Jason Brough

Chicago Blackhawks Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman, listens to the media during a news conference at the United Center in Chicago, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The Blackhawks recently agreed to eight-year contract extensions with Toews and Kane. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Bowman noncommittal on Shaw and Bickell, needs to know salary cap first

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Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman won’t commit to anything before he has all the facts, and the one thing he doesn’t know right now is what the NHL’s salary cap will be for 2016-17.

Currently, all Bowman has to work with is an estimate — $74 million, up slightly from this season’s $71.4 million limit.

But that estimate assumes the NHLPA will sign off on the standard five percent escalator. And considering how the players feel about escrow — long story short: they hate it! — GMs like Bowman can’t afford to assume anything.

And, so, for the time being, Bowman can’t say if the Blackhawks will be able to re-sign restricted free agent Andrew Shaw.

Nor can he say if Bryan Bickell will be bought out. Bickell has one year left on his contract, with a cap hit of $4 million.

Bowman didn’t deny that the Blackhawks are facing some cap challenges. For that reason, he emphasized the importance of the youngsters currently in Rockford graduating to the NHL level next season.

But then, he added, there’s a pretty good reason the ‘Hawks will be up against the cap again this summer:

Last year, the NHL revealed the 2015-16 salary cap on June 23.

Expect a similarly timed announcement this year, i.e. before the draft, before the buyout window closes, and before the bidding for free agents begins.

Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks

Will the Coyotes be announcing some arena plans soon, or what?

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We don’t mean to sound rude, because we know it’s a big decision and there are lots of moving parts to things like this.

But come on, the Coyotes have been teasing an arena announcement for quite some time now. Back in November, they said things were “moving pretty quickly” with regards to a couple of options. In December, the status was upgraded to “very progressed.”

Then, in late January, team CEO Anthony LeBlanc said this: “I’m very positive that we will have something out in the community if not in the next month or two but certainly by the end of the regular season.”

Well, the regular season finished almost three weeks ago. So, what’s the deal? Are the Coyotes moving to Scottsdale? Are they moving to Tempe? As of March, those were reportedly the “two likeliest scenarios.”

Of course, since then, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has come out and said the Coyotes should move back downtown and share a new arena with the Suns.

“I think the most realistic option for the Coyotes is to make downtown Phoenix their long-term home, and if they can’t find a home in a year, they’re going to [relocate out of state],” Stanton told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM last week.

And now there’s been another development, as AEG has reached a deal to manage the Coyotes’ current home in Glendale. The company says it wants to keep the team as a tenant.

“We are looking forward to working with the Coyotes at Gila River Arena for this coming season and beyond,” AEG’s Chuck Steedman said in a statement.

“Glendale is known as a premier destination for high-profile entertainment and sports events, and with the exceptional lines of sight for hockey, along with its great fans, Gila River Arena provides the perfect setting for NHL games.”

How AEG intends to convince the Coyotes to stay remains to be seen, but maybe they can. Who knows?

Nobody knows!

Nobody ever seems to know.

So let us know, will you, Coyotes?

Thanks.

AV concedes the Rangers had a ‘puck-moving’ problem

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If you can’t move the puck, you end up spending a lot of time in your own end.

That’s what the New York Rangers found out this year, and their intention is to fix it.

“The puck-moving ability we’ve shown in the past, for whatever reason, was not as good and it affected a lot of our game,” head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Tuesday.

What Vigneault didn’t say was how the Rangers intended to fix this problem. (That’s always the hard part.)

Some of it will be up to the coach himself, and how he sets up the breakout.

But more responsibility is likely to fall on the shoulders of GM Jeff Gorton, who’s in charge of personnel. Veteran blue-liners Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle are both unrestricted free agents. Boyle will definitely not be back; whether to re-sign Yandle will be a tougher decision for management.

In free agency, the Rangers could pursue a veteran like Alex Goligoski, Brian Campbell, or Dan Hamhuis, the latter of whom played under Vigneault in Vancouver.

Or, Gorton could try the trade route, making offers for younger d-men like Kevin Shattenkirk, Tyson Barrie, or Sami Vatanen. Granted, if any of those players become available, the Rangers won’t be the only team that tries to get in on the action.

As we wrote earlier this week, it’s going to be an interesting offseason in New York. The Rangers are facing some serious challenges, and unfortunately for their fans, these things don’t always have an immediate solution.

