BERLET SPOTLIGHT: RICK NASH

The New York Post reported Thursday that standout left wing Rick Nash might play in Switzerland before he skates for the New York Rangers.

If there’s another NHL lockout, Davos team president told Suedostschweiz, a Swiss media outlet, that the top free-agent signing this offseason would play with fellow All-Star Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks. The two led Davos to the Swiss Elite League title during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, with Nash getting 26 goals and 20 assists en route to the championship. 

“We agreed with Thornton and Nash that in case of lockout, they would return in the Grisons,” Domenig told the Swiss media outlet.

Nash, defenseman Steven Delisle and a conditional third-round pick in 2013 were acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale players Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick next year.

Nash had 30 goals and 29 assists last season for Columbus, which finished with the worst record in the National Hockey League while the Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, losing to the New Jersey Devils in six games.

“I feel like hockey is truly a passion here (in New York) where they expect a championship-caliber team, and I think they’ve done everything they can as an organization to put that together,” Nash said during his introductory press conference.

Former Rangers and Whale players who have signed with European teams in the offseason are AHL All-Star wing Mats Zuccarello (Mettallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL) and forwards Andreas Thuresson (Brynas in the Swedish Elite League), Jordan Owens (Soenderjyske in the Danish Elite League) and Steve Moses (Jokerit SM-Liiga in the Finnish Elite League).

Rangers assistant GM and coach/Whale GM Jim Schoenfeld emailed me that the organization hasn’t decided which Rangers players will play with the Whale if there is a lockout. Leading contenders are forwards Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin and possibly Derek Stepan and defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Stu Bickel and possibly Michael Sauer, if he’s recovered from concussion that sidelined him from Dec. 5 to the end of last season, and Michael Del Zotto, if he signs a new free-agent contract. All have played three or fewer seasons in the NHL.

Meanwhile, if there is no lockout, wing Alex Kovalev, the Rangers’ first-round pick (15th overall) in 1991 and a member of the Stanley Cup championship team three years later, plans to return to the NHL. Kovalev, 39, had one goal and five assists in 22 games with Atlant Moscow Oblast in the Kontinental Hockey League in his native Russia last season and is training now in Switzerland.

But a possible lockout caused the cancellation Thursday of the annual prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., hosted by the Detroit Red Wings that the Rangers have participated in for eight years.

“Due to the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement and the advance commitments required from the various parties, including hotels, airlines, teams, players and their families, etc., we have determined that it is in everyone’s best interest to cancel this year’s tournament,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “The Red Wings and the seven other NHL teams that were scheduled to participate are committed to returning to Traverse City in 2013 and continuing with this tremendous tournament.”

The prospect showcase is one of the most popular events of the summer and gives teams an early on-ice look at their future stars. Besides the Red Wings and Rangers, this year’s tournament was to include the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.

BALDWIN REJOINS ROAD WARRIORS

Greenville re-signed former Wolf Pack/Whale defenseman Baldwin and forward Brett Robinson and named Dwayne Zinger an assistant coach.

Baldwin, a native of Victoria, British Columbia, had six goals and 12 assists in 45 games with the Road Warriors last season, when he was scoreless in 21 games with the Whale, who did not re-sign the unrestricted free agent.

“Greenville is an amazing city with unbelievable fans that support us through the good and the bad,” Baldwin said in a release. “I can’t wait to bring home the Kelly Cup to Greenville where it belongs.”

Said Road Warriors coach Dean Stork: “Lee is a strong skating two-way defenseman. He can play in all situations and can log a lot of important minutes on the back end. I’m very excited to have Lee back for a third season.”

Robinson, 27, is entering his fourth season in the ECHL and second with the Road Warriors. Last season, the Ontario native had 20 goals and 19 assists in 64 games for the Road Warriors. Before joining Greenville, Robinson spent two seasons with the Cincinnati Cyclones, posting 21 goals and 29 assists in 83 games. His marquee moment came in Game 5 of the 2010 Kelly Cup finals when he scored what would become the game-winning and championship-clinching goal.

Zinger joins the Road Warriors with more than 10 years experience in professional hockey as a defenseman.

“Coming to Greenville was a great opportunity for me,” Zinger said in a statement. “I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about the city and the Road Warriors organization. I hope that I can help build on what Dean has done the last two seasons and bring the Kelly Cup to Greenville.”

Zinger spent nine seasons in the AHL with five different teams. In 536 games, he had 23 goals and 70 assists. In 2003, the native of Alberta was called up to the NHL’s Washington Capitals and played seven games. In what ended up being his last game in the NHL, Zinger recorded his only point, an assist, on the game-winning goal with just under a minute left.

In his last season before retiring, Zinger signed with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones. He spent the season playing under Stork, then the assistant coach, and Robinson was on the team.

Since retiring, Zinger has been involved in a number of projects around Cincinnati, including starting his own training business and coaching hockey at several different levels.

HAVILAND REJOINS NORFOLK AS COACH

Former Norfolk coach Mike Haviland is returning as an associate coach, joining head coach Trent Yawney and assistant Marty Wilford, a former Wolf Pack defenseman.

