Pastrnak’s camp plans to discuss 8-year deal with Bruins

David Pastrnak is seeking a maximum term deal with the Boston Bruins.

On Thursday, Bruins president Cam Neely candidly spoke at the Bruins FanFest, admiring the club has not had any real dialogue with Pastrnak's camp since tabling a six- or seven-year contract at an annual average of $6 million.

However, Pastrnak's agent J.P. Barry responded, saying they plan to hold discussions Friday, and has since announced they intend to discuss a max-term deal.

"(The Bruins) are aware that the offers to date aren’t where we feel David fits in this marketplace," Barry said, according to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald. "We plan to discuss an eight-year maximum term to see if we can find more common ground."

There is speculation that Pastrnak could be seeking a deal closer to that of Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl is the same age as Pastrnak and after tallying 29 goals and 77 points this past season, earned an eight-year, $68-million deal from the Oilers.

Pastnak is a restricted free agent and is coming off a career year that saw him finish second on the Bruins with 34 goals and 70 points in 75 games.

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Athanasiou’s offers from Red Wings, KHL have ‘considerable difference’

Little progress has been made in the negotiations between the Detroit Red Wings and restricted free agent forward Andreas Athanasiou, his agent Darren Ferris told Ansar Khan of

The latest update comes just nine days after a KHL club tabled a one-year contract for Athanasiou to take his game overseas.

"Andreas is evaluating the pros and cons of all the offers," Ferris told Khan. "Andreas loves Detroit and especially the Detroit fans but he has to really consider the serious offers from the KHL he has before him. There is a considerable difference in the amount of money."

How the needle moves from here appears to be up to Athanasiou's camp, as Red Wings general manager Ken Holland noted he has already extended several different offers.

"The ball is in their court," Holland told Khan. "They have a decision to make."

Further complicating the matter is that the Red Wings are in a contract jam, as they're more than $3 million above the salary cap, according to CapFriendly.

While Detroit can soon free up some dollars by placing winger Johan Franzen - whose cap hit is nearly $4 million - on the long-term injured reserve, it would still leave little wiggle room to get a deal done with Athanasiou.

Athanasiou, 23, made his debut with the Red Wings two seasons ago, and became a regular last year when he recorded 29 points in 64 games.

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Wheeler: Jets ‘have enough talent’ to make playoffs in 2017-18

The time for falling short is over.

Like every team, playoffs are the goal this season for the Winnipeg Jets, and that was the message captain Blake Wheeler hammered home in speaking with Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press.

"It's gotta be this year, it just has to be," said Wheeler, who appeared in all 82 contests last season but who has not skated in a playoff game in the Manitoba capital since 2015.

The Jets have qualified for the postseason just one time in the six seasons since uprooting from Atlanta - when they were swept by the Anaheim Ducks three years ago. That fact doesn't sit well with Wheeler, nor the team's fan base.

"We have enough talent," Wheeler added. "There's no reason why we can't push this to the next level this year. It's going to be about getting this group together and figuring out how we have to play to win hockey games."

While the Jets fell short of expectations a year ago, in which they finished with 87 points and seven back of a playoff position, the season offered hope for the years ahead.

Dynamic winger Patrik Laine - the second overall pick in the 2016 draft - in particular fuels a lot of the high hopes for the team's upcoming season. Laine netted 36 goals and 28 assists in his first season in North America, finishing as the runner-up to Toronto's Auston Matthews for rookie of the year honors.

Laine should take another step forward this season, while the Jets will have other reinforcements on board as well. One of those newest pieces is netminder Steve Mason, who agreed to a two-year deal with the club this summer.

Related - Jets' Wheeler: 'We need better goaltending'

Mason is a key addition for the Jets, and he'll be tasked with helping clean up the team's defensive miscues. While Winnipeg was one of the top offensive teams last season - finishing tied for sixth with 249 goals - only three teams allowed more goals against. The hope is Mason can cut down on that category.

Of course, it won't be all up to the goaltenders, and the Jets' skaters will have to do their part.

"We've got to figure out a way to win hockey games," Wheeler said. "A part of that is getting better goaltending and a part of that is playing better in front of our goalies - allowing them to maybe not see as many odd-man rushes or the breakdowns that we have sometimes."

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Agent: Ribeiro unreachable since June, had substance relapse last winter

Mike Ribeiro appears to be in dire straits.

The longtime NHL forward's family and representatives haven't been able to contact him recently and he had a substance abuse relapse in December, his agent, Bob Perno, told TSN 690's Tony Marinaro on Thursday.

The agent last spoke to Ribeiro at the end of last season and has been attempting to contact his client lately to no avail.

"I have been trying as (recently) as last week and he's not answering any calls ... so this is a real issue now," Perno said, adding that not even Ribeiro's wife or children have been able to reach him.

"The last time he saw the kids was at the end of the season ... (his wife) Tam(ara) let him see the kids for a little while and then he left and basically has dropped off the map," the agent lamented.

Despite these troubling revelations, Perno doesn't believe Ribeiro has hit rock bottom.

