- The New York Islanders Belmont Park Arena in Elmont, New York, on Long Island, recently received it’s final approval and construction is starting. The cost is $1.3 B and and the development will be a multi-purpose arena and entertainment complex. The building will be ready for NHL hockey by the start of the 2021-22 season. Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello recently said without the new building, the Islanders franchise wouldn’t be viable. For the new season and until the Isles new arena is ready, the team will split home games between Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center and Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. It’s been about 5 years to the day since the late Charles Wang sold the franchise to Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky and, with this announcement of the new building plus bringing in a two time Coach of the Year award winner in Barry Trotz plus a Hall of Fame GM in Lamoriello, the franchise is finally on very solid ground.
- Most teams open training camp around the 12th of September. Usually the first day is just fitness testing and then 2-3 days of on ice work. The league’s first preseason game is Sunday, September 15th with Arizona at Las Vegas. Some teams are having rookie tournaments around the 7th of September.
- The Seattle franchise said recently they plan to announce a team name around the All-Star game which is scheduled for January 26, 2020 in St. Louis. Seattle’s CEO Tod Leiweke said they are listening to fans about the team name but fans will not have the final say – the Seattle hockey organization will choose the name. Leiweke said they looked at a Seattle Times poll where 140,00 fans voted on a team name and are considering some of the suggested names. In the poll, the name “Sockeyes” defeated the “Totems” as the top team name. Some of the other popular suggestions were Metropolitans (the league said that sounded too much like the Metropolitan Division), the Steelheads, Kraken, Sasquatch and others. I like Sockeyes because the city already has their NFL team name start with an ‘S’ – the Seahawks – and their MLS team is the Seattle Sounders.
- Leiweke also recently said the Seattle franchise plans to wait until the summer before their inaugural season, 2021-22, before appointing a head coach.
- The Seattle Expansion draft is scheduled for June 2021 and teams have already started to prepare for it.
- The Minnesota Wild announced last week that former player and AGM with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bill Guerin, has been hired as the team’s new General Manager. Guerin becomes the forth GM in Wild franchise history. Some of the names that were interviewed included Habs AGM Scott Mellanby, Avalanche AGM Chris MacFarland, former Flyers GM Ron Hextall, former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli. The Wild were declined when they asked the New York Rangers for permission to speak with their AGM Chris Drury. Similarly, Columbus didn’t allow the Wild to speak with their AGM Bill Zito (Zito interviewed for the Wild GM position when Fenton was hired) and New Jersey declined when asked if AGM Tom Fitzgerald could be interviewed. Apparently Guerin was interviewed by the Wild last year and lost out to Fenton. I saw some of the Wild players and Executive Adviser Mike Modano interviewed after the hiring was made official and there seems to be a lot of excitement from both the players and management. Guerin is a former player so it seems the Wild players were excited about that. Modano said after the first round of interviews, it was clear who was going to he hired. Guerin called being the Wild GM a “dream job” adding Minnesota is a terrific hockey state with enthusiastic fans that know the game well. Guerin said he going to try and raise the standards & wants the team to be the most competitive team in the league. He added head coach Bruce Boudreau job is safe saying Bruce knows the league and is a good coach (Boudreau has just one year left on his contract with the Wild). Guerin has won four Stanley Cups, as player twice (1995 New Jersey and 2009 Penguins), and two as an AGM (with the Penguins in 2016 & 2017). He played with Mike Modano for three seasons, when both were with the Dallas Stars. I heard where Guerin said he got involved in the NHLPA when he was playing and was in some of the negotiations during lockouts and that spurred his interest in getting involved in the business side of the game. The Penguins organization – management and players – all spoke very highly of Guerin as he was the AGM for four seasons in Pittsburgh.
- The Carolina Hurricanes announced they’ve signed their President and GM, Don Waddell, to three year contract extension. Waddell interviewed with the Wild for the GM position as his previous contract expired July 30th and he was still acting as President and GM with no contract in place. Owner Tom Dundon said he doesn’t run things the same was other team’s do and pays what he believe people are worth to him and not what other teams pay for similar positions. After Waddell interviewed with the Wild, Dundon stepped up with the new three year deal for Waddell adding he trusts Don and wanted to keep him.
