Minnesota Wild

Under Pressure: Roberto Luongo

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Did you know that 36-year-old Roberto Luongo is now the second-oldest goalie in the NHL?

It’s true. The only one who’s older and still under contract is Minnesota’s 37-year-old Niklas Backstrom.

Luongo, of course, is very much under contract. He’s signed through 2021-22, to one of those front-loaded, back-diving deals they don’t allow anymore.

But you can forget the cap-recapture consequences for now, because Luongo is also coming off an excellent season, one in which he started 61 games for the Panthers and registered a .921 save percentage. Which is to say, he didn’t look like a guy on the verge of retirement.

Coach Gerard Gallant called Luongo “our MVP, our best player most nights.”

If Florida is to take a run at a playoff spot in 2015-16, Luongo will, in all likelihood, need to be just as good. The Panthers’ backup is Al Montoya, the 30-year-old who struggled last season (.892 SV%) and has just 88 NHL starts with four different teams to his name.

And make no mistake, the Panthers have their eyes on a playoff spot. They made a late surge last season after acquiring Jaromir Jagr, only to fall a few points short.

“We went toe-to-toe with everybody this year,” Luongo said at season’s end, per FOX Sports Florida. “The good teams, we played them well and we won some games. It’s just a matter of growing as a team, getting a bit more experience and taking the next step.

“We took a huge step this year, but we fell a little bit short. It’s really a matter of putting it all together next year.”

Fedotenko eyeing a return to the NHL

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Ruslan Fedotenko still has a desire to get back to the NHL.

The 36-year-old Ukrainian hasn’t played in the NHL since appearing in 47 games with the Philadelphia Flyers during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

After spending the 2013-14 season in the KHL, Fedotenko was a camp invite with the New Jersey Devils last year, but failed to turn the tryout into a contract.

In January, he signed a tryout contract with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League and scored three goals in 13 games with the Minnesota affiliate.

Fedotenko played well enough during his brief AHL stint to earn a one-year, two-way deal with the Wild worth $600,000 at the NHL level and $250,000 in the AHL for the upcoming season.

“I still feel pretty good and physically fit,” Fedotenko told The Des Moines Register. “At some point, when I realize I am getting too old or too slow and I cannot help the team, then I think I need to kind of look in the mirror and say, ‘Maybe, that’s enough.’

“I still have that passion to win another Cup.”

In parts of 12 NHL seasons Fedotenko, who won Stanley Cups with Tampa Bay (2004) and Pittsburgh (2009) has 173 goals and 366 points while appearing in 863 games.

Vanek resumes skating following hernia surgery

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Minnesota’s Thomas Vanek is feeling good after undergoing hernia surgery in June, according to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo. The 31-year-old forward has resumed skating and is expected to be ready for training camp.

The injury was bothering Vanek for a lot of the second half of the 2014-15 campaign, according to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. Despite that, Vanek was fairly consistent in the regular season in terms of his offensive production.

He had 21 goals and 52 points in 80 games in 2014-15, with 30 of his points coming in his final 45 contests. He also never had a scoring slump last more than four games. In the playoffs, he registered four assists in 10 contests.

That was the first season of Vanek’s three-year, $19.5 million contract with Minnesota.

Erik Haula signs two-year extension with Wild

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Erik Haula and the Minnesota Wild couldn’t agree to terms before their arbitration hearing on Friday, but they have managed to come to a settlement before the arbitrator was forced to pass judgment.

The Wild announced that they have signed Haula to a two-year contract. They didn’t reveal the financial terms of the deal, but it’s a two-year, $2 million contract, according to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.

Haula was asking for $1.2 million in arbitration. Minnesota countered at $775K, which would have been a pay cut from his salary of $900K in 2014-15.

The 24-year-old forward had seven goals and 14 points in 72 contests last season. He only averaged 12:09 minutes of ice time per game, but he was leaned on heavily in shorthanded situations on a team that killed a league-best 86.3% of its penalties.

Owner Pegula: Sabres have gone through ‘two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had’

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Statistically speaking, the last two seasons have been among the worst in Buffalo’s history, but Sabres owner Terry Pegula sees great value in those painful years. In fact, he would list them as “two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had,” per the Associated Press.

Obviously, those losing records allowed the Sabres to draft second overall in back-to-back years (having lost the draft lottery both times). They used those picks to select Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, but general manager Tim Murray was also able to get plenty of other pieces for the rebuild over that span. He also acquired the likes of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, and Robin Lehner in trades while moving other players like Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek to get future assets, including first round picks.

A couple rough seasons in the service of a long-term goal can make sense, but the success of the Sabres’ rebuilding effort will be measured by how they do going forward. They don’t have to look any further than the Edmonton Oilers to know how hard it can be to transition from a rebuilding phase to a competitive one. Having a generational talent like Eichel on the roster certainly helps, but he and the Sabres have a lot to prove.

Given that, we can’t call the last two seasons successful for Buffalo in terms of on-ice accomplishments, we’ll have to let history judge if the off-ice moves are as beneficial as Sabres fans hope.

Related: Gionta: Sabres’ offseason ‘excites guys in the locker room’