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Establishing rosters is never easy

by Mike G. Morreale
There's no easy way to tell a veteran -- or even a promising youngster -- he will not be a part of the organization on opening night.

But that was the job of 30 NHL general managers over the last few weeks. It all culminates with Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline to pare rosters to the required 23-man limit while making certain they were under $56.8 million salary cap.

On top of that, all 18- and 19-year-old unsigned draft choices claimed in the first three rounds of the Entry Draft were required to return to their junior hockey clubs. It all made for some interesting discussion at the water cooler.

Here's a snapshot of the big names either released or reassigned from each of the 30 NHL camps:

Anaheim Ducks: Left wing Kyle Calder and defenseman Jassen Cullimore were released from their tryout, while goalie Justin Pogge, who was acquired in a trade with Toronto in August, was assigned to the club's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio.

Atlanta Thrashers: The team cut ties with goalie Manny Legace and forward Dan Fritsche, who were in on tryout agreements. Prospects Angelo Esposito, Riley Holzapfel, Spencer Machacek, Arturs Kulda and Paul Postma all were assigned to AHL Chicago. Jeremy Morin, the 45th player chosen in the 2009 Entry Draft, will report to Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League. On Tuesday, the club agreed to terms with forward Maxim Afinogenov and defenseman Mark Popovic.

Boston Bruins: On Monday the team assigned forwards Zach Hamill (drafted No. 8 in 2007) and Brad Marchand (No. 71 in 2006) to Providence of the AHL.

Buffalo Sabres:
The club pared its roster to 23 Wednesday by sending prospects Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy and Mike Weber to the AHL's Portland Pirates.

Calgary Flames: The organization's top prospect, center Mikael Backlund, was sent to Abbotsford of the AHL along with Brett Sutter and Matt Pelech. Theo Fleury, 41, who was attempting a comeback after six years away, was released and subsequently retired.

Carolina Hurricanes: Despite the fact forwards Brandon Sutter and Zach Boychuk and defenseman Jamie McBain impressed at the Traverse City prospects tournament over the summer, all three were assigned to AHL Albany for additional development. Sutter and Boychuk could earn spot duty with the big club at some point this season. Forward Drayson Bowman also was sent to Albany.

Chicago Blackhawks: Forward Kyle Beach (No. 11, 2008) was returned to Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League.

Colorado Avalanche:
The club released forward Shawn Bates from his tryout agreement and assigned wing Ryan Stoa (No. 35 in 2005) to AHL Lake Erie.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Stefan Legein, who took off the first half of last season to recharge his batteries following a bout with "burnout," performed admirably at the Traverse City prospects tournament and in training camp to earn an opportunity with AHL Syracuse. Defenseman John Moore, the 21st pick of the 2009 draft, played in five preseason games before being sent to the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.

Dallas Stars:
Defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy, considered to be the future point man on the power play, was assigned to AHL Texas.

Detroit Red Wings: Among the notables, goalie Dan Cloutier and left wing Brad May were released and goalie prospects Thomas McCollum (No. 30, 2008) and Jordan Pearce were assigned to the team's AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. Slovakian star Tomas Tatar, who was stellar at the Traverse City prospects tournament, also was sent to Grand Rapids.

Edmonton Oilers: Center Jordan Eberle (No. 22, 2008), who had 35 goals and 74 points with Regina of the Western Hockey League, was returned to his junior club.

Florida Panthers: Forwards Eric Himelfarb, Adam Keefe and Mike York were cut last week. Defenseman Keaton Ellerby (No. 10, 2007) was returned to the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester.

Los Angeles Kings: General Manager Dean Lombardi assigned highly touted center Brayden Schenn (No. 5, 2009), goalie Jonathan Bernier (No. 11, 2006) and defenseman Thomas Hickey (No. 4, 2007) to AHL Manchester.

Minnesota Wild: Two former first-round choices were returned to the organization's AHL team in Houston -- forward Colton Gillies (No. 16, 2007) and defenseman Tyler Cuma (No. 23, 2008). Right wing Petr Kalus, who played in Europe last season, also was assigned to Houston.

