NHL News & Notes to 22 Sep 2019. Regular season starts on Wed. October 2nd.

League

  • The NHLPA announced on Monday that they were declining their option to re-open the CBA while the NHL announced at the end of August that they were also not going re-open the agreement. This means labor peace for three more seasons – until the end of the 2021-22 season. There was a Board of Governors meeting on Tues. Sept. 17th, the day after the NHLPA voted to not re-open the agreement, and the general comments from that meeting were about how revenues are growing and Seattle is joining the NHL and this benefits both owners and players. For the NHLPA, there were a number of players, particularly at the NHLPA’s executive leadership level, that wanted to re-open the agreement which would mean no CBA past the end of the 2019-20 season, but the players union voted and there was not enough support to re-open. The CBA agreement now runs until the end of the 2021-22 season which is the first season of the new expansion Seattle team. There is also the US TV deal which is set to expire in 2 years (end of 2020-21 season) and a new deal is expected to be as much as 3-5 times the value of the current one. This will increase what the league calls hockey related revenue (HRR) – revenue from games – that the players and owners split 50/50. As HRR grows, the salary cap goes up which makes the players happy. There is some talk of the NHLPA and NHL extending the CBA expiry date from the end of the 2021-22 season to 2025 or 2026 and the two sides are going to keep discussing and negotiating on that. I heard an estimate that by the late January All-Star break, an announcement could be made that sees the players and league extend their CBA agreement beyond the currently agreed three more seasons.
  • As part of the NHL Global Series, the Flyers and Blackhawks are completing their training camps in Switzerland and Germany respectively. The ‘Hawks will will play an exhibition game against a Berlin-based team on Sept. 29th. The Flyers will travel to Switzerland and play an exhibition game against Lausanne HC in Lausanne on Sept. 30th. The Flyers and ‘Hawks will play their first regular season game against each other on Fri. October 4th in Prague.
  • The NHL apparently signed a 4 year deal with their on ice officials on Saturday, Sept. 21 though it’s not been officially announced by the league. Apparently their prior contract expired on Aug. 31.
  • As it’s now the second and final week of preseason, roster cuts will happen and more regular NHL players will start playing in exhibition games. The regular season starts a week from this Wednesday, on October 2nd.

Team Management

  • The Bruins signed their head coach, Bruce Cassidy, to a three year deal at a reported $3 M /season. Cassidy has 117 wins in 191 Bruins games coached and is said to be a good teacher who develops players well plus took the Bruins team within one win of a Stanley Cup last season.
  • The LA Kings have added former Flyers GM Ron Hextall as a part-time adviser to the Hockey Ops group. Hextall will be in LA for a few games per month and will watch all the Kings games on video. Hextall apparently had a few different opportunities but has familiarity of the LA organization having been their assistant GM from 2006-13. He will also consult with Kings GM Rob Blake. Hextall interviewed for the Minnesota Wild GM opening which went to Bill Guerin.
  • The New Jersey Devils named Jake Reynolds as their new President. Reynolds was formerly Chief Revenue Officer at the organization that owns the Devils – Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. Announcement here. Not sure how this move directly affect the Devils but the team has had a lot of positive things happen this summer – from landing defenseman PK Subban to getting the number one overall draft pick and selecting Jack Hughes. The organization has started contract discussion with forward Taylor Hall as he becomes unrestricted after the 2019-20 season. Hall, 27, has been clear that his main goal at this point in his career is to win. He’s played in just 5 playoff games in his nine year NHL career.
  • Martin St. Louis, who was acting as a consultant for the Blue Jackets in the second half of last season, announced on the weekend he won’t be back for the 2019-20 season saying he wants to focus on his family.
  • The Capitals announced two time Cup winner Brooks Orpik has been appointed as a player development consultant with the team. In the role, Orpik will mostly work with the ‘Caps AHL defenseman in Hershey. Orpik played in the NHL for 15 seasons playing with both the Penguins and Capitals.
  • Former Avalanche defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn has been hired by the Avs as a pro scout.

Seattle

  • The gutting and interior rebuilt of Seattle’s KeyArena is progressing on schedule with the cost still at the $930 M number and the arena construction to be completed by the summer of 2021. Seattle would start the first NHL season in the fall of 2021.

