Jason Brough

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Tavares says ‘no rush’ to sign extension with Isles

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John Tavares keeps saying all the right things about his future with the New York Islanders.

But that doesn’t change the fact he still doesn’t have a contract extension in place.

Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, spoke with Newsday yesterday, telling the newspaper he was in “no rush” to sign and that he’s comfortable to just “let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal.”

It’s been reported that the Isles’ uncertain arena situation could be complicating matters. It’s still not clear where the team will call home for the long term.

On that topic, Tavares chose to avoid making any definitive statements.

“The possibility with Belmont and that RFP coming out, there’s great potential there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’ll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things I don’t try to worry about them too, too much. I’m just a hockey player. I try to be as best prepared as I can be. It’s a big decision obviously because it’s eight years of my career, really entering into my prime years and a great opportunity for myself to achieve what I set out to achieve when I was a kid, making it to the NHL, wanting to win a Stanley Cup and wanting to do that with the Islanders.”

There’s more in the interview, including his thoughts on the Isles’ offseason moves. Click here to give it a read.

Tavares also spoke with Newday about the thumb surgery he had in April. All’s well on that front, according to the captain.  

“I felt I didn’t want this reoccurring and the recovery time was only six weeks,” he said, “so it was the right thing to do once the season ended.”

Related: Tavares open to signing contract extension this summer

Under Pressure: Derrick Pouliot (again)

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

For the second straight year, Derrick Pouliot is our pick for the Pittsburgh player under the most pressure heading into the season.

Perhaps we should just focus on someone else, but the Penguins gave the 23-year-old defenseman a one-year contract extension in July. The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Pouliot knows time is running short to prove Pittsburgh didn’t make a big mistake.

It should be compelling to watch how he fares.

“I’ve got to make an impact right away and show that I belong in the NHL,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “It’s been three years now. I haven’t fully established myself yet. I want to take it one step at a time and build as the year goes on.”

Pouliot felt he had a strong finish to his AHL season, and perhaps that will help his confidence heading into camp.

But it’s worth noting that he’s no longer exempt from waivers. So unless he earns a spot, that could mean a change of scenery, with the Penguins either losing him for nothing or trading him for pennies on the dollar.

Pouliot could feasibly crack the opening roster as Pittsburgh’s eighth defenseman, behind Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole, Chad Ruhwedel and new addition Matt Hunwick.

He could then languish on that roster until an injury gives him a chance to play.

The first step, though, is coming into camp and building off the back half of last season.

“For me to establish myself as an NHL defenseman, a regular guy in the lineup, it’s kind of playing how I ended the season: solid defensively, consistent in that regard,” Pouliot said, per the Tribune-Review. “That’s been one thing that’s always been brought up about me, inconsistency. So I think it’s starting with that and building each game.”

Looking to make the leap: Zach Aston-Reese

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

With a number of departures from a roster that won back-to-back Stanley Cups, it’s imperative that the Pittsburgh Penguins get a push from some of their prospects in 2017-18.

One of the top candidates to earn a regular spot is forward Zach Aston-Reese, a 23-year-old who just wrapped up an impressive career at Northeastern University.

Aston-Reese signed with the Pens in March, hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow undrafted NCAA products Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary.

In a twist, Kunitz is one of those departed players that Aston-Reese may help replace.

“He was a college free agent, too, and kind of a goal scorer his last couple years in college,” Aston-Reese said of Kunitz, per NHL.com. “Just made a career for himself playing with good guys and being able to put the puck in the back of the net.”

Aston-Reese scored 31 goals in 38 games for the Huskies last season, making him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

But despite all the accolades, he knows he’s still just a prospect, with a lot left to learn, and a lot left to prove.

“Whether we start up top or down in Wilkes-Barre, I think it’s important to be in the same mindset that, you’re trying to get better every day you show up to the rink,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “If we do get that opportunity, we need to have a good mindset, produce and do what they ask of us.”

Sedins out to prove they can still play at ‘high level’

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The Sedin twins turn 37 in September, and there’s only a year left on their contracts.

Naturally, the topic of their future is a big one in Vancouver, where the Canucks are struggling through a transition to a younger roster with the knowledge that Henrik and Daniel can’t play forever.

The twins had a very tough 2016-17 that saw their production fall to a combined 94 points — 50 for Henrik, just 44 for Daniel — despite both of them appearing in all 82 games.

As of today, they can’t say if next year will be their last, or if there’ll be a desire to sign on for another.

But one thing’s for sure: last year’s production was not acceptable for the former Art Ross Trophy winners.

“We think about our future on a regular basis, and we’ve said we’re going to take it year by year now,” Henrik Sedin told NHL.com recently. “This year, we want to prove we can still play at a high level, and that’s up to us to do. And we know that if we do, it’ll be easier to answer those questions later in the year. So that’s our mindset.”

The Sedins have never indicated an interest in playing anywhere but Vancouver, and management has said it expects them to retire as Canucks.

But if management decides it’s best to move on after next season, and the twins aren’t ready to retire … well, you just never know.

After aggressive offseason, Nill needs moves to pay off

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This post is part of Stars Day on PHT…

It has been a very busy offseason for general manager Jim Nill.

Now he needs it all to pay off.

After a disastrous 2016-17 that saw his Dallas Stars go from division champs to missing the playoffs by 15 points, Nill got aggressive.

First he fired head coach Lindy Ruff and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock. Then he went to work on the roster, adding via trade or free agency the likes of Ben Bishop, Alexander Radulov, Martin Hanzal, and Marc Methot.

In signing Bishop, Nill hoped to solve his team’s biggest problem: goaltending. Which, of course, was a problem that Nill had already tried, and failed miserably, to solve two years ago with the signing of Antti Niemi.

In other words, Bishop better be the right guy, otherwise the GM could find his seat getting rather hot.

Ditto for Hitchcock being the right head coach. Because while Hitch has had a great deal of success in the NHL, it remains to be seen if his style will mesh with a team that’s been more run-and-gun than heavy-and-hard-to-play-against.

Heck, some might say Radulov was a risky signing, even after salvaging his reputation last season in Montreal. After all, he just turned 31 and won’t be playing for a contract anymore. Nill gave him a five-year term with a cap hit of $6.25 million.

Related: Ben Bishop is under pressure

In an interview with Edmonton’s 630 CHED radio, Nill was asked if he was feeling the pressure in the wake of all his moves.

“I wouldn’t say there was pressure,” he said, per FanRag Sports. “We knew we were going to make some changes. Last year was a tough year. The injuries devastated our team and we’d end up chasing it. The league is too tight nowadays. If you get behind in this league, it’s tough to catch up. It’s too close. We’re all within three-to-five wins of each other. So it was a tough year that way.

“But I get back to we knew we were going to have cap room. We knew we were going to make some changes. Probably the silver lining was because of all of the injuries last year, we had a lot of young kids we brought up to have to fill in those roles. They got extra experience because of that. I think between the additions and the experience the younger players got, I’m looking forward to a pretty strong bounce-back year.”

Nill may not want to admit there’s pressure, but considering all the money he’s committed to this roster, it’s fair to conclude that owner Tom Gaglardi will want to see some results.

The Stars will head into the season with Stanley Cup aspirations. At the very least, they need to get back into the playoffs and make some noise.