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Erik Johnson hopes to sign soon, ‘but it has to work for both sides’

When the media talks to Erik Johnson these days, the subject of his contract situation naturally comes up. He just hopes there’s a reason for that narrative to be dropped soon “so it’s not a distraction,” per the Denver Post.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy recently revealed that the Avalanche are negotiating with Johnson, who is entering the final season of his four-year, $15 million contract. Roy felt the talks were going well, but despite Johnson’s desire for this to be over with, it’s not at the point yet where he can say anything definitive.

“It’s my desire to stay here,” Johnson told the Denver Post, “but it has to work for both sides and I’m all for working with the team and trying to fit into the structure. I’m not out to get something over my value on the market. I’m going to work with them and I hope they work with me and we can get something done.”

Finding fair value for Johnson isn’t a simple task because he’s both shown an ability to be a great defenseman, but also has a rocky past and lengthy injury history. His last game was on Jan. 21 due to a knee injury, although he feels good now.

Even factoring in his setbacks, it’s hard to see Johnson as getting anything other than a substantial raise over his current $3.75 million annual cap hit. The 2006 first overall pick has led the Avalanche in playing time per game in each of the last two campaigns with him reaching an average of 24:25 minutes last season. He also has 62 points in 127 games over the last two campaigns.

Former defenseman Weinrich joins Devils’ development staff

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Roughly 23 years after the New Jersey Devils traded Eric Weinrich in a deal for Bobby Holik, he’s rejoined the organization. The 48-year-old retired defenseman will serve as a development coach, per NJ.com.

Weinrich brings with him 1,157 NHL games worth of experience from his time with the Devils, Hartford Whalers, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, and Vancouver Canucks.

His last campaign as a player was in 2007-08 and he spent the next three seasons as an assistant coach for the AHL’s Portland Pirates. He followed that up with four campaigns as a scout for the Buffalo Sabres.

“Eric has a strong track record as a leader over his 23-year professional hockey career. We look to benefit from his time as a player and recent experience in coaching,” Devils GM Ray Shero said. “As a former Devils’ draft pick and someone who spent the early part of his career with the New Jersey organization, we feel that he can provide a unique perspective to the young players.”

Weinrich will primarily be working with the Devils’ defensemen in the minors. Pertti Hasanen, Patrick Rissmiller and Scott Clemmensen are also part of the franchise’s development staff.

Report: DNA results leave more questions in Patrick Kane case

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The results of the DNA tests taken from a rape kit from an investigation into Patrick Kane are now available, according to the Buffalo News. The newspaper’s sources said that Kane’s DNA was found on the alleged victim’s shoulder and under her fingernails, but not on her genitals or undergarments.

“The absence of DNA and semen, in itself, does not prove that there was no rape,” Buffalo attorney Florina Altshiler told the paper. “It proves that there was no ejaculation, or possibly, that the perpetrator wore a condom.”

Altshiler, who previously served as a sex-crimes prosecutor in Alaska, is aware of cases where condoms were used in sexual assaults. However, the county’s former DA, Frank J. Clark, told the Buffalo News that incidences of rapists using condoms are “extremely rare.”

Clark also believes this information “could be a game-changer.”

It’s worth noting that while Altshiler, Clark have both followed the Kane case closely, neither of them possessed direct knowledge of the DNA results. The attorneys for Chicago Blackhawks star and his accuser as well as Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III all declined the Buffalo News’ request for comment on the DNA evidence.

As for the reported DNA that was found on the accuser, the Buffalo News sources’ said that might have been the result of casual contact. However, Clark noted that DNA found under the fingernails still could be evidence of a sexual assault.

And as Altshiler told the News, “There are different levels of sexual crimes … you don’t necessarily have to show that there was penetration in order to have a sexual assault.”

Meanwhile, Kane and his accuser are still reportedly attempting to negotiate a settlement, but that would only apply to the civil case.

Oscar Klefbom signs seven-year deal with Oilers

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The Edmonton Oilers are taking a significant risk, but it’s one that could pay off nicely.

Defenseman Oscar Klefbom has officially agreed to a seven-year contract extension, per the team’s website. That follows yesterday’s report that the two sides were close to reaching a deal of that length.

The Oilers didn’t release the financial terms, but ESPN’s Craig Custance reported on Saturday that the contract would come with an annual cap hit of $4.167 million.

That would make Klefbom’s deal comparable to the six-year, $25 million contract Adam Larsson signed in July. Both defensemen are 22 years old and were first round picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

In each case, the young blueliner is getting paid based more on his potential than past results. If the two defensemen develop as their respective teams hope, then those cap hits will look very good in a few years. However, Klefbom has only played in 77 NHL games so far, so the potential that this move could backfire is very real.

Klefbom will join blueliner Andrej Sekera along with forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Benoit Pouliot as Edmonton players signed through at least 2018-19. The six players come with a combined annual cap hit of roughly $31.7 million starting in 2016-17.

Ryan Whitney announces his retirement

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Roughly a month and a half away from the 10-year anniversary of his first NHL game, Ryan Whitney announced that he’s decided to hang up his skates.

“Today I am retiring from the game of hockey,” he said in a statement. “It’s impossible to put into words how much I love this sport. My mind has been flooded with so many amazing memories all day. From early morning rides to the rink with my dad, to having the privilege of representing my country in the Olympic Games, it truly has been a wonderful journey.

“Unfortunately my body broke down on me sooner than I had hoped. I’m 32 years old and you’re likely to find stronger and more stable ankles and feet on the residents at your local nursing home.

“I will miss my teammates and bring around the locker room the most. My best friends are guys I played this game with. I share so many different memories with all of them that span over 20 years. That is what makes hockey so special.

“It is remarkable how quickly it went by. There were many ups and obviously plenty of downs, but I wouldn’t change a thing because it all made me into the person I am today. I dreamt of playing in the NHL my entire life and I’m forever thankful to everyone who helped make my dreams come true.”

Whitney was taken with the fifth overall pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins and early in his career he was a great offensive defenseman. He tied sixth among blueliners in points with 59 in his 2006-07 sophomore season. He followed that up with a 40-point campaign in 2007-08, but that would be his last full season with the Penguins.

Pittsburgh traded him to Anaheim in February 2009 in exchange for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi. Just over a year later, the Ducks sent him to Edmonton along with a sixth round pick in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky.

It wasn’t long after that second trade that his career started to unravel. From 2010-11 through 2013-14 he only participated in 127 NHL games. Last season he played primarily in the KHL.

At the end of the day, he’s retiring after scoring 50 goals and 259 points in 481 contests.