Jason Brough

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Canucks sign ‘very skilled’ Dahlen to entry-level contract

The Vancouver Canucks have signed forward Jonathan Dahlen to a three-year entry level contract.

Dahlen, acquired from Ottawa in the trade that sent Alex Burrows to the Senators, was the 42nd overall pick in the 2016 draft.

“Jonathan is a very skilled player with good hands and goal-scoring abilities,” said GM Jim Benning. “He had a terrific year playing in Sweden and we’re excited to see him at training camp as he continues to grow and develop into an NHL player.”

Dahlen, 19, scored 25 goals for Timra this season and was named the best junior player in the second-tier Allsvenskan.

His signing is a bit of good news for the Canucks, who had some disappointing news yesterday with the departure of defenseman Nikita Tryamkin to the KHL.

The Canucks’ original plan was for Dahlen to start next season in the AHL, but it seems a return to Sweden is also an option.

All of a sudden the Habs are in a tough spot

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It is not lost on the city of Montreal that P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators just swept the Chicago Blackhawks, while the Canadiens are now one loss away from falling to the New York Rangers.

Nor is it lost on the city of Montreal that Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty — the same guy who had to deny a rift with Subban when they were still teammates, and the same guy who some say pushed for Subban to get traded — has yet to score a goal in these playoffs.

The optics are not great, to say the least. In Montreal, emotions tend to run high when it comes to hockey. And it’s safe to say that if the Canadiens don’t come back to win this series, the fans and the media are going to tee off on this organization.

Watch Rangers vs Canadiens Game 6

“We’re going to learn what type of character we have,” said winger Brendan Gallagher, per Sportsnet. “If you don’t have character, this is the time you’re going to doubt yourself. If you do have character, this is the time where the belief is going to come out.”

Character, you’ll recall, was one of the justifications for trading Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber.

In remarks that sure seemed like a partial rebuke of Subban, Habs GM Marc Bergevin called Weber a “tremendous leader” and a “complete and reliable defenseman.”

“He’s won two Olympic gold medals and he’s a guy who, like Carey Price, has a presence that right away brings credibility to your team,” said Bergevin. “He’ll be a great complement to our captain, Max Pacioretty, and to our leadership group.”

The Canadiens looked to have the Rangers beat after Game 3, a convincing Montreal victory at MSG. But New York bounced back in Game 4, then took Game 5 in overtime at Bell Centre for a 3-2 series lead.

“In order to get through this, we’ll need more from a lot of guys,” Habs coach Claude Julien told reporters. “It’s time for certain players to elevate their game and have that confidence and desire to be better.

Game 6 goes Saturday in New York at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app.

A ‘long summer’ awaits the Blackhawks, who went out with a whimper

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For the second straight year, the Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t survive the first round of the playoffs.

This year’s elimination was much worse, though.

The ‘Hawks were swept by the Nashville Predators, by far the better team in the series. At least last year it was a fight with the St. Louis Blues, who needed seven games to oust the then-defending champs.

“It was a major disappointment across the board,” coach Joel Quenneville said last night, per CSN Chicago. “I don’t think anybody exceeded their expectations. We don’t compete to the level that’s necessary. I take that personally, as a coach, that we didn’t find the all-out button, didn’t get the job done.”

In hindsight, perhaps the Blackhawks overachieved during the regular season, when they won 24 one-goal games, the most in the NHL.

“Maybe we won a couple close games that might have made us feel like we were better than we really were,” said Patrick Kane, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

But the ‘Hawks were still a good team. They were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. It’s not like they were lucky to make the playoffs.

“I think the switch just didn’t turn on,” said captain Jonathan Toews. “I’m not going to sit here and try and come up with those reasons right now. We’ll have some thinking to do in the next few days and we’ve got a lot of time before next season.”

What the ‘Hawks really need is for their youth to step up and become impact players. Nick Schmaltz showed flashes this year, but not when it counted. Ryan Hartman scored 19 goals in the regular season, but none in the playoffs.

Blackhawks rookies against the Preds

 

On the back end, the ‘Hawks should move on from veterans Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya, both pending unrestricted free agents. They need Gustav Forsling and Michal Kempny to play bigger roles, and soon.

A consequence of all their success, the ‘Hawks are not blessed with a pile of top-end prospects. The last two years they haven’t drafted in the first round, and they haven’t picked in the top 10 since 2007 when they got Kane. Their most intriguing prospect is Alex DeBrincat, a 19-year-old winger who averaged two points per game for the Erie Otters this season. However, it remains to be seen how his game will translate to the NHL. And if it does, when.

It is too soon to throw dirt on these Blackhawks, who still boast a core that’s won three Stanley Cups. But there will be plenty of soul-searching in the weeks and months ahead. This loss to the Predators was a shock to the system.

“Coming into the playoffs, I think we felt pretty confident,” said Kane. “So yeah, I mean, disappointing, shocked. I don’t know. Yeah. It’s going to be a long summer, for sure.”

Two Sabres scouts were also reportedly fired

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The Buffalo Sabres’ house-cleaning went beyond the general manager and head coach.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Sabres’ director of scouting, Rob Murphy, and their director of amateur scouting, Greg Royce, were also fired today, along with Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma.

Murphy and Royce joined Murray in Buffalo in 2014 after all three had worked together in Ottawa.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula is scheduled to meet with the Buffalo media tomorrow morning.

He’ll have a lot to go over.

Flames are back to square one in search for starting goalie

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The Calgary Flames thought they’d solved their goaltending problem. They thought they were in good shape. Finally.

They thought wrong.

The way their series with the Ducks just went, it is tough to imagine Brian Elliott getting a contract extension and returning next season.

Elliott, a pending unrestricted free agent, started all four games against Anaheim. He lost the first three, then only lasted 5:38 of Game 4 before being replaced by journeyman backup Chad Johnson.

Read more: Elliott ‘still can’t explain’ soft opening goal in Game 4 loss

Elliott finished the playoffs with an .880 save percentage — a big reason the Flames were swept.

Now, if his regular season had gone smoothly, Elliott’s playoff numbers could perhaps be excused. But his regular season did not go smoothly. It started horrifically, got significantly better after Christmas, then trailed off again down the stretch.

It’s unfortunate, really, because Elliott had hoped to be so much more for the Flames after being acquired from St. Louis.

“I’m going to do my best to be the backbone of the team,” he said over the summer, “and try to be a leader and just do whatever I can to be the rock for the guys on the back end and let the guys do the rest of the work.”

At 32 years old, Elliott is no spring chicken either. So, instead of giving him another chance, the Flames may look to sign 30-year-old Ben Bishop or 28-year-old Scott Darling. Both are pending UFAs.

Or maybe they get Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh. He’s only signed for two more years, which could provide a bridge to youngsters Jon Gillies, Mason McDonald, or Nick Schneider.

It’s all up in the air for GM Brad Treliving — that is, assuming he’s still the GM.

Treliving is like his two goalies. He doesn’t have a contract extension either.