Chicago Blackhawks

Raanta denies Finnish report: ‘I have never said anything like that’

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Former Blackhawks’ goaltender Antti Raanta refuted a report by Ilta-Sanomat, which said he was cheering against Chicago during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

According to the Finnish newspaper, Raanta had hoped the Nashville Predators would sweep the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

“With fingers crossed I hoped (Nashville) would beat us in four so I could get back to Finland sooner. I was so pissed,” Raanta said per Vesa Rantanen.

When reached by Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, Raanta denied the comments.

“I have never said anything like that,” he said.

The 26-year-old appeared in 14 games with the Blackhawks last season posting a 7-4-1 record to go along with a 2.39 G.A.A. and a .918 save percentage. Raanta was demoted to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in favor of Scott Darling in February.

Instead of staying with the IceHogs during the Calder Cup playoffs, Chicago recalled Raanta to be the club’s third string goaltender.

“I’m not that kind of guy that I would say something like that, and hope my team to lose, even if I’m not paying goalie,” Raanta said.

Chicago dealt Raanta to the New York Rangers in June.

For those wondering, the Rangers open their regular season schedule on Oct. 7 in Chicago.

Blackhawks sign Nordstrom to a one-year deal

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The Chicago Blackhawks have signed restricted free agent forward Joakim Nordstrom to a one-year contract, the club announced on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old appeared in 38 games with the ‘Hawks last season registering three assists. Nordstrom also played in three postseason games. In 23 games with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs last season, Nordstrom scored nine goals and 16 points.

Originally a third-round pick of the Blackhawks (90th overall) in 2010, Nordstrom has appeared in 54 career NHL games with Chicago scoring one goal and five assists.

According to Generalfanager.com, the Blackhawks had $231, 540 in cap space available prior to the Nordstrom signing. Marcus Kruger remains the lone Blackhawks’ restricted free agent unsigned.

Related: Ex-‘Hawks goalie Raanta tees off on former club

Ex-‘Hawks goalie Raanta tees off on former club

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Former Chicago netminder Antti Raanta — traded to the Rangers at the draft after losing his backup gig to Scott Darling — was apparently none too pleased with how his time as a Blackhawk ended.

From Finnish news outlet Ilta-Sanomat:

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Despite posting relatively solid numbers over parts of two seasons with Chicago — 34-20-9, .912 save percentage, 2.41 GAA — Raanta fell out of favor with head coach Joel Quenneville last year, and was eventually supplanted by Darling, who briefly took over the No. 1 gig during the playoffs.

In that same Ilta-Sanomat interview, Raanta touched on his relationship with coach Q.

From Puck Daddy:

According to Raanta, Blackhawks were suffering of weak team spirit and head coach Joel Quenneville didn’t seem to like him. 

“I noticed that coach didn’t like me, in that position it is pretty difficult to fight the windmills,” Raanta said.

Last season, Raanta was demoted to AHL Rockford in February after allowing two goals on 16 shots in a loss to the Bruins, Chicago’s fifth loss in seven games on an eight-game homestand.

Darling was promoted, and the B’s game proved be Raanta’s last in a ‘Hawks uniform.

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Crosby, Toews, Weber, Price lead pack in NHL 16’s ratings

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After unveiling the top 10 goaltenders for the upcoming video game NHL 16, EA Sports has done the same for every other position.

As was the case last season, Sidney Crosby has the highest overall rating at 96, but there are some alterations after that. In 2015, Steven Stamkos ranked second overall with a 93 rating and he kept that rating for 2015-16, but he’s been leapfrogged by Jonathan Toews (94), Shea Weber (94), and Carey Price (94).

Pavel Datsyuk (93) and John Tavares (92) round out the top-five among centers. Both Detroit and Pittsburgh have two players in the top-10 with Henrik Zetterberg (92) and Evgeni Malkin (92) securing eighth and sixth place respectively.

As previously established, Weber leads the pack among defensemen and is followed by Duncan Keith (93), Drew Doughty (93), Ryan Suter (93), and Erik Karlsson (91). Nashville is the only team with two defensemen in the top-10 as Roman Josi (90) ranks ninth.

When it comes to right wingers, Corey Perry (92) got the top position, although he’s closely followed by Patrick Kane (92). Vladimir Tarasenko (91), Jakub Voracek (90), and Marian Hossa (90) make up the remainder of the top-five. Phil Kessel, who was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh over the summer, saw his rating slip from 90 in 2014-15 to 89 following a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs.

When it comes to left wingers, it won’t surprise many to learn that Alex Ovechkin secured the top rating at 93. He’s followed by Jamie Benn (92), Taylor Hall (90), Zach Parise (90), and Max Pacioretty (89). The Dallas Stars’ acquisition of Patrick Sharp means that they now have two players in the top-10 as Sharp took the final place on that list with his 89 rating.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe. If you want to see each position’s top-10 list, you can view them here.

Kings, Kopitar ‘not even in the ballpark’ on new contract

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Anze Kopitar is heading into the last year of his deal, and eligible to sign an extension at any time.

Just don’t expect that “any time” to be “anytime soon.”

From LA Kings Insider:

The Kings and Kopitar are are “not even in the ballpark” in their discussions, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi told LA Kings Insider over email when asked whether the two sides were “close” to reaching an agreement.

Kopitar, 28, is making $6.8 million annually on his current deal, which expires next July. Given his status as one of the NHL’s elite centers, it would stand to reason his camp’s initial ask is sky-high; he’s big, he’s strong, he’s won a pair of Stanley Cups, been a Selke finalist two years running, topped 60 points in each of the last two seasons and, for his career, has 60 points in 70 playoff games.

Bottom line? Kopitar is going to get paid.

The question is how much.

One would think the bar’s been set by Chicago’s Jonathan Toews who, starting next year, will pull down $10.5 million annually. Another comparable would be Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, who pulls in $9.5M per season.

The hangup, of course, is that Los Angeles might not have a ton of financial flexibility in the future. Dustin Brown’s deal, a $5.875M cap hit that runs through 2022, gets more onerous by the day and there’s still no clear picture if the termination of Mike Richards’ contract will hold up after the NHLPA’s grievance is heard.

Still, it’s hard — impossible even — to envision a scenario where Kopitar doesn’t get extended. Top-line centers are some of the most coveted entities in the NHL and, in a Western Conference featuring the likes of Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and Tyler Seguin, Kopitar carries immense value.

The real question now, it seems, is if the Kings and Kopitar can avoid the distraction of entering the season without a new deal in place.