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Aaron Ekblad confident in Panthers chances after busy offseason

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The Florida Panthers made major offseason moves to completely revamp their roster and coaching staff.

For the first time in a long time, the team is now considered to be among those expected to be in the mix for a Stanley Cup in 2019/2020. But as the saying goes: with hype comes lofty expectations.

Can the Florida Panthers get the most out of the talent on their roster and live up to what is expected of them? All-Star defenceman Aaron Ekblad is as confident as anybody that the team will be able to deliver.

“Maybe in the past people overlooked us, but right now, I would say we go into this year as the team to beat,” said Ekblad.

“With the players we’ve brought in and the core we have established, I mean, if we don’t win, you know things are going to go sideways pretty quick. We have to realize and know if we want to stay together, we have to win.”

Among the major transactions this offseason includes the hiring of three-time Stanley Cup champion head coach Joel Quenneville, the signing of Vezina Trophy winning defenceman Sergei Bobrovsky, and the additions of veteran defenseman Anton Stralman and forwards  Brett Connolly to add to an already promising young core that includes the likes of Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, and others.

The Panthers will need to exercise their demons and not let the pressure of living up to expectations get the best of them like it tends to do. Despite having promise for the past several years, they have made the post-season just twice since 2005/06, and have not advanced past the first round since their Stanley Cup final run way back in 1996.

Hockey

Jeff Blashill will continue to coach Red Wings despite horrific season

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Despite a dismal 2019/2020 campaign that saw them finish with a
17-49-5 record, the Detroit Red Wings don’t plan on making any major changes to their coaching staff. In fact, General Manager Steve Yzerman went as far as to give head coach a public vote of confidence.

“I have no plans on making a coaching change at this time,” said Yzerman on Wednesday.

“I think Jeff has done a good job. I think it’s been a difficult position. In his tenure here, the Red Wings [have been] in a rebuild…For the last two, three Trade Deadlines, the team has traded valuable players for future assets, and Jeff has, with his head held high, diligently worked hard, done a good job in coaching this team in a difficult situation throughout that.”

The 46-year old, who was initially hired to replace Mike Babcock as bench boss in June 2015, has made the postseason just once in his five seasons with the franchise, and has posted a combined 38.3 win percentage during that span.

Many within the game thought finishing with the worst win percentage in the salary cap era this season would be enough to signal the end of his tenure. But the Red Wings brass still has faith in his abilities to lead the team back to greatness.

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Hockey

NHL looking at 8-9 cities that can accommodate “a dozen or so teams” in order to resume season

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The National Hockey League is working tirelessly to get everything back running again. And with those efforts have come a lot of possible scenarios.

According to commissioner Gary Bettman, the league has looked deeply into approximately eight to nine different hub cities that can host at least twelve teams at a time in a single location.

“We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.” said Bettman while speaking at a digital keynote interview with Leaders Week on Monday.

There is still no timetable for when the league will resume.

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AHL

Leafs sign forward Adam Brooks to two-year extension

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The Toronto Maple Leafs locked up a depth player to a multi-year deal on Thursday.

The team announced they have signed forward Adam Brooks to a two-year, two-way contract extension that carries an average annual value of $725,000 at the NHL level.

The 24-year old, who was selected 92nd overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, had spent the majority of the 2019/2020 campaign with the team’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies, but did appear in seven games with the Leafs. During that span, he posted three assists and a plus-1 rating.

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