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Colorado Avalanche: News from around the NHL June 16, 2014

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Patrick Smith

Hockey's Future takes a look at the Avs, for their 2014 Draft Preview series.

The rejuvenated Colorado Avalanche franchise took the NHL by surprise this past season and defied all expectations by finishing at the top of the Western Conference’s tough Central Division.

While their first round loss at the hands of the Minnesota Wild can only be described as heartbreaking, the team will use their first playoff appearance in four years as experience gained for their quest for the Stanley Cup.

The graduation of Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie leaves the Avalanche’s already weak farm system desperate for an infusion of top-end skilled players. The combination of the Avalanche’s first round playoff exit and regular season points total results with the club being given the 24th pick, except in the first round where they will pick 23rd, of each round in the 2014 NHL Draft. The Avalanche will also have an additional fourth round pick this year acquired from Toronto in the Ryan O’Byrne trade.

The Canadiens are happy with their coach.

The Montreal Canadiens signed head coach Michel Therrien to a four-year contract extension on Saturday.

Therrien has coached the Canadiens for the past two seasons, compiling a 75-42-13 record and leading Montreal to the playoffs in both years.

A former hockey player talks about the effects of having taken an elbow to the head... 14 years ago.

Andrew McKim still gets the headaches, the migraines, and he still sees the stars when he sneezes. His wife, Leanne, has become adept at reading the markers of his pain, even as it presents itself as a certain look at the dinner table. She will ask him how he is feeling, and he will sometimes answer: “It’s just like a knife in my ear right now.”

It is not difficult to imagine how concern will spread to families with deep roots in the game, either, as science continues to unearth more of the dangers linked to repeated head trauma in athletes. Stories of more NHL players dealing with serious and lasting health conditions will slip into more conversations over hot coffee in cold arenas.

“They are concerned about football and rugby, as well,” said Dr. Charles Tator, a long-time concussion awareness advocate at Toronto Western Hospital. “But certainly, hockey is No. 1 in our country, and it is on the mind of a lot of parents.”

And it is not just the parents of elite-level players who should be concerned, either, after a five-year study from the University of Buffalo found youth players in Burlington, Ont., were less at risk of injury from body contact than from incidental contact — the kind of accidents that might be more common in house league.

He was an avid reader before the injury, she said, but not since, not with the all trouble he has concentrating. He used to be more eager to greet the morning, too, but not after, when she would rise and he would remain in bed, in agony, if the weather outside had shifted.

“It’s the same, I guess, as someone with arthritis, when they can tell that the weather is not very good, or that bad weather is coming,” she said. “That’s the way he is with his head.”

Mirtle believes there will be "plenty" of buyouts this season.

Don’t expect hockey news to take much of a breather now that the games are over.

The Los Angeles Kings may be holding their Stanley Cup parade, but what Monday actually marks for the other 29 teams is eight days until the NHL awards, 11 days until the opening of the draft and two weeks until the start of free agency on July 1.

Along the way, there’ll be a lot of trade talk, too.

This busy section of the news cycle gets underway in earnest early Monday morning when the NHL’s compliance buyout window opens. This is one of the last remnants of the lockout, where every team was given two get out of jail free cards in the form of penalty-free buyouts to be used in the summer of 2013 or 2014.