Jason Brough

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Head coach Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers leaves the ice following a 5-0 defeat against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 21, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Rangers hoping for bounce-backs from veterans, growth from youngsters


NEW YORK (AP) After two deep playoff runs, the New York Rangers’ 2016 postseason fizzled out quickly.

Eventual champion Pittsburgh dispatched them in five games in the first round, the last two by a combined score of 11-3.

“Now, obviously, there is going to be some changes,” coach Alain Vigneault said a few days later. “There are still some very good pieces. We have to decide in which direction we’re going to take.”

The direction he and general manager Jeff Gorton wound up deciding to take was mostly to give it another go with those good pieces. The changes over the offseason came mostly around the edges of the roster.

The big move was a trade of centers, sending Derick Brassard to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad, who is quite a bit younger – and cheaper.

Veterans Dan Girardi, Rick Nash and Marc Staal are back after disappointing seasons, and the greatest change in 2016-17 could simply come from any or all of them recapturing their previous form.

Henrik Lundqvist will turn 35 during the season. The Rangers will give their returning core at least one more chance at a title in front of the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner before the window closes.

“The hunger for the game and to compete is, I think, the same,” Lundqvist said during the World Cup of Hockey as he thought back to the start of his Rangers career.

Along with Zibanejad, New York’s most notable additions were also younger players. Some members of the Rangers’ youth movement to watch:

Jimmy Vesey: The Hobey Baker winner as college hockey’s top player, Vesey chose to pursue free agency after his senior season at Harvard instead of signing with Nashville, which drafted him 66th overall in 2012.

Vesey picked the Rangers over seven other finalists in August.

“It seemed that they really needed to have me in their lineup,” he said at the time.

The 23-year-old forward had 24 goals and 22 assists in 33 games for Harvard last season.

ZIBANEJAD: Zibanejad is also 23 and already has two 20-goal seasons in the NHL. He set career highs with 21 goals and 30 assists in 81 games for the Senators last season.

Brassard, who just turned 29, had a career-high 27 goals last season.

“I think the potential is there for more upside,” Gorton said of Zibanejad. “He is just scratching the surface at age 23. There are not a lot of guys who have done what he has done as far as scored 20 before that age.”

PAVEL AND PIRRI: Pavel Buchnevich, a 21-year-old Russian left wing who was a 2013 third-round draft pick, is looking to prove he’s ready to make an NHL roster. Brandon Pirri, a 25-year-old center, had a career-high 29 points last season but has already been traded twice in his career. The Rangers signed him to a $1.1 million, one-year deal from Anaheim.

J.T. Miller: The Rangers also kept one of their own, signing restricted free agent forward J.T. Miller to a $5.5 million, two-year deal. Another 23-year-old, Miller had 22 goals and 21 assists, both career highs, last season.

“I don’t want to be satisfied on one pretty good year,” he said.

Related: As training camp opens, the Rangers’ defense goes under the microscope

Ehrhoff, with the Bruins on a PTO, impressed Julien during the World Cup

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 29: Steven Stamkos #91 of Team Canada is checked into the boards by Christian Ehrhoff #10 of Team Europe during the second period during Game Two of the World Cup of Hockey final series at the Air Canada Centre on September 29, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Christian Ehrhoff is hoping to pull a Dennis Seidenberg and turn his World Cup performance for Team Europe into a guaranteed NHL contract.

In an odd twist, Ehrhoff will try to do it with the Boston Bruins, the same team that made Seidenberg a free agent when they bought him out in June. Seidenberg then turned his World Cup performance into a contract with the New York Islanders.

Ehrhoff, meanwhile, is with Boston on a professional tryout. During the World Cup, he impressed Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who was on Team Canada’s bench as an assistant coach.