Haviland had spent the previous four seasons as an assistant with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. During his tenure, the Blackhawks were 187-101-40, advanced to the playoffs each season, won the Central Division in 2009-10 and won the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Before moving to the NHL, the native of Middletown, N.J., spent three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliates, the Admirals (2005-07) and Rockford IceHogs (2007-08). In three seasons as an AHL head coach, Haviland had a 137-77-14-12 record.

Haviland succeeded Yawney as head coach in Norfolk and had a 93-51-10-6 record in two seasons. In 2005-06 and 2006-07, the Admirals broke previous records for wins and points in a season, and Haviland won the 2007 Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach after leading Norfolk to a 50-22-6-2 record.

Before joining the Admirals, Haviland coached four seasons in the ECHL with Trenton (2004-05) and Atlantic City (2001-04), winning league championships in 2003 and 2005. Haviland was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the 1990 NHL draft and played in the AHL with Binghamton in 1989-90. … Pending approval by the AHL Board of Governors, the AHL’s 2012-13 regular-season schedule will be released on Friday at 3 p.m. The schedule will be available for viewing and download on the AHL’s official website, theahl.com.

FORMER WOLF PACKERS EVERYWHERE

Former Wolf Pack players seem to be everywhere these days.

Center Derek Armstrong, the playoff MVP when the Wolf Pack won Hartford’s only pro hockey title in 2000, has become the head coach of a Central Hockey League expansion team, the Denver Cutthroats. He was an assistant last season with the Boulder Bison of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL), a Junior B team. And one of his players will be longtime friend and former linemate Brad Smyth, the Wolf Pack’s all-time leader in points and goals. It’ll be interesting to see if the man known as Shooter will be asking for extra ice time from Army.

Goalie Jean-Francois Labbe, who backstopped that Wolf Pack’s championship team led by Armstrong, Smyth and Whale coach Ken Gernander, is the new head coach of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Trois-Rivieres Caron and Guay. Labbe played three of his five junior QMJHL seasons in the city.

Defenseman Dean Arsene, captain of the Portland Pirates the last two seasons, has signed a one-year contract with the St. John’s IceCaps. Center Oren Eizenmann has left the High 1 team in South Korea to play with the Nippon Paper Cranes in Japan in the Asia League Ice Hockey.

Goalie Barry Brust, a former Wolf Pack killer with the Manchester Monarchs, has returned from EHC Straubing in the German Elite League to play for the Abbotsford Heat.

PACIORETTY SIGNS SIX-YEAR EXTENSION WITH CANADIENS

New Canaan native Max Pacioretty signed a six-year, $27 million contract extension with the Canadiens. Pacioretty, 23, completed his fourth season in the NHL in 2011-12, leading the Canadiens with a career-high 65 points (33 goals, 32 assists). He has one season left on his deal, so the extension begins with the start of the 2013-14 season.

“So happy to be part of this organization long-term,” Pacioretty wrote on his Twitter account (@MaxPacioretty67).

Pacioretty won the 2012 Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, determination and dedication to the game. He returned last season after missing the Canadiens’ last 15 regular-season games and the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2010-11 with a fractured neck and a concussion after a hit by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara on March 8, 2011.

Pacioretty, a first-round pick (22nd overall) in 2007, has 53 goals and 61 assists in 202 NHL regular-season games. He is the first American-born player in Canadiens history to score at least 30 goals in a season.

ODDS AND ENDBOARDS

The Colorado Avalanche signed former Hartford Whalers goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to a one-year contract extension through the 2013-14 season. Giguere appeared in 32 games in his first season with the Avalanche, posting a 15-11-3 record with a 2.27 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. He finished ninth in the NHL in GAA and posted the best number by a Colorado goalie since David Aebischer’s 2.09 in 2003-04. Giguere’s .919 save percentage was also the best by an Avalanche goalie since Aebischer’s .924 that same season. Giguere, 35, has a 246-206-70 career record with a 2.52 GAA, .913 save percentage and 36 shutouts in 557 NHL games. The Montreal native ranks eighth among active goaltenders in career games (557) and shutouts (36) and is 10th in wins (246). Giguere backstopped the Anaheim Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup title. Four years earlier, he became the fifth player in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy on a losing team when he led Anaheim to Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, where it lost to the Devils.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed right wing Wayne Simmonds to a six-year, $23.04 million contract. Simmonds, 23, had career highs in goals (28), power-play goals (11), game-winning goals (four), points (49) and shots (197) last season and was third on the team in the regular season with 114 penalty minutes while playing all 82 games for the second time in four NHL seasons. “I thought I had a pretty productive season last year, but coming into the summer I didn’t know exactly where I stood or what would happen,” Simmonds said on a conference call Thursday. “I talked to Homer (Flyers GM Paul Holmgren) a little bit, but I still wasn’t sure on the contract front. When Homer came to us with the contract extension, the three of us (Holmgren, Simmonds and Simmonds’ agent) thought it was a good idea.”

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