NHL NOTES

1. GAGNER RE-SIGNS WITH OILERS

Sam Gagner who scored 15 goals and 41 points in his third NHL season re-signed with the Edmonton Oilers for two years worth 4.55 million dollars. “Sam is a key part of our organization moving forward,” General Manager Steve Tambellini said. “We are looking forward to him taking a larger role with our club.” Gagner who was named to the 2008 NHL Young Stars Team has scored 44 goals and 131 points in 223 games. His best season offensively came as a rookie in 2007/08 when he scored 13 goals and 49 points. With Gagner now signed the Oilers are trying to sign their remaining restricted free agent in forward Andrew Cogliano who is coming off a 10 goal 28 point season.

2. CLARKE MACARTHUR NOW A MAPLE LEAF

The Toronto Maple Leafs added some more scoring and grittiness last week when they inked four year veteran Clarke MacArthur to a one- year lucrative contract worth approximately $1.1 million. This former 2003 Buffalo Sabres draft pick split last season with the Buffalo Sabres and Atlanta Thrashers where he scored 16 goals and 35 points. In 2008 career games MacArthur who plays a scrappy style has scored 44 goals and 88 points.

3. GUERIN WILL NOT BE A PENGUIN

Wanting to go with youth the Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that veteran Bill Guerin who is coming off a 21 goal 45 point season will not be back in Steel Town this coming season. As shown by his playoffs performance when he produced four goals and five assist in nine games, Guerin can still play. Apparently several teams are interested in this 39 year-old who is a two time Stanley Cup winner. In his 18 year career he has scored 429 goals and 856 total points.

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Nikolai Khabibulin Found Guilty

Veteran goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin, could be facing some jail time in the future, as he was found guilty on three counts of drunk driving on Friday, in an Arizona courtroom. This 37 year-old, who played only 18 games last year with the Edmonton Oilers, was found guilty of driving a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol level over twice the limit, and also speeding. This ugly incident took place in Scottsdale Arizona, where Khabibulin was rehabbing his injured back, which cost him most of the season. On February 8 the goalie was pulled over by police and given a breathalyzer. According to court testimony Khabibulin’s blood alcohol content was an alarming .164. He was pulled over after police clocked his Ferrari cruising at 70, in what was a 45 m.p.h. zone. In being found guilty Khabibulin, who is entering year two of a four year 15 million dollar contract, is looking at a minimum jail sentence of 30 days or a maximum penalty of six months.

Kariya’s Career May be Done

Another NHL player is facing the possibility of having his career come to a premature halt due to post concussion problems. Over the years players, such as Eric Lindros, Pat LaFontaine, Nick Kypreos and Adam Deadmarsh, retired before their time due to this deadly injury. Now Paul Kariya might be on that same list. This 35 year-old, who has scored 402 goals and 989 points in his career, recently announced through his agent, Don Baizley, that he won’t be playing this coming season due to post concussion complications. Kariya, who is a former 1993 Anaheim Ducks first round draft pick, has suffered multiple concussions throughout his career. Last year he missed six games while with the St. Louis Blues. In 1998 Team Canada suffered a huge blow when they lost his services due to a concussion. Last year he scored 18 goals and 43 points, but has gone unsigned this off-season as an unrestricted free agent. Prior to the concussions, Kariya was on his way to superstardom when he scored 50 goals and 108 points in only his second year. In his third year Kariya played a major role in the Ducks making the playoffs for the first time. He scored 44 goals and 99 points. In his final season, as a Duck, Kariya scored six goals and 12 post season points to help Anaheim make it to the Stanley Cup finals; where they lost to the New Jersey Devils. During the finals, that spring, Kariya suffered another concussion when he was flattened by a Scott Stevens’ body check. After the lockout he moved onto the Colorado Avalanche for a season, before bolting for the Nashville Predators for a couple of seasons. Kariya, who in his career has scored 16 goals and 39 points, in 46 career playoff games, has spent the past three seasons with the Blues. There is a strong possibility that Kariya might not play again in the NHL.

Paul Kariya out for Season

Another NHL player is facing the real possibility of having his career come to a premature halt due to post concussion problems. Over the years players such as Eric Lindros, Pat LaFontaine, Nick Kypreos and Adam Deadmarsh retired before their time due to this deadly injury and now Paul Kariya might be on that same list. This 35 year-old who has scored 402 goals and 989 points in his career recently announced through his agent Don Baizley that he won’t be playing this coming season due to post concussion complications. Kariya who is a former 1993 Anaheim Ducks first round draft pick has suffered multiple concussions throughout his career including last year when he missed six games while with the St. Louis Blues. In 1998 Team Canada suffered a huge blow when they lost his services due to a concussion. Last year he scored 18 goals and 43 points but has gone unsigned this off-season as an unrestricted free agent. Prior to the concussions Kariya was on his way to superstardom as he scored 50 goals and 108 points in only his second year. In his third year Kariya played a major role in the Ducks making the playoffs for the first time as he scored 44 goals and 99 points. In his final season as a Duck Kariya scored six goals and 12 post season points to help Anaheim make it to the Stanley Cup finals where they lost to the New Jersey Devils. During the finals that spring Kariya suffered another concussion when he was flattened by a Scott Stevens body check. After the lockout he moved onto the Colorado Avalanche for a season before bolting for the Nashville Predators for a couple of seasons. Kariya who in his career has scored 16 goals and 39 points in 46 career playoff games has spent the past three seasons with the Blues. There is a strong possibility that Kariya might not play again in the NHL.

