Canucks would like to ‘add a proven scorer,’ so cue the Evander Kane speculation

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Sven Baertschi took positive steps last season, as one of the few bright spots on a team that eventually finished 28th in the overall standings.

Once the now 23-year-old forward established himself as an every-game player — and that was a challenge under head coach Willie Desjardins at the beginning of the season — he scored 15 goals and 28 points in 69 games, developed some nice chemistry with Bo Horvat, who was asked to take on the second-line center role with Brandon Sutter injured, and had some looks on the power play.

He was rewarded with a two-year, $3.7 million contract.

Despite those steps, the Canucks and GM Jim Benning are still searching for another established forward, one capable of scoring and playing a gritty game.

“We’d like to add a proven scorer who brings some grit to take the pressure off Sven, so he can keep developing at his own pace,” Benning recently told Postmedia.

“He took a big step last year and wants to prove to people that he has more to give. But I don’t know where he’s going to end up (next season). At some point, that (second line) is where he’s going to be, but maybe he plays on the third line with the capability of playing on the power play and potentially scoring 15 to 20 goals for us.”

Naturally, this has already kickstarted speculation about the idea of perhaps bringing Evander Kane to his hometown of Vancouver and the Canucks.

Kane is 24 years old. He’s from Vancouver. He played his junior hockey there with the WHL Giants. He has two years remaining on his current contract, with a cap hit of $5.25 million. He also would fit the bill of a player capable of scoring as a big winger among the top-six forwards on a team.

Outside of 19-year-old Jake Virtanen, the Canucks don’t really have a big, powerful winger and Virtanen, fresh off his rookie season with seven goals and 13 points, has yet to establish himself as a scorer. Perhaps in time.

Benning has admitted in the past he’d be interested in Kane, apparently making an offer to the Jets. However, when Kane was dealt to Buffalo, Benning said he wasn’t willing to part with prospect forwards Bo Horvat, Jared McCann or Virtanen to facilitate a deal.

That was well over a year ago.

Since then, Kane has run into multiple off-ice issues. He was not charged following an investigation into a sexual encounter, but only a few months later, he’s now facing non-criminal harassment charges stemming from an incident on June 24.

If Benning has interest in acquiring Kane, specifically, he certainly wouldn’t say it now, especially after getting busted for tampering last month.

However, he has made it clear the Canucks are in the market for another scoring forward.

And, judging by the reaction on social media, that has some hockey fans in Vancouver turning their attention to Evander Kane.

— The Canucks on Friday signed 20-year-old forward Michael Carcone to a three-year entry-level deal. Undrafted, Carcone scored 47 goals and 89 points last season with Drummondville in the QMJHL.

Related: Sabres GM Murray: Patience is growing thin with Evander Kane after latest legal trouble

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.