Jason Brough

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 12:  Alexandre Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks congratulates Chris Higgins #20 on his game-winning goal in shootout action in an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on March 12, 2014 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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Canucks undecided on buying out Burrows and/or Higgins

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The Vancouver Canucks have not yet decided if they’ll buy out veteran forwards Alex Burrows and/or Chris Higgins.

GM Jim Benning told Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy that what happens in free agency could be a factor. Benning is expected to try and add a top UFA winger like Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, or Kyle Okposo.

And that’s where it could get a bit tricky. The Canucks can start interviewing free agents on June 25, but they can’t officially sign them until July 1, after the buyout window ends June 30. So those could be an interesting few days for Benning. He’ll have to gain a good idea of his chances of landing one of his targets.

Burrows, 35, and Higgins, 33, each have a year left on their contracts, with cap hits of $4.5 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Buying out the former would mean a $2.5 million cap hit next season, and a $1 million hit in 2017-18. Buying out the latter would mean an $833,333 hit in each of the next two seasons.

Besides buyouts, other options include trading one or both of them (if possible, which it might not be), or keeping one or both of them.

Burrows had just nine goals in 79 games last season, though he did finish fourth on the team with 135 shots.

Higgins had just three goals in 33 NHL games. He spent part of the season with AHL Utica.

Related: Higgins clears waivers, assigned to AHL

Carolina buys time, re-signs Ward for two years

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29:  Cam Ward #30 of the Carolina Hurricanes in action against the New York Islanders during their game at the Barclays Center on March 29, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Cam Ward is staying in Carolina. The Hurricanes announced today that they’d re-signed the 32-year-old goalie to a two-year contract with a $3.3 million cap hit.

“Cam has been a major face of the Hurricanes both on the ice and in our community for more than a decade,” said GM Ron Francis. “We are happy he has chosen to continue his career in Carolina.”

Ward has been with the ‘Canes his entire NHL career. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as a rookie during their Stanley Cup run in 2006.

But there’s a reason he had to take a significant pay cut. The past four seasons, he has not put up particularly good numbers. In 2015-16, during which he earned a salary of $6.8 million, he went 23-17-5 with a .909 save percentage.

The ‘Canes now have both Ward and Eddie Lack under contract through 2017-18, for a combined cap hit of just $6.05 million. Both can become unrestricted free agents when their deals are done. In the meantime, 20-year-old prospect Alex Nedeljkovic will get an opportunity to hone his game in the minors, and there will almost certainly be an expansion draft.

Related: Watch out for the Carolina Hurricanes

UFA of the Day: Milan Lucic

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 26:  Milan Lucic #17 of the Los Angeles Kings during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 26, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Milan Lucic

If it weren’t for the Kings’ cap crunch, he’d probably already be re-signed. Lucic has been consistent with his wish to stay in Los Angeles, saying way back in February that his “plan is to remain a King and hopefully finish off my career here.”

The cap crunch, though. With Anze Kopitar‘s big new deal kicking in next season (Kopitar is one of nine Kings signed for at least the next three years), there just isn’t much money to go around. Plus, GM Dean Lombardi may feel that adding another defenseman is the best way to spend any available cash.

Meanwhile, this is Lucic’s best opportunity to cash in. He just turned 28. He had 20 goals and 28 assists last season. On the open market, he could possibly push for a six-year deal with a cap hit around $6 million.

Two teams — Vancouver and Edmonton — are reportedly the favorites to sign Lucic if the Kings can’t. The former is his hometown, and he’s said he’d listen if the Canucks made him an offer. The latter’s GM is his old GM from Boston, Peter Chiarelli, who’s been trying to make the Oilers bigger and tougher. Chiarelli has already added forwards Zack Kassian and Patrick Maroon, but Lucic would give them size and strength in a more prominent role.

Of those two teams, the Oilers may be the best bet. Though they still need to address the defense, the future is bright with Connor McDavid. And the potential to win another championship is important to Lucic.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

400,000 fans greet Pittsburgh Penguins at Stanley Cup parade

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins turned around a once-disappointing season and fired a coach before winning a fourth Stanley Cup, adversity that seemed to make Wednesday’s city-wide celebration that much sweeter.

Fans lined the victory parade route more than 10 deep as the players, coaches, their families and support staff rolled by in pickup trucks, convertibles and amphibious duck boats.

“We were slow at one time but, man, were we fast when we finished,” general manager Jim Rutherford told the crowd at the end of the parade route.

The parade was held seven years to the day that the 2009 team also celebrated its Stanley Cup championship with a downtown victory lap. That parade drew about 375,000 spectators and city and county public safety officials said this one topped out at 400,000.

