Rangers to put Staal on LTIR, gain cap space

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Interesting bit of news from the New York Post’s Larry Brooks about some salary cap finagling in the Big Apple. According to Brooks, the Rangers have a series of moves in place to gain an additional $3.975 million of cap space — by putting assistant captain Marc Staal on Long Term Injury Reserve.

It’s believed once the Rangers make the necessary moves to come as close to possible to the cap — including the potential recall of Mats Zuccarello from the AHL Whale in the aftermath of the groin injury suffered by Wojtek Wolski in the first period of last night’s 2-1 shootout victory over the Ducks — they will then sign and register the contract of free-agent defenseman Anton Stralman, who has agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $900,000.

Once that’s all done, New York will reportedly put Staal on LTIR (which he already qualifies for, having been sidelined for at least 10 games and/or 24 days.) The key for the Rangers is getting as close to the $64.3-million cap as possible before putting Staal on LTIR, because they can only gain the difference between Staal’s cap hit and the amount of cap space available at the time he goes on. Isn’t the CBA fun?

Brooks also notes that Staal’s been plagued by headaches since suffering a concussion on Feb. 22 and that head coach John Tortorella says his status remains unchanged.

So without getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s drum up a trade rumor!

Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter (an impending UFA) is making $3.5-million this season. With the Preds breaking the bank to extend Pekka Rinne (likely putting Shea Weber next on the “to do” list), Suter could be made available. His agent, Neil Sheehy, will resume contract talks with Preds GM David Poile in the coming weeks, but note what ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun wrote today:

“If the Preds don’t have Suter locked up as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches, Poile will have a mighty difficult decision to make. He didn’t move pending UFA Dan Hamhuis a few years back and saw him walk away to Vancouver in the summer. If the Preds aren’t in a playoff spot Feb 27, it’s a no-brainer: You move Suter and maximize his asset value.”

Potential hiccups:

1) Poile’s made it clear he wants to keep Rinne, Weber and Suter.

2) Even if Nashville can’t get Suter signed, they might be in a playoff spot/no position to trade him.

3) LeBrun suggests Suter could be looking for “at least $6.5 million” on a new deal, which could be way out of New York’s wheelhouse (the Rangers will already have three players making $6.5-million-plus next year: Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist.)

4) New York might not even want Suter.

5) This may be based entirely on the fact I really like Suter and would want him on my team.

So there definitely are issues with what’s proposed above.

But hey, it’s always fun to speculate.

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.