Leonsis: Capitals have deepest defense since he became owner

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Ted Leonsis has been a part of the Washington Capitals’ ownership group since 1999, and if you ask him, this is the deepest defense he’s ever seen since taking over the franchise.

He pumped up that group and also the sense of unity in the newly revamped front office in a press conference on Saturday, as the Washington Post reports.

“Right now, I think this is the deepest defensive corps that we’ve had since I’ve owned the team,” Leonsis said. “We have a lot of depth and we needed that just to settle things down in the back. We certainly needed help on our penalty kill. And I think the better, more experienced the defense is, the better the goaltending is. I think they go hand in hand. Free agency, the upside on free agency is that you get to add players to the team without giving up an asset.”

From a payroll standpoint, it’s easy to see where Leonsis is coming from. As of this writing, the Capitals employ four defensemen who carry higher combined cap hits than Braden Holtby and Justin Peters along with one (Karl Alzner) who equals their combined $2.8 million cap hit.

It’s plausible that one or more blueliner might be moved at some point, but Cap Geek estimates that a whopping $28.73 million of cap space is allocated to the Capitals’ blue line in 2014-15.

(Despite taking up a greater number of roster spots, their forward group makes less than $7 million more … and that’s with Alex Ovechkin’s hefty $9.54 million mark.)

For all the talk about new head coach Barry Trotz’s open-mindedness toward offense, this team seems to be shaping up in his defense-first image. Actually, that segues nicely to the other element Leonsis seems to crow about: a unified vision.

” … You need to be totally in sync. With the players that we signed, the players that we draft, you have to be in total sync,” Leonsis said. “So far, so good on that. I think that’s a good move in a positive direction to have the organization all signing from the same songbook.”

For a team that seems to change its tune with dizzying frequency (Trotz is Washington’s fourth head coaching hire since 2011-12), some stability could go a long way.

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.

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.