NHL NOTES

1. DOWNIE RETURNING TO THE BOLTS
Following a career season of 22 goals and 46 points Steve Downie has decided to stay in Tampa where he recently resigned for two –years worth 3.7 million . Downie, who also accumulated 208 penalty minutes was originally drafted first round in 2005 by the Philadelphia Flyers. In 140 career games Downie has scored 31 goals and 64 points while posting a +14.

2. TORRES NOW A CANUCK
Raffi Torres is once again on the move. This 28 year-old free agent who has scored 98 goals and 182 points in his first eight years with the New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres is now a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Last season Torres who is a former New York Islanders 2000 first had 19 goals and 36 points with the Blue Jackets and Sabres last year.

3. LITTLE BACK IN ATLANTA
The Atlanta Thrashes have re-signed 22 year-old forward Bryan Little to a multiple year contract. Last season Little scored 13 goals and 34 points which was slightly down from his stats two years ago when he scored 31 goals and 51 points. In his career Little has scored 50 goals and 101 points in 206 games.

Willie Mitchell is a King in LA

The Los Angeles Kings took a huge gamble on Wednesday when they signed veteran hard hitting defenceman Willie Mitchell who last year with the Vancouver Canucks played only 48 games due to a concussion. What makes this signing a real gamble is that Mitchell who is only 33 years-old has already suffered three concussions in his career. Last year Mitchell who scored four goals and 12 points in the 48 games had his seasson end on January 16 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on a controversial hit by star forward Evgeni Malkin. Currently Mitchell is feeling symptom free and believes that out of all the team his agent spoke with that the Kings were the best fit. “I was pretty open about what I felt I needed to do, to make sure I was prepared and ready to play,” Mitchell who signed a two year deal with the Kings for seven million said. “I didn’t want to put a GM in a position they don’t want to be in. I was fortunate enough to have some teams contact me, and I felt the L.A. Kings was a good fit.” Two years ago when Mitchell was healthy he was a force on the Canucks blue line as he finished second on the team with 125 blocked shots and scored 23 points while posting a +29 in 82 games. One of the things that enticed Mitchell into signing with Los Angeles is the opportunity to play alongside last year’s Norris trophy finalist in 20 year-old Drew Doughty who scored 59 points last year and was a +20. “As a player, it’s my job to go out there and put my best game out there on the ice and do what I can within my powers to make my teammates better,” Mitchell said. “Those are the things I’m going to do. It was just a good fit, playing for a team that has a chance to win. Hopefully I can help them get to another level.” Mitchell who has been healthy since June has played for the Vancouver Canucks the last four years. Funny enough Mitchell who is from British Columbia will be playing the season opener in Vancouver against the Canucks. “There’s things that happen in life that are unexpected… my season to be cut short like it did. Teams need to make moves. They have to do things that they need to do. There’s a CBA in place that has (salary) cap restraints. I enjoyed my time in Vancouver. I poured everything out on it.”

Johnny Damon Stays in Detroit

Veteran Detroit Tigers outfielder Johnny Damon showed on Tuesday that he has completely turned the page from his glory days with the Boston Red Sox. Now in the twilight of his career Damon who is 36 years-old exercised his veto power to block a move that would have sent him back to the Sox who currently are only six games out of a postseason position. During his four years in Boston the highlight for Damon came in 2004 when he helped the Sox end an 86 year World Series drought as they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to become World Series champions. During that time Damon who played in Boston from 2002-2005 became one of the most beloved players among the fans until he did the unthinkable and signed with the New York Yankees following the 2005 season. When the Red Sox recently put a claim in for the veteran outfielder two of his former teammates in catcher Jason Varitek and designated hitter David Ortiz texted him and tried to convince him into coming back to Boston. In the end Damon who this season is hitting .272 with seven homeruns and 41 RBI’s decided after talking to each of his Tigers teammates individually that he wanted to remain a Tiger. “These guys really like me here,” Damon said. Red Sox current closer Jonathan Papelbon was very understanding of why his former teammate is remaining in Detroit and wishes him nothing but luck and good fortune. “This game’s tough enough and when you’re in a position and you’re in a city and you’re in a place where you want to be, a place where you’re happy, there’s no real reason of doing that,” Papelbon said about leaving. “I’ve always admired Johnny since I came here in ’05 and he was one of the players that took me under his wing and showed me the big leagues. I wish him nothing but the best.” “I’m not surprised because he’s in a situation where he’s happy and if he’s happy why not stay?’’ Even though the Tigers are currently nine games behind the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central Damon believes that they still have a shot at catching them in September. The only real concern Damon had about staying in Detroit was his playing time. He talked to GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland before giving his final decision. “I told him to do what your heart tells you,” Leyland said. “Don’t worry about the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Jim Leyland, Terry Francona or anybody else.” “Yes, he’s going to play.” “Is he going to play every game? No. He hasn’t played every game to this point.”