Report: Lemieux, Crosby’s play to save the season

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When the player-owner meetings started on Tuesday, skepticism was quickly replaced by cautious optimism. The week still ended with disappointment, but perhaps months from now it will be seen as one of the key events that pushed the NHL and union towards a new CBA.

Even if that doesn’t prove to be the case, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests that Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux, superstar Sidney Crosby, and NHL agent Pat Brisson were key players in the recent attempt to save the season.

Brisson is a longtime friend of Lemieux and represents Crosby and has reportedly kept in contact with both of them.

“We have been talking for a long time about what we can do to get the league back. Mario, myself, we could not sit back and watch without trying something,” Brisson said. “The timing had to be on our side.”

That time was around Thanksgiving when Brisson reached out to Lemieux.

“We talked, and we agreed that maybe now we should try something,” Brisson said. “What was our choice, to sit back and watch the season die?”

So Lemieux reportedly got in touch with fellow Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle and from there the Penguins reached out to other owners. Burkle also contacted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to inform him that he and other moderate owners wanted a seat at the negotiating table.

On the other end, Crosby was supportive of the notion of a player-owner meeting and was one of the NHL’s representatives when the talks took place.

During Tuesday’s CBA discussions, Crosby and Burkle were described as the “voices of reason” by the Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi.

Of course, it remains to be seen if we are truly closer to a deal. When the talks blew up on Thursday, Bettman said that the NHL’s recent compromises and the Make Whole proposal were off the table. The two sides also haven’t met since, although they have kept in touch.

On top of that, Crosby didn’t sound like a guy who had won anything after the talks. He recently discussed the possibility of him playing elsewhere because “this stuff is getting ridiculous.” Crosby also thinks that it will be hard to “get guys’ trust back after that.”

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.