Mikko Rantanen bound and determined to take on the big boys in the NHL next season

Ryan Kennedy
Mikko Rantanen. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Before Mikko Rantanen even got drafted, before he knew which players he would be competing against for a job, he maintained that his goal for 2015-16 was to play in the NHL. And after the powerful right winger was taken 10th overall by the Colorado Avalanche, he did just that – for a handful of games, at least.

Rantanen, the brightest prospect in Colorado’s system and Future Watch’s No. 5 prospect overall, made the Avalanche out of camp and played the first six games of the season. The strapping young Finn didn’t register a point and never eclipsed 11 minutes of ice time in any given game, but it’s tough to consider his assignment to the AHL as a disappointment, especially given how Rantanen has performed ever since. “It was an experience for him to dip his toe in the water,” said David Oliver, Colorado’s director of player development. “With ice time comes confidence, and for his development curve we wanted to get him to the AHL to play those big minutes.”

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Rumor Roundup: If Avalanche make Tyson Barrie available, Rangers could be a good trade partner

Tyson Barrie. (Getty Images)

During a recent appearance on Edmonton’s 630 CHED radio, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman created some buzz by suggesting Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie could be in play this summer.

Barrie, 24, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Coming off two seasons with 53 and 49 points respectively, he’ll want a substantial raise over his current annual average salary of $2.6 million. He could fetch a deal comparable to that of teammate Erik Johnson (seven-years, $42 million), which might not fly with Avs management.

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Swiss goaltender Berra allows what could be worst goal of the year at World Championship

Reto Berra (via YouTube)

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra had a tough time at the World Championship in 2015, but his start to the 2016 tournament may be even worse.

At last year’s competition, Berra started five games for the Swiss, but his play was largely forgettable. He finished with a .876 save percentage, the worst of any netminder to suit up for at least five games, had an unsightly 3.48 goals-against average and he lost every single one of his games. Again, it wasn’t the best tournament of his life. Yet, there was hope his 2016 World Championship could be better.

Well, if that’s going to be the case, he’s going to have to turn things around in a hurry, because in Switzerland’s tournament-opening game against Kazakhstan, Berra allowed what could be the worst goal of the year on a long-distance shot that came from the far blueline. Check it out: Read more

Jesse Puljujarvi and world-killing Finland just did it again

Jesse Puljujarvi (Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Finland has won gold again – get used to it.

Led by superstar 2016 draft prospect Jesse Puljujarvi, the Finns dusted off archrival Sweden in the final of the World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota on Sunday. Puljujarvi scored a hat trick in the 6-1 demolition, while the home-side Americans earned bronze with a 10-3 walloping of a disorganized Canadian squad.

If it sounds like the Finns have been on the podium a lot lately, it’s because they have. This is the third junior-level gold in three years for Suomi, when the 2016 and 2014 world junior titles are added in. So how are they doing it?

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Semyon Varlamov says Avalanche are ‘waiting for Alexander Radulov.’ Can they sign him?

Matt Larkin
Alexander Radulov (Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The NHL off-season has already begun for eliminated NHL teams. Among them are the Colorado Avalanche, and their starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov, has begun some personal free agent recruiting.

The man Varlamov wants in an Avs jersey next year: KHL superstar and former NHLer Alexander Radulov, who reportedly wants to try his hand at the NHL again. Radulov doesn’t have much left to accomplish in his native Russia. He’s a league MVP, a scoring champion and a Gagarin Cup winner. He was alternately tantalizing and frustrating in his two seasons with the Nashville Predators plus a brief return in 2012, so he has unfinished business in the NHL. He has good years left at 29 and, unlike in his previous comeback attempt, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

Varlamov, Radulov’s countryman, is home in Russia for the World Championship right now. According to translated quotes from Russian writer Slava Malamud, Varlamov told Russian newspaper Sport Express this week the Avalanche are “waiting for Radulov. He’ll be one of the leaders there.” Varlamov added, “All (Radulov) needs to do is dial Patrick (Roy) and his return will happen. I hope we can win the Cup with him.”

Say we accept that a Radulov signing will happen. Does it make sense?

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Rumor Roundup: Canadiens not trying to trade Subban, but he’s not untouchable

P.K. Subban. (Getty Images)

Monday was locker clean-out day for the 14 NHL teams that failed to qualify for the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. It was also time for some general managers and players to field questions from the media regarding their off-season plans.

Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin attempted to squelch recent trade rumors about defenseman P.K. Subban. The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey reports Bergevin said he’s not shopping the 26-year-old superstar or other core players such as goaltender Carey Price and left winger Max Pacioretty.

Bergevin, however, didn’t state that Subban is untouchable. With the blueliner’s no-trade clause kicking in on July 1, his name could resurface in the trade rumor mill by late-June. TSN analysts Darren Dreger and Jamie McLennan suggest Bergevin is merely keeping his options open. While acknowledging he could listen to offers, both doubt that Subban’s going anywhere this summer.

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Avalanche ‘confident’ a turnaround can happen, but no one’s safe as off-season approaches

Jared Clinton
Nathan MacKinnon (center) and Matt Duchene (right) (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

When the Colorado Avalanche were officially eliminated from the post-season, coach Patrick Roy didn’t mince words. He called it completely unacceptable, saying he was disappointed and frustrated in the performance of the Avalanche. It’s hard not to be considering that the Minnesota Wild left the door wide open, and the Avalanche didn’t even take a step towards it.

The Wild, who were ahead of the Avalanche by three points on March 28, lost each of their final five games and gave Colorado every bit of help possible to make the playoffs. However, the Avalanche blew their opportunity, doing the Wild one better and dropping each of their final six games, finishing five points out of the post-season and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. After disappointment like that, no one is pleased with the Avalanche’s performance, and GM Joe Sakic made clear that things are going to change in Colorado and that no player should be considered untouchable.

“Wayne Gretzky got traded — twice,” Sakic told the Associated Press’ Pat Graham. “We have to explore different options to see how we can become a better team.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Subban’s name back in rumor mill, coaching changes expected

PK Subban (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the NHL regular season completed, the fate of several coaches whose clubs failed to reach the playoffs is a hot topic of discussion. Much of the focus is upon Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins.

Since joining the Bruins in 2007-08, Julien’s guided them to four division titles, a Presidents’ Trophy in 2013, two Stanley Cup Finals and a championship in 2011. Over the past two seasons, however, the Bruins fell short of the playoffs. Their recent failure has some in the Boston media calling for a coaching change.

If Julien is let go by the Bruins, he won’t be unemployed for long. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggests the Ottawa Senators could come calling if they decide to drop bench boss Dave Cameron. Read more