Jason Brough

Washington Capitals v Montreal Canadiens

Habs to relocate AHL team to Montreal suburb of Laval

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The Montreal Canadiens are moving their farm team close to home. It was announced this morning that the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps will relocate to Laval, Quebec, for the 2017-18 season.

Laval is a suburb of Montreal. The team will play in a new arena called Place Bell.

“The relocation of our AHL affiliate in Laval will be beneficial in several ways, allowing for hockey management to follow the organization’s young prospects and provide players and coaching staff with a great environment, a state-of-the-art hockey venue and a new and enthusiastic fan base,” said Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin in a release.

The Habs moved their AHL operation to St. John’s last year. They did so after the Winnipeg Jets ended their affiliation with the Newfoundland city in order to relocate their farm team home to Manitoba.

There has been an AHL team in St. John’s since 2011. The city was also home to the Maple Leafs’ affiliate from 1991-2005. It had a QMJHL franchise from 2005-2008.

“I can assure season ticket-holders, corporate partners and hockey fans throughout Newfoundland and Labrador we were fully aware and prepared for today’s announcement by the Canadiens and we have been actively seeking a new AHL partner and exploring options with other leagues for some time now,” said IceCaps president Danny Williams.

Opportunity is knocking for Blackhawks prospects

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 02: Ryan Hartman #38 of the Chicago Blackhawks shoots against the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center on November 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Andrew Shaw was traded. So was Teuvo Teravainen.

Andrew Ladd was lost to free agency. So was Dale Weise.

Tomas Fleischmann is still unsigned.

Add it up and that’s five of the 14 forwards who suited up for Chicago in the playoffs. They’ll need to be replaced somehow, and prospects Ryan Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Tanner Kero, and Nick Schmaltz are all candidates to do it.

A first-round draft pick in 2013, Hartman had 35 points in 61 games last season for AHL Rockford. He also played three games for the ‘Hawks, and knows consistency will be the key to graduating full-time to the NHL.

“You can’t be a guy who comes in, has two or three games, and then takes a night off,” Hartman told CSN Chicago. “You have to bring it every night. That’s what it takes. There isn’t a guy who takes a night off who won’t be called down right away.”

Heading into 2015-16, the big question mark in Chicago was the blue line. Could a youngster like Trevor van Riemsdyk step up and fill the hole that Johnny Oduya left behind?

Ultimately, the answer was no, and the ‘Hawks went out in the first round. Brian Campbell was then signed in free agency, and management also has high expectations for Michal Kempny.

The defense addressed, now it’s the forward group that’s going under the microscope.

“Obviously with cap issues, stuff’s going to happen in the offseason,” said Hartman. “Nobody really knows what’s going to happen but it’s an opportunity now for me, especially, and some other guys to make a push, try to make the team this year.”

Related: ‘Hawks sign Jordin Tootoo — one year, $750,000

Still on the Canucks, Burrows is optimistic about next season

Vancouver Canucks' Alex Burrows celebrates his goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, March 28, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

When the 2015-16 season drew to a close, the consensus was that Alex Burrows had played his last game for the Vancouver Canucks. Whether via trade or buyout, the 35-year-old winger was expected to move on from the only NHL team he’d ever played for.

But after all the talk, it never did happen. The Canucks only bought out Chris Higgins. They decided to keep Burrows, who has one year left on his contract.

He’s happy he’s still around.

“I still feel I can play,” Burrows told The Province newspaper. “My body is really healthy right now and I really don’t have any hip issues like I did in the past. I really feel if I can come to camp and earn a spot, I can be a good factor.”

The one thing that Burrows gives the Canucks is versatility. He can play up and down the lineup. He can be a net-front presence on the power play; he can kill penalties. He only had nine goals in 79 games last season, but he did finish fourth on the team with 135 shots, so perhaps there was some bad shooting luck involved.

The challenge for the veteran forward has been keeping up in a young man’s league. Last year, he couldn’t train a full summer because of a rib injury. This year, he can put in the work.

“Everything is focused on speed and agility,” he said. “Hopefully I can have quicker legs coming out of turns and stops and think the game better. You see all the young guys now, their speed is at such a high level. You try to get as close to them as possible.”

Canucks sign Markstrom to three-year contract extension

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 10: Goalie Jacob Markstrom #35 of the Vancouver Canucks during NHL action against the Colorado Avalanche on April 10, 2014 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks announced today that Jacob Markstrom has signed a three-year contract extension with a cap hit of $3.67 million. His new deal doesn’t kick in until 2017-18, meaning he’s now locked up for the next four seasons.

“Jacob is a talented, competitive goaltender with size and a proven ability to make big saves at crucial moments in a game,” said GM Jim Benning. “He set career highs in several statistical categories last season and two years ago led the Comets to their first Calder Cup Final. He’s motivated and wants to help his team win. We’re excited to have Jacob competing in a Canucks uniform for years to come.”

It’s a nice deal for Markstrom, the 26-year-old who less than two years ago cleared waivers on his way to the AHL. He went 13-14-4 with a .915 save percentage last season for the Canucks.

While next season is set in Vancouver’s crease, it will be interesting to see what the Canucks do for a goaltending tandem in 2017-18. Ryan Miller can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and highly touted prospect Thatcher Demko has yet to play a game as a professional; he’ll probably need more than one year in the AHL.

There’s also the expansion draft to consider. Per the rules, each team has to expose “one goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.”

So, assuming Markstrom will be the goalie they choose to protect, they’ll have to get another goalie under contract for 2017-18, and they’ll have to do it before June 17, 2017.

Jets sign winger Perreault through 2020-21

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 09:  Mathieu Perreault #85 of the Winnipeg Jets in action during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Jets defeated the Coyotes 6-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Winnipeg Jets have agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension for forward Mathieu Perreault.

Perreault’s new deal, which won’t start until 2017-18, will have a cap hit of $4.125 million. The 28-year-old had nine goals and 32 assists in 71 games for the Jets last season. It was Perreault’s second straight 41-point campaign in Winnipeg. He joined the Jets in the summer of 2014 as a free agent, after the Ducks decided not to qualify him. 

There still remains plenty of work for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to get done this offseason. Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba are both restricted free agents. The league will be watching closely to see how those negotiations go, particularly with regards to the latter.

Related: Jets aren’t trying to trade Trouba, says Chevy