Montreal Canadiens: In a somewhat surprising move, left wing Sergei Kostitsyn, who has 50 points in 108 NHL games with the Canadiens, was sent to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs.

Nashville Predators: Ryan Ellis, the No. 11 pick of the 2009 draft, was returned to his junior club, the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. Jonathon Blum (No. 23, 2007) and Alexander Sulzer (No. 92, 2003) were assigned to AHL Milwaukee.

New Jersey Devils: Three players were placed on waivers Tuesday -- defensemen Jay Leach and Rob Davison and forward Tim Sestito. Defenseman Matt Corrente (No. 30, 2006) was sent to Lowell.

New York Islanders: Goalie prospect Mikko Koskinen, who played for Finland last season, will join AHL Bridgeport.

New York Rangers: Russian forward Evgeny Grachev, who was the talk of the Traverse City prospects tournament, was assigned to AHL Hartford over the weekend.

Ottawa Senators: Defenseman Jared Cowen, the ninth pick of the 2009 draft, will return to Spokane of the Western Hockey League.

Philadelphia Flyers:
In addition to placing defenseman Randy Jones on waivers, defenseman Michael Ratchuk (No. 42, 2006) and forward Patrick Maroon (No. 161, 2007) were assigned to AHL Adirondack.  

Phoenix Coyotes: Forward Aaron Downey, whose career spans nine seasons with six NHL teams, was released from his tryout. Forwards Kyle Turris and Viktor Tikhonov, who combined for 124 games and 36 points with the Coyotes last season, were assigned to AHL San Antonio.

Pittsburgh Penguins:
On Wednesday, the Penguins added forward Chris Bourque, who was waived by the Capitals on Tuesday. Bourque had 21 goals and 73 points in 69 games with Hershey last season and then had 21 points in 22 postseason games to help lead the club to the Calder Cup title. Defenseman Jamie Hunt, who played with Augsburg in Germany last season, was released. A few of the organization's top prospects, including forwards Eric Tangradi, Luca Caputi and Dustin Jeffrey and defensemen Alex Grant, were sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL. First-round pick Simon Despres was returned to his junior team.

St. Louis Blues: Aaron Palushaj, who led all scorers at the Traverse City prospects tournament with 3 goals and 7 points in four games, was assigned to AHL Peoria, where he'll be joined by defenseman Jonas Junland. Goalie Jake Allen was returned to Montreal of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and center Philip McRae was returned to London of the Ontario Hockey League.

San Jose Sharks:
Forward Dan Hinote was the one notable cut. Center Logan Couture (No. 9, 2007), defenseman Nick Petrecki (No. 28, 2007) and goalie Tyson Sexsmith (No. 91, 2007) were assigned to Worcester.

Tampa Bay Lightning: One day after placing forwards Ryan Craig, Brandon Bochenski and Adam Hall on waivers, the Lightning assigned them to AHL Norfolk. The club also released forward Brett McLean, a training camp invite. First-round selections goalie Riku Helenius (No. 15, 2006) and defensemen Ty Wishart (No. 16, 2006) and Vladimir Mihalik (No. 30, 2005) also were sent to Norfolk.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Center Nazem Kadri, Toronto's 2009 first-round pick (No. 7), was returned to London of the Ontario Hockey League and forward Christian Hanson was assigned to the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

Vancouver Canucks: Forwards Mark Parrish, Dave Scatchard and Ronald Petrovicky were cut. Goalie Corey Schneider, who helped lead the Manitoba Moose to the AHL Western Conference title last season, was returned to the minors. As was 2006 first-round pick forward Michael Grabner (No. 14). Defenseman Yann Sauve will return to Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Washington Capitals:
Forward Chris Bourque was placed on waivers Tuesday afternoon because of salary-cap concerns and was claimed by Pittsburgh less than 24 hours later. Additionally, several high-end prospects will begin the season with AHL Hershey, including defensemen Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Josh Godfrey, forwards Alexandre Giroux, Francois Bouchard and Anton Gustafsson, and goalie Braden Holtby. Giroux had 60 goals and 97 points in the AHL last season.

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