- The Canucks signed their GM Jim Benning to a three year deal that starts in the 2020-21 season. Benning was entering the 2019-20 season in the final year of his contract. There seemed to be some surprise from those who cover the team about the timing of the extension as in why now as the Canucks have missed the post-season the past four seasons. Some expected that Benning needed to deliver a post-season spot to be even considered for an extension but ownership appears to feel comfortable with their working relationship with him. The Canucks added defenseman Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn and Oscar Fantenberg as well as forwards JT Miller and Micheal Ferland in the off-season. Going to be challenging to explain to the team’s fans why they gave Benning three more years if they don’t get a post-season spot in the upcoming season.
- The New York Rangers announced former players Tanner Glass & Tuomo Ruutu have been appointed Assistant Directors of Player Development. Additionally, Chris Morehouse (Rangers Pres John Davidson’s brother in law) was named the Rangers Director of North American Scouting, Marshall Davidson (JD’s brother) and Derek Ginnell have been named Amateur Scouts. Former player Steve Konowalchuk will move from the Rangers amateur scouting group to the team’s professional scouting group. Glass and Ruutu will working the Rangers Director of Player Development, Jed Ortmeyer, to develop the organization’s prospects. Glass will focus on prospects in North America while Ruutu will focus on Europe-based prospects.
- The Bruins have started contract discussions with their head coach, Bruce Cassidy, as he is entering the final year of his current deal. Cassidy has a 117-52-22 record in 2.5 season’s behind the Bruins bench. Cassidy has reached the 100 win mark in 166 Bruins games which makes him the second fastest Bruins coach all-time to 100 wins. Cassidy reached the 2nd round of the post-season in the 2017-18 season and was one win from Stanley Cup championship last season. I’ve not heard numbers as far as what Cassidy would be paid.
- The Detroit Red Wings announced a few hockey ops appointments including the appointment of Kris Draper to Director of Amateur Scouting. Ryan Rezmierski, formerly of the Nashville Predators, and Jesse Willin, formerly of the St. Louis Blues, are the Wings new Chief Scouts. The organization also added Mike Barwis as Director of Sports Science and Human Performance. Former Red Wings player Dan Cleary was promoted from player development assistant to assistant director of player development. Shawn Horcoff had assistant director of player personnel added to his director of player development title.
- Blue Jackets RFA defenseman Zach Werenski indicated recently he’s hoping to be at Blue Jackets training camp, which starts on Sept 13, with a new contract. The talk is the player and team will reach an agreement on a 3 year deal in the $5 M – $5.5 M /season range. Werenski leads the RFA class for points for a defenseman in the 2018-19 season with 44. A Werenski signing could affect Flyers Ivan Provorov (26 points) and Bruins Charlie McAvoy (7 G & 21 A for 28 Pts)- both under 23 yo RFA’s with comparable stats. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekelanein recently said Werenski is a core part of their team and has grown into a leader among the players and the organization has every intention of getting him re-signed.
- With Avs RFA Mikko Rantanen (22 years old with 87 points), both sides want to reach a long term deal but the player’s agent Mike Luit is waiting for the RFA market to set. Avs GM Joe Sakic indicated recently their goal is to have the player at training camp which opens mid September.
- Winnipeg Jets RFA forward Kyle Connor (34 G & 32 A) recently said he’s hoping to reach a long term deal with the Jets. Teammate Patrik Laine says he likes being a Jets player but no contract talks have been initiated by either side. There seems to be some uncertainty around Laine and his future with the Jets. I think he expects to be treated and compensated like an elite goal scorer but the organization seems to want him to be more dedicated to being a better all around player. They’ve clearly not make getting him re-signed a priority and may even value Kyle Connor more.
- With Flames RFA forward Matthew Tkachuk (34 G & 43 A for 77 points), the player’s agent said their side was proactive and presented contract terms to the Flames in early June. The two sides have been negotiating since. Flames GM Brad Treliving recently said their goal is to have the player signed by training camp that opens mid September. Numbers I’m hearing for Tkachuk are 5 years at $8 M /season.
