Jason Brough

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Joe Pavelski #8 of the United States handles the puck against Jonathan Toews #16 of Canada in the second period during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Pavelski named Team USA captain, has huge responsibility as first-line center


Joe Pavelski will captain Team USA at the World Cup. Patrick Kane and Ryan Suter will be the alternates.

Pavelski, 32, is coming off a fantastic 2015-16 for the Sharks. He had 38 goals during the regular season, then added 14 more in the playoffs as San Jose made it first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

In pre-tournament practice, Pavelski has been centering wingers Kane and Max Pacioretty on Team USA’s first line.

Suffice to say, centering the first line is a huge responsibility for the Wisconsin native — especially on a team that many feel is lacking down the middle, at least compared to the favorites from Canada.

“The fairly obvious biggest thing is the middle doesn’t have the top [guys],” USA GM Dean Lombardi conceded in an interview with ESPN.com. “That said, a guy like Joe Pavelski is one of the top players. He finally got his recognition this year. If you were playing against him, you know how good this guy is. It’s not totally fair to say this guy is not a No. 1 center.”

Team USA opens its pre-tournament schedule Friday versus Canada in Columbus.

George Parros joins Department of Player Safety

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 07:  George Parros #16 of the Anaheim Ducks throws a punch at Jared Boll #40 of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period at the Honda Center on January 7, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

George Parros, who racked up over 1,000 penalty minutes in 474 NHL games, has joined the league’s Department of Player Safety.

Stephane Quintal, the senior vice president of the department, made the announcement today, noting that Parros, in addition to being a retired hockey player, is also a graduate of Princeton University, i.e. a pretty smart guy.

It’s an interesting hire, mostly because Parros is a former enforcer and there aren’t many of his ilk left in the league. The 36-year-old also suffered multiple fighting-related concussions during his career. He retired in 2014, and now he’ll join in the DoPS a Hall of Famer whose career was famously cut short by a concussion, Chris Pronger.

“It’s definitely something that will come into play later on down the line, I think,” Parros said of his head injuries in a 2014 interview with the Montreal Gazette. “But right now my head has held up pretty well, all things considered. I’ve been bashing it against skin and metal and ice and glass and boards and everything for a long time. I’m doing OK now, we’ll see. Ask me again in 10 years or so. … I know the consequences of this life, I could have some painful days ahead of me, but I’ll deal with it then.”

It’s official: Panthers sign Huberdeau, ‘another important piece of our team’s young core’

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  Jonathan Huberdeau #11 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New York Islanders in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 24, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders won the game 2-1 in double overtime to win the series four games to two.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers made Jonathan Huberdeau‘s six-year contract extension official today. The 23-year-old forward will have a cap hit of $5.9 million starting in 2017-18 and all the way through 2022-23.

“Jonathan is a highly talented and dynamic player who is another important piece of our team’s young core,” said Panthers president of hockey ops Dale Tallon in a release. “In each of his last two seasons he has posted over 50 points and has developed into a key component of our team’s offense.”

Huberdeau was the third overall draft pick in 2011. He joins Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith, and Aaron Ekblad in the group of young Panthers that’s been signed long term. Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, Roberto Luongo, and James Reimer are also locked into long-term deals.

Now it’s time to match all the hype with some postseason success. The Panthers are clearly on the rise, but they still haven’t won a playoff series since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

“There’s a core of players here that know: we’ve given you great teammates, we’re going to add people as the opportunities arise,” co-owner Doug Cifu told Yahoo Sports in July, “but it’s up to you guys to come together as a team and win multiple Stanley Cups and that’s the plan.”

‘Really happy’ to be back in Boston, Khudobin will be key for Bruins

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 6:  Anton Khudobin #35 of the Boston Bruins stretches in the warm-up prior to playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 5-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins missed the playoffs again last season, and their backup goalie — Jonas Gustavsson finished 11-9-1 with a .908 save percentage — was part of the reason why.

And, so, finding a better backup became one of three things the Bruins set out to achieve this offseason. (The two other things were getting “heavier” at right wing, which was solved by signing David Backes, and adding a “transitional” defenseman, which has not yet been solved.)

They hope they’ve found the right backup in Anton Khudobin, after giving the 30-year-old Russian a two-year, $2.4 million contract on July 1. Khubobin has been good for the them in the past — he went 9-4-1 with a .920 save percentage in 2013, before leaving to sign with the Hurricanes — but his numbers have dipped considerably the past two seasons. He was sent to the AHL last year as the odd man out in Anaheim. There was a report near the end of the season that he was planning to sign in the KHL, though obviously that never came to fruition.

“It was two good seasons in Carolina,” said Khudobin, per the Bruins’ website. “And last year, I wouldn’t say that it was good, but it was up and down, as you always have in your career. It’s normal. Right now, I’m in my spot and I’m really happy to be back.”

Last year wasn’t a particularly great year for Tuukka Rask either. He went 31-22-8 with a .915 save percentage, well below his career save rate of .924. So in essence the Bruins will be hoping that both their goalies can bounce back. If that happens, a return to the postseason could be the reward.

“Focus on helping the team get some more points and get higher in the standings,” said Khudobin. “Making playoffs always [is the goal]. … I know Tuukka is going to play more and he’s No. 1, so I just focus on my game and how I’m going to help the team.”

Daly: NHL is happy with CBA, no ‘storm clouds on the horizon’

Gary Bettman; Bill Daly
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According to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, the league is happy with how the current CBA is working and doesn’t think “there is anything major that would need fixing.”

Translation: Daly doesn’t foresee another work stoppage, at least from the NHL’s perspective.

“I think there’s a general satisfaction with how the system is working,” Daly told SiriusXMNHL, per Today’s Slapshot. “From time to time, tweaks are needed. I think the sign of any healthy collective bargaining relationship is, particularly when you’re talking about tweaks, you try to deal with them mid-term and try to make adjustments. I think we’ve been successful with the [NHLPA], at least during the first four years of this agreement, in being able to do that, on both sides of the table.”

The NHL and NHLPA each have the right to opt out of the CBA after the 2019-20 season. Otherwise, it’s set to expire after the 2021-22 campaign.

“It’s early, but I don’t see any storm clouds on the horizon, at least yet,” said Daly.

In spite of that optimism, there’s reason to wonder if the players’ association is quite as happy with the current system — specifically with regards to escrow.

Fortunately, there’s still time for that situation to work itself out. Escrow only becomes a concern when league revenues fall short of projections, which they did in 2015-16 due to the dramatic decline of the Canadian dollar.