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Return of Kane, Smith uncertain as Oilers look to build on promising season


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EDMONTON — Time will tell if winger Evander Kane and goaltender Mike Smith will still be in orange and blue when the Edmonton Oilers begin their training camp this fall.

Neither player offered any real hint about where they’d be in September when speaking to the media Tuesday at Rogers Place, a day after the Colorado Avalanche completed a Western Conference Final sweep of the Oilers.

Where Kane will play in 2022-23 will be a hot topic in pub chats and on talk radio until the free agency open season begins in mid-July. Kane came to Edmonton after the San Jose Sharks voided his contract, and signed a deal until the end of this campaign.

He scored 22 times in 43 regular-season games, and still leads the playoff goal-scoring race, with 13. He is a true power forward, unafraid to deliver big hits and get under the skins of opposing players.

“I thought it went really well, probably better than I expected it to be, to be honest,” Kane said when asked about his time in Edmonton.

But he didn’t speculate too much on his future.

“I go back to when I was in a similar but very different situation months ago,” Kane said. “I had the opportunity to pick where I was going to go, Edmonton was interested in me and I was interested in them. The way I looked at it was, you had two of the best players in the world (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) and you had a team that wants to win now, is trying to win now. You go into it as a great opportunity to win. I’m happy to say we had some success.

“But, moving forward, there’s a lot of things that factor into the decision, and I’m very happy with my time here and the fans have been phenomenal. This has got to be the best organization I’ve played for. No complaints. Just like everybody else up here, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”

Kane said that there are “variables” that need to be addressed before a decision can be made. One of them is that a grievance with the Sharks over the termination of his contract still needs to be settled. So, his free agency is not as clear-cut as other players heading into UFA territory this July.

Draisaitl made it clear that he and his teammates want Kane to remain.

“First of all, we’re very happy with how he came to our team and what he brought to our team, obviously, on the ice,” said Draisaitl, who finished the playoffs with 32 points in 16 games. “But, off the ice, he was amazing and a great team guy. He put the team first. He helped our team in a big, big way. I think we’d love to have him back; I can’t say more than that.”

Smith is another variable. The goaltender posted a 3.37 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage through the post-season but was swamped at times, including being pulled in Game 1 goal-fests in Calgary and Colorado. He also gave up three goals in less than six minutes in the third period of Monday’s 6-5 overtime loss to the Avalanche in Game 4.

The 40-year-old admitted that this was his most challenging season, as he played through various injuries.

Will he come back to fulfil the final year of his contract, or retire? Smith said he needs time to think.

“It’s hard to see where you’re going to be in the next two days, let alone four months from now,” Smith said. “There are a lot of things to deal with, mentally and physically.”

Backup Mikko Koskinen’s contract is set to expire. Stuart Skinner looks to be Oilers goalie of the future. But, if Smith doesn’t return, Oilers general manager Ken Holland could need to dip into the market.

Draisaitl, who would not go into detail about the ankle injury that he played through in the post-season, warned that the Oilers need to learn from 2017. That year, the team made it to the second round of the playoffs. The players thought they’d made significant strides — and then missed the playoffs the next two seasons.

And, recent history is not on the Oilers side.

The losing conference finalists from 2021 — the New York Islanders and Vegas Golden Knights — both missed the playoffs in 2022. Instead of making those important next steps and learning from their defeats, they regressed.

“I think we did take a step this season,” Draisaitl said. “But we also took a step in 2017 and we missed the playoffs the next season. That shows you how hard it is in this league to do it consistently, year after year.

“It’s a hard league, and the playoffs are even harder and tougher. So we have to come in next season and learn from what we accomplished this season, but come back next season and be hungry for more.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2022.

Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press

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Rookie goalie Jaxson Stauber in form as Blackhawks dump Flames 5-1

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By Darren Haynes in Calgary

Rookie goaltender Jaxson Stauber made it two wins in as many career starts by making 34 stops on Thursday to help the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Jason Dickinson, Sam Lafferty and Connor Murphy, into an empty net, scored for Chicago (15-28-4), which entered the game last in the NHL’s overall standings. Max Domi had an assist to extend his point streak to four games (one goal, three assists).

Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Calgary (23-17-9). The Flames sit outside of a playoff spot in the Western Conference after last season finishing atop the Pacific Division.

Markstrom had 24 stops for the Flames. Winless in his last four decisions (0-3-1), his record fell to 13-13-5. That’s 10 times this season Markstrom has received one or no goals for support.

With Alex Stalock (concussion) out, Stauber made his NHL debut on Saturday in a 5-3 win in St. Louis.

The undrafted 23-year-old is in his first pro season after signing as a free agent last March after playing the previous two years with Providence College. He began the season with AHL Rockford.

Tied 1-1 after 20 minutes, Chicago seized control in the second period with three unanswered goals.

At 9:39, Katchouk one-timed a pass from Luke Philp past Markstrom, who was screened.

Chicago made it a two-goal lead at 15:37 when both Flames defencemen Nikita Zadorov and MacKenzie Weeger went to Patrick Kane, leaving the middle of the ice open. Kane’s pass sent Dickenson in alone and he beat Markstrom over his shoulder.

Just 30 seconds later, another defensive miscue from the Flames resulted in a two-on-one rush with Colin Blackwell setting up Lafferty for his eighth goal of the season.

The Flames outshot the visitors 18-6 in the third period, but couldn’t beat Stauber. The scattered booing from disgruntled fans throughout the stanza was at its loudest at the final buzzer as Calgary players left the ice.

In a listless first period from the home side, Chicago scored first at 17:47 when Raddysh beat Markstrom under his arm.

The Flames would tie it in the final minute. Huberdeau took a pass from Kadri and made a slick move to tuck the puck behind Stauber.



Both teams were without key players. Calgary defenceman Chris Tanev (upper body) was out. His spot was taken by Connor Mackey, a healthy scratch the last 16 games.

Chicago was without captain Jonathan Toews (non-COVID illness). Philp was inserted into the lineup and recorded his first NHL point.


Tyler Toffoli played in the 700th game of his career. He has played 86 games for the Flames.

Toffoli has also played for Los Angeles (515), Vancouver (10) and Montreal (89).



Blackhawks: Wrap up a three-game road trip on Saturday in Edmonton.

Flames: Are back in action Friday night in Seattle.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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Premier Danielle Smith sent this letter to PM Justin Trudeau today

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An alternative to Just Transition: Premier Smith

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith invites Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to work with her to develop “Sustainable Jobs” legislation as an alternative to the proposed “Just Transition” legislation.

Dear Prime Minister:

I am writing to once again raise Alberta’s serious concerns with the proposed federal ‘Just Transition’ legislation. The world needs more Canadian energy, not less. It would be premature and ill-advised to signal the end of a vibrant, thriving industry that has the ability to reduce Canada’s and the world’s emissions through technological innovation and increased exports of LNG and other clean burning fuels the world so desperately needs. It is also critical to the security of our nation and allies to lessen dependence on fuel sources from unstable, undemocratic and dangerous countries with atrocious environmental records.

Simply put, the world needs more Canadian energy and technology, not less, and as the owner of the world’s third largest oil and gas reserves and the most advanced environmental technology on the planet – we need to signal our intention to provide substantially more of both.

According to your government’s own predictions, the federal Just Transition initiative alone will risk a full 25 percent of Alberta’s economy and 187,000 jobs in Alberta, while also causing major disruptions and displacement to 13.5 percent of Canada’s workforce. At a time when Canadians are struggling to afford basic services and goods, Canada’s oil and gas sector offers some of the highest wages in Canada, which translates to strong business and community support across the country. Signalling a move away from these types of high paying jobs, threatens the national economy, and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers across the country at a time when good jobs are needed the most. It also creates a chilling effect on investors considering large scale investments in the Alberta and Canadian energy sector.

