To understand Drouin’s impatience, consider Barkov’s big payday

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The Florida Panthers made it official this morning, announcing they’d signed 20-year-old center Aleksander Barkov to a six-year contract extension worth a reported $35.4 million.

By putting pen to paper, Barkov became the first member of his 2013 draft class to really cash in. No bridge deal. Straight to the big money out of his entry-level deal. Invest wisely, don’t do anything stupid, and he’s set for life.

Others could soon follow from that 2013 class, including first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, fourth overall pick Seth Jones, sixth overall pick Sean Monahan, eighth overall pick Rasmus Ristolainen, and 10th overall pick Valeri Nichushkin. All five are pending restricted free agents. Perhaps some will end up signing a bridge deal, like fifth overall pick Elias Lindholm agreed to over the summer. But all five will have every right to push for the kind of money and security that Barkov got. 

Then there’s Jonathan Drouin. He was the third overall pick in 2013. He’s not even in the final year of his ELC yet, because he was sent back to junior after he was drafted. Now he’s suspended without pay by the Tampa Bay Lightning after refusing to report for AHL duties.

For his decision to request a trade, Drouin has been labeled a “crybaby” and a “quitter.” Said Ducks GM Bob Murray: “Entry-level players requesting trades. Amazing.”

And perhaps Drouin is being a tad petulant. It’s worth noting that, in announcing Barkov’s extension, Florida GM Dale Tallon lauded the youngster for his “exceptional game at both ends of the ice.” Worth noting, because it was Drouin’s defensive game that Bolts coach Jon Cooper said needed to improve.

But then, it’s also worth asking — what if Drouin had been drafted by the Panthers, a team that’s missed the playoffs the past three seasons, and not the Lightning, a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last year? Is it not conceivable that Drouin would have been given more of an opportunity to play regularly?

Of course it’s conceivable! It’s not rocket science. Ice time is harder to come by on good teams. Not only is there more competition on a Cup contender, there’s more at stake. Can’t be having young players making young-player mistakes with a championship on the line.

Case in point, remember when Cody Hodgson was with the Canucks? That was a very similar situation to the Drouin one, right down to the outspoken agent. Hodgson, a center, was eventually traded to Buffalo, where he didn’t have to play behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. He got way more ice time on a bad team and quickly cashed in with the Sabres. No bridge deal. Straight to the big money out of his entry-level deal.

That’s what Drouin wants. Not to follow Hodgson’s career path, obviously. But to receive a better opportunity.

So, bash him if you still want to. But it’s his career, not yours. If you were in Drouin’s shoes, you might look at the deal Barkov just signed and wonder when your big payday was coming, too.

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.