"I really don't think so, because all the experts say, when you hit rock bottom, that's when you reach out for help. And he hasn't reached out for help yet this year," Perno said.

"He had a relapse probably just before Christmas, so ... I don't think he's hit rock bottom," the agent added. "We're trying to get a hold of him in Nashville. We know he's somewhere in Nashville. His family has seen him. His wife has seen him, briefly, and then he disappeared into the woodwork. We're trying to get a hold of him (but) he doesn't answer his phone. Nobody hears from him, so I don't think he's hit rock bottom."

Perno declined to get into the specifics of which substances Ribeiro is struggling with, but said Ribeiro was clean for about two years before cutting his most recent rehab program short.

"It is a nightmare, and it's a very sad situation that a player with such talent (who has) had such a great career ... to end on this note is ... it's sad and I'm worried," Perno said. "I'm just frustrated because what else can you do?"

Ribeiro, 37, played the last three seasons with the Nashville Predators. He was waived by the club in February and eventually assigned to the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, with whom he finished out the 2016-17 campaign.

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Lightning a preferred destination for free agent Zaripov

As the offseason comes to a close, the Tampa Bay Lightning could be making one final signing in former KHL forward Danis Zaripov.

The Magnitogorsk Metallurg winger is now considered an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with an NHL team of his choosing following a two-year suspension from the KHL. Zaripov was exiled in July after he tested positive for pseudoephedrine, which is not included on the NHL's banned substances list.

On Monday, Zaripov was deemed eligible to sign in the NHL, and the Lightning are among suitors in which he is most interested in joining, his agent Dan Millstein told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

Millstein stressed that while Zaripov would like to sign with a top team, he will continue to consider his options. There is no immediate timeline for a decision.

The 36-year-old has spent the past nine seasons in the KHL and last played in North America in 1998-99 as a junior with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos.

Zaripov appeared in 56 games with Magnitogorsk last season, finishing fourth in team scoring with 16 goals and 29 assists. He is a four-time winner of the Gagarin Cup, awarded to the KHL playoff champion, last hoisting it in 2016.

As Smith notes, Zaripov could easily acclimate to the Lightning, as he shares the same agent with Lightning forwards and fellow Russians Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov.

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5 reasons the 2016-17 season was one to remember

The 2016-17 season will be one tough act to follow.

As we get ready to embark on a new campaign, looking back on the previous season it's quite clear to see that hockey fans were pretty spoiled. We were treated to the most epic rookie class in years and Connor McDavid proved that he is the present and the future of the NHL.

Here are five reasons the 2017 season was one to remember:

Mighty rookie class

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

Speaking of being spoiled, the 2016-17 rookie class was something the likes of which we haven't seen in nearly a decade - though the McDavid and Jack Eichel class the year previous to that wasn't too bad either.

Headlined by Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Zach Werenski, many first-year players not only made immediate impacts, but ranked among the game's elite in many statistical categories.

Matthews finished tied for second in goals with 40, becoming the first rookie to hit the mark since Alex Ovechkin tallied 52 in 2005-06, while Laine put up a respectable 36 himself.

Of course, there was also Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Sebastian Aho, and Matt Murray to name a few more. The league is trending toward younger players and this season we were shown just how quickly that change can happen.

The emergence of McDavid

It wasn't his first taste of the NHL, but after a rookie campaign that was limited to just 45 games, McDavid got his first full season under his belt and he didn't disappoint.

McDavid paced the league as the only player to hit the 100-point plateau, capturing his first Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award. He also helped end the playoff drought in Edmonton after the Oilers went 10 years without a playoff berth.

He was a non-stop highlight reel in 2016-17 and has quickly entered the race - and may be leading it - as the most talented player in the league.

Smashville was a riot

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Let's face it, the city of Nashville was the story of the playoffs.

Fans came out in droves during the Predators' Stanley Cup run, piling into the streets to party and cheer on their beloved team. The club brought out every country singer and their brother to sing the anthems, local celebrities made tons of appearances, and of course there were a couple catfish tossed on the ice.

It was fantastic to see a market that years ago many questioned but is now thriving and the envy of many NHL cities. With a fairly young squad and arguably the strongest defense corps in the league, playoff parties in Nashville could become a regular occurrence and that's great news for hockey.

Avalanche were incredibly terrible

There were tons of great team and individual performances in 2017, but in the same token, there were also some downright atrocious displays.

Look no further than the Colorado Avalanche.

The club finished with a record of 22-56-4 for a total of 48 points and the lowest point percentage in the shootout era. In turn, the club largely became the laughing stock of the league - warranted or not.

The Avalanche are just four seasons removed from a 2013-14 campaign that saw them capture the Central Division. A couple trades might still be in order, cough, cough ... Matt Duchene, but one way or another it would be hard to replicate such a brutal display again.

Penguins repeat

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

For the first time since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins captured the Stanley Cup for the second straight season this spring.

The Penguins ousted the Predators in six games, with captain Sidney Crosby leading the way, capturing his second straight Conn Smythe Trophy.

