True North confirms Rick Dudley will not be retained as GM of Winnipeg team

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True North’s eventual purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers is set to come with big changes to the front office staff and the first step in that process is reportedly set to happen.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that general manager Rick Dudley will not be kept on in that position when the team moves to Winnipeg. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo followed that up finding out that Dudley’s contract, which runs for the next four years, will be bought out and paid over the next eight years and puts Dudley back on the market as a free agent of sorts for other organizations.

On Sunday morning, True North confirmed these reports and did not say who would be representing the team at the GM meetings on Wednesday in Boston at the Stanley Cup finals.

The decision by True North to go away from Dudley isn’t too shocking as this is customary for owners to want their own people on the job, but considering Dudley’s track record in the NHL and his ability in helping get the Thrashers on the road to recovery this past season it’s a curious choice nonetheless for the new owners. Of course, they may already have a guy they’re counting on to step in and are familiar with in the form of Blackhawks assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

We speculated here the other day about True North’s interest in Cheveldayoff and according to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, he very well could be the man they’re after as both True North’s Mark Chipman and Craig Heisinger have ties to him already.

Both Chipman and Heisinger have a relationship with Cheveldayoff that dates back to the International Hockey League and Heisinger was actually the equipment manager for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League when Cheveldayoff was playing junior hockey.

Cheveldayoff’s record with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL is outstanding and the added bonus of that being the Thrashers minor league team helps add to the allure as he’d have a great idea already of what he’s working with. The catch here with figuring out who the GM is in Winnipeg ties into what happens with other members of the organization from the front office to the scouts to the coaches and on down to the players. These are key choices for the fledgling ownership group and they have to do what’s right right off the bat. Making bad decisions now means the team gets off on the wrong foot and then things can get ugly moving into the future.

While losing Dudley can be seen as questionable, as long as they’re bringing in other good, smart people they’ll be all right. Of course, if and when Dudley moves on to another position and if he has great success there people will be keeping close tabs on how Winnipeg does with the brain trust they’ve chosen.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

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.