Bowman stands by Toews, Kane signings despite recent cap uncertainty

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Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman conceded that the team would need to make changes if the Canadian dollar doesn’t rise compared to its American counterpart over the coming months, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Why? Because a weak Canadian dollar could prevent the cap from going up from its current level of roughly $69 million for the 2015-16 campaign, as the New York Post noted earlier this month. There were previous expectations that the cap would go up by as much as $6 million.

That would be problematic for a lot of teams, but Chicago would be one of the hardest hit as they already have about $66 million committed to 15 players next season after signing Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to matching eight-year, $84 million contracts.

They still need to re-sign restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, but even putting that aside, it’s easy to see that Chicago will be in a very tough situation if the cap remains stagnant.

“Obviously, if the cap doesn’t go up and we keep the exact same team, no, that wouldn’t work,” Bowman said. “You get into all of these hypotheticals, ‘well, if you keep this guy that means you can’t keep that guy.’ I’m not sure that’s a productive endeavor. I look at our team and we’ve always been able to figure it out in the past and we’ve had a pretty good run of stability. We’re looking to try to do that as much as possible.”

It’s true, this wouldn’t be the first time Bowman would be forced to address major cap problems surrounding the Blackhawks. Chicago had to trade off much of its supporting cast in the summer of 2010 after winning the Stanley Cup, but while the Blackhawks bounced back from that quickly, it’s not an ideal scenario to repeat.

Regardless of what happens, Bowman stands by his decision to re-sign the team’s two star forwards.

“The one thing that trumps everything is you need great players on your team, and great players make a lot of money,” Bowman said. “I would much rather be in the position where you’ve got them and you’re trying to make your cap work than to not have them, and then you’re trying to figure things out and trying to say, ‘How do we get good players?’

“There was never a question about whether we would bring those two players back. They’ve played such a pivotal role in turning our franchise around originally and then sustaining the level we’ve been at. They’re still young. They’re both entering the primes of their careers.”

While the cap outlook could improve between now and the summer, this uncertainty does put a greater emphasis on this season for Chicago. After all, the Blackhawks might look meaningfully different in 2015-16.

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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Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
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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.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.