Welcome back: Bolts sign Cory Conacher

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What’s old is new again in Tampa Bay.

Cory Conacher, who burst onto the scene with the Bolts four years ago as a rookie, has signed back on with the club on a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Back in 2013, Conacher parlayed a strong AHL showing — including winning the ’11-12 MVP — into a banner first year with the Lightning, scoring 24 points in 35 games to finish sixth in Calder voting.

That led to one of Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman’s savviest trades — sending Conacher to Ottawa for Ben Bishop — but marked the beginning of a wild and often disappointing ride for Conacher.

He appeared in just 72 games for Ottawa over two years, only to get waived. Buffalo claimed him, but wasn’t impressed enough to offer Conacher a qualifying offer at season’s end.

That made the diminutive forward a UFA. Conacher then proceeded to sign with the Isles, who only played him 15 times before putting him on waivers.

Nobody claimed Conacher that time around, so he was dispatched to AHL Bridgeport, then traded to the Canucks and immediately dispatched to AHL Utica.

Last year, the 26-year-old signed overseas with Bern of the Swiss League, and starred. He had 52 points in 48 games, and helped Team Canada win the 2015 Spengler Cup.

It’s unclear how much playing time Conacher will get with Tampa Bay next season. He does have a significant history with Jon Cooper — Cooper was Conacher’s coach during the aforementioned AHL MVP year, and the two won the Calder Cup together — and the one-way deal will ensure Conacher makes $575,000 regardless if he’s with the Bolts, or the Syracuse Crunch.

Blackhawks F Katchouk will be 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 Sunday.

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

Rasmus Sandin
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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.