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Canucks sign free agent defenseman Philip Holm to one-year deal

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The Vancouver Canucks announced on Friday that they have signed free agent defenseman Philip Holm to a one-year, entry-level contract.

Before signing with the Canucks Holm had been rumored to be on the verge of joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that obviously did not come together.

“Philip is a mobile, two-way defenseman who adds depth to our blue line,” said Canucks general manager Jim Benning in a statement released by the team. “He made strides in his development last season with Vaxjo and played a strong series with Sweden at the World Championships We’re pleased to welcome him to the Canucks organization.”

The 25-year-old Holm has spent the past seven seasons playing professionally in Sweden for Vaxjo HC and Djurgardens IF.

He is regarded as a smooth skating, puck-moving defenseman and had a pretty strong season for Vaxjo this past year, scoring four goals and adding 17 assists in 52 games. He was the top-scoring defenseman on the team.

He also had three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games for Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships. Sweden won the Gold Medal at the tournament by defeating Canada in the championship game.

The Canucks already have six defensemen under contract for 2017-18 (and they do not seem to be in a hurry to trade any of them) but it was a unit that clearly needs an upgrade, so Holm should be an opportunity to make an impact next season.

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.

Bishop has ‘good relationship’ with Hitch, and that’s important

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Just hours after being acquired by Dallas, Ben Bishop said he was excited to join a team that reminded him of his old Tampa Bay squad.

But there was another reason for his excitement — the opportunity to reunite with Ken Hitchcock.

From the Dallas Morning-News:

Bishop lives in St. Louis in the offseason and often worked out with the Blues before training camp started. He said he knows Hitchcock pretty well and likes how he coaches.

“I think we have a good relationship, and I know his teams in St. Louis were tough to play against,” Bishop said.

Bishop was a Blues farmhand when Hitchcock took over from Davis Payne in 2011. He never actually played a game under Hitch, but was recalled in a backup capacity shortly before getting traded to Ottawa.

To hear talk of a good goalie relationship in St. Louis is surprising. Because during Hitch’s six years on the job, there was mostly drama.

Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen were all tasked with the starting gig at some point during his tenure, and here are just a few of the PHT headlines that came from it:

St. Louis Drama: Hitchcock and Halak ended season feuding

Hitch addresses goalie situation after odd incident

Hitchcock on Elliott: ‘He has to play better’

Hitchcock says Allen needs to ‘man up and get better’

Some suggested the biggest problem was St. Louis’ lack of a clear-cut No. 1 goalie, which GM Doug Armstrong (seemingly) remedied by trading Elliott to Calgary, then anointing Allen as “the guy” with a four-year, $17.4 million deal.

Yet even with Allen locked in, the goalie problems continued. They ended when Hitchcock was fired in February.

Not long after the dismissal, Allen had some pretty interesting remarks about his relationship with his former head coach.

“I didn’t have a lot of communication with Hitch,” he told CBC. “I think you need to communicate. I like to know if [the coach] has a problem [with my play]. If you [want to] change something, come talk to me.

“It’s the easiest solution.”

So, back to Dallas.

There are plenty of reasons for optimism, but also plenty that still needs to get sorted. GM Jim Nill has to sign Bishop, and decide which of his two incumbents — Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi — will be cut loose.

One thing is for certain, though: Bishop is excited to work with Hitchcock, and vice versa.

“He really makes it hard for a shooter to see any openings,” Hitch said. “I think you really have to work to score on him.”

Canucks re-sign towering d-man Pedan to one-year, two-way deal

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Last month, the Canucks lost Nikita Tryamkin as he returned to Russia and the KHL.

On Wednesday, they managed to hold onto another towering defenseman in their organization, signing Andrey Pedan to a one-year, two-way contract extension.

The 23-year-old Pedan was placed on waivers last October and spent all of last season in the minors, playing 52 games with five goals, 10 points and 100 penalty minutes for the Utica Comets, coached by Travis Green, who was recently promoted to the head coaching position in Vancouver.

“Andrey had a good season in Utica and we’re pleased to re-sign him,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning in a statement. “He adds depth to our defense and his speed, size and physicality gives our coaching staff more options to compete every night.”

With the loss of Tryamkin and Philip Larsen to the KHL, and the potential for other spots on the blue line to open up through the expansion draft or off-season trades, the six-foot-five-inch, 213-pound Pedan should get an opportunity to try to land a roster spot when the rebuilding Canucks begin next season.

Pedan played 13 games for the Canucks in 2015-16. He certainly has a familiarity with Green, who sees NHL potential in the left-shooting blue liner.

After locking up Zaitsev, Leafs hoping to ‘add’ to defense

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Add the Toronto Maple Leafs to the list of teams that would like to bolster their defense this offseason.

Yesterday, the Leafs locked up Nikita Zaitsev on a seven-year deal. They’ve also got Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner back there.

Another top-four d-man would help.

“We certainly have three individuals under contract — in Gardiner, Rielly and Zaitsev right now — that bring a certain style and certain dimension, and we have a couple of younger players, and we have a couple of free agents that we have to make decisions on,” GM Lou Lamoriello said, per NHL.com. “But I think we have to add to that group, and not make decisions just for simply adding. They have to be people who come in and help.”

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, there are newspaper columns encouraging the Canucks to shop Chris Tanev.

Or perhaps Carolina would be a good place for the Leafs to look. There’s been speculation that the Hurricanes might be willing to move Noah Hanifin.

Or maybe the expansion draft will shake something loose on another team.

But for a legitimate top-four defenseman, preferably a right shot, the Leafs will have to pay up. They’ll likely be asked to part with William Nylander. Assuming that’s a non-starter, they could always counter with Kasperi Kapanen or Carl Grundstrom, but they’d probably have to sweeten it with something else.

Again, Toronto isn’t alone in wanting to bolster its back end. Buffalo and Colorado are even more desperate to do so.

And we all know the price the Oilers paid to get Adam Larsson last summer.

Related: Are the Leafs getting into ‘go for it’ territory?