NHL community 'can't take much more' heartbreak

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NHL community 'can't take much more' heartbreak

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, September 8, 2011
For the NHL, an already dark summer became unimaginably worse Wednesday. From Anaheim to Montreal, the world's best hockey players struggled to comprehend a shocking loss to their sport after a chartered Russian plane carrying the Kontinental Hockey League's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed, killing several NHL veterans in one of the worst air disasters in sports history. Many players heard about the accident on their way back to work from summer breaks. Most NHL training camps open next weekend, and every club radiates optimism for the season ahead. But hockey is hurting after an offseason of tragedies and disappointments, including the deaths of three players in a four-month span before the catastrophic crash. "The hockey world mourns yet again. Please God, we can't take much more," tweeted New York forward Brandon Prust, the former roommate of late Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard. Even a glorious, seven-game Stanley Cup series ended ugly with riots in Vancouver when the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins. Looting, vandalism and sporadic violence left 140 people injured and resulted in 100 arrests and millions in property damage. "This has been a terrible summer for the sport all around," said Predators center David Legwand, who played four seasons in Nashville with Karlis Skrastins, a respected NHL veteran killed in the crash. "(Hockey) is a pretty tight-knit family, whether you play in Russia, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden ... it is a tough thing for everybody." No NHL team was left unscarred by the obliteration of a top club in the KHL, which emerged as Europe's most lucrative league over the past three years, with teams in former Soviet republics competing with the NHL for players mostly from eastern Europe. In the intertwined world of elite hockey, it's impossible to find two teams without players who share a common playing history, nationality or friendship. Lokomotiv's roster included three-time All-Star Pavol Demitra, a Slovakian who played for five NHL clubs; veteran Belarusian defenseman Ruslan Salei, who met his wife in Anaheim and raised his family in Orange County; and Czech forward Josef Vasicek, who won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. "I am still in disbelief about today's tragic news," said former Avalanche captain Joe Sakic, who played with Skrastins and Salei in Colorado. "Both Karlis and Ruslan were unbelievable individuals and great teammates. They will be sorely missed." Hockey had been reeling since May 13, when Boogaard died in his apartment in Minneapolis. The personable forward was one of the NHL's top enforcers, bringing charisma to the traditional hockey role of brawler who sticks up for his teammates in crowd-pleasing fights. Boogaard died from an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone, officials said. Meantime, Boston University scientists are studying his brain to determine whether he had a degenerative condition resulting from hits to the head. Three months later the body of Rick Rypien of the Winnipeg Jets was discovered at his home in Alberta after a police official said a call was answered for a "sudden and non-suspicious" death. Although Rypien had suffered from depression for a decade, his brawling style of play raised additional questions about the mental health of enforcers. Recently retired player Wade Belak hanged himself in Toronto on Aug. 31, a person familiar with the case told the AP. The Lokomotiv disaster will linger over the upcoming NHL season, particularly for teams with direct connections to the club. The Detroit Red Wings were hit particularly hard: Lokomotiv coach Brad McCrimmon was Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom's defensive partner and an assistant to Detroit coach Mike Babcock until May, while Salei played 75 games for Detroit last season. "It's just so sad that their lives have suddenly changed forever, and now they've got no dad or husband," Babcock said after driving to the McCrimmon family's home earlier Wednesday. "It just goes to show that you can't miss out on doing stuff with your family, because change can come in an instant."

Source: ‘Fairly certain’ Bruins will part ways with Connolly

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Source: ‘Fairly certain’ Bruins will part ways with Connolly

Things didn’t look good for right winger Brett Connolly returning to the Bruins after they opted not to tender him a qualifying offer a couple of days ago. Now it appears the former No. 6 overall pick will be headed toward unrestricted free agency. 

A league source told CSNNE.com on Friday morning that “it was fairly certain” Connolly wouldn’t be re-signing with Boston leading up to July 1 and that the right wing would be getting a fresh start someplace else next season. 

The B’s had maintained some level of public interest in keeping Connolly, 24, after relinquishing his RFA rights, but there hasn’t been much in the way of substantive communication between the two sides over the last few days.

Connolly scored nine goals and 25 points with a minus-1 in 71 games for the Black and Gold last season in a disappointing offensive season playing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. 

He went long stretches without scoring goals or posting points last season and never played like the 6-foot-2, 193-pound power forward-type he was projected to be coming out of junior hockey. 

It was a step back from a decent season as a Tampa Bay Lightning third liner in 2014-15, and a clear bummer after they’d shipped a pair of second round picks to the Bolts in exchange for the former lottery pick.

With Connolly now headed for free agency with zero assets coming back to the Bruins in exchange for him, chalk this up as another total loss for the Bruins at a trade deadline where they’ve really damaged their long term organizational prospects over the past couple of years. 

 

Bruins sign David Backes after losing Eriksson to Vancouver

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Bruins sign David Backes after losing Eriksson to Vancouver

The Bruins have made some signings to varying degrees of significance on the July 1 opening of NHL free agency

The Bruins signed rugged, productive center David Backes to a five-year contract worth $6 million that will take the 32-year-old up until he’s 38. The former St. Louis Blues captain is tough, intense and physical along with being a guy that can chip in 20 plus goals on offense, and he will bring some of that fire to the Black and Gold starting next season. But the 6-foot-3, 221-pound forward has also already played 700 plus games in the NHL, heavy miles logged given his physical style of play. It will be interesting to see what kind of player Backes is when he approaches the 36-38 year old range a few years down the road.

The Backes signing came soon after word came that the B's lost Loui Eriksson to the Vancouver Canucks to a deal believed to be worth $36 million over six years. 

“The flexibility piece is there. Now, we just need to make it happen, be it through trade or free agency, we’ll continue to improve,” said B’s general manager Don Sweeney, while announcing the Torey Krug contract extension on Thursday night. “Players on this roster or whatever we have to do — there are certain players that I’ve mentioned before that are a big part of our group in winning and we’re very, very unlikely to move.

“But discussions will come down with different general managers — they’re going to want, they’re going to have the asks, and I do, too, so you have to try and make it work and you realize that good players are exchanged and it’s not a fun process, but in order to improve your team, you’re going to have to give something up.

In addition to Backes, who scored 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games last season, the Bruins also inked backup goaltender Anton Khudobin to a short-term deal and re-signed John-Michael Liles to a one-year, $2 million contract after arriving at the trade deadline last spring.