- Two Bruins defenseman that are restricted free agents and needing a new deal are Charlie McAvoy (7 G & 21 A) and Brandon Carlo (2 G & 8 A). Bruins GM Don Sweeney said the other day progress towards new contract for each player has been slow and there could be regular season games missed. Sweeney said the team is basically planning around them both not being at training camp.
- Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has reportedly asked to be traded. Ristolainen, 24, was drafted 8th overall in 2013. He’s about a .50 PPG defenseman in his 5 seasons with the Sabres. I’ve heard the Sabres are willing to trade him but they’ve set a high asking price that, so far, no team has been willing to meet. Ristolainen has three more seasons left on his deal at $5.4 M /season. His +/- rating is -41, an NHL worst, so it seems as though he’s more focused on offense.
- Washington has two key veteran players one year from UFA, star forward Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby. Backstrom’s deal, signed back in 2010, was a 10 year (before max contract lengths were changed) $67 M deal and Holtby’s was a 5 year $30.5 M deal. Holtby has the most wins, 197, of any NHL goaltender in the past 5 years. Caps GM Brian MacLellan said he intends to touch base with the agents for both players when he’s back in Washington in early Sept adding he wants to hear what each player thoughts are about the end of their deals and see if they can possibly discuss extensions. Both players have played their entire NHL careers with Washington.
- New Ottawa Senators head coach DJ Smith recently said the team will not name a captain for the new season. Smith said they have many young players and none are ready to front the criticism the team could face when they lose a few games in a row. Smith said he’ll be the one to deal with the criticism. Smith added summertime UFA signing 38 yo defenseman Ron Hainsey will play a leadership role on the team. The Senators core group is 22 year old defenseman Thomas Chabot, recently signed 22 yo forward Colin White and 20 year old forward Brady Tkachuk.
- LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty recently said the Kings players are committed to getting better results in the new, 2019-20, season. Doughty said finishing the regular season 30th in a 31 team league was an embarrassment and added the players felt they let the whole organization down. With former Oilers head coach Todd McLellan taking over behind the bench, one should expect better results in the new season. McLellan recently said he’s going to meet face to face with Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk when Kovalchuk returns to LA. Kovy had a challenging relationship with Kings head coach Willie Dejardins last season. McLellan wants Kovalchuk understanding he starts the new season with a clean slate. Kovalchuk has two seasons at $6.25 M /season remaining on his contract. He recorded 34 points in the 2018-19 season but was often a healthy scratch due to differences with Desjardins.
- The NY Rangers have been without a captain since Ryan McDonough was traded to Tampa Bay and recent reports indicate the team may be leaning towards naming someone. Current leaders on the team include Marc Staal, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast. Head coach David Quinn recently indicated the team will wait to see how training camp goes but since Staal is 32 and in the latter part of his career and Kreider will likely be moved, Zibanejad or UFA signing Artemi Panarin could be the team’s new captain with defenseman Jacob Trouba an assistant.
- All indications are that San Jose plans to sign UFA forward Joe Thornton but no deal so far has been reached. Thornton recorded 51 points in the 2019-20 season as a forty year old forward. It doesn’t seem as though Patrick Marleau will be back in San Jose. Arizona had interest in Marleau but it seems as though the player wants to be close to his home in the San Jose area.
- Senators forward Colin White signed a 6 year deal at a average annual value of $4.75 M. White was drafted in the first round, 21st overall, in 2015 and has recorded 47 points on 16 goals in 94 career NHL games. The Sens see the player as a core young piece for them.
- New Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin signed RFA forward Joel Erikkson-Ek to a 2 year contract. The deal will pay Erikkson-Ek $1.45 M in the 2019-20 season and $1.525 M in the 2020-21 season. Erikkson-Ek was a first round (20th overall in 2015) of the Wild. He’s recorded 37 points in 148 Wild games in his career. The Wild still have to get RFA forward Kevin Fiala signed.
- The Islanders signed RFA forward Josh Ho-Sang to a two way $874 K/$70 K one year deal and 23 year old forward Michael Dal Colle (5th overall in 2014) to a $700 K one way deal.
