NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

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NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed center Mika Zibanejad to a $26.75 million, five-year deal.

Zibanejad will count $5.35 million against the salary cap through 2021-22 as the Rangers count on him to take on a bigger role following the trade of Derek Stepan. General manager Jeff Gorton announced the contract Tuesday morning, before the team and Zibanejad were set to go to arbitration.

The 24-year-old Swede had 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games last season, his first with New York. The Rangers acquired Zibanejad from the Ottawa Senators for Derick Brassard a year ago.

Zibanejad has 188 points in 337 NHL games with the Senators and Rangers since Ottawa drafted him sixth overall in 2011 (see full story).

Olympics: Team Canada names Burke GM for 2018 Games
Sean Burke will be the general manager and Willie Desjardins the head coach for Canada at the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.

Hockey Canada named its management and coaching staffs for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday. St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur will work under Burke on the management side, while Desjardins will be assisted by Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Canada has been grooming Burke for this responsibility for some time as he served as assistant GM for the 2017 world championships, GM for the 2016 Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup and director of player development for the 2016 worlds. Desjardins coached Canada's 2010 world junior team and assisted in 2009.

USA Hockey has not yet named its GM or coach (see full story).

Sabres: Goalie Lehner re-signed to 1-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a $4 million, one-year contract.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lehner was a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Swede showed he could stay healthy last season, setting career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. He ranked third in the NHL with 1,758 saves and finished with a .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Bothered by injuries and concussion problems, Lehner had never before played more than 36 games in his NHL career. The Sabres took a chance on Lehner when they traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for him at the 2015 draft.

Lehner will again be a restricted free agent next summer when this contract expires.

Devils: 3 restricted free agents re-signed
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mirco Mueller, forward Joseph Blandisi and goaltender Scott Wedgewood.

Mueller got a two-year deal worth an average of $850,000 a season, Blandisi a two-year, two-way deal worth an average of $680,000 in the NHL, and Wedgewood a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL. General manager Ray Shero announced the contracts Tuesday.

Re-signing Mueller for two years was the most significant move after New Jersey acquired the 22-year-old from San Jose before the Vegas expansion draft. The Swiss defender has just six points in 54 NHL games with the Sharks, but still is considered a good prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013.

Mueller will make $775,000 next season and $925,000 in 2018-19.

Jakub Voracek: NHLers in 'no-win situation' with 2018 PyeongChang Olympic argument

Jakub Voracek: NHLers in 'no-win situation' with 2018 PyeongChang Olympic argument

NEWARK, N.J. -- A showdown is looming between commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL's players over the league's non-participation in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

On Monday, Bettman laid out his reasons (break in the schedule, time difference, financial gain, etc.) in announcing that the league will bypass the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Ironically, the league intends to go to China in 2022 because of that country's vast marketing potential. Yet the IOC has already stated that participation is arbitrary. You miss one Olympics, don't expect to attend another.

A day after the NHL's announcement, to no one's surprise, Alex Ovechkin said that regardless of what the owners do as a league, he and other Russian players intend to play for Team Russia.

"Yeah, I didn't change my mind and I won't," Ovechkin told reporters on Tuesday after the morning skate at Air Canada Centre.

Why go?

"Because it's my country," Ovechkin said. "I think everybody wants to play there. It's the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. So, I don't know, somebody [is] going to tell me, 'Don't go,' I don't care, I just go."

Canadiens goalie Carey Price told the CBC: "I feel it's very disappointing. I feel like we're shortchanging some of the younger players of that opportunity. It's tough to swallow for some of those kids for sure."

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist tweeted: 

Flyers forward Jakub Voracek wants to play for the Czech Republic and sounded torn over what decision he'll make.

Is this the end, or is this more like a ploy from Bettman to get something from the players, like an extension of the current CBA?

"I don't know," Voracek replied. "I'm still hoping that somehow we'll find a way to go there. You can see every single player wants to go. But we really don't have the power."

Voracek isn't sure he would defy the league and attend, either. He said he feels loyalty to the Flyers who pay his salary.

"Tough question," he replied. "Ovechkin is a three-time Hart Trophy winner. He has a little different position than me here in Philly. It's something as a player, you consider it. But in the end, it's hard to say whether I would go over. I don't know the answer.

"If you don't go, you feel like an a------ for the Czechs. If you go, you feel like an a------ to the guys here and toward the organization. This is a no-win situation in this case, for sure."

The NHLPA clearly wants the players going to every Olympics. Part of the union's statement read:

"The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL's shortsighted decision to not continue our participation in the Olympics.

"Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season's schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage."