NHL News and Notes

NHL News and Notes

Wild re-sign goaltender Backstrom to 2-year contract
June 7, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The Minnesota Wild added depth and complication to their goalie situation by re-signing Niklas Backstrom to a two-year, $6.2 million contract on Thursday.

Backstrom went 23-8-6 with five shutouts in 41 games, taking over when Manny Fernandez got hurt and steering the Wild toward their first playoff appearance in four years with an unexpected performance.

``I have to pinch myself. It's like I'm in a dream,'' Backstrom said. ``I was surprised how fast and smooth everything went last season.''

The NHL leader in goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.929), Backstrom shared with Fernandez the William M. Jennings Trophy for the team's league-low 191 goals against. But Fernandez, who sprained his left knee in late January and suffered a setback that prevented him from returning for the postseason, will make about $4.5 million next season with the team close to the salary cap.

He's signed through the 2008-09 season, will turn 33 in August, and has said he expects to be traded.

General manager Doug Risebrough said Thursday that he will keep both of them.

``I was just trying to do the right thing right now for the team, which is to have good goaltending for the team,'' said Risebrough, who declined to comment on the possibility of dealing Fernandez this summer.

Backstrom has a full no-trade clause in the first year of his contract and a limited no-trade clause in the second year. He became one of the NHL's biggest surprises after leaving the Finnish Elite League and signing a one-year contract with Minnesota.

The 29-year-old Backstrom had never played in the NHL and acknowledged that - despite confidence in his ability - he was unsure how he'd measure up.

Using a strong work ethic, Backstrom gave up three goals or less in all but three of his appearances. He had such an enjoyable experience that he encouraged his agent, Don Baizley, to secure a deal for him to stay with the Wild. Had Backstrom waited until July 1 to enter the free-agent pool, he likely could've made more money.

``I didn't ever think about that,'' he said on a conference call. ``I want to be somewhere where I'm happy and having fun and be on a team that has a chance to win and achieve something.''

Even his friends and family in Finland wondered what team he'd like to play for if a contract didn't work out with the Wild.

They're still wondering.

``The only thing I thought about was getting back to Minnesota,'' Backstrom said.

Fernandez, one of three players left from the Wild's inaugural 2000-01 season, spoke in the past tense last weekend about his time with the team and sounded resigned to moving on. Risebrough, though, said repeatedly that he planned to enter the season with a pair of multimillion-dollar goalies.

``It's probably not something he envisioned a year ago, but it's in the best interests of the team and Manny's part of this team,'' Risebrough said.

Fernandez, who went 22-16-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage before the injury, shared the job with Dwayne Roloson for nearly four seasons. Neither player preferred the arrangement, though it was generally successful, and Fernandez's status as the unquestioned starter seemed established when his contract extension came last year.

But then came Backstrom.

``I don't know how it will work out, but it's possible,'' Risebrough said when asked if he could keep both goalies happy. ``That is ... what we're trying to do right now.''

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Stars re-sign center Barnes
June 7, 2007

FRISCO, Texas (AP) -The Dallas Stars re-signed center Stu Barnes to a one-year deal Thursday worth $900,000.

The 36-year-old Barnes, one of three players to start every game last season for the Stars, has 41 goals and 56 assists for 97 points in 250 games with Dallas, including 13 goals and 12 assists last year. He arrived in Dallas in 2003, in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.

In 15 NHL seasons, Barnes has scored 249 goals and 325 assists for 574 points.

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Penguins bond issue, lease approved
June 8, 2007

PITTSBURGH (AP) -A city-county board approved a $325 million bond issue for a new arena and authorized a 30-year lease with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The agreement Thursday binds the team to the city for at least 30 years, although formal lease documents were still being finalized, Sports & Exhibition Authority officials said.

The authority board also authorized extending the Penguins' current lease at 46-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest arena in the National Hockey League. The extension gives the Penguins more control over revenue at the building as its master tenant.

The bond issue is expected to cover the cost of the $290 million arena, a possible parking garage and other related expenses.

The Penguins hope to move into the new arena during the 2009-2010 season.

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Habs to buy out Samsonov ?
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According to the Boston Globe, the Montreal Canadiens are expected to buy out the contract of winger Sergei Samsonov.

