Report: Devils to hire Ruff as head coach

The New Jersey Devils are set to hire Lindy Ruff as their head coach, according to NHL Network's Kevin Weekes.

New Jersey is also expected to remove the interim tag from general manager Tom Fitzgerald's role, Weekes adds.

Ruff has worked as an assistant for the New York Rangers since 2017. He takes over for Alain Nasreddine, who was named interim head coach when John Hynes was fired in December.

The veteran head coach has manned the bench for nearly 1,500 games with the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars. The 60-year-old is sixth on the all-time wins list with 736.

It was reported in June that the Devils narrowed down their coaching search to four candidates, with Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, and John Stevens known to have interviewed for the vacancy.

The Devils entered the 2019-20 campaign with sky-high expectations after landing Jack Hughes with the No. 1 overall pick and acquiring P.K. Subban in a blockbuster trade. However, New Jersey was unable to capitalize and finished the season in 26th place.

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Pronger leaves Panthers’ front office for travel company

Chris Pronger is leaving his job as senior vice president of hockey operations with the Florida Panthers in order to work for a luxury travel company he co-founded with his wife, Lauren, the team announced Wednesday.

"Since joining our hockey operations staff in 2017, Chris approached his role with great passion and provided our team with a fresh and unique perspective," general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement. "A true professional, champion, and proud family man, we wish Chris, Lauren, and the Pronger family the very best in their new business endeavor, Well Inspired Travels."

Pronger joined the Panthers as a senior adviser before adding senior vice president of hockey operations to his title in 2019. In April, he said he was interested in potentially becoming a GM someday.

"I was able to grow as an executive and more importantly as a person in my three years with the hockey club," Pronger said Wednesday. "I wish the Panthers organization nothing but the best in the upcoming playoffs and years to come."

Pronger recorded 698 points in 1,167 games during his Hall of Fame playing career. The former Hart and Norris Trophy winner led three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final, winning in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks. Concussions ended his career in 2011-12.

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Projecting Finland’s 2022 Olympic roster

With Olympic participation reportedly included in the NHL and NHLPA's modified collective bargaining agreement, it's time for hockey fans to think about what the tournament may look like. This edition takes a look at Team Finland's squad.

In recent memory, Finland has been one of the deepest, most consistent teams in international tournaments. It's tied with Canada for taking home the most medals of any country in men's hockey over the last four Olympics. While Canada has two gold medals in that time span, Finland managed two bronzes and a silver.

An impressive number of top prospects have come out of Finland over the last several years. Over the last four drafts, five Finnish players were selected inside the top five picks. With a new generation of stars in the mix, Finland will be looking to bring in another medal - and has a shot at taking home the country's first-ever gold.

Others in this series:
Canada
USA
Sweden
Czech Republic - July 10
Russia - July 12

Finland

Head coach: Jukka Jalonen

Jalonen signed a contract with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association to be head coach of the men's national team until May 2022, which means we should see him behind the bench at the Beijing Olympics.

He's had tremendous success in the past, most recently leading his team to a gold medal at the IIHF World Championship in 2019. He took home another gold at the same tournament in 2011. On top of his success at the World Championship, Jalonen managed to reel in a bronze medal for Finland at the 2010 Olympic Games as well.

Forwards

Patrick McDermott / National Hockey League / Getty
LW C RW
Mikko Rantanen (25) Aleksander Barkov (26) Patrik Laine (23)
Teuvo Teravainen (27) Sebastian Aho (24) Joel Armia (28)
Kaapo Kakko (20) Mikael Granlund (29) Erik Haula (30)
Artturi Lehkonen (26) Jesperi Kotkaniemi (21) Joonas Donskoi (29)

(All player ages as of February 2022)

Extras: Jesse Puljujarvi (23), Kasperi Kapanen (25)

While Finland has undoubtedly had talent throughout its lineups over the years, it always seemed to be missing the star power that other teams have up front. 2022 should be a different story.

Finland is poised to boast a top six comprised of some of the NHL's biggest young stars. The No. 1 line combines dual-threat Barkov with snipers Laine and Rantanen. Meanwhile, Aho and Teravainen's chemistry as Carolina Hurricanes teammates would quickly translate to magic on international ice. The two lines contain immense talent and would be capable of causing headaches for opponents at both ends of the rink.

The bottom six is where things get interesting. Youngsters such as Kotkaniemi and Kakko have yet to truly blossom in the NHL, but they have shown tremendous promise. By 2022, it's plausible that they will have shown why they were both top-three picks.

The second and third lines are rounded out by solid, skilled role players such as Haula and Lehkonen, who have shown that they are reliable and can produce when called upon. As for the team's extra spots, one will go to Puljujarvi. While he hasn't panned out on NHL ice yet, that doesn't mean he can't be an asset in international play. He's also still just 22 years old and coming off an impressive 53-point season in the Finnish Elite League.

Just missed the cut: Mikko Koivu, Leo Komarov, Eeli Tolvanen, Henrik Borgstrom

Defensemen

Jean Catuffe / Getty Images Sport / Getty
LD RD
Miro Heiskanen (22) Rasmus Ristolainen (27)
Mikko Lehtonen (28) Henri Jokiharju (22)
Esa Lindell (27) Olli Maatta (27)

Extra: Sami Vatanen (30)

The Finnish defensive group will be led by the uber-talented Heiskanen. He's shown flashes of brilliance in the NHL already and has a lot of international experience at a young age.

Lehtonen has yet to play a game in the NHL, but he recently signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs after leading all KHL defensemen in points during the 2019-20 season. He's produced at every level and has represented Finland internationally numerous times, including in the last Olympics.

Having two 22-year-olds in the blue-line corps carries some risk of defensive lapses. But overall, the group is extremely solid, and with veteran Vatanen as a spare, the lineup could be juggled easily.

Just missed the cut: Sami Niku, Markus Nutivaara, Ville Heinola

Goalies

Andre Ringuette / World Cup of Hockey / Getty
G
Tuukka Rask (34)
Juuse Saros (26)

Extra: Joonas Korpisalo (27)

All signs point to Rask manning the crease in Beijing, but with a couple of up-and-coming Finnish stars at the position, that's no guarantee. Though Saros and Korpisalo don't have a ton of experience, they've shown that they have what it takes to be legitimately good goaltenders, and they still have a year and a half to demonstrate their capabilities.

Rask will turn 35 shortly after the 2022 Olympics, so age is the main thing working against him unless his play suddenly declines. It's hard, but not impossible, to envision Saros or Korpisalo getting the nod instead.

Just missed the cut: Antti Raanta, Mikko Koskinen

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NHLPA executive board approves tentative CBA, membership to now vote

The NHLPA executive board has approved the tentative CBA agreement and have referred it to the NHLPA Membership for a ratification vote, the league announced Tuesday.

Every player in the league will now vote over the next 48 hours with a simple majority needed to pass the tentative CBA.

More to come.

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