NHL

McKenzie: Updates on Gustavsson, Blackhawks' extensions

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Bob McKenzie
12/3/2009 12:02:07 AM
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Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson left Tuesday's game in Montreal at the end of the first period with an elevated heart rate and saw a Toronto cardiologist on Wednesday. This, of course, comes after Gustavsson underwent pre-season heart surgery – a procedure called ablation – to correct a figurative short circuit that causes an irregular and elevated heart rate.

Gustavsson is now expected to undergo the same procedure again either on Thursday or Friday.

This irregular and elevated heart rate condition is not necessarily an uncommon one. And for those afflicted with it, it's not ridiculously unusual to suffer a reccurrence even after the first ablation procedure has been done.

Some medical people suggest ablation is successful 75 to 80 per cent of the time for those having it done for the first time. That means one out of five who get it suffer a re-occurrence. For those people who undergo a second ablation, medical people suggest the odds of curing the problem permanently go up to 90 per cent. In other words, only one out of 10 with the condition fail to correct it after the second ablation.

This shouldn't necessarily be cause for alarm. It's too early to express serious concern about Gustavsson's health, but there is something a little more disconcerting about “heart problems” than a pulled groin muscle.

Naturally, it goes without saying that everyone, from the Leafs to Gustavsson and beyond, will be hoping for the best for the young Swedish netminder.

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Blackhawks Update

With the Chicago Blackhawks set to announce long-term extensions for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith at 2 p.m. (CT) on Thursday, there is much speculation they will have to make a move to free up "tagging room" (salary cap room for next season) before they can make the extensions officials.

While that is a possibility – some think Brent Sopel and his $2.33 million salary could be traded or waived at a moment's notice tomorrow – it doesn't appear to be an absolute necessity.

As we reported more than a week ago, the Blackhawks likely have just enough "tagging room" right now to fit in the three extensions. But to do so would leave the Blackhawks in a ridiculously tight position in terms of making any future moves. So tight, in fact, that they may be totally hamstrung in terms of bringing in any player who is under contract for next season.

For example, what if one of the Hawks' netminders – Cristobal Huet or Antti Niemi – went down with an injury? The Hawks would normally call up No. 3 man Corey Crawford, but he's under contract for next season and it's not inconceivable that the Hawks would not be able to make that move. In the bigger picture, with the Hawks being a Stanley Cup contender if not a mid-season favourite at this point, Chicago wants to have some flexibility to add a player at the trade deadline.

So whether it's before tomorrow's contract announcements or sometime after the fact, the Blackhawks are expected to move a current roster player who is under contract next season. Sopel continues to be the most logical choice to move, but it's not an absolute necessity to get it done in the next number of hours.

It could happen, but it's not imperative. Not yet anyway.

Jonas Gustavsson (Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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