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Some big decisions looming for Colorado in goal

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So, here’s what we know about the Avs’ current netminding situation:

• Veteran goalie coach Francois Allaire was dismissed yesterday, after four years on the job. The 57-year-old is perhaps best remembered in Colorado for his work with Semyon Varlamov in ’13-14, when Varlamov backstopped the Avs to the Central Division title, finishing second in Vezina and fourth in Hart Trophy voting.

• Two names have already been tied to the vacant head coaching gig: Dwayne Roloson (per the Star Tribune) and Finnish goalie guru Jussi Parkilla (per Sportsnet). Roloson, the longtime NHL netminder, spent a few years working as a goalie consultant for the Ducks. Parkilla, 40, has worked in a number of different European leagues, including the KHL and Finland’s SM-liiga.

• Per In Goal Magazine, Roloson’s connection to the Avs gig could be predicated on it being a part-time job. This would be different from Allaire, who worked in a full-time capacity, and may go back to the club’s previous model, when Kirk McLean worked as a “consultant.”

• Last month, BSN Denver reported the Avs had already decided to protect Varlamov over Calvin Pickard for the upcoming expansion draft. But that was before Pickard backstopped Canada to silver at the recently completed World Hockey Championship. Beating out Chad Johnson for the No. 1 gig, Pickard posted a .938 save percentage and 1.49 GAA in the tourney, making 40 saves in the championship game against Sweden.

Pickard, a former second-round pick, carries a $1M cap hit and has shown well in the past, posting a .922 save percentage or better in his freshman and sophomore campaigns. He’s also only 24 years old, and seems like a legitimate candidate for Vegas.

Add it all up, and GM Joe Sakic has much to ponder this summer.

It feels like Sakic’s decision making hinges on Varlamov. The GM has repeatedly said a big reason for Colorado’s awful year was losing the Russian ‘tender to injury, and that improvement will come with Varlamov returning to health, and shouldering the starter’s workload.

That could be risky. Varlamov just turned 29 and has a history of chronic hip and groin problems. He’s also got two years left on a five-year, $29.5 million deal — one that carries a hefty $5.9M average annual cap hit.

Related: ‘There’s going to be a lot of turnover’ in Colorado

Flames d-man Smid signs in Czech League

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Ladislav Smid isn’t ready to call it a career yet.

Smid, the 31-year-old defenseman that missed all of last year with a neck injury, has signed with Czech League team Liberec, the club announced on Tuesday.

He just wrapped the last of a four-year, $14 million deal with a $3.5M average annual cap hit.

Smid’s last NHL action came in ’15-16, when he appeared in 22 games for the Flames. The end of his tenure in Calgary was marked largely by injury and lineup absences, this after being acquired from Edmonton in 2013 (and scoring eight points in 73 games in his first full season with the Flames).

At one point considered a high-end prospect — the Ducks took him ninth overall in 2004 — Smid is probably best known as one of the pieces Edmonton acquired in the infamous Chris Pronger-to-Anaheim trade. He leaves North America with over 500 NHL games on his resume, and represented the Czechs at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Smith could re-up with Rangers, agent expects Gorton meeting soon

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Earlier this month, we wrote about how pending UFA d-man Brendan Smith impressed his Rangers teammates with his strong postseason play.

It was clear the Rangers wanted to keep Smith, a trade deadline pickup, in the fold. And now it sounds like the interest is mutual.

“He’s more than open to coming back,” agent Anton Thun told the New York Post. ““I’m sure I’ll be speaking to Jeff [Gorton, Rangers GM] in the next week or so and we’ll see if we can work something out.”

Smith, 28, just wrapped a two-year, $5.5 million deal with a $2.75M average annual cap hit. His stock certainly rose following the move from Detroit to New York, thanks in large part to a playoff in which he had four points through 12 games, and averaged just under 20 minutes per night.

Add it all up, and a raise is in the cards.

Helping Smith’s cause is a relatively weak crop of free-agent defensemen this summer. Kevin Shattenkirk will be the top dog, while the second tier includes under-30s like Smith, Karl Alzner and Michael Stone.

The Post estimated a $4M AAV could be on the horizon for Smith, which makes sense. Thun didn’t talk specific numbers, but did suggest the Rangers weren’t going to get any sort of discount.

“To pass up free agency,” he explained, “Brendan’s going to need a contract that reflects market value.”

 

 

WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Russia, World Hockey Championship semifinal

The World Hockey Championship features two classic rivalry matchups for its semifinal round on Saturday.

Later on, Sweden takes on Finland, because of course. The juiciest battle may just be coming up, however, as many in the hockey world still – justifiably – get excited for Canada vs. Russia.

To little surprise, both countries boast a heavy presence on the tournament’s points leaders listArtemi Panarin and Nikita Kucherov have carried over strong 2016-17 success to the tourney, while Nathan MacKinnon and Mitch Marner are leading the way for a typically loaded Canadian group.

The action is slated to begin at 9:15 a.m. ET. CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE.

Finnished: U.S. crashes out of Worlds with disappointing loss

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Team USA’s promising World Hockey Championship run came to a stunning halt on Thursday.

The Americans, who finished atop Group A on the strength of six straight victories, were dumped in the quarterfinal round courtesy a 2-0 loss to Finland — the same Finnish team that only posted two regulation wins in the preliminary phase, had a negative goal differential and barely edged out France for a playoff berth.

It was a disappointing day for Team USA, to say the least.

Failing to score a single goal might top the list of frustrations. Coming into the quarters, the U.S. was the tournament’s third highest-scoring team, finding the back of the net 31 times. That included 16 goals over the last three, which included an emotional 5-3 victory over the previously-undefeated Russians.

Johnny Gaudreau had 11 points over seven preliminary round games. Dylan Larkin had 10. But they and the rest of the Americans couldn’t solve Finnish netminder Harri Sateri — who, to be fair, wasn’t overly tested but held strong in the third. Sateri finished with 26 saves, 12 of those coming in the final frame.

On the offensive side of things, Finland was paced by goals from Mikko Rantanen and Joonas Kemppainen. Sebastian Aho assisted on Rantanen’s tally, giving him a team-high nine points on the tourney.

With the win, Finland will now take on Russia in the semifinals. The Russians dispatched of the Czech Republic in earlier quarterfinal action.

The U.S., meanwhile, will head home from the Worlds without a medal for the second straight year.