Canucks re-sign Granlund for two years

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) blocks a shot as Vancouver Canucks center Markus Granlund (60), of Finland, and defenseman Korbinian Holzer (5), of Germany, vie for the rebound during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, April 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Vancouver Canucks announced today that winger Markus Granlund has signed a two-year contract extension. The reported cap hit is $900,000.

Granlund, 23, was a pending restricted free agent. He was traded to the Canucks in February, with winger Hunter Shinkaruk going to Calgary in return.

It was a controversial trade in Vancouver, as Canucks fans had been eager to see what Shinkaruk could do at the NHL level.

But for GM Jim Benning, it was Granlund’s versatility that made the difference.

“He is a two-way player that can play in any situation and up and down in our lineup,” Benning told reporters. “He can play left wing, he can play center, he’s a good penalty-killer. He has got good skill. For his time in the [AHL], if you look at his stats, he’s almost a goal every two games player. He has got good skill. We like his competitiveness, he is not afraid to compete hard in battles. Those are some of the things and characteristics we like about the player.”

Granlund had two goals and one assist in 16 games after joining Vancouver.

The Canucks still have a handful of pending RFAs on the payroll, including Sven Baertschi, Emerson Etem, Linden Vey, and Andrey Pedan.

Orpik returns to practice, but status for Penguins series remains unclear

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Jay Beagle‘s sharpest memory of the Washington Capitals’ 2009 playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins was when he tried to run over Brooks Orpik and instead got flattened at center ice.

Orpik is still capable of making that kind of mark seven years later, if he’s able to play. Now with the Capitals, the veteran defenseman missed the final three games of the first round with a suspected concussion, and his status for the start of the second-round series against the Penguins is up in the air.

Feeling “rusty” in his first time on the ice with teammates since a big hit from Philadelphia’s Ryan White on April 18, Orpik said on Tuesday he still has to “do some stuff with the doctors to make sure everything is going right” before getting cleared to play.

It’s difficult to overstate Orpik’s impact on the highly anticipated series between Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, and his old teammates, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“I think he’s our best D, obviously,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a huge key for us, especially against those guys like Sid and Geno. We have to make it tough on them. We have to play physical. We just have to dictate our game on them.”

At 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, Orpik brings a physical element that’s hard to replace. He was a big piece of the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run in 2009 and along with former Pittsburgh teammate Matt Niskanen has been instrumental in making the Capitals’ defense championship-caliber.

“He brings a lot of good experience of knowing what it takes, being professional, his approach and on the ice – a battle-tested guy,” Niskanen said. “I come to do my thing: Defend well, positioning, stick positioning, skating, moving the puck efficiently and contributing in some different areas.”

The Capitals need strong play from their top four defensemen – Niksanen, Orpik, John Carlson and Karl Alzner – against the Penguins, who not only have Crosby and Malkin but offensively potent players like Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin.

Alzner had a “maintenance day” Tuesday, coach Barry Trotz said, after a rough-and-tumble series against the Flyers.

Orpik’s presence was a positive sign eight days after he was leveled by White and appeared dazed as he was helped off the ice.

“It was just one of those ones I didn’t see it coming,” Orpik said. “If I saw it coming, nothing comes of it. I’ve been hit a lot harder than that and been fine.”

Trotz, who would obviously like to have Orpik in the lineup, said the 35-year-old is fine but also said he is day-to-day.

“He’s a big part of what we do,” Trotz said. “Primarily he’s a good defender and a warrior and a good penalty killer. There’s no question he can help us.”

Orpik is one of just three Capitals players with a Stanley Cup ring, along with forwards Justin Williams (three) and Mike Richards (two). By contrast, Pittsburgh still has five players left from its 2009 Cup team: Crosby, Malkin, forward Chris Kunitz, defenseman Kris Letang and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s still working to return from his concussion.

There’s significantly more gray hair in Orpik’s still-burgeoning playoff beard than seven years ago, and his standing in the Capitals’ locker room is bigger than it was for the Penguins. Trotz said Orpik is the “father figure” to younger players, and the alternate captain has immense respect from his teammates.

“Brooks is a team-leader guy and he’s got lots of experience in the playoffs and he knows the people around the league,” said center Evgeny Kuznetsov, whose stall is next to Orpik’s. “It’s always nice to have him in the locker room and on ice, too.”

The Capitals can survive without Orpik but face a tougher challenge if he’s not in the lineup.

“He’s an important player for us,” Niskanen said. “Brooks is a good player. It’s not a secret what his attributes are, and he brings a lot to the team.”