NHL notes: Paul Stastny plays hardball with Avalanche?

Paul Stastny is reportedly holding off negotiations with the Colorado Avalanche until days before...

Paul Stastny is reportedly holding off negotiations with the Colorado Avalanche until days before becoming a free agent. (AFP)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:27 PM ET

Paul Stastny wants to make ‘em sweat.

The 28-year-old pending free agent centre has decided to play hardball with the Colorado Avalanche and will hold off negotiating a contract extension until June 20, according to the Denver Post.

With free agency set to open July 1 – and teams able talk with players starting June 25 thanks to the new CBA – that doesn’t leave either side a lot of time to exchange offers.

While the Avs are optimistic a deal will be reached, it’s unclear what Stastny’s role would be as the future unfolds. Colorado boasts a lineup that includes Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly, all of whom can play centre. O’Reilly spent parts of last season on the wing.

Stastny is coming off a five-year, $33 million contract. He has 160 goals and 298 assists in 538 career NHL games, all with the Avalanche.

HEALTHY HARDING

Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding is expected to recover in time for training camp, according to general manager Chuck Fletcher.

After scorching the league to start the 2013-14 season, going 18-7-3 with a 1.65 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, Harding was sidelined Dec. 31 to deal with symptoms related to his multiple sclerosis. He did not play another minute.

“I think his battles are well chronicled and well known. I think he’s feeling well at this point in time,” Fletcher told NHL.com. “The goal for him is, much like last summer, to build up and get to a point where he’ll be able to come into training camp and play well. There’s been nothing that I’ve heard of to lead me to not believe that to be the case.”

Harding was healthy enough to skate with the team during the playoffs but was unable to get back in the lineup before the Wild were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.

Minnesota goalies Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper, also injured, will be back in time for training camp.

Ilya Bryzgalov, who the Wild acquired at the trade deadline, is a pending free agent and not expected to return.

FRANCIS IN NO RUSH

Ron Francis is taking his time finding a new coach.

It’s been over a month since the new Carolina Hurricanes general manager fired bench boss Kirk Muller and he has yet to name a replacement.

“I’m more focused on trying to be thorough and comfortable with the guy we get than get this behind me,” Francis told The News & Observer.

Francis said he has met with “between six and 10” candidates, but there is speculation he is waiting until after the Stanley Cup is handed out to finish the interview process.

Los Angeles Kings assistant coach John Stevens and New York Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson are believed to be on the Carolina GM’s list, but he cannot speak with them until the NHL championship has been decided.

The firing of Dan Bylsma by the Pittsburgh Penguins last week also adds an extra candidate to the mix.


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