Report: MLSE CEO Leiweke to step down (Update: Leiweke denies move)

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Bit of a stunner out of Toronto, per CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:

Leiweke, 57, became the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in June of last year, after serving in the same position of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns the Los Angeles Kings.

Leiweke talked a big game upon taking the MLSE gig and rubbed some people the wrong way. After saying he wanted to be a “hero” in Toronto (adding he already had a Stanley Cup parade route planned), the Toronto Star called his comments “laughable,” adding that “in the cultivation of executive arrogance, the new guy in town is intent on scaling new heights.”

A month later, Leiweke caused more controversy when he ordered the removal of pictures of the Leafs’ Stanley Cup team from the dressing room hallway.

“I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962,” Leiweke told Bloomberg. “Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.”

He later apologized, saying the decision wasn’t directed at Leafs alumni but rather a challenge to the current squad.

Most recently, Leiweke was in the spotlight for his role in hiring Brendan Shanahan as Leafs’ president, a move he said would correct two things he felt Toronto didn’t have.

“I definitely sense that we lack an identity,” Lieweke said, per the Globe and Mail. “Right now we’re a team that lacks a direction. And we want to change that.”

UPDATE: Leiweke has shot down rumors of his move, per the Globe

Leiweke knocked down rumours on Tuesday that he is about to leave the country’s largest sports concern.

“It’s not true. One-hundred per cent not true. I’m fully committed to the season at hand,” Leiweke said.

He’s got two seasons on hand. He was referring to the Toronto Raptors basketball season, as he was in the midst of working on a new $30-million training facility for the club.

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.