Mike Halford

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 07:  Will Butcher #4 of the Denver Pioneers celebrates his goal with teamamtes on the bench in the third period against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks during semifinals of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 7, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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What’s going on with the Avs and NCAA standout Butcher?

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There’s plenty to like about University of Denver junior Will Butcher.

He was one of the top defenseman scorers in the country this season, with 32 points in 39 games, and was named a Second-Team (West) All-American.

What’s more, Butcher — Colorado’s fifth-round pick in 2013 — is regarded as one of the organization’s top prospects, per ESPN.

So how to explain this, from the Denver Post?

Butcher will remain at DU for his senior season. He might be more likely to have his rights traded or become a free agent in 2017 than sign with the Avalanche.

Just have to sit back and see how this one plays out, but the 5-foot-10 Butcher is certainly an excellent NCAA defenseman.

The concern about players going back to school for their senior campaigns is that, once they’ve finished, they’re eligible to go to unrestricted free agency.

(Like what happened between the Nashville Predators and Jimmy Vesey.)

In the same article — titled “Avalanche signs one All-American but might pass on the second” — the Post said there would be more on the Butcher story in Sunday’s paper, while posting this tweet from College Hockey News:

It’s probably worth noting Butcher, now 21, was from one of the last draft classes of the Rick Pracey era. Pracey, Colorado’s longtime scouting chief that was turfed in 2014, didn’t exactly go out on the greatest of terms.

Colorado’s first-round pick in ’14, Connor Bleackley, was widely panned before getting dealt to Arizona in the Mikkel Boedker trade. The other piece of the Boedker trade — Kyle Wood, taken in the same year as Bleackley — was sent packing in part because the Avs had yet to sign him to an ELC.

At the Frozen Four, Butcher discussed his status with the Avs in a Q&A with Hockey’s Futures. He said the proximity between DU and the NHL club made it easy for the Avs to monitor him, and that he was in frequent contact with player development consultant Brett Clark.

When asked about where he saw himself slotting in with the Avs, Butcher had this to say:

“I think the Avs have got some deep prospects on their blueline, so there’s definitely going to be some competition there. But I haven’t really focused on that because I’m just focused on the Frozen Four right now.”

Condra ‘doing a lot better’ after crushing Cizikas hit

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Overall, Thursday had mostly positive developments regarding the health of Tampa Bay forward Erik Condra.

Condra, who was knocked out of Game 1 of the Bolts-Isles series on a huge Casey Cizikas hit, is reportedly feeling well — though the club remains unsure of a potential return date.

“He’s doing a lot better than the actual hit looked,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per NHL.com. “Whether he’s going to skate in the next couple days I’m not too sure.”

Condra went flying into the end boards early in the first period and, while laying on the ice with his eyes open, looked to be in bad shape. He didn’t appear to lose consciousness, but displayed very little motion before getting helped off the ice.

The Bolts came into this series already down the services of captain Steve Stamkos, key d-man Anton Stralman and energy forwards Mike Blunden and J.T. Brown — the latter’s injury actually paved the way for Condra to draw into the lineup.

No word yet on who would draw in, should Condra miss Saturday’s Game 2 in Tampa.

Will the Sens take a run at Kevin Dineen?

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08:  Head coach Kevin Dineen of Canada looks on against Switzerland during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A Game on day 1 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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With the Chicago Blackhawks’ season now over, it’s assumed assistant coach Kevin Dineen will be asked to interview for vacant head coaching gigs across the NHL.

Of course there’s only one gig currently vacant — Ottawa’s.

From the Sun:

Because Dineen’s season ended Tuesday in a Game 7 loss to the Blues, [Sens GM Pierre] Dorion should soon be expected to ask permission from the Blackhawks to speak with him.

Dineen, 52, checks a lot of boxes.

