Panthers sign Jonathan Huberdeau to six-year contract extension

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The Florida Panthers have signed another one of their core players to a long-term contract extension.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on Tuesday afternoon that the Panthers and forward Jonathan Huberdeau were closing in on a six-year contract extension that could be worth close to $6 million per season, a report that was later confirmed by Huberdeau’s agent, Allan Walsh.

Huberdeau is entering the final year of his current contract and is scheduled to count $3.25 million against the salary cap this season.

His new deal should be similar to the one signed by forward Aleksander Barkov last year when he agreed to a six-year, $35.4 million extension. That deal carries an average salary cap hit of $5.9 million per season.

The Panthers have one of the most promising young cores in the NHL and have gone to great lengths to keep them all together for the foreseeable future, already signing several of them to long-term contracts.

Along with Barkov, who is signed through the end of the 2021-22 season, the Panthers have also signed Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith and Aaron Ekblad to long-term deals. Adding Huberdeau’s potential deal into the mix they could have that core of six players all signed through at least 2021 at a total salary cap of less than $34 million per season. Considering how productive all of them already are, and the fact those players could still have their best years ahead of them (the oldest of that group is Smith at 25; Bjugstad is the only other one older than 23), that is a fantastic position for the team to be sitting in from a salary cap perspective.

When it comes to his on-ice production the 2015-16 season was Huberdeau’s best one in the NHL, finishing with 20 goals and 39 assists in 76 games. He spent a large portion of the year skating on a line with Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, a trio that was one of the most dominant lines in the NHL when it was together.

It’s been a busy offseason for the Panthers with some turnover and reorganizing in the front office, to some significant additions on the ice with defensemen Keith  Yandle and Jason Demers.

Already a team on the rise, the Panthers look like they could be ready to be one of the top Stanley Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference along with Pittsburgh, Washington and Tampa Bay.

They won the NHL’s Atlantic Division in 2015-16 with 103 points.

[All salary data via General Fanager]

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.