‘Canes captain Staal ‘not going to be crushed’ if he’s traded

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The Carolina Hurricanes are in Ottawa tonight to face the Senators and, as has often been the case this year, local media spent most of the pregame availability talking to ‘Canes captain Eric Staal.

Staal, a pending UFA that’s been at the center of trade rumors for close to a calendar year, replied with mostly the usual song-and-dance.

But he did drop a couple of interesting soundbites:

It sounds as though an entire season of speculation has worn on the 31-year-old. Back in mid-January, he said the uncertainty was “more challenging than I thought it would be.”

“I have a family,” Staal added. “There’s things you think about. My brother’s playing here. There are a lot of different things you think about.”

Staal’s contract situation has dragged on throughout the campaign. Just prior to the start of the regular season, reports suggested he and the club weren’t close on an extension but, in November, he expressed his desire to remain in Carolina.

In early December, though, another report surfaced — claiming GM Ron Francis and Staal’s agent, Rick Curran, had mutually agreed to put off any contract talks until the new year.

But we’re now six weeks into the new year, and there hasn’t been much traction.

It certainly sounds like Staal is mentally prepared to make a move.

And with that in mind — and his above comments about playing with his brother — do consider this bit from the New York Post, which suggests Staal would be the missing piece for the Rangers.

Staal is an impending free agent whose future in Carolina is unclear.

The 31-year-old has a no-move clause, but if GM Ron Francis is not willing to commit to him as the franchise’s ongoing standard-bearer, there would seem more than just a chance Eric would waive it in order to join younger brother Marc on Broadway.

Know this: The Rangers have talked about Eric Staal before.

Related: Trade talk: Who the Oilers might deal, Eric Staal in limbo

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.