Columnist wonders if Bettman warned Burke about lengthy lockout

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Did Gary Bettman give his old pal (and Toronto Maple Leafs GM) Brian Burke a heads up about the lockout canceling a full season?

Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons asks that question while reviewing a quiet offseason for the Leafs:

In the most inactive summer of Brian Burke’s time running the Maple Leafs, you have to wonder: What did his friend, Gary Bettman, tell him about the coming season?

And can Burke’s quiet approach to making over the Leafs be attributed in any way to a belief there will not be an NHL season?

Burke never went out and acquired the veteran goaltender he said he wasn’t going to get at the end of last season. He wasn’t in any way aggressive in the free agent market, which is understandable considering the mistakes made in the past. He never found the first-line centre he hoped for — and has this odd belief that James van Riemsdyk, a winger with talent and marginal success, can be that centre.

Naturally, there’s an easy counterargument for that: perhaps Burke didn’t identify a No. 1 center or veteran netminder in free agency.

(Few would venture that there were many – if any – free agents who met either description this past summer. Then again, this is Toronto.)

Simmons also points out that the team isn’t paying for the final season of problematic contract’s such as Tim Connolly’s deal.

A retort for that is simple as well; wouldn’t Burke need to see the lockout coming years ahead of time to plan such a caper? Similarly, wouldn’t it be a sign of coherent management if a GM at least accounted for a possible lockout?

It’s tough to imagine the league giving one GM a head’s up – even of a franchise as crucial as the Maple Leafs. Do you think Simmons might be onto something, though?

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.