Flyers’ crowded defense bears watching

2 Comments

Even after the departure of Nicklas Grossmann, the Philadelphia Flyers still have quite the logjam on defense.

Add it up and there will be 13 — thirteen! — d-men trying to crack the roster when training camp opens Thursday.

Eight of those 13 are on one-way contracts: Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Andrew MacDonald, Nick Schultz, Evgeni Medvedev, Radko Gudas, and Brandon Manning.

The other five are well-regarded prospects who can either be returned to junior or sent to the AHL without being exposed to waivers: Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, and Robert Hagg.

For GM Ron Hextall, it’s great to have all that young talent, but a short-term challenge nonetheless — especially if one or two of those youngsters proves he belongs in the NHL.

Could Hextall try and trade another veteran? Sure. But he may not get full value, given the tight market.

If he tries to send Manning to the AHL, would another team make a waiver claim? The 25-year-old may not be a future superstar, but losing him for nothing would be less than ideal.

Hextall said over the summer that much will depend on how the youngsters look during the preseason: “Someone comes into camp and lights it up. Then we will do what we can to create a spot.”

But then, more recently, he said: “You can’t sit and say, ‘We’ll make room,’ because you don’t know until you get there. If a guy comes in and we think he’s going to make us a better team throughout the course of the year – and not just for two weeks – we’ll look at options. But we’re not going to put a kid in the lineup that is not ready.”

Related: Something will “have to give” on Flyers’ blue line

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

blackhawks
Harry How/Getty Images
13 Comments

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

Getty Images
3 Comments

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

tampa bay lightning
Scott Audette/Getty Images
2 Comments

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

Rasmus Sandin
Julian Avram/Getty Images
2 Comments

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.