- The Colorado Avalanche signed former Dallas Stars first rounder Val Nichushkin to a one year deal at $850 K. Nichushkin, 24, become a UFA after the Stars bought him out this off-season. He recorded 10 points, 0 goals, in 57 games played last season. The player will be a RFA next summer.
- Forward Derick Brassard signed a one year deal with the NY Islanders for $1.2 M. Brassard, 31, started last season with the Penguins and was moved to Florida mid-season and finished the season as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. In the 70 games he played last season, he recorded 14 goals and 23 points. He was making $5 M /season last season so has taken a pay cut with the Islanders. Brassard, after signing with the Islanders, said the 2018-19 season was trying – being moved twice and he hoping to reignite his career with the Islanders. Experts see him as the Isles 3rd line center behind Mat Barzal and Brock Nelson.
- The Lightning signed 31 yo forward Patrick Maroon to a one year deal for $900,000. In 74 games played last season, Maroon recorded 10 goals and 28 points. At 6’3” and 225 pounds, Maroon will add some size of the ‘Bolts forward group that is a bit undersized. He also helps replace the loss of forward JT Miller who was traded to the Canucks. Maroon has 34 points in 73 post-season games on 16 goals.
- UFA’s still unsigned:
- Defenseman – Jake Gardiner, Dion Phaneuf, Ben Hutton, Nick Kronwall (could retire)
- Forwards – Brian Boyle, Jason Pominville, Riley Sheahan, Oscar Lindberg, Justin Williams, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Thomas Vanek, Joe Morrow.
- Leafs opening training camp September 12 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and play their first pre-season game at Mile One Centre in St. John’s on Tuesday, September 17th against Ottawa. I imagine the city of St. John’s will be thrilled to welcome one of the NHL’s top team’s to town.
- The Leafs prospects are going to be competing in the 2019 Traverse City Prospects Tournament from Friday, September 6th to Tuesday, September 10th in Traverse City, Michigan. It’s the Leafs first year competing in the tournament and teams included in the event include the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, NY Rangers & St. Louis Blues. Leafs second rounder from 2019, Nick Robertson, is participating and will be a player to keep tabs on. Also, Leafs goalie of the future, Ian Scott, is taking part. Scott will play with the AHL Marlies in the upcoming season.
- William Nylander has talked recently about wanting to be a dominant player this season. He was not happy with last season, struggling to get on track after signing on December 1st. With Kadri being moved to Colorado, it’s not clear if Nylander will play more center this season. A lot of fans hope Nylander gets more time with Auston Matthews as the two have excellent chemistry together. Nylander just turned 23 years old and already has two 60+ point seasons to his credit.
- Leafs center Auston Matthews has been skating in Arizona with some Coyotes players getting ready for the season. He said recently he’d be honored to be named Leafs captain. The team has not had a captain since Dion Phaneuf was traded in 2016. Matthews said he’s been working a lot this off-season on flexibility as he usually starts the season strong but has gotten injured (shoulder injuries) after the first 6 or so weeks of the season. Matthews is entering his 4th season in Toronto. He turns 22 years old in September.
- Center John Tavares spent half the summer rehabbing his oblique injury that he suffered in the first practice for Team Canada at the World Hockey Championships. He says he’s fully recovered and ready for the season.
- Unsigned RFA Mitch Marner – there is not a lot of public information about where things stand between the Leafs and Marner. Last I heard the agent and Leafs met, talks were cordial but no progress was made. Marner wants max flexibility in that he does not want to sign long term and be under contract when he becomes UFA and the team does not want to walk him to UFA with a 4 year deal. Could end up at a 2-3 year deal at around $10 M – $12 M. Marner’s agent is using the Matthew’s contract as a comparable, 5 years at $11.6 M, and he’s walked straight to UFA. This past week there was discussion around the fact Marner’s people have contacted the Zurich Lions in the Swiss league, and where Auston Matthews played before being drafted first overall in 2016. Seems Leafs management really wants to get Marner signed and not have another Nylander situation this season but they are not willing to go with a deal similar to Matthew’s. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston said the other day that the terms being discussed are 3, 6 or 7 years at $10 M /season but there’s been not much movement on either side of late. Marner did say during the summer he does not want to miss training camp. Matthews and Nylander both see their deals expire in 5 more seasons (making them both UFA) and management does not want a possible Marner deal to as well.
