Predators, Oilers, Wild make early moves to close gap on Avs

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Confronted by the harsh reality of the Tampa Bay Lightning moving on from him and with memories still fresh of being on the wrong side of the Stanley Cup championship handshake line, Ryan McDonagh approved a trade to the Nashville Predators.

The Predators also lost to the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche when they were swept out of the first round. In adding McDonagh and re-signing Filip Forsberg, Nashville hopes it’s beginning to close the gap on Colorado.

“We did get beat by Colorado, the team that won the Stanley Cup, so that’s in our conference — that’s our measuring stick,” general manager David Poile said Monday. “No false illusions: We have still a ways to go, but I do feel today that a year older for a lot of the younger players and adding McDonagh, I think we’re going in the right direction.”

Nashville is not the only team with that measuring stick in mind. The Edmonton Oilers, swept by the Avalanche in the conference final, Minnesota Wild and others around the West are chasing the champs by making moves even before free agency begins.

The Oilers gave up draft picks to clear salary cap space in an effort to re-sign scoring winger Evander Kane, even while giving his agent permission to talk to rival clubs. The Wild re-signed Marc-Andre Fleury to give them one of the NHL’s top goaltending duos. And even some emerging contenders such as the Los Angeles Kings extended some young players who could help them follow in Colorado’s path.

“Obviously it’s difficult” to stay on top, said Avalanche president of hockey operations Joe Sakic, who was promoted after winning GM of the year honors. “Everybody’s dream is to win the Stanley Cup, and now we’re the Stanley Cup champions, so we’re going to get everybody’s best game.”

[NHL free agency tracker 2022: Full list of offseason signings]

Their next game isn’t until Oct. 12, and those challenges already are beginning, amid the Avalanche re-signing winger Valeri Nichushkin to a $49 million, eight-year deal.

Nashville bulked up on the blue line with McDonagh, who won two consecutive Cups with Tampa Bay and has never missed the playoffs in his 12-year NHL career. The veteran defenseman known for his toughness essentially had his choice of destinations because of trade protection in his contract and would not have picked the Predators if he didn’t think they could get to the top.

“It was right away a big point for me to realize that this group was competitive and has all the pieces that I believe you need to win a Cup,” McDonagh said. “You want to always be contending, making the playoffs and going on deep runs, and this team has it all.”

Forsberg saw the same things before deciding to sign a contract that counts $8.5 million against the salary cap through 2030. The deal takes the Swedish winger through his prime years and represents an investment in bringing the Cup to Nashville for the first time.

“The only thing we’re missing is the Stanley Cup, and that’s the main driver for all of us,” Forsberg said. “We’ve been close. We’ve had a really good team. I’ve been lucky enough, played on a lot of really good teams here, but we still haven’t taken that final step.”

The Predators certainly are not alone in that department. It has been more than three decades since the Oilers won it all, and they got a taste of a deep playoff run this spring before getting swept by Colorado.

At the draft last week, Edmonton traded a first-round pick and more to Arizona to offload forward Zack Kassian’s contract and provide some cap flexibility. New contracts for young restricted free agent wingers Kailer Yamomoto and Jesse Puljujarvi are at the top of that list, along with potentially finding common ground with Kane, who was a great fit alongside either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

“There’s so many things,” GM Ken Holland said. “We’ve got to make a decision in goal. That’s where the cap space is going: one or two of (those) places.”

Kane’s agent, Daniel Milstein, confirmed to The Associated Press that he is opening talks with other teams while continuing discussions with the Oilers, with his client eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday.

Potentially complicating the situation is Kane’s outstanding grievance over the San Jose Sharks’ termination of his contract earlier this season, which almost certainly won’t be resolved in the next three days.

One thing that was resolved was Minnesota’s goaltending situation, after the Wild re-signed three-time Cup-winner Marc-Andre Fleury for two years at $7 million. They are set to again pair Fleury with Cam Talbot, which was a successful recipe for the final six weeks last season.

“To have Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot as a 1-2 punch, I think we have one of the top tandems in the league,” GM Bill Guerin said. “Every night we’re going to put a fantastic goalie in net.”

With the Avalanche turning to a bit of an unknown quantity in 26-year-old Alexandar Georgiev and moving on from Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota hopes to have enough in net to get through a long regular season and make a deep playoff run.

“I go into every season looking to make the playoffs and go from there,” Fleury said. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to look too far ahead, but definitely our goal is always to make it to the end.”

To do so, the Wild will have to go through the Avalanche — or one of the other teams in the West loading up for the same reasons.

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    Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

    The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

    They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

    Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

    Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.

    Report: Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed jerseys

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    CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s Pride Night game against Vancouver because of security concerns involving a Russian law that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country.

    The decision was made by the NHL organization following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.

    The Blackhawks have worn Pride warmup jerseys previously and donned special warmup jerseys on some other themed nights this season. There had been ongoing conversations about a Pride jersey with the players, according to the person who talked to the AP, but the organization made the decision to hold Pride Night without the jerseys this year.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that significantly expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country.

    The decision by the Blackhawks comes after San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys. The New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Pride-themed jerseys for the Sharks on Saturday.

    While Chicago will go without Pride warmup jerseys this year, the team has planned a variety of activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus also is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.