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NHL Notes: Sabres star Jack Eichel focused on hockey, not contract talks

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NHL Notes: Sabres star Jack Eichel focused on hockey, not contract talks

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres star center Jack Eichel is focused on taking on a larger leadership role, and not concerning himself with contract talks -- even it means waiting until next year to sign a new deal.

"I have no problem playing the season out and just trying to earn whatever," Eichel said Tuesday. "We know where we stand. We know where the Sabres stand. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

Eichel also reiterated his commitment to staying in Buffalo on a long-term basis. He spoke after taking part in his first on-ice session with numerous teammates in Buffalo a little over a week before the Sabres open training camp.

The 20-year-old is entering the final season of his three-year rookie contract, and in line for what is projected to be a lucrative contract extension.

A person with direct knowledge of talks told The Associated Press last month that both sides have discussed a contract spanning an NHL-maximum eight seasons . The same person told The AP on Tuesday that negotiations haven't stopped since the two sides formally opened talks in June. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because negotiations have been private (see full story).

Hurricanes: New-look team ready to snap postseason drought
RALEIGH, N.C. -- There's plenty new for the Carolina Hurricanes these days.

They picked up a new starting goalie, gave big new contracts to some young defensemen and brought in a splashy free agent. There also might be a new team owner signing their paychecks.

With a little over a week until preseason camp begins, there's also a new feeling of justified optimism surrounding an organization that owns the NHL's longest active postseason drought.

"I can't wait," defenseman Jaccob Slavin said Tuesday. "I'm so excited for it, and I can't wait to see what this season has and what the future holds as well -- but more importantly, the season right here" (see full story).

Sabres: Healthy Okposo eager to look forward
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo happily looks to the future now that he's fully recovered from concussion-related symptoms which nearly derailed his career in March.

Saying he's not dwelling on the past, Okposo was eager to rejoin the Sabres after skating with numerous teammates for practice a little more than a week before the team opens training camp. Though he's has been skating for much of the summer, Tuesday marked his first time on the ice in Buffalo since being hospitalized late last season.

"It was obviously a tough situation, a tough road," Okposo said. "I'm just happy to be back and happy to be able to play again, and play at a high level."

He acknowledged questioning if he would ever get better before he started feeling "clear" in May.

"It was definitely a scary thing," Okposo said. "Your mind starts to question a lot of things" (see full story).

Rangers: Leetch, Richards hired as advisers
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have hired former players Brian Leetch and Brad Richards as advisers.

General manager Jeff Gorton announced the hires Tuesday. Leetch and Richards will work on prospect development and assist with on-ice development for the Rangers and their top affiliate, the American Hockey League's Hartford Wolf Pack.

These are the latest moves in an offseason that already included former captain and assistant general manager Chris Drury taking over GM duties in Hartford and New York hiring longtime NHL head coach Lindy Ruff as an assistant on Alain Vigneault's staff.

Leetch played parts of 17 seasons with the Rangers during his Hall of Fame career and was the top defenseman on the team that broke the franchise's Stanley Cup drought in 1994. Richards played three seasons in New York from 2011-2014, helping the Rangers reach the 2014 Cup Final.

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

General manager Ron Hextall is nearly finished wrapping up contracts for his restricted free agents.

And his goalie picture is now clear for 2018-19.

The Flyers on Wednesday re-signed netminder Anthony Stolarz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth $761,250, according to a report by hockey writer John Hoven.

With Stolarz back, defenseman Robert Hagg remains the Flyers' lone restricted free agent.

Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, underwent a nightmarish 2017-18 season just a year after he made his NHL debut and performed well in seven games with the Flyers. The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his left knee during early September, the same injury he suffered at the end of 2016-17 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests as a result. In 2016-17, he made his way to the big club and put up a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in a small sample. Then the injury occurred with the Phantoms and it's been an uphill battle ever since for the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder.

Stolarz will have his work cut out for him — if he hasn't already — as playing time will be earned at Lehigh Valley with Alex Lyon back in the fold and Carter Hart joining them.

"It's just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said in June after an on-ice workout at Flyers Skate Zone. "I think the thing for me is to prove I'm healthy. I don't think I've skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I'm healthy and going out there and working to prove I'm still a high-caliber goalie."

The Flyers' goaltending tandem is set with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts. Things obviously can change this offseason, as Neuvirth and Stolarz seemed like realistic trade candidates.

But as of now, it's Elliott and Neuvirth with the younger trio pushing and competing.

"I'd rather have too many goalies than too few," Hextall said earlier this month. "If something makes sense and we can make something happen, we'd at least look at it. We saw it last year. All of a sudden, a couple goalies go down and you're scrambling for goalies. If we start with five, we start with five. Not a perfect situation, but again, I'd rather start with five than with three."

More on the Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

• Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

• No arbitration needed for Flyers and Lyon

• Sandstrom hungry to prove he's not the 'other' goalie

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery died Sunday morning. First responders pulled his body out of Hamilton Harbour, where he had been swimming with friends. An investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing. 

Emery was 35.

According to local authorities, Emery was checking out a friend’s boat docked at Royal Hamilton Yacht Club when the group he was with decided to jump in the water around 6:30 a.m. Emery’s body never surfaced and was eventually recovered around 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Hamilton police say Emery’s body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen.

Emery was last seen publicly with a handful of his former teammates Saturday night as the goaltender participated in Zac Rinaldo’s charity hockey game in Hamilton. Emery can be seen standing during the playing of “O Canada.”

"The Philadelphia Flyers are stunned and extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery," president Paul Holmgren said in a statement from the team. "Ray was an outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender. He had exceptional athleticism, was a fierce competitor and battled in every game he played with the Flyers.

"His performances through the 2009-10 season were a very big part of the team's success in making the playoffs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Ray's talent, work ethic and determination helped him enjoy a successful 11-year NHL career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Several of Emery’s former teammates over the years offered their condolences via Twitter after learning of the tragedy.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo shared the he was crushed by the news (NSFW).

Jakub Voracek also shared his condolences (NSFW).

Emery joined the Flyers in June 2009 on a one-year contract, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in his Flyers debut. The goaltender’s first stint in Philadelphia was cut short when he suffered a muscle tear in his abdomen in December missing the remainder of the season. Emery was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a degenerative condition to the bone tissue in his hip.

After undergoing successful surgery, Emery eventually joined the Ducks before winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. Impressively, Emery finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. He re-signed with the Flyers that summer as a backup to Steve Mason.

Emery’s most infamous moment in Philadelphia came during an ugly 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2013, as the Flyers netminder pummeled Caps goalie Braden Holtby during a line brawl in the early stages of the third period.

Emery faced criminal charges over a handful of off-the-ice incidents and altercations. Most recently, he was arrested for assault with a weapon in 2017 against former fiancé Keshia Chanté. 

Emery played a total of 287 NHL games, 88 with the Flyers.