Samsonov, 28, was a major disappointment for the Canadiens this past season, scoring only nine goals and adding just 17 assists in 63 games.

The Globe reports the Habs will buy out his deal, at a cost of about $1.2 million each of the next two years.

In 596 career NHL games, Samsonov has accumulated 178 goals and 240 assists for 418 points.

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Smyth unlikely to return to Oilers
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Former Oilers winger Ryan Smyth, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, isn't expected to return to Oil country, reports the Edmonton Journal.

Smyth admits he was caught off-guard when the New York Islanders bought out the remainder of Alexei Yashin's contract, although doing so could save some cash to try and entice Smyth into staying before he hits the open market.

"I was shocked actually... I know Yashin and Mr. (owner Charles) Wang are pretty tight. Caught me off-guard," Smyth told the Journal.
   
      
Just prior to being dealt to the Islanders on February 27, Smyth turned down a five-year, $27 million deal from the Oilers.

While Smyth will let his agent, Don Meehan, take care of the negotiations, numerous reports suggest the Islanders are looking at offering a six- or seven-year deal.

The Journal suggests the likes of Colorado, Detroit, Toronto and the New York Rangers will likely pitch an offer for Smyth.

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Lightning re-sign pair of players
June 11th, 2007

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed center Nick Tarnasky and right wing Kyle Wanvig on Monday.

Tarnasky inked a three-year deal, while Wanvig signed a one-year, two-way contract.

The 6-foot-2, 233-pound Tarnasky played his first full season with the Lightning last year and netted five goals and four assists in 77 games.

"Nick Tarnasky has all the makings of a true dominant power forward in the NHL," Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said. "He has size, strength, solid skating ability, willingness to commit himself to the defensive side of the game and an under-developed ability to finish that even he is just starting to harness and explore."

Wanvig was acquired in a February trade with Atlanta and appeared in four games with the Lightning last season.

"Kyle Wanvig is a pure goal scorer, as he consistently has demonstrated at the AHL level and, as we believe, he has the ability to demonstrate at the NHL level," Feaster added.

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Leafs ink Sundin to new contract
June 12th, 2007

Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - The Toronto Maple Leafs signed captain Mats Sundin to a new one-year contract on Tuesday, ensuring the modern face of the franchise stays with the club for at least one more season.

"We are extremely proud to have Mats continue as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs," said team vice president and general manager John Ferguson. "Not only has he been one of the greatest players in our franchise history, but his exemplary leadership on and off the ice has been all that any organization could want from a team captain. We'll continue to rely on Mats' playing ability on the ice and on all of the contributions he makes to the development of our young players. Having him in the fold will have a positive impact on our club for many years to come."

The 36-year-old center has played in 907 career games for the Maple Leafs, tallying 388 goals and 521 assists. He enters the 2007-08 campaign ranked second in Maple Leafs all-time goals, second in points, and third in assists.

The longest-tenured player on the team, Sundin needs just one goal to tie Darryl Sittler for the all-time franchise mark in goals, and seven points to match Sittler for first place in Maple Leaf points.

Last season, Sundin collected 76 points on 27 goals and 49 assists in 75 games for Toronto. He was the Maple Leafs leader in goals, assists, points, powerplay points (34), and shots on goal (321).

Sundin was selected first overall by Quebec in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, and later acquired by the Maple Leafs in a multi-player trade in 1994.

In 1,231 career NHL games with Toronto and Quebec, Sundin has 523 goals and 720 assists. The Sweden native ranks among the NHL's best, standing 29th in all-time goals, 40th in assists, and 33rd in points.

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Ducks sign Moen and Parros
June 12th, 2007

Anaheim, CA (Sports Network) - The Anaheim Ducks have signed left wing Travis Moen and right wing George Parros each to a two-year contract extension.

Both players are now under contract through the 2008-2009 season. Per club policy, no financial terms were disclosed.

Moen, 25, played a critical role in Anaheim's 2007 Stanley Cup title run. In the 2007 playoffs Moen scored three game-winning goals, including the championship-clinching goal in Game 6 which brought the Ducks their first- ever title. In 82 regular season games for the Ducks, Moen scored 11 goals and had 10 assists for 21 points, setting career highs in all three categories.

Parros, 27, was scoreless in five appearances for the Ducks in the 2007 playoffs. In 32 regular season games for Anaheim, he scored one goal and led the team with 102 penalty minutes.

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Red Wings re-sign 45-year-old D Chelios
June 12, 2007

DETROIT (AP) -The Red Wings re-signed 45-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios to a one-year contract Tuesday.

Chelios has played a key role for Detroit after Jiri Fischer was sidelined with a heart ailment during the 2005-06 season and Niklas Kronwall was injured last season. He is coming off his 23rd NHL season and his record 22nd postseason appearance.

The Red Wings were eliminated in six games from the Western Conference finals by the Anaheim Ducks, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

``He has taken conditioning to a new level and has set the standard for how today's professional athlete trains year-round in order to compete at an elite level,'' Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a statement.

``In addition to his high level of play, Chris' experience and leadership are second to none.''

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Bruins, D Alberts agree on multi-year extension
June 12th, 2007

Boston, MA (Sports Network) - The Boston Bruins and defenseman Andrew Alberts agreed on a multi-year contract extension on Tuesday. Per club policy, terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

"Andrew is a young player with a lot of upside, and it was a priority of ours to get him signed to a multi-year deal this off-season," said Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli. "He is a big, tough and physical player who we think is only going to get better as he continues to develop as an NHL defenseman."

Alberts, the club's fifth pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, posted 10 assists in 76 games for Boston this past season. The 6-4, 218-pound defenseman has appeared in 146 games over the past two seasons with the Bruins, compiling one goal and 16 assists.

"I am glad that we got this done early during the off-season and now I can concentrate on working out and preparing for next season," said Alberts. "Between my years at Boston College and my time with the Bruins, I have come to love playing in Boston and the fans here. I am very excited to be staying and playing in Boston for the foreseeable future."

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Sabres Ruff, Regier agree to new deals
June 12, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier have agreed to new contracts, allowing Buffalo to retain the architects of a team coming off consecutive Eastern Conference finals appearances.
   
The deals will be announced later this week, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Sabres have not yet announced the signings.

The news doesn't come as a surprise after Regier said last week he expected both he and Ruff to be back for next season after both completed the final year of their contracts.

Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert declined comment.

Buffalo is coming off a disappointing finish, failing to achieve its Stanley Cup goals. The top-seeded Sabres were eliminated by Ottawa in Game 5 of the East finals last month. It marked the second straight season they reached the conference finals and lost after dropping Game 7 to eventual champion Carolina in 2006.

Ruff is a finalist to win his second consecutive Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL's coach of the year. He is the franchise's winningest coach, registering a 358-289-71 record over nine seasons, and the longest tenured NHL coach with the same team over that span.

Ruff also has a team-best 52-36 postseason record, including one Stanley Cup final appearance in 1999, when the Sabres lost in six games to Dallas.

Regier has been the GM since 1997, and credited for leading the franchise through it's lowest point, in January 2003, when the Sabres were without an owner and forced to declare bankruptcy. He's also credited with having the foresight to build a fast and offensively talented group that's been the model of success since the NHL returned from its lockout in the summer of 2005.

The Sabres are coming off back-to-back 50-win seasons, including a franchise-best 53-win campaign this past year, to win their first Presidents' Trophy for finishing first in the overall NHL standings.

Regier's most pressing task is attempting to re-sign the team's two core players, co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. Both are eligible to become free agents July 1 and expected to command $5 million-plus salaries.

Representatives for both players said the team has yet to contact them to open negotiations.

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Devils sign trio of players
June 13th, 2007

East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - The New Jersey Devils signed defensemen Andy Greene and Matthew Corrente Wednesday, as well as forward Jari Viuhkola.

The 24-year-old Greene played in 23 regular-season games last season for New Jersey, scoring one goal and adding five assists. In 11 postseason contests, Greene picked up two goals and an assist.

Corrente, 19, was selected by the Devils with the 30th overall pick in the 2006 draft. He spent last season in the Ontario Hockey League and will attend training camp with New Jersey in September.

Viuhkola has played the last seven seasons in the Finnish Elite League. Last year, the 27-year-old recorded seven goals and 38 assists in 37 games with Karpat Oulu.

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Panthers' Allen gets 5-year deal
June 13, 2007

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -The Florida Panthers re-signed defenseman Bryan Allen to a five-year contract Wednesday.

