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Carolina has the ‘open for business sign out there’

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Ron Francis is ready to make more deals.

Heading into the offseason, Francis had 11 draft picks at this June’s draft, and already used one — a third-rounder — to acquire Scott Darling from Chicago.

Now, the Hurricanes GM is prepared to use more in the hopes of adding to the roster.

“We’ve got the open for business sign out there,” Francis said Wednesday, per the News & Observer. “We’re in a unique situation with the amount of picks we have and the amount of prospects we have. It’ll be interesting.

“Really what it comes down to is what teams want: Do they want a player back for the asset they don’t have to protect or are they willing to take some picks and prospects?”

It’s pretty obvious the goal for Francis and head coach Bill Peters is to get the ‘Canes back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The team has shown steady improvement over the last three years — going from 30 to 35 to 36 wins — and had a nice late push before ultimately falling short this season.

“I think we have specific needs, very specific needs,” Peters said at Carolina’s end-of-year media availability. “So as a coach I’m going to give very specific names.”

It sounds like more than just picks could be in play.

The News & Observer said the ‘Canes “aren’t agonizing” over the expansion draft, as the team has a pretty good idea of who’ll be exposed. So it could be a case of identifying the players that will remain, and seeing what assets they may fetch in return.

There’s been speculation that the Hurricanes might be willing to move Noah Hanifin. Though it might seem strange to dangle a gifted 20-year-old d-man with loads of potential, Carolina has good depth on the blueline with Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. It’s expected that prospects Roland McKeown and Haydn Fleury will push for NHL jobs next year, and there’s still ’16 first-rounder Jake Bean on the horizon.

Francis also has another asset at his disposal — cap space.

It’s what allowed the ‘Canes to snag Teuvo Teravainen from Chicago for the price of taking on Bryan Bickell‘s contract. Another similar move could very well be in the cards, especially when the NHL releases next year’s cap ceiling figure.

Sharks keep stockpiling European free agents, land Sandberg

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Doug Wilson is at it again.

On Thursday, the Sharks GM confirmed yesterday’s news — the signing of Czech d-man Radim Simek — and announced that Swedish forward Filip Sandberg had agreed to a two-year deal.

“Filip is a very creative player who sees the ice well and can create offense in limited space,” Wilson said in a release. “He plays a high-pressure, puck-pursuit game and his battle level is something we have been impressed with, especially against older players.

“We are excited for him to join our organization.”

Sandberg, 22, is fresh off a Swedish League title with HV71. The club announced Sandberg would be headed overseas last week, but didn’t divulge what team had signed him.

It wasn’t surprising NHL clubs had interest. Sandberg had a good offensive campaign in Sweden, scoring 25 points in 52 regular season games, then broke out for six goals and 14 points in 16 playoff contests.

Prior to this year, Sandberg twice represented Sweden at the World Juniors, including the 2013 tournament where the country won silver. He finished with two goals in six games playing alongside the likes of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

As for Simek, he inked a one-year deal.

“Radim is a quick transition defenseman who drives the play offensively and plays with a physical edge,” said Wilson. “We like his offensive instincts especially on special teams and think his game will translate well in North America.”

Simek just finished representing his native Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, where he had two points in eight games.

According to a report from Radio Praha, the Sharks beat out the Rangers to acquire Simek. Passed over in his draft year, the 24-year-old has spent his entire pro career with Liberec Bili Tygri.

As mentioned above, Wilson has done well finding European skaters in their early-to-mid-20s, ones that can contribute right away at the NHL level: Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, most specifically.

The hope now is that Simek and Sandberg will continue that trend.

Sweden beats Finland, will face Canada for gold at Worlds

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The nations that battled for gold in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics will also face off for gold at the World Hockey Championship.

Sweden defeated Finland 4-1 on Saturday, advancing to the gold-medal game against Canada. Sweden received goals from some familiar faces in the win: Alex Edler, John Klingberg, William Nylander and Joakim Nordstrom.

Earlier today, Canada fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Russia 4-2. More on that game here.

While Sweden and Canada joust for gold, Russia and Finland will fight for bronze.

Could the ‘Hawks be forced to move Anisimov?

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The question has become an annual tradition in Chicago:

Who are we going to lose this summer?

Seemingly every offseason, GM Stan Bowman is tasked with getting his team cap compliant, which usually means jettisoning a significant player (or two). Last year, it was Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen. The summer prior to that, it was Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad.

This year Scott Darling has already been sent to Carolina, and Bowman still has work to do. Could that include shipping out Artem Anisimov, one of the key pieces acquired in the Saad trade?

More, from the Chicago Tribune:

Anisimov has been rumored to be on the block given his reasonable contract and good production the last few years.

And the Hawks may believe they have potential second-line centers in Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero to play between Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.

Anisimov, who turns 29 this month, just wrapped the first of a five-year, $22.75 million deal with a $4.55M average annual cap hit. That’s pretty good value for a guy that’s thrived offensively next to Kane and Panarin — this year, Anisimov scored a career-best 45 points, despite only playing in 64 games.

Had he stayed healthy and played all 82, he’s looking at close to 60 points.

Anisimov has a no-movement clause and, beginning in ’18-19, a modified no-trade (in which he can list up to 10 teams he can be traded to).

There have been other options floated in Chicago, of course. Many have pointed to Marcus Kruger — who makes $3.08M annually — as a candidate to be moved, and there’s been talk about trying to offload the remainder of Marian Hossa‘s contract (which runs through 2021).

The catch is that Anisimov would likely net a much higher return than Kruger or Hossa. Centers of his caliber, and with his cap hit, have pretty good value across the league. Getting something quality in return could be a necessity for Bowman, who vowed to make the team better after a disappointing playoff exit.

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.