Mike Halford

Boston Bruins v Colorado Avalanche

Bruins lose another: Seidenberg (back) out eight weeks

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The preseason continued to be unkind to the Bruins on Wednesday, as the club announced veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg would undergo back surgery, and be sidelined for the next eight weeks.

From the club:

Seidenberg is scheduled to undergo a lumbar microdiscectomy on Thursday, September 24 to repair a lumbar spine disc herniation.

The surgery will be performed by Dr. Louis Jenis at Massachusetts General Hospital. Seidenberg is expected to make a full recovery and will be sidelined approximately eight weeks.

Seidenberg, 34, had missed the start of the training camp with the injury and, as mentioned above, is the second Bruin to go down this preseason; B’s sophomore Seth Griffith, who had 10 points in 30 games as a rookie, suffered an MCL sprain that’ll sideline him for 3-4 weeks.

The Seidenberg injury is more significant, however.

After the Dougie Hamilton trade and Matt Bartkowski exiting in free agency, the veteran German was supposed to be a key part of a whittled down blueline comprised of himself, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Irwin.

It’s very possible that GM Don Sweeney goes out and tries to add a veteran stopgap in the interim. The Bruins can ill afford a slow start to the year, especially coming off last year’s playoff miss.

Avs sign Johnson to seven-year, $42M extension

Edmonton Oilers v Colorado Avalanche
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After rumblings that an extension was close, Colorado and top defenseman Erik Johnson made it official on Tuesday.

The Avalanche announced that the deal is for seven years, while ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun puts the annual cap hit at $6 million, making it a hefty $42 million overall.

“Erik is a big part of the core of this team,” Avs GM Joe Sakic said. “We felt it was important for our franchise to secure his rights for the long term as he enters the prime years of his career.”

Johnson, 27, is in the last season of a four-year, $15 million deal with a $3.75M average annual cap hit. With his new contract, he leapfrogs Francois Beauchemin as Colorado’s highest-paid defenseman.

Johnson’s big payday comes after taking his game to a new level last season, scoring a career-high 12 goals while averaging a career-high 24:25 before a knee injury ended his campaign in January.

The extension was important for both parties. Johnson was a pending UFA and would’ve been one of the more sought-after blueliners on the open market; with him locked up, Colorado now has a top defenseman for the forseeable future.

The organization is light on blueline prospects, thanks partly to the fact six of its last seven first-round picks were used on forwards — the only d-man selected, Duncan Siemens (11th overall in 2011), has yet to make his NHL debut.

That said, the club did acquire former Buffalo first-rounder Nikita Zadorov in the Ryan O'Reilly trade, and has a talented offensive defenseman in Tyson Barrie, who finished eighth among NHL d-men in scoring (53 points) last year.

Blues to open with Tarasenko-Stastny-Steen line

Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny
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The St. Louis Blues will begin their exhibition campaign tonight, and will do so with a pretty intriguing top unit.

Star sniper Vladimir Tarasenko and fellow winger Alex Steen will be centered by Paul Stastny when the Blues take on the Jackets in split-squad action, per the Post-Dispatch.

The move has been met with excitement.

Tarasenko, fresh off a career-high 37 goals — and a monster eight-year, $60 million extension — will be paired with Stastny who, despite a disappointing first campaign in St. Louis, is viewed as the club’s best playmaking center. This is a guy who, don’t forget, finished sixth in the NHL in assists (59) during the 2009-10 campaign… on a Colorado team that didn’t have a single 30-goal scorer.

So there’s hope Tarasenko can reach new heights with Stastny in the middle, and that Stastny’s St. Louis career can be kickstarted by the Russian.

As for Steen — well, he’ll obviously be seen as the third wheel on the line. But it’s important to remember the veteran Swede is coming off a really good campaign of his own, scoring a career-high 64 points.

Higgins in walking boot after Canucks’ preseason opener

Chris Higgins
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The day after exiting Vancouver’s first exhibition game following a blocked shot, Chris Higgins was seen wearing a walking boot on Tuesday and, per assistant coach Glen Gulutzan, will undergo more tests to determine the severity of his injury.

Higgins was hurt getting in front of a slapshot from Sharks d-man Brenden Dillon, as seen here.

The 32-year-old is heading into the third of a four-year, $10 million deal with a $2.5M average annual cap hit. A serviceable, dependable winger that’s hit double digit goals in each of the last five seasons, Higgins has been bandied about as a potential trade chip given Vancouver has some young forwards looking to get to the NHL level, like Jake Virtanen and Hunter Shinkaruk.

Higgins’ injury could create a job opportunity, assuming it carries over to the start of the regular season.

Ducks angling for ‘hometown discounts’ from Lindholm, Andersen et al?

Boston Bruins v Anaheim Ducks
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Some very important Ducks will be RFAs at season’s end: Frederik Andersen, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, to name a few.

So with that in mind, consider what GM Bob Murray said yesterday, in the wake of signing goalie-of-the-future John Gibson to a three-year extension.

From the O.C. Register:

Murray sent out a signal Monday that he hopes some of those impending free agents will pick up on. The Ducks want you for the long haul but there’s an internal salary structure to work within.

“A lot of our players in the past — and they’ve been here for a long time — have taken a hometown discount, haircuts, whatever word you want to use,” Murray said. “But they want to play here. And I want young players who want to stay and be part of this organization.

“It’s not a bad place to play.”

Murray said this while confirming talks are already underway with Lindholm, the 21-year-old blueliner that looks to be a star in the making.

Which begs the question — how will Anaheim afford these guys?

Next year is when three of Murray’s more, ahem, questionable contracts could come home to roost: Ryan Kesler‘s extension ($6.875M cap hit), Kevin Bieksa‘s extension ($4M) and year three of the Clayton Stoner deal, in which Stoner — who was basically Anaheim’s sixth d-man in the playoffs last year — makes $3.25M.

Per war-on-ice.com, Anaheim already has nearly $50 million committed to the payroll for next season and, as the Register points out, is working under an internal cap. In addition to Lindholm, Andersen and Vatanen, the likes of Rickard Rakell, Simon Despres and Jiri Sekac also need new contracts.

It’s a strong possibility Murray offers bridge deals for most, if not all, of his key RFAs — the club’s had success with this strategy, like last year with Jakob Silfverberg — but there is risk involved; if a player like Lindholm takes the bridge and continues to progress, his asking price gets way higher once the bridge deal expires (and we’re seeing more teams try and work against this, like Edmonton, which took a calculated risk in giving Oscar Klefbom a seven-year deal.)

For now, though, Murray’s focused on keeping RFA negotiations simply moving in the right direction.

“I’ll work at them one at a time,” Murray said. “That’s all I can do.”