The Penguins have proved to be a true dynasty and now head into the season with the prospect of becoming the first team since the New York Islanders to win three Cups in a row when they captured four straight between 1980 and 1983.

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Cam Neely: There’s been no real dialogue with RFA Pastrnak

The Boston Bruins are still waiting to hear back from the camp of restricted free-agent David Pastrnak.

The club has reportedly tabled a six or seven year deal that would pay the 21-year-old an annual average of $6 million per season, but since then the Pastrnak camp has gone quiet.

"We haven’t really got a response on what they’re looking for," Bruins president Cam Neely said, according to Joe McDonald of the Boston Sports Journal. "Until we really see what they’re thinking, and what they’re looking for then we can start the dialogue."

Neely is confident that both sides will be able to work out an agreement, but insists that until they get a response there is no sense coming down from their initial offer.

"An offer was made, but then there really wasn’t much dialogue after that, so it’s kind of pointless for us to still negotiate against ourselves," Neely said. "But, we feel confident we can get something done. David's expressed he loves it here and wants to play here and we want to sign him. We want him here for as long as it makes sense for us."

Neely did note that on Thursday Pastrnak's agent J.P. Barry reached out to general manager Don Sweeney suggesting that both sides could continue talks on Friday.

Last season Pastrnak smashed his previous career-highs, tallying 34 goals and 70 points - finishing tied for 10th in the league for goals.

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Vanek considering several NHL options, waiting on Red Wings

Thomas Vanek hasn't taken this long to sign because of a lack of opportunities.

The veteran forward said Thursday that he's mulling a few potential NHL destinations, and waiting on the Detroit Red Wings in particular, according to the Star Tribune's Michael Russo.

Vanek, who began last season with the Red Wings before being traded to the Florida Panthers at the deadline, knows he needs to make a decision soon with training camps opening in a couple of weeks.

"I've got to make up my mind sooner than later," he said.

Vanek is arguably the second-best unrestricted free agent still available after Jaromir Jagr, and the 33-year-old winger is aware he hasn't been in a situation like this before.

"This is something I've never been through," Vanek said, per Russo. "Usually I went early, so this is different. After the first week, I knew this would drag."

His goal-scoring last season was nearly on pair with his output from 2015-16, and his point production (48 in 68 games) was better than it the previous season ago while nearly matching the 52 points he put up in 2014-15.

In short, he knows he can still contribute and expects to be on a roster in the fall.

"I've had a good summer. I've prepared myself like I'm going to play, which most likely I am," Vanek said, according to Russo.

His agent, Stephen Bartlett said earlier this week that the Vancouver Canucks are in the mix to sign his client, and last week, the same representative said talks were heating up and he was optimistic something would come through for Vanek "in the next week or two."

Vanek has appeared in 12 NHL seasons, parts of nine of which with the Buffalo Sabres. He played for the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild before landing in Detroit on July 1, 2016.

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Panthers’ Ekblad to gay athletes: ‘Don’t be afraid’ of coming out

The LGBTQ community may not have the President of the United States in its corner, but it does have Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

Though Ekblad isn't LGBTQ, he does consider himself an ally. In an interview with Boca Magazine, Ekblad had a clear message for athletes who are concerned about coming out.

"Don't be afraid," he said. "You'll be surprised how many people are accepting."

Ekblad appeared in a Nike commercial for Pride month in June. He starred alongside basketball player Brittney Griner and skateboarders Lacey Baker and Brian Anderson, all of whom identify as LGBTQ.

"It was a great experience," Ekblad said about participating in the ad. "On Facebook and Twitter some people congratulated me and thanked me for speaking out. I appreciate that."

With no openly LGBTQ active athletes in the NHL, MLB, NFL, or NBA, Ekblad hopes that a former No. 1 overall draft pick and rookie of the year acting as a spokesperson can provide some sense of comfort for those considering coming out.

Even though homophobic slurs are still used in "locker room talk," Ekblad believes the overall acceptance of LGBTQ people has improved.

"Do I think it's getting better? I think so. People are getting more educated and more understanding," he said. "I would like to think the climate is getting better."

Last season, the NHL made February "Hockey Is For Everyone" month. In the end, that's all Ekblad is trying to accomplish. He doesn't want athletes to have less of a chance at succeeding just because of their sexual orientation.

"If you're good enough to play, you're good enough to play on my team," said the Panthers' alternate captain.

- With h/t to

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Look: Canadian farmers build corn maze of Leafs’ Matthews, Marner

In honor of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrating their 100th season, Hunter Brothers Farm in Florenceville-Bristol, New Brunswick built a corn maze featuring two of Toronto's marquee players, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Chip and Tom Hunter, whose family has owned the farm since 1890, aren't rookies at this. Every year since 2003 they build a specially designed corn maze, and opted to have two of the game's best young players at the forefront in this year's edition.

NHL legends Jean Beliveau and Patrick Roy have been featured in past editions.

Fans who don't think such activity is too corny will have their chance to navigate through the maze beginning Sept. 9.

- With h/t to

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