Avalanche sign Yakupov to one-year deal


Nail Yakupov is moving to Denver.

The Colorado Avalanche announced Tuesday that they’ve signed the 23-year-old winger. It’s reportedly a one-year deal worth $875,000.

The first overall draft pick in 2012, Yakupov became an unrestricted free agent after the St. Louis Blues chose last week not to extend him a qualifying offer.

Yakupov played 40 games for the Blues last season. He battled a knee injury and finished with just three goals and six assists.

In Colorado, Yakupov should get a decent opportunity to prove himself. The Avs had the NHL’s worst offense and worst power play last season.

After flurry of moves, questions remain about Stars’ blue line


The Dallas Stars are in go-for-it mode.

Of that, there can be no debate, after GM Jim Nill hired Ken Hitchock as head coach, traded for and signed goalie Ben Bishop, traded for defenseman Marc Methot, then added forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal in free agency.

Combine those new additions with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and John Klingberg, and expectations will be rightfully high next season.

Certainly, with all that talent, scoring goals shouldn’t be an issue in Big D.

Defensively, though, the Stars will not only need to be better, they’ll need to be much better. In 2016-17, they had the NHL’s second-highest goals-against average (3.17). Only the dreadful Avalanche got scored on more (3.37).

Hence, the Hitchcock hiring and the Bishop signing. The former knows how to structure a team to defend. The latter has a .919 career save percentage.

But in terms of importance, don’t sleep on the Methot acquisition. Next season, Nill expects the 32-year-old to pair with Klingberg, in the same way that Methot paired with Erik Karlsson in Ottawa.

“Marc has proven to be a capable and steady defenseman that can play well with an offensive-minded partner, and he will add a tremendous amount of leadership and experience to our blue line,” Nill said, per the Dallas Morning News.

Of course, even if Klingberg and Methot strike a good balance, there are two other pairings to worry about. Perhaps Dan Hamhuis could skate with Julius Honka: one steady veteran with a more offensive-minded youngster. Then put Esa Lindell with Stephen Johns.

In theory, it could work.

In theory.

Dallas learned last year that a plan doesn’t always come together. The Stars entered the season with Stanley Cup aspirations, only for almost everything to go wrong. When it was over, they’d gone from the best record in the Western Conference to missing the playoffs by 15 points.

Though the goaltending took much of the blame for all the losing, the defense was a real issue. Last summer, the Stars bid good-bye to Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers, a couple of top-four guys. In response, Hamhuis was brought in as a free agent; however, he struggled right off the bat.

It is not easy to fix a defense in today’s NHL. Just ask all the teams still trying to do it. To have success, much of the improvement has to come internally. So, yes, Methot will have to be a complement for Klingberg. But also, Lindell will have to avoid a sophomore slump, and Honka will have to prove he’s ready for the big time.

“We like what we have on paper, but in the end the goal for us is to be a contender every year, to get in the playoffs every year,” Nill said, per the Associated Press. “This game can humble you pretty quick, and it’s a tough league.”

Bonino gets bigger challenge in Nashville; Pens can’t ‘panic’ to replace him


In Pittsburgh, Nick Bonino got to play behind two of the best centers in the game, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

And to Bonino’s credit, he made the most of it, winning two championships as the Penguins’ third-line center.

Today, the 29-year-old cashed in on that success, signing a four-year, $16.4 million deal with the Predators. Yep, the same team the Pens just defeated in the Stanley Cup Final. 

The difference in Nashville is that Bonino will be expected to play second-line center, behind only Ryan Johansen. That’s going to mean tougher matchups, with less shelter from above. For what Bonino’s getting paid now, there will be added pressure to perform.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the Pens have yet to land a replacement for Bonino. For GM Jim Rutherford, it’s going to be tough to find someone who offered such great value. The past two years, Bonino’s cap hit was just $1.9 million. Considering how much he was able to produce, particularly during the 2016 Stanley Cup run while centering the HBK Line, he was a terrific bargain.

“I think it’s important now that we don’t panic and just go after somebody to say we got a center,” Rutherford told reporters today, per NHL.com’s Wes Crosby. “It could be in the next day, it could be in the next couple of months, it could take into the season.”

Thornton re-signs for one year in San Jose, per report

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Joe Thornton is staying in San Jose.

The 37-year-old forward has signed a one-year extension, according to Kevin Kurz of NBC Sports California.

Thornton had options beyond San Jose, but it was always felt his first choice was to stay put. The future Hall of Famer has been with the Sharks for over a decade now.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Thornton’s deal will be worth at least $6 million for the year.

Still no word on where Patrick Marleau intends to sign.

In signing with Anaheim, Ryan Miller chooses family and chance to win


Ryan Miller was one of the busiest goalies in the NHL last season, when he routinely faced over 40 shots per game as the Vancouver Canucks’ starter.

But things should change considerably next season, after the 36-year-old signed with the Anaheim Ducks today.

Miller is well-aware that his role is going to be different, since the Ducks already have a starting goalie in John Gibson.

For Miller, though, the opportunity is two-fold. First and foremost, he’ll be closer to his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, and their young son. Second, he’ll get the chance to win something he’s never won.

“I really wanted to maximize my time and maximize my chances in winning a Stanley Cup,” Miller told reporters, per Eric Stephens of the O.C. Register.

The Canucks did want to keep Miller, who may have left money on the table in agreeing to a two-year, $4 million deal with Anaheim. Vancouver signed Anders Nilsson instead. Nilsson will compete for starts with Jacob Markstrom.

In Anaheim, it’s possible that Miller ends up playing more than a typical backup. After all, Gibson has had trouble staying healthy, and Miller did play well last year.

In fact, Miller was often Vancouver’s best hope for a win. He finished with three shutouts and a respectable .914 save percentage.