blue line.

“We know that it’s an area that we need to improve upon,” team president Cam Neely said in April. “That’s probably at the top of the list.”

But the Bruins’ blue line hasn’t changed one bit since then. Their search for a “transitional” defenseman lost another candidate this morning when the Panthers traded Dmitry Kulikov to Buffalo. Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski have already been snapped up.

The Blues still haven’t traded Kevin Shattenkirk, but the price for d-men of his caliber is extremely high, according to Boston GM Don Sweeney.

“In all honesty it would have taken both first rounders and then some…the acquisition cost was high. We want to continue to improve our hockey club with whatever we have to do, but it’s not unlike last year when it would have taken all three first rounders [to get a deal done]. There’s a balancing act there,” Sweeney said Friday, per CSN New England. “There was not a lot that moved around today. People have been laying foundation [for trades] for quite some time, but there are players that we’re just not comfortable putting into deals. I’m going to defend that. I’ll be honest with you that I just am.”

It may be that Sweeney’s hoping the Blues lower their price on Shattenkirk, who’s only got a year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Or maybe he targets Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba or Anaheim’s Cam Fowler. But they won’t be any cheaper.

If the prices are too high in the trade market, options in free agency include Brian Campbell (but he’s 37), Dan Hamhuis (he’s not particularly young either), and Jason Demers (arguably the best right-shot UFA d-man, but in no danger of winning the Norris).

“We’ve taken a position where we’re going to build this the right way,” said Sweeney. “We want to be competitive and improve our team, and we’ll be active in the free agent market to fill holes while allowing our young players to push through. But I wasn’t trading David Pastrnak. We’ve been criticized, and rightfully so at times, for being impatient with our younger, skilled players. This represents a good opportunity that we don’t want to do that.”

Related: Jack Edwards says the Bruins’ blue line ‘is in a crisis right now’

Another change to Florida’s defense, as Panthers trade Kulikov to Sabres

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 10: Dmitry Kulikov #7 of the Florida Panthers prepares for a face-off against the Ottawa Senators at the BB&T Center on March 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Senators 6-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO — A few days ago, Panthers GM Tom Rowe said he wasn’t “shopping” defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

Today, Kulikov was traded to Buffalo, along with the 33rd overall draft pick, which the Sabres used to select Swedish forward Rasmus Asplund.

In return, the Sabres sent 24-year-old defenseman Mark Pysyk to Florida, along with the 38th overall pick (which the Panthers used to select Kitchener forward Adam Mascherin) and the 89th overall pick.

Sabres GM Tim Murray had been looking for a young, left-shot defenseman, and Kulikov, 25, is that. But he isn’t particularly cheap. He’s got a $4.3 million cap hit next season, and then he can become an unrestricted free agent.

For the Panthers, the trade further alters a blue line that’s already been significantly altered this offseason. Out went Erik Gudbranson, traded to Vancouver. Brian Campbell is also expected to leave; he can become an unrestricted free agent and hit the market on July 1. And, of course, Keith Yandle was the big acquisition.

Kulikov averaged 21:02 of ice time per game last season. Gudbranson was at 20:07, Campbell led the team at 22:17.

Related: Panthers ink prospect McCoshen to entry-level deal

Flames still have ‘decisions to make’ with their goaltending

Calgary Flames' new General Manager Brad Treliving speaks at a press conference after being introduced in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 28, 2014. Treliving spent the past seven seasons as an assistant under general manager Don Maloney, helping guide the Phoenix Coyotes.  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
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BUFFALO — Brad Treliving raved about Brian Elliott, the person. The Flames’ general manager loved his new goalie’s character, how hard he practiced, and he’d heard how popular he was among his St. Louis teammates.

“It was hard to find people to say a bad word about him,” said Treliving.

Elliott’s numbers didn’t hurt either. He went 23-8-6 with a .930 save percentage for the Blues last season. He played well in the postseason too.

But the thing Treliving really liked about the 31-year-old he acquired Friday was the contract — a $2.5 million cap hit in 2016-17, with no commitment beyond that.

“Part of the attraction is the flexibility with the contract,” he said.

The question now is whether Treliving is done. Prior to getting Elliott, the Flames had been linked in trade chatter to Marc-Andre Fleury, Ben Bishop and Sergei Bobrovsky. There are pending free agents, too, like James Reimer.

As of right now, Joni Ortio is Calgary’s No. 2. Would Treliving be comfortable going into next season with the 25-year-old as Elliott’s backup?

“I like Joni, I really do,” he said. “We felt it was important to get an experienced goaltender, and then we’ll see how things round out. Joni, like our team, had some peaks and valleys, and a lot more valleys than peaks, but I thought he finished real strong.”

Ortio went 7-9-5 with a .902 save percentage last season. He spent part of it in the AHL after clearing waivers in November. He’s shown potential, but it would be a risk for Treliving, who just hired a new head coach, to go with such an unproven backup.

“We made our goaltending deeper today, where it all goes we’ll see,” he said. “We’ve got some decisions to make as we go forward.”

In other words, the Flames might not be done.

Related: Calgary adds to talented forward crop, takes Tkachuk at No. 6

Flyers trade down, roll the dice on Russian center Rubtsov

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Ron Hextall, General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, speaks during the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO — The Winnipeg Jets liked towering defenseman Logan Stanley so much they traded up with Philadelphia to draft him with the 18th overall selection.

Just prior to making the pick, the Jets sent the 22nd and 36th overall selections to the Flyers in exchange for the 18th and 79th overall picks.

The Flyers then used the 22nd pick on Russian forward German Rubtsov. And after the trade, Philly will also make the sixth pick of the second round when that gets underway tomorrow. That will give the Flyers three second-round selections (36th, 48th, 52nd), unless they make another trade before then.

Rubtsov is an interesting story. He was the fifth-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, but was part of the Russian squad that was pulled out of the world under-18 championships in April.

From Sportsnet:

The belief is that all, or most, of the team, had been on a meldonium regimen, and there were fears that many of the players would test positive at the tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Rubtsov is expected to be a top 25 pick this month in Buffalo, a talented two-way centre who is highly competitive.

“He’s like a dog on a bone,” said one hockey executive.

Another said he’s an “old school Russian centre who cares about the defensive side of the game.”

As for Stanley, well, he’s a big kid — he stands around 6-foot-7 — but doesn’t provide much in the way of offense. In 64 games this past season in the OHL, he had five goals and 12 assists in a shutdown role for Windsor. He’s considered a bit of a project, so don’t expect to see him in the NHL anytime soon.