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Stars trying to upgrade defense to match offense

Wednesday, 08.12.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Sean McCullen - Staff Writer continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

The Dallas Stars were busy this offseason not only trying to assure they get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs but looking to build a perennial contender.

Forward Patrick Sharp, acquired in a July 10 trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, and defenseman Johnny Oduya, signed as a free agent July 15, bring a winning pedigree to Dallas that could help the young Stars reach the top of the Western Conference this season and for years to come.

"We're excited and we know we're going to be good offensively," general manager Jim Nill said. "Our biggest thing is going to be playing the game the right way both ways, and we're going to do that."

Flyers' Giroux glad linemate Voracek got big contract

Tuesday, 08.11.2015 / 10:53 PM / NHL Insider

Sean McCullen - Staff Writer

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux is glad to know he could play on the same line with Jakub Voracek for at least the next seven seasons.

Voracek signed a multiyear contract extension with the Flyers on July 30. TSN reported it is for eight years, $66 million.

"I'm really happy for him, and it's really good for our team," said Giroux, who is entering the second season of his eight-year, $66.2 million contract. "I think we have some room for improvement to get even better chemistry, but I think we've been doing a good job of finding each other and communicating on and off the ice to know how we want to play.

"Jake just cares so much that every time he comes to the rink he wants to win, and he's really fun to be around."

Healthy Dupuis, Letang sure to give Penguins lift

Tuesday, 08.11.2015 / 7:57 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

TERREBONNE, Quebec -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have had an offseason packed with roster changes, but the best personnel news might be the return to full health for two of their longest tenured players.

Forward Pascal Dupuis and defenseman Kris Letang each said Tuesday he is 100 percent and eager for training camp to start.

Dupuis missed the final 66 games last season with a blood clot in his lung, and Letang missed the final seven games and the five-game loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round with a concussion.

"I'm in great shape," Letang said at a charity golf tournament hosted by Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. "I got on the ice last week, so I'm following the same program I follow every summer. There was no delay in that sense.

"I'd say it's been one of my best summers in terms of training and how I feel."

Therrien sees Semin as 'nice challenge' for Canadiens

Tuesday, 08.11.2015 / 4:30 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

TERREBONNE, Quebec -- When the Montreal Canadiens signed free agent forward Alexander Semin to a one-year contract last month, one of the first questions that jumped to mind was how would he mesh with coach Michel Therrien.

The Carolina Hurricanes bought out the final three years of Semin's five-year, $35 million contract because, as general manager Ron Francis said, they did not feel he competed enough on a consistent basis.

Therrien is known as a coach with high demands on his players in terms of work ethic, and he said Tuesday at his charity golf tournament he's eager to start working on making sure Semin is able to meet those demands.

"It's a nice challenge, that's how I look at it," Therrien said. "He's a guy that's full of potential, and there's an opportunity for him to get back to where we think he can be as a player, and where I imagine he also thinks he can be as a player. We're going to give him an opportunity, and it's the type of player we were missing when you looked at our team. He's a guy who can score, who can make plays and who's shown in the past that he can contribute to the success of a team offensively. But as far as I'm concerned, I see it as a challenge."

Offense, aging veterans key questions for Panthers

Tuesday, 08.11.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Although a 25-point improvement in 2014-15 was the best in the NHL, the Florida Panthers missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 13th time in 14 seasons.

The only time in that span they qualified for the postseason was in 2011-12, when the Panthers won the Southeast Division title after a big spending spree in the free agent market. The approach this season is to rely on a young nucleus and hope the maturation process has reached fruition.

Here are three important questions that will determine if the Panthers return to the playoffs:

Panthers pinning their future on young talent

Tuesday, 08.11.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Alain Poupart - Correspondent continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers made the biggest improvement in the NHL last season and are counting on their young players to continue that progress.

