Rangers agree with top pick Alexis Lafrenière on rookie contract

Alexis Lafrenière isn’t going back to play junior hockey in Quebec, and the Rangers hope he’s on the ice in New York sooner than later.

The Rangers agreed to terms Monday with the No. 1 draft pick on his three-year, entry-level contract that includes the lucrative bonuses typical for a player selected in that spot. Lafrenière as expected won’t return to Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which has started its season, and general manager Jeff Gorton hopes to get him to the New York area by early November to begin training for next season.

“We’re really excited about getting him signed,” Gorton said. “Looking forward to the first time we can actually see him on the ice.”

The Quebec-born left winger is expected to play right away in the NHL, which is targeting a Jan. 1 start for the 2021 season. Lafrenière joins a budding young core that includes MVP finalist Artemi Panarin, top center Mika Zibanejad, defensemen Adam Fox and Anthony DeAngelo and goaltender of the present and future Igor Shesterkin.

New York signed Panarin to a big-money, long-term contract July 1, 2019, and doesn’t need to spend like that now after winning the draft lottery and stockpiling so much talent. The future may not be now, but it’s not far off.

“Keep in mind the big picture,” Rangers president John Davidson said. “We want to play well this season, whenever the season is — whenever it starts and wherever it starts, we don’t have any idea. When you manage a hockey club, we have to think of today, tomorrow and the future and we like some of the pieces that we have that are going to put us into that position.”

Lafrenière agreed to a contract a day after turning 19 and less than a week since going first overall. He’s coming off a season in which he put up 35 goals and 77 assists for 112 points with Rimouski and was the MVP of the world junior hockey championship for getting 10 points in five games and leading Canada to the gold medal.

The Rangers are hoping for more of that kind of production eventually from their first No. 1 pick since the universal draft was implemented in 1969. They also made a handful of free agent signings since the market opened Friday to improve, especially on defense.

They signed Jack Johnson to a $1.15 million, one-year deal after he was bought out by Pittsburgh and added fellow defenseman Anthony Bitetto, a Long Island native. Johnson won’t totally fill the veteran blue line void off Broadway, but he’s a stopgap and a bridge to several young prospects who may not be quite ready for the NHL.

“He’s going to help us,” Davidson said. “He’s a big body, he boxes people out, he’s good along the boards. He’s not offensive-minded by any means, but he’s going to help us as we move along here and try to become a better team down the road.”

New York also signed veteran Keith Kinkaid to be its third goaltender behind Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev after buying out Henrik Lundqvist, who joined the rival Washington Capitals.

“We see teams all around the league, goaltending depth has become a major asset and an issue, really,” Gorton said. “We like Keith and we’ve watched his career over the years, and we think he’s somebody that is a capable NHL guy that we felt like it was the right time to bring him into the organization.”

Davidson, who tended goal for the Rangers back in the day and watched franchise legend Eddie Giacomin return to face New York with Detroit after being waved, isn’t concerned about Lundqvist staying in the same division because the team and 38-year-old were each ready to move on.

“It’s an ideal situation,” Davidson said of Lundqvist going to Washington. “This is us trying to look to the future. We had to do what we did.”

There’s no bigger symbol of the Rangers’ future than Lafrenière, who will get help from the organization finding housing. Davidson said Lafrenière is welcome at his house — which would mimic Sidney Crosby living with Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux early in his pro career — and several other players have offered taking the prospect in.

“We’ll find the best-case scenario for him,” Gorton said. “We do have a number of people that have reached out, and there’s no shortage of people that we think can help and put him in the right spot.”

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.