The deal is reportedly worth nearly $15 million.

Allen was a restricted free agent this offseason. He played in all 82 games for the Panthers this past season and finished with four goals and a career-high 21 assists.

``The signing of Allen marks another significant step in our plan to bring continued stability and success to the Panthers,'' Florida coach and general manager Jacques Martin said.

Allen came to Florida in the trade that sent goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks last year.

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Keenan to be named Flames head coach
June 13th, 2007

Calgary, AB (Sports Network) - The Calgary Flames are reportedly set to name Mike Keenan as head coach.

According to Canada's TSN, which cites its own sources, Keenan is currently in Calgary to meet with team executives, and can be named to the post as early as Thursday.

The man dubbed "Iron Mike" has coached 1,014 NHL games, accumulating a 569-467-140 record with Philadelphia, Chicago, the New York Rangers, St. Louis, Vancouver, Boston and Florida.

Keenan, 57, broke into the league with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1984, leading the team to a pair of 50-win seasons and two Cup Finals appearances in 1985 and 1987, adding a Jack Adams trophy as the league's top coach in 1985. After a four-year tenure with the Flyers, he moved on to Chicago in 1988, and led the Blackhawks to a Final in 1992, a four-game loss to Pittsburgh.

The Rangers brought Keenan into the fold in 1993, and the move paid off immediately as New York won its first Stanley Cup since 1940 in a thrilling seven-game series against Vancouver the following June. After that season, however, Keenan departed for a dual GM-head coach position with the St. Louis Blues.

He was hired to turn around a dismal Vancouver Canucks squad in 1998, then tabbed to do the same for the Bruins in 2000 and for the Panthers in 2002.

After serving a stint as the team's general manager, Keenan was set to be renamed Panthers head coach prior to the 2006-2007 season, but was replaced by Jacques Martin.

The Flames have been on a coaching carousel the past three seasons. Current general manager Darryl Sutter helmed the club to a 42-33-7 record in 2003-2004, which included a seven-game Stanley Cup Finals loss to Tampa Bay.

In 2005-2006, Sutter led the Flames to 46 wins but a Western Conference quarterfinals defeat to Anaheim, then stepped down in July, 2006 to elevate assistant coach Jim Playfair. Playfair led Calgary to a 43-29-10 mark in 2006-2007, earning a playoff berth by a single point. The Flames bowed out of the postseason in a six-game quarterfinal series loss to Detroit.

If Keenan is not hired, Playfair may still remain with the Flames organization, but it is unclear what his fate will be if Calgary is able to work out a deal with the veteran coach.

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Avs re-sign Parker, Boychuk
June 13th, 2007

Denver, CO (Sports Network) - The Colorado Avalanche re-signed forward Scott Parker and defenseman Johnny Boychuk to one-year contracts on Wednesday.

Colorado reacquired Parker from the San Jose Sharks in February in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-5, 240-pound right winger collected a goal and an assist in 10 games for the Avs.

The 29-year-old Parker was a first round pick (20th overall) by Colorado in the 1998 Entry Draft. He played his first four seasons with the Avalanche and was a member of the 2001 Stanley Cup Championship squad. He was shipped to San Jose for a fifth-round pick in the 2003 Entry Draft on June 21, 2003.

Boychuk spent this past season with Albany of the American Hockey League. The 23-year-old appeared in a team-high 80 games, collecting 10 goals and 18 assists.

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Tampa Bay welcomes back Gratton for the third time
June 13th, 2007

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning reacquired forward Chris Gratton from the Florida Panthers on Wednesday in exchange for a second-round pick in either the 2007 or 2008 draft.

Gratton was the Lightning's first-round choice, third overall, in the 1993 entry draft. He played four seasons in his first stint in Tampa from 1993-97, then parts of two seasons in his second stint from 1998-2000, accumulating 88 goals and 236 points in 404 games. The 6-4, 220-pounder recorded career highs in goals (30), points (62), and penalty minutes (207) in 1996-97.

"We have been pursuing Chris for some time now," said Lightning executive vice president and general manager Jay Feaster. "He has great size and strength, he is very good on face-offs, he has excellent grit and is willing to take care of both himself and defend his teammates. They say in life that 'the third time is the charm,' and we truly believe that his third time in a Lightning uniform is going to be a great one for Chris and our team."

