Rangers avoid arbitration with Kevin Hayes; stage set for deadline trade?

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The New York Rangers had four of their restricted free agents file for salary arbitration this summer.

They have now avoided arbitration with three of them.

After previously agreeing to terms with Jimmy Vesey and Brady Skjei, the Rangers announced on Monday evening that they have signed Kevin Hayes to a one-year contract that will reportedly pay him $5 million for the 2018-19 season.

Hayes, who just turned 26 a couple of months ago, will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after this upcoming season.

Given that it is only a one-year deal and that Hayes will be a UFA at the end of it it certainly creates the possibility for an in-season, deadline trade. Especially as the Rangers are clearly going through a rebuilding phase right now and Hayes could be an attractive target for contenders at the deadline. Hayes isn’t a superstar, but he is a solid middle-six player whose production has been remarkably consistent during the first four years of his career. You can pretty much pencil him in for around 15-20 goals and 45 points every year and strong 5-on-5 production.

If the Rangers instead elect to try and re-sign him before next July 1 it would almost certainly be an expensive investment given that his contract jumped up from $2.6 million over the past two seasons to more than $5 million for this season.

He is coming off of a 2017-18 performance that saw him record a career-high 25 goals while finishing with 44 total points (five behind his career high of 49) in 76 games. He finished second on the team in goals (behind only Mika Zibanejad) and third in total points (behind Mats Zuccarello and Zibanejad).

With Hayes, Vesey, and Skjei all signed the only remaining restricted free agent the Rangers have to deal with is Ryan Spooner, who they acquired at the trade deadline in the Rick Nash trade. He has an arbitration hearing scheduled for August 4. The Rangers and Spooner have already been working on a new contract and it would not be a surprise to see them avoid the hearing.

Related: Rangers give Brady Skjei Tom Wilson money, basically

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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.