If the Avs trade O’Reilly, they need to hit a home run

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It’s not often that a talented 24-year-old center is expected to be traded. But that’s the case with Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly, whose tenure with the Avalanche has been marked by contentious contract negotiations with the club.

Last summer, O’Reilly signed a two-year, $12 million deal that left the player a pending unrestricted free agent after 2015-16. If the Avs can’t re-sign him to an extension, they really have no other choice but to trade him, lest they lose him for nothing a la Paul Stastny.

Simply put, if the Avs do trade O’Reilly, they cannot afford to screw it up. Assuming Evgeni Malkin isn’t actually for sale, O’Reilly could well be the most valuable player on the offseason trade market. He’s three years younger than Toronto’s Phil Kessel, and centers are generally in higher demand than wingers.

What should be interesting to see is how much O’Reilly controls the process. After all, no team is going to pay a huge price to get a young player without some semblance of confidence that the player can be re-signed. (Remember when Garth Snow gambled on Thomas Vanek and lost?)

On top of that, there aren’t exactly a ton of teams with the assets to give the Avs what they need. Like, say, a good young defenseman.

So, for the Avs to trade O’Reilly, they’ll need to find a team that:

— Has confidence it can re-sign him;
— Has the cap space, both now and in the future;
— Has the right assets;
— Is willing to pay a big price.

Feel free to add your trade proposals in the comments section.

How ’bout a deal with the Leafs involving Jake Gardiner?

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.