Scuttlebutt

  • The remaining restricted free agents are:
    • Lightning center Brayden Point. 41 G & 51 A for 92 points in 79 games. 1.16 PPG.
    • Avs winger Mikko Rantanen. 31 G & 56 A 87 points in 74 games. 1.17 PPG.
    • Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk. 34 G & 43 A for 77 points in 80 games. .96 PPG.
    • Jets winger Kyle Conner. 34 G & 32 A for 66 points in 82 games.
    • Jets winger Patrik Laine. 30 G & 20 A for 50 points in 82 games.
  • It does not seem as though any of these five RFA’s are close to an agreement with their teams. Brayden Point’s agent, Gerry Johannson, was interviewed recently and said talks with the Lightning are ongoing and cordial but they are not close at all to an agreement. The contract that’s been offered to Point by Tampa Bay is 3 years at $5.7 M/season. Point produced two less points – and 15 more goals – than Marner who just got $10.893 M /season. Agent Mike Luit represents both RFA’s Patrik Laine and Mikko Rantanen and, in both situations, a deal is not close there either. Rantanen camp is using the Marner comparable while the Avs are using a Leon Draisaitl / Sebastian Aho comparible, $8.5 M /season.
  • The Winnipeg Jets are the team with the most uncertainty and news swirling around them right now. From defenseman Dustin Byfugien not reporting to training camp and being suspended without pay to unsigned RFA forward Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine. They are now without four of their top six defenseman – Jacob Trouba went to the Rangers, Tyler Myers signed as a UFA with Vancouver, defenseman Ben Chiarot went to Montreal as a UFA signing and Byfuglien is considering retirement. Patrik Laine made some recent comments to a Finnish newspaper where he said he should be on the Jets top line and on any other NHL team he would be. Laine is spending his contract standoff in Switzerland skating (not playing in games just practicing) with SC Bern of the Swiss league. As far as the Laine contract discussion, the player has recorded the 5th most goals in his first three NHL seasons of any player but there is some talk he doesn’t feel valued by the organization like an elite goal scorer should be. The Byfuglien situation will affect the Jets cap and what they can pay Laine and Connor. If Byfugien retires, there will be more cap dollars for these two RFA’s. Byfuglien is still owed $14 M dollars by the Jets -paid only if he continues playing.
  • I see the Matthew Tkachuk situation similar to Point and Rantanen in that the Flames have a pay structure that rewards their top players – Gaudreau at $6.75 M and Mark Giordano at the same number – and management does not want to drastically change what they are compensating players relative to others (Tkachuk is apparently seeking $8 M /season). They are not interested in the Marner comparable. They have a roster of players that all need to be paid and once you wildly go outside that, it become challenging to keep others happy.
  • The Hurricanes are looking to move defenseman Justin Faulk who is one year from UFA. The Hurricanes had a deal in place with Anaheim but it was contingent on Faulk being able to sign an extension with the Ducks and the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. Faulk recorded 35 points last season making $4.83 M but was said to be seeking $6.5 M on the Anaheim possible contract.
  • Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is also available but the Sabres have set the price high as the player is just 24 years old and had 43 points last season.
  • Oilers GM Ken Holland said recently it’s still not certain Connor McDavid gets into a preseason game or is even ready for the start of the season. McDavid’s knee is still healing from an injury he sustained in the team’s final regular season game last season. McDavid is hoping to play at least one preseason game but it’s apparently up to the doctors to confirm he’s is ready.
  • The Ottawa Senators signed defenseman Thomas Chabot, drafted 18th overall in 2015, to an 8 year deal at $8 M /season that takes effect in the 2020-21 season (Chabot has one season remaining in his entry level deal). It’s the most dollars ever given to a defenseman in their second contract. Chabot has recorded 80 points in 134 career NHL games (.60 PPG as a defenseman). Experts see Chabot as the Senators future #1 defenseman and a possible Norris trophy winner. Sens fans generally applauded the signing as they believe it shows that the team wants to be competitive and are willing to spend on good players. Like the Arizona Clayton Keller contract ($7.15 M/season for 8 seasons), it’s a situation where a team signs a core young player to a long term deal before they are out of their entry level contract (ELC). Some high profile names that are currently in the last year of their ELC include Isles center Mat Barzal, ‘Hawks forward Alex DeBrincat, Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois and first overall draft pick in 2017, Devils Nico Hischier. Some see the escalating cost of contracts with the current class of RFA’s (Marner, Tkachuk, Aho, Point, etc), as a driver of team’s being more proactive about signing players a season before their current deal expires.
  • Sharks forward Logan Couture was named team captain replacing Joe Pavelski who signed as a UFA with Dallas. Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton will rotate the A’s for the Sharks assistant captain. Head coach Peter DeBoer selected Couture as captain calling him a player that steps up at the crucial points in games. There are currently seven NHL teams without a captain – Carolina, Detroit, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Vegas. Vegas has already said they won’t name one for this season. The Red Wings decided to go with four assistant captains – Dylan Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, Frans Nielson & Luke Glendening.
  • Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo is one year from UFA and GM Doug Armstrong said the team wants to re-sign him. Similarly, center Brayden Schenn is also one year from UFA and the Blues want to reach an agreement on an extension. Both players said they are open to contract discussions but will not be talking about their contracts this season because they want the focus to be on the team.
  • Montreal has started contract discussions with forward Max Domi who will be a RFA after the 2019-20 season. Last season, Domi, 24, recorded career highs in goals and points with 28 G and 44 assists for 72 points in 82 games. Domi was drafted 12th overall in 2013 by Arizona and was traded to the Canadiens in June 2018 for forward Alex Galchenyuk.
  • Dallas Stars defenseman Julius Honka has requested a trade. Teams reported to have interest in the player include Montreal, Carolina and a third Eastern conference team. Carolina need defense help after discovering Trevor van Riemsdyk’s shoulder is not quite healed from off-season surgery.
  • Former Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner reportedly turned down a more lucrative offer from Montreal in early July to sign in Carolina. Montreal offered three years and $15.75 M ($5.25 M/season) and Gardiner ended up signing in Carolina for four seasons at $16.2 M ($4.05 M /season). The player is said to have preferred being more anonymous in a place like Carolina.

