Philadelphia Flyers

For Flyers, Lake Placid trip 'means a lot'

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For Flyers, Lake Placid trip 'means a lot'

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Vinny Lecavalier was here once before, to watch his younger brother play.

That was certainly fun for Lecavalier and his family, but to actually take the ice at the Lake Placid Olympic Center was a far different experience -- much better than sitting in the crowd cheering on Clarkson University.

“It means a lot,” Lecavalier said. “I’m Canadian, but the hockey history obviously is a lot, coming to this arena. It’s great, it’s a beautiful town and we’re happy to bond as a team.”

It’s impossible to enter this building, and especially the actual rink on which the 1980 U.S. team surprised the world and won Olympic gold, without being hyper aware of a sense of what was accomplished here. That’s true for the many visitors who come through the Center every day on tours, but even more true of the 27 Flyers here for camp -- their coaches, too.

“It’s important for Americans and for USA hockey,” Adam Hall said. “You have milestones, that for the longest time for the Soviet Union and Canada were so dominant. To be such huge underdogs at that time in American history was something that the American people really rallied around. I think that’s why it was such a big deal.

“The World Cup of hockey in ’96, the World Juniors, you just go down the line, there’s been some great milestones in the USA hockey programs. It’s nice to see.”

Hall is one of only three Americans on the Flyers’ training camp roster -- Hal Gill and Chris VandeVelde are the others.

Even those who weren’t alive at the time of the Miracle on Ice are excited to spend time at a place so important to the growth of their sport.

“It’s pretty cool,” VandeVelde said. “There’s a lot of history here. You grew up hearing that story. You always look back at it. It’s definitely neat. I’m excited to see the town and kind of get more acquainted with it.”

While there’s business to attend to on the ice while they’re here, the Flyers aren’t just in Lake Placid to perfect coach Peter Laviolette’s systems in a historical setting. They’re here to get some time away from Philadelphia, to get to know each other better in a small town away from their friends, families and daily routines.

There are “Welcome Philadelphia Flyers” signs peppered around all over town -- at shops, restaurants and the town’s only movie theater, where the full team will take in a show Thursday night.

As Lecavalier said, they’ll be spending “basically 24 hours a day” together.

“It’s fun,” Claude Giroux said. “I’ve never been here before. We came straight [to the rink after getting off the plane], so I haven’t had time to look around. But I know we have a couple activities this weekend. I heard it’s a very nice place. I can’t wait to see it.”

The conditions at the Olympic Center aren’t exactly glamorous. The locker room in which the U.S. team dressed before their gold medal game hasn’t been updated since 1980, in fact.

But those minor inconveniences -- small locker rooms, rough ice, having to balance on rubber sheets as they walk across concrete from rink to rink -- adds to the experience of history, according to Hall.

“It’s an old building,” he said, “but you can feel a connection with the past and things that happened here.”

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).