“He’s a good-sized defenseman, skates well and moves the puck well. What I liked about him, and I told them that, was that his compete level was pretty good,” said Julien, per CSN New England. “If he comes here and competes the same way then he’s somebody that could make things interesting for us. I really felt that he was a good addition to our group trying to make the team on a PTO, and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Ehrhoff, 34, had a frustrating 2015-16 campaign. He started with the Kings, but it wasn’t a “style fit” there. He was traded to the Blackhawks in late February, but only played eight games for them. He was a healthy scratch for the playoffs.

In Boston, he joins a defense that many felt would be upgraded this offseason. But that never happened, making room for him to audition.

Related: The Bruins need Colin Miller to make an impact

Still no arena announcement, but Coyotes president is ‘more confident and excited’ than ever

New York Rangers v Phoenix Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes don’t have a place to play beyond this season, and you’d think that would cause some concern.

Publicly, however, the club has maintained an optimistic attitude that a new arena will, indeed, get built in the Phoenix area.

“I’ve never been more confident and excited about the process than I am today,” team president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said Sunday, per Arizona Sports. “Admittedly, these things take more time than any of us expected and humbly, this is the first time I’ve ever been involved in such an extensive development project so I didn’t appreciate that, but people should be comforted by the knowledge that we anticipate communication in the very near future.”

The Coyotes announced in June that they’d picked a site to build the rink; however, they did not name the site. LeBlanc also said at the time that there was a backup plan in case the site did not pan out.

The club has not handled expectations very well during this process, but if it can get something done, all that will be forgotten by the fans.

The Coyotes’ lease in Glendale expires on June 30. It’s possible they could extend the lease while a new arena is built, but you know the drill by now — we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

Related: The Coyotes ‘have every intention of leaving Glendale as soon as practicable’

Rodin making a good second impression with Canucks


Anton Rodin‘s second stint in North America is off to a promising start. The 25-year-old winger scored his second goal of the preseason last night for the Vancouver Canucks. Both goals have been one-timers, the first off a pass from Troy Stecher, the second from Bo Horvat.

It’s the kind of finishing the Canucks have been looking for, after they finished with the second-fewest goals in the NHL last season.

Rodin was originally drafted by Vancouver, all the way back in 2009. In 2013, after two disappointing seasons in the AHL, he returned to Sweden and found his game with SHL club Brynäs IF.

In January, Rodin suffered a freak, season-ending knee injury during practice, but with 37 points (16G, 21A) in 33 games up to then, he’d already done enough to be named the MVP of the league. The Canucks signed him in March.

“The knee gets sore after games and some practices, but I think I just have to get used to all the work I have to do – the icing and stretching a lot,” Rodin said recently, per The Province.

“I have to live with it for a while. But I’m stronger and more confident than the last time I was in the NHL and it’s easier for me now. But I still have to bust my ass every day and that’s how I play my best. If I’m a hard worker, I’m a better player and if I’m not, I won’t be.”

There is plenty of competition for a roster spot among the Canucks forwards. Rodin has made a good impression. So have youngsters Brendan Gaunce and Joseph Labate. Ditto for veterans on PTOs Tuomo Ruutu and Jack Skille.

It could mean that 20-year-old Jake Virtanen, currently out with a shoulder injury, starts the season in the AHL. But there are still three preseason games to go, so for now, everything is up in the air.

Barret Jackman to announce retirement tomorrow in St. Louis

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 24:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Barret Jackman #5 of the St. Louis Blues have words during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 24, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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He finished his career in Nashville, but Barret Jackman will always be remembered for his hundreds of games in a St. Louis Blues uniform.

That’s why Jackman will officially retire from the NHL tomorrow afternoon during a press conference at Scottrade Center, the home of the Blues. The 35-year-old defenseman played 803 games for St. Louis, before signing with the Predators last summer. He was bought out by Nashville in June.

Jackman was the Blues’ first-round draft pick (17th overall) in 1999. A tough, stay-at-home defenseman, he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year in 2003 and went on to finish with 186 points (29G, 157A) in 876 career games.

Jackman’s press conference will be attended by Blues owner Tom Stillman and GM Doug Armstrong, as well as two former Blues defensemen who are now in Hall of Fame, Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis.