Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

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Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

“We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

“It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

NEW COACHES

The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

“Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

CAMP TRYOUTS

Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

“They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

EARLY START

Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

“We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

“I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”

Anaheim Ducks acquire Dmitry Kulikov from Minnesota

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks acquired defenseman Dmitry Kulikov from the Minnesota Wild in a trade for future considerations.

The 31-year-old Kulikov had seven goals and 17 assists with a plus-23 rating over 80 games last season for the Wild, who signed him to a two-year contract as a free agent last summer.

The Florida Panthers’ first-round pick in 2009 will begin his 14th NHL season with his seventh team next month. He has 42 goals and 156 assists in 805 career games.

Kulikov is the latest low-risk veteran addition to the rebuilding Ducks, who have bolstered their gifted young core with complementary talent during their first offseason under new general manager Pat Verbeek. Anaheim signed productive defenseman John Klingberg to a one-year deal after signing center Ryan Strome and forward Frank Vatrano to multiyear deals.

Kulikov has one year and $2.25 million remaining on his contract. Minnesota has spent much of the summer attempting to squeeze its payroll under the NHL salary cap.

Anaheim is still currently near the league’s minimum payroll as Verbeek carefully manages his long-term commitments with a rebuilding roster.

Anaheim Ducks sign John Klingberg for 1 year, $7 million

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks signed John Klingberg to a one-year, $7 million contract, landing the top defenseman on the NHL free agent market.

The offensive-minded Swede is leaving Dallas, where he had spent his entire NHL career while racking up 71 goals and 303 assists in eight seasons with the Stars. He had six goals and 41 assists last season, although he was a career-worst minus-28.

Klingberg’s offensive skills and shot-blocking capability give an immediate boost to the Ducks, who can also use his right-handed shot and puck movement on the power play. Klingberg scored 20 points while Dallas had the man advantage last season, and he has 148 career points on the power play.

“We are extremely excited to add John to our group,” Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek said. “John is a gifted player who can quarterback a power play and give us needed scoring from the blueline. He also adds veteran leadership and character to our team.”

Klingberg has been recognized as one of the league’s better offensive defensemen since the 2020 playoffs, when he scored 21 points in 26 postseason games while Dallas reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Klingberg, who turns 30 next month, had been seeking a long-term contract in free agency as the league’s top available defenseman, but nothing apparently materialized. Instead, he will have a chance to showcase his skills with the up-and-coming Ducks, who had plenty of room under the salary cap to accommodate a lucrative one-year deal with significant upside for the team.

His arrival will be another part of a fairly major roster makeover for Anaheim since Verbeek took over the front office during last season. Verbeek traded longtime Ducks defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson near the trade deadline after determining he didn’t want to sign the pending free agents to long-term deals, but he had hoped to add a veteran defenseman this summer to boost the group led by Cam Fowler.

Anaheim has missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons, but the Ducks appear to be primed for improvement in the fall. Verbeek signed center Ryan Strome and right wing Frank Vatrano in free agency to play alongside Anaheim’s talented young core, which includes gifted forwards Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry and defenseman Jamie Drysdale.

Isac Lundeström agrees to 2-year, $3.6 million deal with Ducks

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Center Isac Lundestrom has agreed to a two-year, $3.6 million contract with the Anaheim Ducks.

Lundestrom and the Ducks avoided arbitration with the deal. Anaheim general manager Pat Verbeek has re-signed all of the club’s restricted free agents.

The 22-year-old Lundestrom had 16 goals and 19 assists last year in his first full NHL season, ranking fourth on the roster in goals. The Swede also excelled as a penalty killer, tying Corey Perry‘s franchise record with four short-handed goals.

The Ducks’ first-round pick in 2018 has 22 goals and 22 assists in 151 career games. After the retirement of longtime captain Ryan Getzlaf, Lundestrom is likely to be Anaheim’s third-line center next season behind Trevor Zegras and new free-agent signee Ryan Strome.