He’s familiar with the organization, having played the 1999-2000 campaign in Ottawa. He was a teammate of Daniel Alfredsson — who, last year, was named the Sens’ senior advisor of hockey ops — and has a ton of coaching experience: six years as a head coach in the AHL, three as a head coach in the NHL (with Florida) and the last two working as Joel Quenneville’s right-hand man in Chicago.

Dineen’s also done international duty, having coached Canada’s women’s team to gold in Sochi, at the Canadian U18s to bronze in 2014.

Dorion’s on record saying he wants to bring in an experienced head coach, rather than someone cutting their teeth at the NHL level. The club has gone the latter route in its recent hires — Dave Cameron, Paul MacLean, Cory Clouston — which could be why the Sens have already spoken to ex-Wild bench boss Mike Yeo.

(It’s also partly why Ottawa released respected AHL bench boss Luke Richardson, who wasn’t in line for the big-league gig.)

Of course, if the Sens want Dineen, they’ll have to pry him out of Chicago — and, according to the Tribune, Quenneville said he expected his coaching staff to return next season.

“I like our staff in all areas,” Quenneville said. “(We’re) very fortunate with the group we have around us and … you’re looking at special teams, goalies, I think they did a really good job.”

Bolts sign six-year extension with AHL Syracuse

Steve Yzerman
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At a time where several NHL teams are moving their AHL affiliates closer to home, the Lightning took a different course of action on Thursday, inking a six-year extension with Syracuse.

“We are pleased to be extending our affiliation with the Syracuse Crunch,” Bolts GM Steve Yzerman said in a release. “The Crunch and [owner] Howard Dolgon, along with the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County, have been, and continue to be, an excellent place to develop our prospects.

“We look forward to what will hopefully be many successful years to come on and off the ice.”

In 2012, the Lightning moved their affiliate to Syracuse from Norfolk — which is where current head coach Jon Cooper led the team to the ’12 Calder Cup. Some of the key contributors on that championship team included Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn.

Cooper then moved with the team to Syracuse, before getting promoted to the parent club in ’13. The Lightning note that since the affiliate move four years ago, 36 players have appeared with both the Crunch and the Bolts.

All told, 14 former Crunch players are currently on the Lightning’s current playoff roster.

Related:

Coyotes to purchase Springfield Falcons, move them to Tucson

Report: Sens thinking about moving AHL team to Belleville

 

Devils want 30-goal man Palmieri to ink long-term deal

New Jersey Devils' Kyle Palmieri (21) celebrates his first of two goals in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Kyle Palmieri‘s first year in New Jersey was terrific — he led the club in nearly every major offensive category — and now, the Devils are making it clear they want Palmieri for the long haul.

“I look forward to signing him to a longer term contract, if that’s possible,” GM Ray Shero said, per NJ Advance Media. “If that’s not possible he has arbitration rights. We’re going to get a contract one way or another.”

Palmieri, a Montvale native, enjoyed a breakout campaign in his first year back in New Jersey. The 25-year-old he’s notched a career-high 30 goals and 57 points this season, making good on the pedigree that saw Anaheim take him in the first round — 26th overall — of the 2009 draft.

In speaking to PHT back in January, Shero said one of the reasons he acquired Palmieri from the Ducks last summer is because of his contractual status. Palmieri’s a Group 2 free agent, meaning that — while he does have arbitration rights — he’s still a club-controlled player, so the Devils have a fair bit of authority over how the contractual situation plays out.

Shero re-explained as much this week.

“That was one of the reasons for trading for Kyle,” he said. “He’s not only a good young player but one we can hold for a couple of years.”

Palmieri’s in the last of a three-year, $4.4 million deal with a $1.46M cap hit and, per NorthJersey, he’s “open to signing a long-term extension.” It’s a given the Devils will have to fork out some cash to buy UFA years — Palmieri can become one in the summer of 2018 — and that’s something Shero has shown a willingness to do.

Last summer, Shero inked d-man Adam Larsson to a six-year, $25 million extension, his first major contract extension since coming aboard as GM.

Related: Devils will re-sign leading scorer Palmieri