The 31-year-old native of Brantford, Ontario has bounced around the NHL during his 13-year career. He signed as a free agent with Philadelphia in the summer of 1997, then was sent back to Tampa in a December, 1998 trade. Following that tenure, he was acquired by the Buffalo Sabres late in the 1999-2000 season, spending parts of four seasons there until Phoenix acquired him in a deal for Daniel Briere in 2003.

He spent parts of two seasons with the Coyotes before moving onto Colorado at the tail end of the 2003-2004 campaign. Gratton signed with Florida in 2005, scoring 30 goals and 74 points in 157 games over the last two seasons.

Gratton has played in 1,008 games with six teams, scoring 204 goals, collecting 340 assists and amassing 1,549 penalty minutes.

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Panthers trade Gratton to Lightning, give Allen 5-year deal
June 13, 2007

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -The Florida Panthers traded center Chris Gratton to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday for a second-round pick in the 2007 or 2008 NHL draft.

That deal was announced a few hours after the Panthers re-signed defenseman Bryan Allen to a five-year contract worth nearly $15 million.

The Panthers have the option of choosing which year they will take the pick acquired in the deal for Gratton, who had 13 goals and 22 assists this season for Florida.

Gratton was Tampa Bay's first-round pick - No. 3 overall - in the 1993 draft and scored 88 goals in parts of six seasons with the Lightning, where he also served as team captain in the 1999-2000 season.

``Chris Gratton is the ideal third-line center for our hockey team,'' Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said. ``He has great size and strength, he is very good on face-offs, he has excellent grit and is willing both to take care of himself and defend his teammates, he is fearless when standing in front of the net on the power play and he has developed over time into a solid penalty killer as well.''

Allen was a restricted free agent this offseason. He played in all 82 games for the Panthers this past season and finished with four goals and a career-high 21 assists.

``The signing of Allen marks another significant step in our plan to bring continued stability and success to the Panthers,'' Florida coach and general manager Jacques Martin said.

Allen came to Florida in the trade that sent goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks last year.

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Report: Turgeon to retire
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Avalanche forward Pierre Turgeon has decided to call it quits, reports the Denver Post.

Turgeon, the NHL's 27th all-time leading scorer, has played his final two seasons with the Avalanche.

Citing sources close to the 37-year-old, the Post claims Turgeon will make an official announcement soon.

Turgeon, who scored 515 goals and 1,327 points in 1,294 career games with six NHL teams, signed a two-year, $3 million contract with Colorado in 2005

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Flyers sign goaltender Niittymaki to 2-year contract
June 14, 2007

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -The Flyers signed restricted free agent goaltender Antero Niittymaki to a two-year contract on Thursday.

The Finn struggled last season, going 9-29-9 with a 3.38 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 52 games with Philadelphia.

Niittymaki, who turns 27 on Monday, is coming off surgery on his left hip in April and was expected to need about 10 weeks to recover. He had a similar operation on his right hip last year.

In three seasons with the Flyers, Niittymaki has a 35-44-15 record and a 3.12 goals-against average in 101 career games.

He will probably back up Martin Biron, who signed a two-year, $7 million contract in March. Acquired from Buffalo for a second-round draft pick in late February, Biron was the Flyers' starter down the stretch.

``We believe that Antero is a very good young goalie,'' Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said in a statement. ``He is only 26 years old and we feel that he is still on the upswing.

``We realize that last year was a down year for everybody, including Antero. We feel that our goaltending, along with Marty Biron, is strong, and we are excited to have both of them under contract.''

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Bruins axe Lewis
June 15th, 2007

Boston, MA (Sports Network) - After just one season behind the bench, the Boston Bruins fired head coach Dave Lewis on Friday.

The Bruins also relieved associate coach Marc Habscheid of his duties. Both are expected to be reassigned to other positions within the organization.

"Since the season has ended I have completed a thorough review of the team and the coaching staff, and I have determined that Dave Lewis and Marc Habscheid are not the proper fit for the Bruins at this time," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. "I have a short list of candidates in mind, and I hope to have a new head coach in place in the near future."

Lewis became Boston's head coach last June and led the club to a 35-41-6 record this past season. The Bruins missed out on the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

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