Prime Minister, we are at a crossroads in Alberta’s relationship with the Federal Government. We can continue with the endless court challenges, legislation to protect jurisdictional rights and inflammatory media coverage over our disagreements, or, as is my strong preference, Alberta and Ottawa can work in partnership on a plan that will signal to all Canadians and investors from around the world that our governments have cooperatively designed a series of incentives and initiatives intended to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Substantially decreasing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions;
  1. Accelerating private and public investment in projects and infrastructure that utilize and develop Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), Bitumen Beyond Combustion, Geothermal technology, petrochemicals, hydrogen, lithium, helium, zero-emissions vehicles and nuclear technologies;
  1. Attracting and growing a larger skilled workforce to fill positions in both the conventional energy sector as well as emerging industries using the technologies cited above; and
  1. Significantly, and through the lens of global emissions reduction, increasing the export of LNG and other responsibly developed conventional oil and natural gas resources to Europe, Asia and the United States.

Prime Minister, all of the above objectives need to be clearly articulated and integrated into any Federal legislation or policies your government seeks to implement in the coming months, or that legislation will face irrepressible opposition from Alberta. I genuinely do not want to see that happen.

Further, this proposed legislation must be developed through cooperative discussions with affected provinces – namely Alberta. I would therefore invite you to meet with me in February on this matter, after which I would propose we have our appropriate ministers and officials meet repeatedly in the coming months with the goal of coming to a joint agreement on the key items to be included in your contemplated legislation so that it can be introduced and passed by the end of Spring.

Further, I request that you take to heart, and acknowledge publicly, the following items, in an extension of good faith to Albertans:

  1. Immediately drop the verbiage of “Just Transition”. Accordingly, rename the “Just Transition Act” to the “Sustainable Jobs Act”;
  1. Vow that all provisions of any forthcoming legislation will be designed to incentivize investment and job growth in both the conventional energy sector as well as in emerging industries utilizing Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), Bitumen Beyond Combustion, petrochemicals, hydrogen, lithium, helium, geothermal, zero-emissions vehicle and nuclear technologies;
  1. Demonstrate that no provision of the Act will be designed to phase out or reduce Alberta’s conventional oil and natural gas sector and workforce (as we are already experiencing a workforce shortage in this sector);
  1. Commit your Government to actively partnering with Alberta to expand LNG exports to Asia and Europe as part of our nation’s overall emissions reduction strategy; and
  1. Promise that you and your Government will work with Alberta in partnership to set reasonable and meaningful emissions reductions targets and will not unilaterally impose such targets on Alberta’s energy, agriculture and other industrial sectors on a go forward basis.

Investments by Alberta’s oil and natural gas industry are driving the creation of the very clean technologies needed to bring emissions down both in Canada and around the world. Oil and natural gas companies representing the majority of production in Canada are investing $24 billion on projects to help reduce annual GHG emissions from operations by 22 million tonnes by 2030, and have committed to emission neutrality by 2050. Putting an end to or hampering this important work, and continued tepid support for increased LNG export, is the best way for your government to fail in its goal of reducing our nation’s and the world’s emissions. It would be the ultimate example of scoring on our own net.

The Alberta energy sector has grown and thrived through innovation, providing good paying jobs for thousands and contributing billions of dollars in tax revenue for all levels of government.  They will continue to evolve and adapt to new technologies in search of new low to zero-emitting fuel sources like hydrogen and provide new, high-paying skilled jobs for decades to come. It is essential that the federal government stands shoulder to shoulder with Alberta to reduce emissions and continue to develop our oil and natural gas and future energy sources responsibly, while also positioning Canada as the optimal solution to global energy needs and security.

Prime Minister, we can and must work together. Operating in political silos, as adversaries on this issue, is getting us nowhere, and I believe all Canadians are tired of seeing it. Canada should be the world’s greatest energy superpower. It can be, if we come together collaboratively in pursuit of that objective. There is no limit to our nation’s potential.

Let’s turn the page starting with a meeting between us next month followed by a dedicated effort to craft “Sustainable Jobs” legislation that a vast majority of Albertans and Canadians will welcome and support. The consequences of missing this opportunity will be dire for the Canadian and Alberta economies, workforce and environment.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

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