NHL '11 news: GM Mode will feature restricted free agency, offer sheets, qualifying offers

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Video games will never be able to truly duplicate what it’s like to be an NHL player or an NHL general manager. Sure, you can make a controller that mimics your movements and simulate the Scouting Combine experience, but human factors are often very difficult to translate.

Still, it’s fun to play general manager even if its a rudimentary version of the real-life job, so every accurate detail is greatly appreciated. An EA Sports programmer wrote today that NHL ’11 will feature restricted free agency after years of treating every player like an unrestricted free agent.

The game’s off-season mode will factor in qualifying offers and offer sheets as well (though I haven’t heard any discussion of the added difficulty level of dealing with Dale Tallon’s fax machine). One simple-yet-unprecedented tweak is that the game will now feature more than the next year’s worth of draft picks.

We now track 6 years of Draft Picks in NHL 11, so the user can offer/trade draft picks in future years (not just ‘this year’s picks) when it comes to completing a deal or an offer sheet. Because of changes to how we’ve done our Rookie Generation engine this year, teams will have a fairly accurate idea of what type of quality of player that can be expected to be received via a pick that is 4 or 5 years out. This is a significant change to our draft pick engine from the past, as before, there was a disconnect between the perceived value of a pick, and the rookie that would be drafted in that position. This year, we have a much stronger correlation between picks and the rookies that will eventually be ‘cashed in’ for them. Generally, even with this extra awareness, you’ll find that CPU teams will not be as anxious to trade for picks several years out.

One of the ways you can “exploit” video game general managers is by trading first round draft picks and lesser players to get stars in deals that would never happen in reality (Daryl Sutter notwithstanding), so any increase in accuracy would also be welcome.

Playing virtual general manager can often be almost as fun as playing the games themselves, so I – for one – am excited about these alterations. Stay tuned for more news on NHL ’11 and other hockey video games going forward.

(H/T to Sean Leahy.)

Blackhawks F Katchouk will be sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced Sunday.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.