- The Canucks are celebrating their 50th season in the NHL in the 2019-20 season.
- GM Benning said recently head coach Travis Green prefers to have a captain and all indications seem to point to forward Bo Horvat being named before the regular season starts. Horvat is just 24 years old with already 377 NHL games played.
- The Canucks and the agent for forward Brock Boeser are hoping to find common ground on terms of a new contract for the RFA. Canucks GM Jim Benning said he hopes they can reach a deal before the start of the team’s training camp on September 13th. The deal Boeser is apparently looking for is 4 years at $7 M /season. Boeser recorded 26 goals and 30 assists in 69 games last season.
- The Canucks signed their 6th round pick from 2019, goaltender Arturs Silovs. Silvos is 6’4” and 203 pounds. He was born in Latvia and played in a Latvia league last season posting a .914 SV%. Silvos was recently drafted in the CHL Import Draft and will be playing for the OHL Barrie Colts in the 2019-20 season.
- Doesn’t sound as though there is a trade partner for the Canucks with disgruntled forward Loui Eriksson. GM Benning recently said the team talked to a few teams but there’s no deal out there right now. Benning added Loui will be at Canucks training camp and the organization still values his two way playing style plus he’s good on the PK.
- Benning recently said there will be no players attending Canucks training camp on PTO’s saying they have a number of prospects they want to focus on instead.
- Fifth overall pick from 2016, defenseman Olli Juolevi, has apparently rehabbed his knee to the point where he’s going to be at the Canucks AHL team, the Utica Comets, training camp. The Canucks hope with good performance at the AHL level, he’ll see NHL games in the 2019-20 season.
Odds & Ends
- Hurricanes captain Justin Williams is nearing a decision on if he’ll play in the 2019-20 season. Apparently Williams, 37, has been talking to many former players about when is the right time to retire. The Hurricanes will need to appoint a team captain if Williams does choose retirement. Williams has won 3 Stanley Cups in his career -with the Hurricanes in 2006 and two with the LA Kings (2012 & 2014).
- There’s talk Michigan native Dylan Larkin could soon be named Red Wings team captain but nothing official has been confirmed by the team.
- Former NHL goaltender Eddie Lack has accepted a position as Goalie Coach at Arizona State University. Lack has battled numerous injuries in the past few season (more recently with his hips) and says he still hoping to play the NHL again.
- Former NHL player Andrei Markov has made it known he’d like to return to the NHL for the 2019-20 season and play with Montreal. Markov, 40, has spent the past two seasons in the KHL. No word if the Habs would consider signing him. Markov is 10 games from the 1,000 career NHL games mark.
- The Florida Panthers recently announced retired goaltender Roberto Luongo will become the first player in franchise history to have his jersey retired by the Panthers. The ceremony will take place March 7, 2020 before the Panthers game against Luongo’s hometown team, the Montreal Canadiens. Luongo is 3rd all-time in wins with 489 and 2nd all-time in games played for a goaltender (1,044). He holds all the Panthers franchise records for a goaltender including games played, wins, saves, shutouts.
- Rangers forward Chris Kreider enters the 2019-20 season one season from UFA status. Kreider was second on the Rangers in points (52) and goals (28) last season. The Rangers are in a cap crunch, they’ve already allocated $80.5 M of a $81.5 M cap, as they added forward Artemi Pararin ($11.6 M/season) and defenseman Jacob Trouba ($8 M/season) in the off-season. Doesn’t seem likely the team can re-sign Kreider.
- Training camp PTO’s:
- The Bruins and defenseman Alex Petrovic
- The Flames and former Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald has played over 600 NHL games and has a chance to make the team as Flames young first rounder, defenseman Juuso Valimaki, tore the ACL in his knee in summer training and will miss 6 months.
- Former Blues forward Scott Upshall with the Dallas Stars. Upshall, 35, missed all of last season after requiring knee surgery.
- The Calgary Flames are celebrating their 40th anniversary in the NHL in the 2019-20 season and the Buffalo Sabres are entering their 50th NHL season.