Mike Halford

Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild
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Wild extend Zucker — two years, $4 million


Despite a tough campaign, Jason Zucker has gotten a vote of confidence from Minnesota — and a nice raise to boot.

On Wednesday, the Wild inked Zucker to a two-year, $4 million extension, one that carries at $2M average annual cap hit. It’s a nice pay bump from the $900,250 he was making annually on his old deal, yet it comes after a season in what some considered to be a setback.

After scoring 21 goals in just 51 games two years ago, Zucker only found the back of the net 13 times. It was a tough season all-around. Zucker was made a healthy scratch by former head coach Mike Yeo, placed on IR with a concussion following a devastating hit from Michal Rozsival and, at the end of the year, got called out by interim bench boss John Torchetti.

“He has to have a way better year next year,” Torchetti said after the Wild’s season-ending loss to Dallas in the playoffs, per the Morning-News. “That’s the bottom line.”

It’s important to remember that Zucker is only 24 years old and, given his offensive abilities and skating prowess, could be a nice fit under new head coach Bruce Boudreau. There could be more opportunities at forward with the likes of Thomas Vanek, David Jones and Justin Fontaine either all gone or likely gone, though it still remains to be seen who GM Chuck Fletcher will bring in via free agency.

Dorion: ‘No doubt’ Sens want to add d-man via trade, free agency

ST. PAUL, MN - JUNE 24: (L-R) Pierre Dorion, Matt Puempel, Greg Royce, and George Fargher stand on stage after Puempel is chosen as the 24th overall pick by the Ottawa Senators during day one at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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There are plenty of question marks on Ottawa’s blueline heading into next season.

Patrick Wiercioch is gone, having not been tendered a qualifying offer. There’s hope AHLer Chris Wideman can become a full-time NHLer, and that Mark Borowiecki can play more than 63 games for the first time in his career.

There’s also hope the team can add a fifth, sixth or seventh defenseman.

“We can use some of that money trying to get another [blueliner], to complement (Chris) Wideman and (Mark Borowiecki),” GM Pierre Dorion said, per the Ottawa Citizen. “There’s no doubt we would like to add another guy, through trades or free agency.”

This is Dorion’s first free agency period as GM, and it’ll be interesting to see what he comes out of it with. The team was a tire fire defensively and on special teams last season, something Dorion alluded to upon firing head coach Dave Cameron.

From the Ottawa Sun:

The reasons Cameron was let go were simple and Dorion listed them:

* The Senators special teams were amongst the NHL’s worst. The power play, which features top defenceman Erik Karlsson, was ranked No. 26 overall at a pathetic 15.8%. The penalty killing, which somehow had 17 shorthanded goals, was ranked No. 29 at 17.8%.

* The Senators gave up the most shots in the league at 32.8 per game and the club was also outshot 51 times.

* Fifty-one times, the Senators surrendered the first goal in 82 games.

The Sens are also hoping that Thomas Chabot, the 18th overall pick at the 2015 draft, could make a push for some minutes at the NHL level.

Report: Canucks interview Cameron, Acton for vacant assistant’s gig

Ottawa Senators coach Dave Cameron talks to players during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. The Panthers defeated the Senators 2-1 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)
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Vancouver’s search for Willie Desjardins’ new assistant coach is underway.

Per TSN 1040, former Ottawa head coach Dave Cameron and veteran hockey man Keith Acton — who last served as an associate in Edmonton — have interviewed for the position, vacated when Glen Gulutzan departed to take the head coaching job in Calgary.

Cameron had previously interviewed for an assistant’s gig in Detroit, and the aforementioned Flames position that went to Gulutzan. He’s quite close with Desjardins, having served as his assistant on Canada’s silver medal-winning team at the 2010 World Juniors.

Acton, who appeared in over 1,000 NHL contests as a player, has a wealth of experience behind the bench. He’s served as a right-hand man for the Flyers, Maple Leafs, Rangers and Blue Jackets, before his most recent two-year stint in Edmonton.

It’s fair to suggest Cameron and Acton aren’t the only candidates in the running. There has been some thought the Canucks could promote AHL Utica bench boss Travis Green, who’s thought to be a NHL-coach-in-waiting. Green was reportedly in the mix for the Anaheim job, before it went to Randy Carlyle.

Related: Travis Green says ‘I think I’m ready’ to coach in the NHL

Jackets lock in Jones with six-year, $32.4 million extension

Columbus Blue Jackets' Seth Jones, left, works for the puck against Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio Friday, March 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
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Columbus took care of business on Wednesday morning, locking in prized RFA blueliner Seth Jones to a big six-year, $32.4 million extension — one that carries at $5.4M average annual cap hit.

“Acquiring Seth Jones was very important to our organization and reaching a long-term agreement with him to remain a Blue Jacket was a priority, so we are extremely excited about having done so today,” Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a release.  “At 21, Seth is just beginning to tap into his potential as a player.

“He has everything you look for in a defenseman and is going to be a very important player and leader on our team for many years.”

The deal, first reported by Sportsnet, will keep Jones in Columbus through 2022, and is similar to the deal another RFA — Nashville’s Filip Forsberg — signed earlier this week. Like Jones, Forsberg inked a six-year extension (albeit for $36 million) and, like Jones, Forsberg signed his coming out of his entry-level deal.

Acquire from the Preds in a midseason trade for Ryan Johansen, Jones is considered one of the brightest young defensive prospects in all of hockey. He scored 20 points in 41 games with the Jackets last season in a noticeably increased role from the one he had in Nashville, and had his minutes jump from 19:39 per night to nearly 25 per under John Tortorella.

In March, Jones was named to the Team North America roster for the World Cup of Hockey.

With today’s deal he gets a pretty nice pay raise, coming off an ELC in which he made $925,000 annually. Jones also becomes the Jackets’ highest-paid blueliner and fourth highest-paid player, behind Sergei Bobrovsky ($7.4M annually), Brandon Saad ($6M), Brandon Dubinsky ($5.8M) and captain Nick Foligno ($5.5M).

With today’s deal, the Blue Jackets also eliminated the offer sheet possibility. There were rumblings a team would make a play for Jones in that fashion, and that concern was heightened yesterday when reports of another RFA defenseman, Jacob Trouba, was rumored to be getting a monster offer sheet from Boston.

Looking ahead, it’s likely Kekalainen will need to do some maneuvering to get his team better positioned under the salary cap. Per General Fanager, the Jackets already have just $42K in cap space left with only 21 players under contract for next season.

Preds prospect Trenin breaks leg while cycling, out four months

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 27:  Yakov Trenin poses for a portrait after being selected 55th overall by the Nashville Predators during the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 27, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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From the Nashville Post:

Yakov Trenin, the Nashville Predators’ top pick in the 2015 NHL draft, will miss this week’s prospects camp and most – or all – of training camp due to a broken leg he sustained during an accident back home in Russia.

According to general manager David Poile, the 19-year-old center was biking with friends when he was forced off the trail and into a tree.

Trenin, 19, was taken 55th overall in his draft year, then proceeded to score 26 goals and 61 points in 57 games last season for QMJHL Gatineau.

Poile said the organization is “really high” on Trenin and noted that, while the plan was likely for him to return to junior this season, the club had anticipated him participating in training camp and perhaps some of the preseason.

With the broken leg, and a recovery period Poile estimated at four months, those plans are pretty much dashed. Trenin is going to Nashville later this summer for the majority of his rehab.