Anaheim Ducks

‘It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel’

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For all the criticisms of Phil Kessel — and we’re not saying they’re all without merit — here are some facts:

— He has 247 goals in 668 career NHL games. Among active players, that’s the 29th-most goals. And he’s only 27.

— Over the last five seasons, only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, and Corey Perry have scored more goals than Kessel. And Kessel’s center has mostly been Tyler Bozak. In Pittsburgh, it’ll be Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

That’s why Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is excited to have acquired Kessel, whom he considers “right there” in a class with Ovechkin and Stamkos.

“It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel,” Rutherford told TSN.

Not only did Rutherford get the player he wanted without giving up Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta, two young defensemen the Pens will need even more now, he convinced the Leafs to eat $1.25 million per year of Kessel’s salary.

Without that concession by the Leafs, the deal couldn’t have happened, Rutherford said, noting that the Penguins already have Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury signed to big, long-term contracts.

Oh, and Rutherford isn’t done yet. He still hopes to add another winger, as well as a fourth-line center.

After Preds buyout, Stalberg signs one-year, $1.1M deal with Rangers

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New York traded away speedy Swedish forward Carl Hagelin at the NHL Entry Draft.

On Wednesday, they signed speedy Swedish forward Viktor Stalberg.

A bit of a stretch? Sure, but there’s definitely something to it — the Rangers added an older, cheaper winger that can skate in Stalberg, who agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million pact just days after getting bought out by the Predators.

The former Blackhawk failed to live up to expectations in Nashville after signing a four-year, $12 million deal in the summer of ’13. He spent time in AHL Milwaukee last season, though part of that was rehabbing from injury; when up with the Preds, Stalberg had decent production — 10 points in 25 games — and was a pretty useful contributor in the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Chicago, finishing with three points in six contests.

For New York, the contract is a low-cost, low-risk move, and those are the types of deals the Rangers need to take on as they’re up against it in terms of the salary cap. New deals are still needed for the likes of Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller, Emerson Etem and Jesper Fast.

Avs sign ‘versatile, dependable’ Comeau to three-year, $7.2M deal

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The Colorado Avalanche continued to stay busy on Wednesday — shortly after signing veteran d-man Francois Beauchemin, they agreed to a three-year, $7.2 million deal with former Pens forward Blake Comeau.

From the team:

Comeau, 29, spent this past season with the Pittsburgh Penguins where he recorded 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points in 61 games. The Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, native shared the team lead with five game-winning goals, which included two overtime winners.

All 16 of his tallies came at even strength, ranking fourth on the Penguins. Comeau finished second on the team with 188 hits.

“Blake is a versatile forward who is dependable and can be used in all situations,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President/General Manager Joe Sakic said in a statement. “He will add not only scoring but also some grit to our lineup as well.”

Previously, Comeau had expressed an interest in staying with Pittsburgh after the club signed him to a one-year, $700,000 deal last July.

“[Blake] is definitely interested in the possibility of returning to Pittsburgh,” Kurt Overhardt told PHT on Thursday. “It’s our goal to try and work something out, but of course we always have July 1 pending.”

Ducks quickly ink Bieksa to two-year, $8M extension

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The Anaheim Ducks didn’t waste any time locking in Kevin Bieksa.

Acquired yesterday from Vancouver in exchange for a 2016 second-round pick, Bieksa today agreed to a two-year, $8 million extension with the Ducks — keeping him in Anaheim through 2018.

The 34-year-old has one year left on his current deal (at $4.6M per), so this latest extension won’t kick in until the 2016-17 campaign. While the new deal is a slight pay cut, it’s still a pretty healthy salary for a guy that looked to be slowing down last season, especially in Vancouver’s opening-round playoff loss to Calgary.

Still, Bieksa can be an effective player both offensively and defensively when healthy, and he did miss extensive time last year to a broken hand. He’ll also add some veteran know-how and grit to the Anaheim blueline, especially with Francois Beauchemin likely to sign elsewhere in free agency.

The move to Anaheim will, as has been mentioned earlier, re-united him with former Canucks teammate and roommate Ryan Kesler.

PHT Morning Skate: Penguins quest for top-six forward continues into UFA fenzy

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

With the free agent period about to begin, what players are the Pittsburgh Penguins likely to target to bolster their top two lines? (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The Philadelphia Flyers will hold Kimmo Timonen’s retirement ceremony on Oct. 14 when they host the Chicago Blackhawks. (Flyers.nhl.com)

Here’s a thorough look at the situation in Buffalo after GM Tim Murray’s flurry of moves. (Puck Daddy)

Expectations are high for Avalanche GM Joe Sakic going into the free agent frenzy. (Denver Post)

Calgary has Dougie Hamilton locked up, so now the focus will shift back to re-signing Mark Giordano. (Calgary Sun)

Could Matt Beleskey end up with Toronto? (Toronto Sun)