The Panthers that will open training camp in September will be almost the same team that closed 2014-15 with 91 points, an NHL-best 25-point increase from the previous season. The only veteran addition of note during the offseason was forward Reilly Smith, who came from the Boston Bruins in a trade along with the contract of injured center Marc Savard for forward Jimmy Hayes.

The Panthers stayed very quiet during free agency; the five players they signed each received a two-way contract.

It was quite a contrast from the previous summer, when on July 1 the Panthers signed five established veterans who figure to play prominent roles again this season: Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen, Shawn Thornton, Willie Mitchell and Derek MacKenzie.

This summer turned out to be more about clearing roster space for the young players. Florida made no effort to re-sign its veteran free agents, forwards Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky, and goalie Dan Ellis. They released forward Brad Boyes, who led the Panthers with 21 goals in 2013-14.

Crouse, Matheson among Panthers' top five prospects

Tuesday, 08.11.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers have emphasized stockpiling draft picks since Dale Tallon took over as general manager in May 2010, and they've generally hit more often than they've missed.

The Panthers have two of the past three Calder Trophy winners: Jonathan Huberdeau (2013) and Aaron Ekblad (2015). The nucleus of their up-and-coming team consists of their recent draft picks. The good news for Florida is there appears to be some more quality prospects ready to help soon, particularly at defenseman.

Here is a look at the Panthers' top five prospects, according to

Full season of Jagr has Panthers optimistic

Tuesday, 08.11.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers are hoping they can build on their improvement and strong finish from last season to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015-16.

The Panthers made few personnel changes in the offseason, confident that their mix of young talent and half-dozen veterans can help them get back to the postseason for the first time since 2011-12.

Here are four reasons the Panthers should be optimistic about doing so:

Florida Panthers fantasy hockey outlook

Pete Jensen - Fantasy Insider

As part of's offseason 30 in 30 package, fantasy hockey insiders Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen will break down each team's fantasy landscape. They will look at the players at the top of the ranks, an undervalued player, an overvalued player, a deep sleeper (players likely ranked outside the top 200 overall players) and the goalie outlook for each NHL team.

Leading the way: Roberto Luongo and Aaron Ekblad

The Florida Panthers sport an impressive nucleus of young forwards to complement Jaromir Jagr, but those players will be on the board well outside the fantasy top 100. When examining Florida's roster in the first 10 rounds of drafts, you should only consider Luongo and/or Ekblad -- anchors at more scarce positions. Luongo missed time in March with a shoulder injury, but still started 60-plus games and remains an elite fantasy goalie. He leads active players in career wins (401) and posted strong peripheral numbers (2.35 goals against average, .921 save percentage) in 2014-15 despite little goal support.

Bruins' Rask ready for heavy workload again if needed

Monday, 08.10.2015 / 2:34 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

MIDDLETON, Mass. -- With about a month remaining before the start of training camp, Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said he isn't any worse for wear after the most taxing season of his NHL career.

Rask played a career-high 70 games last season for the Bruins, who would've needed more from the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner had they not missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in eight years.

Surprisingly, the 28-year-old said it didn't take too long for him to recover from the grind of the 2014-15 season. Rask recently returned to the Boston area and Monday participated in the Putts and Punches for Parkinson's Golf Tournament, hosted by former Bruins forward Shawn Thornton, at Ferncroft Country Club.

"Not crazy," Rask said about his offseason recovery time. "I think obviously it's mentally draining when you're battling for that playoff spot and you play a lot of games in a row and stuff like that. You always feel kind of exhausted afterwards. But then when you do nothing for a week or two, then you're kind of like, 'All right, let's play hockey again.' You're kind of rejuvenated. I didn't feel like I took too much time than usual."

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Quote of the Day

That group is not satisfied until we win a Stanley Cup. When we do win that Stanley Cup, I don't think we'll be satisfied then either. We're going to want another one. We have the group to do it. We have all the pieces. We just need to put them together.

— Ducks forward Ryan Kesler after signing a six-year extension with Anaheim this past July