Jason Brough

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Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

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The New York Rangers partially addressed their center depth by signing David Desharnais to a one-year, $1 million deal.

But the Blueshirts may also have another new player who can play the middle next season.

He’s just a little young, that’s all.

“I have to say that I really liked what I saw from (Lias) Andersson at our development camp,” said head coach Alain Vigneault, per the New York Post. “He’s got great hands and he can play. He’s going to get every opportunity.”

Anderson, 18, was the seventh overall pick in last month’s draft. At the time, he wasn’t sure where he was headed next season.

“I have a contract back home with Frolunda, so we’ll see what’s happening, see what the Rangers want,” he said. “Obviously my goal is to play in the NHL. I know it’s tough, and if I don’t make it, maybe play in the American League or play back home in Sweden. I don’t know yet. We’ll figure something good out.”

Despite Vigneault’s remarks, it’s probably a long shot for Andersson to make the Rangers as a teenager. Development camp is one thing. The NHL is quite another — especially for a center.

But long term, the Blueshirts are looking pretty decent down the middle with Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Andersson, and possibly J.T. Miller.

Of those four, the oldest is Hayes, and he just turned 25.

Related: Optimism replaces pessimism after changes to Rangers defense

Hurricanes lock up Slavin through 2024-25

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The Carolina Hurricanes announced a big signing today. Defenseman Jaccob Slavin has agreed to a seven-year contract extension with a $5.3 million cap hit.

Slavin has one year left on his entry-level deal, so this takes him through 2024-25.

“Jaccob is one of the cornerstones of our team moving forward, and it was important to secure him with our organization long term,” said GM Ron Francis in a statement. “We believe he is one of the top young defensemen in the NHL today, and are thrilled that he and his wife, Kylie, have made their home in Raleigh.”

From the press release:

Slavin, 23, posted career highs in points (34), goals (3), assists (29) and shorthanded points (4) during his first full NHL season in 2016-17. The Erie, CO, native led the Hurricanes in blocked shots (161), takeaways (83), time on ice per game (23:26) and shorthanded time on ice per game (3:07), and was tied for first in plus/minus with a plus-23 rating, the fourth-best plus/minus season in franchise history. Slavin ranked second in the NHL in takeaways, first among league defensemen in shorthanded points and tied for 10th among league blueliners in plus/minus.

The ‘Canes also have defenseman Justin Faulk signed for three more years, with youngsters Brett PesceNoah Hanifin, and Trevor van Riemsdyk all on cheap cap hits next season before they can become restricted free agents.

Slavin was a fourth-round draft pick in 2012 out of the USHL.

Related: Scott Darling trade ‘worth the risk’ for Hurricanes

Wiercioch, an analytics darling, needs to find aggressive side in Vancouver

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Patrick Wiercioch is one of those guys who looks good on a spreadsheet.

But the question still remains — is he a good hockey player?

Wiercioch, a 26-year-old defenseman, has long been touted in the analytics community as an undervalued asset. During his time with the Ottawa Senators, it caused a few good debates between the numbers folks and the more traditional eyeball testers.

The Sens eventually chose to cut ties with Wiercioch, leaving him an unrestricted free agent. He spent last year with Colorado. Then, on July 1, he signed a one-year deal with Vancouver.

It’s a low-risk move for the Canucks, who also signed Michael Del Zotto after losing Luca Sbisa in the expansion draft. To have success, Wiercioch has been told he needs to play with more aggression.

And that’s often the case with these analytics darlings. They’re good when they have the puck; they move it well and contribute to the attack, and that’s valuable.

But a big part of a defenseman’s job is actually getting the puck. That means winning battles, and winning them quickly.

“Honestly, it’s just a mentality,” Wiercioch told The Province. “It’s your stick and body position and engaging earlier. I’ve always been able to have good position in reading the play well, but I need to just do it sooner and having that mindset that the quicker you get it done, the quicker you get to the fun part — stuff that comes naturally and is easier.”

This is perhaps Wiercioch’s last shot to stick in the NHL.

In September, he’ll turn 27, and his salary is right close to the league minimum.

Pittsburgh columnist believes Kessel will be traded ‘sooner rather than later’

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Phil Kessel really liked Rick Tocchet as a coach in Pittsburgh.

In fact, the Penguins winger called Tocchet his “favorite assistant coach of all time that I’ve ever played for.”

And now that Tocchet has left for Arizona, one columnist in Pittsburgh believes that Kessel’s days in a Penguins sweater are numbered.

From Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette:

I believe Phil Kessel will be traded. It might not happen this week or this month or even this offseason. But I believe it will happen sooner rather than later.

Tocchet’s departure could hasten the process.

It was clear in June, by the end of the Penguins’ second consecutive Stanley Cup run, that the organization wasn’t thrilled with Kessel. He scored 23 goals in 82 games during the regular season, not nearly enough for a player with his marvelous shooting skills. He had a huge goal — one of the most significant of the postseason — to beat Ottawa, 1-0, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final but scored just two more goals in the final 11 playoff games. Even though he had 23 points in the 25 postseason games, it was hard to find anyone in organization to say he was playing well.

My belief is Evgeni Malkin wasn’t thrilled to play on the same line with Kessel. And Sidney Crosby? Sullivan acknowledged Crosby and Kessel have no chemistry together. None.

We’d add that Kessel did have good chemistry with Nick Bonino (for a time), but Bonino’s in Nashville now.

Also, if the Penguins do indeed have their eyes on Matt Duchene, shedding Kessel’s $6.8 million cap hit may be a necessity.

Now, all that being said, Kessel does have a modified no-trade list. He also turns 30 in October, with five years left on his deal. So it may not be simple to move him, even if the Penguins wanted to.

Ted Nolan to coach Polish national team

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Ted Nolan is a head coach again.

The former NHL bench boss, including two stints with the Sabres, has been hired as the new head coach of Poland’s men’s national team.

“We count on the Canadian hockey school. This country has been the best in the world in recent years and I’m glad we have been able to find an agreement with such a great coach,” said Dawid Chwalka, the President of the Polish Ice Hockey Federation, per the IIHF. “Ted Nolan has worked not long ago in Latvia and knows European hockey. We expect that with this staff we will reach improved results.”

Nolan coached Latvia at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where his underdog squad gave the eventual gold-medal winners from Canada a major scare.

Poland is currently ranked 20th in the world by the IIHF.

Related: Sabres fire Ted Nolan