Semin aims to get ‘back to how I can play’

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Alexander Semin’s 2014-15 campaign was a low point in his career, but his newly inked one-year, $1.1 million pack with the Montreal Canadiens offers him a chance to put that behind him.

It’s a modest deal for Semin and not just compared to the five-year, $35 million contract that the Carolina Hurricanes bought out earlier this summer. With the exception of his entry-level contract, he’s never signed an NHL deal with an annual base salary this low, per General Fanager. One could argue that it’s not a surprising sum though after he scored just six goals and 19 points in 57 contests last season.

“Last year I have bad season for me,” Semin said in a conference call following the signing. “No score, no points, I play not well. I try going back to how I can play.”

As for why he didn’t play like he has at his height, he cited the wrist surgery he had over the summer of 2014 as a possible cause. Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, previously suggested that Hurricanes coach Bill Peters “did not understand Sasha’s game” while Hurricanes GM Ron Francis criticized his “compete level.”

Obviously the first two potential explanations are no longer factors as he won’t be working with Peters next season and his wrist surgery is now well behind him. That leaves the motivation theory and even if you subscribe to that, 2015-16 might be an exception.

The fact that he had to take this contract can be seen as a reflection of how far his stock has fallen. He also reiterated during the conference call that he wants to play in the NHL over the KHL.

If things go terribly in Montreal, then he’ll be in an even weaker negotiating position next summer. At this point, it wouldn’t be overly dramatic to say that he’s not only trying to get back to his old top-tier level of play, but also fighting to simply prove he still belongs at this level.

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.