It’s reasonable to assume that the New York Rangers were comfortable trading Derek Stepan in part because they believed Mika Zibanejad could step into the No. 1 center role. That puts a lot of pressure on Zibanejad, who’s never been the top pivot on an NHL team before. If that wasn’t enough, now he’ll need to justify the first big contract of his career (seeing his cap hit rise from $2.625 million to $5.35 million). At least he isn’t oblivious to this challenge, and as the Rangers website notes, he’s actually super happy* to raise the stakes. “I think even before signing, seeing Derek being traded was a little bit of an alert to me that I might get a chance to play a bigger role,” Zibanejad said.
It was a headline-free day in Islanders Country, so...let’s get to ex-Islanders news after one delightful prospect roundup: Josh Ho-Sang, enticing breakout candidate. [FanRag] Former Isles captain Mark Streit returns to his original team, the Montreal Canadiens on a cheap ($700,000) one-year deal. Nice value for the Habs. Streit is coming off that big four-year deal that was a little too long and rich for the Isles. [HEOTP] Jesse Graham, left unqualified and thus allowed to walk by the Isles this summer, has landed with the Avalanche. [FanRag | Soundin’ Off] Here’s the Associated Press version of Kyle Okposo’s return to health. And to complete the ex-Isles updates, apparently there is no clause
The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced that three KHL players have been suspended after testing positive for banned substances. Here’s an excerpt from the KHL’s website: The IIHF has informed the KHL that three players – forward Danis Zaripov (then with Metallurg Magnitogorsk), defenseman Andrei Konev (Admiral Vladivostok) and defenseman Derek Smith (Medvescak Zagreb) – have tested positive for banned substances. Derek Smith tested positive for a category S6.а stimulant. Andrei Konev tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant. Danis Zaripov tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant plus category S5 diuretics and masking agents. Zapirov, who was part of Team Russia at the