Thrashers updates: Press conference to come soon, realignment might wait until 2012

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Again, it seems like it’s just a matter of time until the Atlanta Thrashers will relocate to Winnipeg. Still, there are some details to hash out. Here are some hazy updates about the situation from Tuesday’s round of news.

  • There are differing viewpoints regarding the date for an official announcement about the relocation.

On one hand, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said that an announcement should come before the end of this week. Meanwhile, The Globe & Mail – aka the Canadian newspaper that originally indicated an announcement would be made today – indicated that an announcement might not be made until Memorial Day (Monday, May 30). It might seem like a formality, but scheduling reasons add urgency to the proceedings.

  • Speaking of which, SB Nation Atlanta indicates that the NHL might not realign its divisions until the 2012-13 season. That might make sense if it takes a while to hash out the smaller details of the Thrashers-to-Winnipeg deal, but it might also make it a tough season for the “Winnipeg Thrashers” and the rest of the Southeast Division.

Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck compared the combined travel distance teams went through during the 2010-11 season versus what it would have been like if Atlanta’s games were played in Winnipeg instead. Hoag found that the “Winnipeg Thrashers” would have traveled about 66,300 miles instead of 44,000 in the same schedule, which would be 10,000 more than any team went through in the previous three seasons.

While the NHL’s schedule makers will likely attempt to ease some of their traveling burden for the 2011-12 season, the relocated Thrashers team could have the deck stacked against them in a serious way. One could imagine some lengthy road trips through the Southeast Division to at least limit the amount of times they need to make those big trips.

If you want to read more on the subject of realignment, check out PHT’s take along with which team our readers think might find themselves in a new division once realignment takes place.

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Naturally, we’ll keep you up to date regarding all the pertinent issues surrounding the likely relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers. Stay tuned.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk 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.

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.