Jason Brough

High stakes in Anaheim: the Ducks ‘understand what’s on the line’ tonight

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The Anaheim Ducks entered the playoffs as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

At the very least, not many picked them to go out in the first round. Not after how dominant they looked in the second half of the regular season.

And yet, a first-round exit is exactly what they’ll make if they lose tonight at home to the underdogs from Nashville.

“I don’t think you can ever block out the stakes, we all understand what’s on the line,” Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler told Postmedia. “But you have to prepare like you have all season long. You can’t just block out that it’s Game 7, but you have to focus on the simple things that got you to that point.”

For the first six games, the Ducks-Predators series flew largely under the radar. When Nashville forced Game 7 on Monday, most of the hockey world’s attention was fixed on Game 7 between the Blues and Blackhawks.

Tonight, all eyes will be on Anaheim. And if the Ducks lose — much like if the Blues had lost — there could be consequences.

For the Ducks, a loss would not only mean elimination, it would mean a fourth straight year of getting bounced in a Game 7.

“It’s a different year, it’s a different team with different players, new guys who haven’t been here for what we’ve gone through in the past,” winger Corey Perry told reporters. “You’ve just got to go out and play hockey and not worry about all the other extra (stuff). You’ve just go to go out and play and keep pushing.”

Whoever wins, the San Jose Sharks will be waiting.

Bowman noncommittal on Shaw and Bickell, needs to know salary cap first

Chicago Blackhawks Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman, listens to the media during a news conference at the United Center in Chicago, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The Blackhawks recently agreed to eight-year contract extensions with Toews and Kane. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman won’t commit to anything before he has all the facts, and the one thing he doesn’t know right now is what the NHL’s salary cap will be for 2016-17.

Currently, all Bowman has to work with is an estimate — $74 million, up slightly from this season’s $71.4 million limit.

But that estimate assumes the NHLPA will sign off on the standard five percent escalator. And considering how the players feel about escrow — long story short: they hate it! — GMs like Bowman can’t afford to assume anything.

And, so, for the time being, Bowman can’t say if the Blackhawks will be able to re-sign restricted free agent Andrew Shaw.

Nor can he say if Bryan Bickell will be bought out. Bickell has one year left on his contract, with a cap hit of $4 million.

Bowman didn’t deny that the Blackhawks are facing some cap challenges. For that reason, he emphasized the importance of the youngsters currently in Rockford graduating to the NHL level next season.

But then, he added, there’s a pretty good reason the ‘Hawks will be up against the cap again this summer:

Last year, the NHL revealed the 2015-16 salary cap on June 23.

Expect a similarly timed announcement this year, i.e. before the draft, before the buyout window closes, and before the bidding for free agents begins.

Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks

Will the Coyotes be announcing some arena plans soon, or what?

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We don’t mean to sound rude, because we know it’s a big decision and there are lots of moving parts to things like this.

But come on, the Coyotes have been teasing an arena announcement for quite some time now. Back in November, they said things were “moving pretty quickly” with regards to a couple of options. In December, the status was upgraded to “very progressed.”

Then, in late January, team CEO Anthony LeBlanc said this: “I’m very positive that we will have something out in the community if not in the next month or two but certainly by the end of the regular season.”

Well, the regular season finished almost three weeks ago. So, what’s the deal? Are the Coyotes moving to Scottsdale? Are they moving to Tempe? As of March, those were reportedly the “two likeliest scenarios.”

Of course, since then, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has come out and said the Coyotes should move back downtown and share a new arena with the Suns.

“I think the most realistic option for the Coyotes is to make downtown Phoenix their long-term home, and if they can’t find a home in a year, they’re going to [relocate out of state],” Stanton told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM last week.

And now there’s been another development, as AEG has reached a deal to manage the Coyotes’ current home in Glendale. The company says it wants to keep the team as a tenant.

“We are looking forward to working with the Coyotes at Gila River Arena for this coming season and beyond,” AEG’s Chuck Steedman said in a statement.

“Glendale is known as a premier destination for high-profile entertainment and sports events, and with the exceptional lines of sight for hockey, along with its great fans, Gila River Arena provides the perfect setting for NHL games.”

How AEG intends to convince the Coyotes to stay remains to be seen, but maybe they can. Who knows?

Nobody knows!

Nobody ever seems to know.

So let us know, will you, Coyotes?

Thanks.

AV concedes the Rangers had a ‘puck-moving’ problem

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If you can’t move the puck, you end up spending a lot of time in your own end.

That’s what the New York Rangers found out this year, and their intention is to fix it.

“The puck-moving ability we’ve shown in the past, for whatever reason, was not as good and it affected a lot of our game,” head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Tuesday.

What Vigneault didn’t say was how the Rangers intended to fix this problem. (That’s always the hard part.)

Some of it will be up to the coach himself, and how he sets up the breakout.

But more responsibility is likely to fall on the shoulders of GM Jeff Gorton, who’s in charge of personnel. Veteran blue-liners Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle are both unrestricted free agents. Boyle will definitely not be back; whether to re-sign Yandle will be a tougher decision for management.

In free agency, the Rangers could pursue a veteran like Alex Goligoski, Brian Campbell, or Dan Hamhuis, the latter of whom played under Vigneault in Vancouver.

Or, Gorton could try the trade route, making offers for younger d-men like Kevin Shattenkirk, Tyson Barrie, or Sami Vatanen. Granted, if any of those players become available, the Rangers won’t be the only team that tries to get in on the action.

As we wrote earlier this week, it’s going to be an interesting offseason in New York. The Rangers are facing some serious challenges, and unfortunately for their fans, these things don’t always have an immediate solution.

Canucks re-sign Granlund for two years

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) blocks a shot as Vancouver Canucks center Markus Granlund (60), of Finland, and defenseman Korbinian Holzer (5), of Germany, vie for the rebound during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, April 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Vancouver Canucks announced today that winger Markus Granlund has signed a two-year contract extension. The reported cap hit is $900,000.

Granlund, 23, was a pending restricted free agent. He was traded to the Canucks in February, with winger Hunter Shinkaruk going to Calgary in return.

It was a controversial trade in Vancouver, as Canucks fans had been eager to see what Shinkaruk could do at the NHL level.

But for GM Jim Benning, it was Granlund’s versatility that made the difference.

“He is a two-way player that can play in any situation and up and down in our lineup,” Benning told reporters. “He can play left wing, he can play center, he’s a good penalty-killer. He has got good skill. For his time in the [AHL], if you look at his stats, he’s almost a goal every two games player. He has got good skill. We like his competitiveness, he is not afraid to compete hard in battles. Those are some of the things and characteristics we like about the player.”

Granlund had two goals and one assist in 16 games after joining Vancouver.

The Canucks still have a handful of pending RFAs on the payroll, including Sven Baertschi, Emerson Etem, Linden Vey, and Andrey Pedan.