“Well the one thing I’ve learned is this is one crazy sports town,” said head coach Mike Sullivan, hired to replace Mike Johnston when the team was out of playoff contention in December.

Some fans arrived 12 hours ahead of time for the 11:30 a.m. parade, despite overnight drizzle.

The skies largely cleared, though, as fans threw ribbons and confetti, peered out of office windows and from parking garage platforms, and thronged the city’s main downtown streets.

Twin brothers Pat and Joe Stevens, 19, drove 10 hours from Phil Kessel‘s hometown, Madison, Wisconsin, to honor their favorite player now that he’s joined their favorite team.

Kessel joined the team in an offseason trade from Toronto, where fans often took out their frustrations on him in a city that hasn’t witnessed a Stanley Cup championship since 1967 – the year the Penguins joined the National Hockey League as one of six expansion teams.

“I was a big fan before, more now,” Pat Stevens said. “I always thought that he had good talent, but he didn’t have much around him.”

Zachary Sheler worked a 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift at a convenience store in Johnstown Tuesday evening before driving 60 miles west to grab a spot near the parade-ending stage by 3 a.m. He was holding a plastic replica of the Stanley Cup glued together from “a five-gallon bucket and just a bunch of Betty Crocker bowls from the Dollar Tree.”

“I just wanted to see the Pens bring back Lord Stanley,” Sheler, 18, said.

Allie Hosinski, 21, a university of Pittsburgh student, has culturally adopted two of the team’s Swedish stars, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin. She’s studied their language for three years at Pitt and will be studying abroad in Stockholm next month.

She wore a plastic-horned Viking helmet and held a sign that, translated, means, “Congratulations to Hornqvist and Hagelin.”

“Pittsburgh Egna Vikingar,” the sign also said, meaning, “Pittsburgh Our Vikings.”

Harry and Lisa Mosser, 59, have been fans since before they got married in 1979 and used their wedding present money to buy season tickets. They knew finding a parking place would be daunting so they drove 20 miles downriver from New Kensington and spent Tuesday night at a hotel to be sure they could get to the parade.

“I paid $200 for a parking space, that’s the way I look at it,” Lisa Mosser said. “We’re both going to be 60 this year and we don’t know how many of these we’re going to see.”

Watch out for the Carolina Hurricanes

Ron Francis
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Anyone who was surprised by what the Florida Panthers did in 2015-16 clearly hadn’t been paying attention to what they’d been building in Sunrise.

So let’s talk about the Carolina Hurricanes, because this could soon be another “surprise” team (that nobody should really be surprised by).

Today’s acquisition of Teuvo Teravainen from Chicago gave the ‘Canes yet another talented youngster. The 21-year-old Finn joins a forward group that already included Jeff Skinner, 24, Victor Rask, 23, Elias Lindholm, 21, and Sebastian Aho, 18, while on the back end there’s Justin Faulk, 24, and a couple of 19-year-old blue-chippers, Noah Hanifin and Haydn Fleury.

Aho and Fleury have yet to play in the NHL, but both have the potential to be significant contributors. The former just signed his entry-level deal after a big season in Finland’s top league. The latter was drafted seventh overall in 2014; he represented Team Canada at the 2016 World Juniors.

On top of all that, even more high-end talent will be added in the upcoming draft. The ‘Canes have their own selection at 13th overall, plus they’ve got the Kings’ pick, 21st overall, from last season’s Andrej Sekera trade. They’ll also pick 43rd, 67th, 74th, and 75th.

Now, granted, some big questions remain about their roster.

For starters, is there a legitimate first-line center? Jordan Staal is solid, and he’s still only 27. Eventually, Lindholm could maybe do the job. But the most recent Stanley Cup winners have had Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, and Patrice Bergeron. That’s the bar that’s been set for centers. It’s a high one.

That’s why many expect the ‘Canes to target a center next Friday. While it’s unlikely that Logan Brown or Clayton Keller will still be around when the ‘Canes pick at No. 13, it’s possible that one of them could fall that far. And if not, there are others like Tyson Jost and Michael McLeod that could be had.

Another big question is, who’s the goalie of the future? Last season with Cam Ward and Eddie Lack, Carolina’s team save percentage (.902) was better than only Calgary’s (.892). The ‘Canes have a decent prospect in Alex Nedeljkovic, but he’s only 20 and hasn’t even played a pro game yet.

So patience will still be required. When GM Ron Francis took over in 2014, it was never going to be an overnight turnaround.

“We came up with a plan and we’re sticking to that plan,” Francis told reporters recently. “We think we’re moving in the right direction. … I know it’s been tough and a struggle but I certainly think we’re making strides toward [getting back to the playoffs].”

Related: Hurricanes GM latest refutes reports of possible relocation