Anton Rodin‘s lingering knee injury will allow winger Jake Virtanen to remain with the Vancouver Canucks to start the regular season.
But general manager Jim Benning had a warning of sorts for the 20-year-old Virtanen — if his play doesn’t meet the NHL standard, he’ll be off to Utica.
Virtanen had an up-and-down rookie season in 2015-16, scoring seven goals in 55 games. He wasn’t eligible to be sent to the AHL last year, but he is now.
At his best, Virtanen can be a physical force on the forecheck, with scoring ability to boot. It’s just a matter of doing it night after night that’s been a challenge for the sixth overall draft pick in 2014.
Rodin, meanwhile, is expected to be placed on injured reserve as he continues to rehab the major injury he suffered in January while playing in Sweden.
“The injury got aggravated and so he’s going to have to take a step back,” Benning said recently of Rodin, per the Vancouver Sun. “We’re going to give him a few days or week off here to get the swelling down, and from there just rehab so he’s a 100 per cent for us. We’re going to need him at 100 per cent.”
Benning also said today that the Canucks intend to sign winger Jack Skille, who’s with the club on a PTO, and they intend to put winger Emerson Etem on waivers after a less-than-impressive camp and preseason.
Related: There’s one ‘vision’ in Vancouver this season, and that’s winning
It seemed only yesterday that Kris Versteeg was on the verge of signing with the Edmonton Oilers.
But apparently it was not to be, as the 30-year-old winger will reportedly join the Calgary Flames instead. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Versteeg will ink a one-year deal, with a cap hit “likely” under $1 million. (Update: $950,000.)
Versteeg split last season between Carolina and Los Angeles, finishing with 15 goals and 23 assists in 77 regular-season games. He was traded to the Hurricanes last September after winning the 2015 Stanley Cup with Chicago, his second championship as a member of the Blackhawks.
As an unrestricted free agent, Versteeg last month agreed to a professional tryout with the Oilers. He had one goal in four preseason games.
The Flames have also signed defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. It’s a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000 for the 31-year-old who came to Calgary on a PTO.
New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein is dealing with back spasms and is uncertain to play in Thursday’s regular-season opener against the Islanders at MSG.
Klein has missed the last two days of practice due to the spasms. His injury comes amid speculation that the club may be looking to trade Dylan McIlrath, who like Klein is a right-shot d-man.
With Klein’s status up in the air, head coach Alain Vigneault does not expect any roster moves for now. The Rangers are currently carrying eight defensemen, including Klein.
Also today came word that veteran winger Nathan Gerbe would not be reporting to the AHL. Gerbe’s one-year contract, signed on July 1, will reportedly be terminated by mutual agreement and he will play in Switzerland this season.
Gerbe was placed on waivers last week.
Mike Condon is off to Pittsburgh. The Penguins have claimed the 26-year-old goalie off waivers from Montreal, a direct result of Matt Murray being sidelined with a broken hand.
Condon went 21-25-6 for the Habs last season, with a .903 save percentage. Thrust into a starting role due to Carey Price‘s injury, Condon battled hard and had a few memorable moments, including a victory over the Bruins in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium. But it was a lot to ask of a rookie, and ultimately the job was too big.
It remains to be seen how long Condon will last in Pittsburgh. Murray will be back shortly, so Condon’s stay may only be temporary. He’s a pending UFA with a cap hit of $575,000, which can be buried entirely in the minors if need be. Then again, with Murray a pending RFA who will be looking for a good-sized raise, there has been speculation that the Pens may look to trade Marc-Andre Fleury.
Price’s backup in Montreal this season will be Al Montoya.
The Minnesota Wild are hoping that Teemu Pulkkinen‘s AHL stats mean something. They’ve claimed the 24-year-old winger off waivers from Detroit.
Pulkkinen has twice scored more than 30 goals in a single AHL season. His big right-handed shot helped him to 31 in 2013-14 and then 34 in 2014-15 for Grand Rapids.
But for whatever reason (some have suggested his skating is an issue), his minor-league success has yet to translate into big NHL numbers. In 70 games with the Red Wings, he has 11 goals and nine assists.
In Minnesota, Pulkkinen will join a team that bought out right winger Thomas Vanek this past offseason. If Pulkkinen plays well, he could push for a spot in the top six. But again, he still has a lot to prove.
The Wild’s leading goal-scorer in 2015-16 was Zach Parise, who had 25. Charlie Coyle, their top right-winger, had 21 goals.