Sens GM Bryan Murray tries to inspire team, threatens trades to Minnesota

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Coaches and executives have a funny way of going about trying to inspire players to perform better on the ice. Recently, Wild head coach Todd Richards put his team through a bag skate reminiscent of what Herb Brooks put the 1980 US Olympic Team through after an uninspiring performance in a warm-up game before the Olympics. In the case of Senators GM Bryan Murray, he’s opted to do things a little different.

While coach Cory Clouston gave the Senators a bag skate of their own, Murray decided to go another route about solving the Senators early woes. Rather than threatening their playing time or barking about demotions, Murray discussed a more intriguing way to punish players: by trading them to Minnesota to see what a real bag skate is like.

“It’s up to all of us (to improve things) — this is a team,” Murray said. “It’s not the coaches or players only, it’s me doing anything I can.

“I’ve talked to a number of people, as I said,” he went on. “I talked to (Minnesota Wild general manager) Chuck Fletcher for a long time yesterday and said, ‘can I help you, you help me’ type of thing, so we’re talking to management of other teams, trying to find if there is a need and a possibility of making a move.

“That’s not always the solution, but I think it’s something that maybe sends a little message to our players, so we will continue to pursue something.”

Let’s take a minute out to look at this logically. GMs never talk about trades they’re going to make and they most certainly never say who they’re trying to make a deal with. It causes too much trouble and having reporters call you every 10 minutes to see what’s going on can get a little bit annoying for a GM to handle. While Murray and Fletcher do have a history together, as Murray hired Fletcher during his days in both Anaheim and Florida, the chances of one or both of them discussing actual trade talks out in the open like this are virtually nil.

Secondly, what exactly is Murray trying to say here about Minnesota? Is he just using the Wild as an example because a close colleague of his is there? Yeah, probably, but we’re here to blow things out of proportion and get a little crazy about things. Murray threatening to send players who aren’t cutting it to Minnesota is somewhat interesting as perhaps in the back of his mind there’s that whole, “Well, the Wild made a deal with Montreal that worked well for both sides” mentality going on here. That too seems a bit outrageous.

The fact is, Murray wants to get people in the media talking and, best of all, get his players motivated to do something more to stay in Ottawa. Of course, if the players would rather play anywhere else other than Ottawa, promising to do something to get them out of town is the kind of God-send they’re looking for.

That said, dialing down the rhetoric might not be the worst idea. The Sens are off to a bad start at 1-4-1 to begin the season and starting goalie Pascal Leclaire is out with an injury. The Senators were able to do well with injuries last year and to this point they haven’t been as successful. Banking on good fortune and good play forever has risks like that and for now, the Senators don’t have much of either going for them. A little bit more hard work and a little less goofy whimsy from the GM could help them out a little more.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.