Sabres demote Alex Nylander; Kyle Connor can’t make Jets cut

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Teams need to get their rosters ready for the 2017-18 season, which means some key prospects will need to go to junior or the AHL.

Let’s address some of the bigger names that don’t qualify as players on waivers or worse.

Alex Nylander and Sean Malone were sent down to the AHL on Tuesday.

Nylander, 19, did fine in the AHL in 2016-17, but he didn’t exactly dominate. He managed a modest 10 goals and 28 points in 65 games. That points total ranked him seventh on the Rochester Americans last season. Simply put, it doesn’t seem like he’s on the same accelerated pace as his brother William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Looking to make the leap: Alex Nylander

And that’s OK. The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington points out that Nylander was injured during training camp, robbing him of a full opportunity to make an impression:

Nylander, in particular, lost out at a chance to make the club out of camp with the injury. Last year’s No. 1 pick looked strong at summer development camp but never got into competition for one of the open slots on the wing.

Opinion: in the long run, the Sabres and Nylander may be better off with this slow-and-steady approach.

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The bigger surprise might be that Kyle Connor was unable to make the Winnipeg Jets.

Looking to make the leap: Kyle Connor

Connor, 20, believed that he really made some progress late last season, progress he thought might carry over into NHL work this coming season. Connor believed that a demotion to the AHL would do him good, as he told NHL.com.

“You have to experience it,” Connor said back in August. “Once I moved down [to Manitoba], it was a bit upsetting, of course, and it took a couple of games more than I wanted to adjust. But once I did, I worked with the staff really well and the stuff they wanted me to implement into my game. I thought that made a huge difference, and you could see it toward the end of my season.”

Connor played in 20 games with Winnipeg last season, so they already burned a year off of his entry-level contract.

On one hand, the Jets have some serious firepower at the top of their order. If the belief is that he wouldn’t have much use unless placed in a prominent role, then that would make some sense.

Still, injuries happen, and the Jets could certainly use more pop down their order. The young forward has to feel pretty disappointed.

Connor and Nylander rank among the bigger surprises (or partial surprises), but there were other notable players who couldn’t make the cut on Tuesday. The Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, demoted Timothy Liljegren.

On the other hand, Nolan Patrick and others did make the leap, in some cases earlier than expected. Add Samuel Girard of the Nashville Predators to that group:

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

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.