Alex Pietrangelo embraces new challenge with Vegas Golden Knights

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Alex Pietrangelo heard it can snow in Las Vegas and wasn’t worried about bundling up his four children if necessary.

Maybe once in a blue moon. Pietrangelo won’t have to take a snow blower from his St. Louis home to the Nevada desert, though he hopes to bring the Stanley Cup there in the next seven years.

After leaving the Blues he led to the 2019 title to sign a $61.6 million contract with the Golden Knights, Pietrangelo hopes to play a big role in getting the young franchise to the top of the NHL. He and his St. Louis-born and raised wife are transplanting to Vegas from the only city they’ve known for a new chapter in their lives on and off the ice.

“I welcome the challenge,” Pietrangelo said on a video call Tuesday. “I welcome something new. I think it’s going to push me to become a better player. I think it’s going to hopefully get me outside my comfort zone to certainly try something that I’ve never done before. This is a good team, and I think I can really help.”

The Golden Knights bent over backwards to trade other players and court and sign the 30-year-old defenseman simply because he makes them a much better team. Pietrangelo led all playoff players in assists during his Cup run, scored a career-high 16 goals last season and was fourth in voting for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best on the blue line.

Pietrangelo considered other destinations but only visited Vegas and signed there because of the chance to win, a contract worth more per year than St. Louis offered and control over his future in the form of a “no-movement” clause that’s even more powerful than no-trade protection because it means a player can’t be waived, either.

“When you give someone a no-movement clause, they basically have more power in your organization than the owner does,” said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who added that he included it offers to Pietrangelo. “It takes a special person to get those things.”

After the Blues signed defenseman Torey Krug to a $45.5 million, seven-year deal Friday night, Vegas became the special team willing to commit to Pietrangelo, who prioritized the no-movement clause in his contract.

“For me, with my family situation having four kids under the age of 2, if I’m going to pick them up and move them away from somewhere that is the only thing that they know, I wanted to make sure that I was going to be comfortable there for a period of time,” Pietrangelo said. “They were willing to understand that and commit to that and that made me feel comfortable knowing that they understood why I was asking those questions and why I wanted that.”

Vegas rolled out the shiny gold carpet for Pietrangelo and his wife, Jayne, showing them the suburb of Summerlin that’s home to many players, the team’s practice facility and introducing him to not only coach Peter DeBoer, GM Kelly McCrimmon and hockey operations president George McPhee but also owner Bill Foley.

Talking with Foley and seeing the other moves the Golden Knights have made to move into perennial Cup contention convinced Pietrangelo to put St. Louis in his past and sign with Vegas.

“I was fairly with impressed with the way they operate and the way they go about their business,” Pietrangelo said. “I wanted to make sure that they’re sharing the same passion that I am for winning, and they do.”

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.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.