Mike Halford

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 21, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Ducks 5-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Ducks sign Rakell to six-year, $22.8M deal


Anaheim opened its campaign with two key unsigned RFAs: Hampus Lindholm, and Rickard Rakell.

And now, only Lindholm remains without a deal.

Anaheim has agreed to a six-year, $22.8 million extension with Rakell, one that carries an average annual cap hit of $3.8 million. It’s a nice contract for the 23-year-old, and a good bump from the $894,166 he was making annually on his previous deal.

Not that Rakell didn’t earn it.

Rakell finished fourth on the Ducks in scoring last year, with 20 goals and 43 points, and led the team in game-winning markers. His emergence over the last two seasons — he had 31 points in 73 contests in ’14-15 — his age (only turned 23 in May) and his versatility (can play center or right wing) are the big reasons why he scored such a sizable raise.

Now, all the Ducks need to do is get Rakell back in the lineup as he recovers from surgery to remove scar tissue that build up after his appendectomy in March. After Anaheim announced the deal, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Bob Murray, provided an update on Rakell:

All this makes the Ducks a team to watch in the coming days. It’s believed Lindholm is angling for an eight-year deal at $6 million per, which — after the Rakell deal — would put the team in a financial bind.

Anaheim has been mentioned in numerous trade rumblings over the last few weeks, as GM Bob Murray will likely have to move a substantial contract to get Lindholm signed.

Winnipeg’s Little out ‘long-term’ after collision with Bickell

WINNIPEG, MB - OCTOBER 25: Bryan Little #18 of the Winnipeg Jets skates down the ice during second period action in an NHL game against the Minnesota Wild at the MTS Centre on October 25, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

Some tough news for the Jets following last night’s dramatic comeback win over Carolina — veteran center Bryan Little has been lost “long-term” with a lower-body injury, per head coach Paul Maurice.

Little appeared to go knee-on-knee with ‘Canes forward Bryan Bickell during the contest, and exited after playing just 2:48.

The club didn’t offer any specific timetable for return, only saying that Little is out indefinitely.

Losing the 28-year-old will hurt. Little opened the year as the club’s No. 2 center, on a line with Drew Stafford and Shawn Matthias, and was in on the club’s opening goal, setting up Matthias’ first-period marker.

It’s a tough blow for Little as well. He suffered a compression fractured vertebrae last season — an injury that ended his campaign — and, all told, suited up for just 57 of Winnipeg’s 82 games.

When healthy, he’s a productive contributor for the Jets. Little posted a career-high 64 points during the ’13-14 campaign, and a career-high 24 goals the season following. He’s also one of the club’s top faceoff men.

With him gone, Winnipeg looks as though they’ll insert Alex Burmistrov into the lineup, after he sat out against Carolina.


Sabres’ Kane out ‘weeks’ after crashing heavily into boards


Hard to imagine Buffalo’s season starting any worse.

On Friday, head coach Dan Bylsma announced the latest in a series of bad news — Evander Kane suffered three broken ribs in a scary collision during Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Montreal, and will be out “weeks” with the ailment.

Given how things have gone lately, you would’ve thought the Sabres walked under a ladder while a black cat crossed their collective path.

First, the club learned that prized free agent signing Kyle Okposo (knee) would miss the season opener. Then, on the eve of the regular season, star sophomore Jack Eichel suffered a high ankle sprain in practice, which will sideline him for 6-8 weeks.

That left the Sabres pretty undermanned for their home opener against Montreal last night (in addition to Okposo and Eichel, Dmitry Kulikov was also out due to injury).

Things got worse when Kane got hurt, and got even worse as the night went on — the Habs scored four times on just 24 shots against Robin Lehner, and the Sabres were unable to get much of anything past backup Al Montoya, subbing in for Carey Price (flu).

No suspension for Shaw after slew-footing Larsson


Montreal forward Andrew Shaw, who’s already had an eventful start to his time with the Canadiens, will not face any supplemental discipline for his slew-foot on Buffalo’s Johan Larsson, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

Shaw received a match penalty for the incident, which occurred late in Montreal’s 4-1 win on Thursday night. The match penalty meant Shaw was suspended until the league had a chance to rule on the matter, and the Department of Player Safety opted not to assess supplemental discipline.

As mentioned above, Shaw is certainly pushing his luck when it comes to suspensions.

He’s already been dinged three games for boarding Washington’s Connor Hobbs during the preseason and, prior to that, was suspended for making a homophobic slur during an opening-round playoff loss to St. Louis in the spring (as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks).

And prior to that:

— Avoided suspension for a high hit on Francois Beauchemin.

— Allegedly bit Victor Hedman during the ’15 Stanley Cup Final.

— Was fined $2,000 for diving.

— Avoided suspension for charging Barret Jackman.

— Avoided suspension for headbutting Brock Nelson.

And those are just the infractions since 2015.

Lightning are ‘the best team in the East,’ says Vanek

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13:  Thomas Vanek #62 of the Detroit Red Wings fights off the defense of Andrej Sustr #62 of the Tampa Bay Lightning to score past Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at the Amalie Arena on October 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Thomas Vanek had one major takeaway from Thursday’s season-opening loss to the Bolts.

One, Tampa Bay is pretty good. Two, Tampa Bay’s power play is also pretty good.

“This is the best team in the East in my opinion,” Vanek said, per the Free Press. “You give them these power play opportunities, the momentum slowly shifted there.”

Tampa Bay wiped out a pair of two-goal deficits to win 6-4, and those comebacks were largely sparked by a man advantage that went 3-for-6 on the night.

Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn all scored on the power play, and that spread-out scoring underlined a theme for the Bolts on the night. Nine different skaters had at least one point.

And this, really, is why Vanek said what a lot of people already have. Tampa Bay heads into this season as one of the deepest and most talented teams in the league — especially at forward — and that talent will not just win them plenty of games, but also keep them in games where they fall behind.

Oh, and speaking of Vanek — pretty good Red Wings debut. The maligned winger scored a pair of goals and finished with a team-high five shots on goal.