Signings

  • The Canucks were able to reach a 3 year contract agreement with forward Brock Boeser. The average annual value is $5.875 M /season. The three year term will still leave Boeser an RFA with arbitation rights at contract’s end. They were discussing a longer term but could not agree on dollars. Boeser said he considers Vancouver home and would like to play his whole career with the Canucks. Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Boeser are the young Canucks core players.
  • The Blue Jackets reached a three year, $5 M AAV contract agreement with defenseman Zach Werenski. The deal is structured as $4 M in year one, $4 M in year two and $7 M in year three. Werenski, 22, will still be an RFA at contract’s end but RFA’s must be qualified at 105% of the previous season’s salary so his next contract would start around the $7.35 M / season mark.
  • The Bruins reached a three year, $4.9 AAV contract agreement with defenseman Charlie McAvoy which was announced soon after the Werenski deal. Seems Werenski set the market rate for RFA defenseman just out of their entry level contract. McAvoy’s salary structure for the 3 year deal is $3.7 M in year one, $3.7 M in year two and $7.3 M in the final, 3rd, season.
  • The Flyers signed both their remaining RFA’s: defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konecny. Provorov was 6 years at $6.75 M / season and Konecny was 6 seasons at $5.5 M/season. Provorov’s agent said their negotiation with the Flyers went back a year to when Ron Hextall was GM. His agent called it a hard fought negotiation but when Werenski and McAvoy signed that set the market rate.
  • Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo signed a 2 year deal with an AAV of $2.85 M. Bruins forward Sean Kuraly said McAvoy and Carlo represent the next wave of Bruins leaders, after veterans Chara, Bergeron and Marchand, and it was good to see them back.
  • The Minnesota Wild signed forward Kevin Fiala to a two year deal for $6 M. The contract pays Fiala $2.5 M this season and $3.5 M next season. Fiala will still be an RFA when the deal expires. Fiala recorded 39 points last season (13 goals) which was split between Nashville and Minnesota. He was drafted 11th overall in 2014.
  • New Jersey signed RFA forward Pavel Zacha to a three year deal worth $2.25 M /season. Zacha, 22, recorded a career high 13 goals in 61 games in the 2019-20 season. The Czech forward was drafted 6th overall in 2015.
  • Former Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton was signed by the LA Kings. The deal is one year at $1.5 M. Hutton, 26, was an RFA who did not receive a qualifying offer from the Canucks. He said he was caught off guard when he was not qualified by Vancouver. He said he’s looking at the LA opportunity as a chance to again prove he’s a good NHL defenseman. LA needed some defenseman after learning Paul LaDue and Derek Forbort have injuries that may keep them out for a while. The Jets were another team said to have interest in Hutton.
  • The New York Rangers signed forward Brendan Lemieux to a one year deal at $925,000. Lemieux is former NHL player Claude Lemieux’s kid. Lemieux was part of the Jacob Trouba deal this summer. In 63 games last season split between Winnipeg and the Rangers, Lemieux had 12 goals and 5 assists.

Training camp news

  • Tampa Bay placed back-up goaltender Louis Domingue on waivers and he was not claimed. He’s been re-assigned to the ‘Bolts AHL in Syracuse. Domingue had an impressive 21-5 record last season with Tampa but the Lightning brought in Curtis McElhinney on July 1 to back-up starter Andrei Vasilevskiy. Both the team and player hope once training camps conclude and the regular season starts, Domingue will get an NHL opportunity. He carries a modest $1.15 M cap hit.
  • Islanders 19 year old defenseman prospect Noah Dobson has reportedly impressed at training camp. Drafted 12th overall in 2018, Dobson is playing 20+ mins a game in preseason games and looks very steady for the Isles. Dobson is team captain of his QMJHL team and has won two Memorial Cups. He projects to be a top NHL defenseman for many years.
  • At Chicago’s training camp, Swede Adam Boqvist, drafted 8th overall in 2018, has stood out. Boqvist, 19, is going to be a star for many seasons on defense for the Blackhawks. Last season with the London Knights of the OHL, Boqvist recorded 20 goals and 40 assists in 54 games. It’s not clear at this point if the ‘Hawks will develop the player at the NHL level or have him play 20+ minutes a game in the AHL with Chicago’s AHL affiliate in Rockford.
  • The Canucks assigned defenseman Olli Juolevi to their AHL team in Utica. The organization still has high hopes for the player drafted 5th overall in 2016 but he suffered a season-ending knee injury last season in December that he is still recovering from.
  • The Oilers signed Russian forward Anton Burdasov to a PTO. The player was seeking a one year deal but didn’t get it and settled for the PTO. Burdasov is 28 years old, 6-2, 227 lbs and scored 19 G and 12 A in 50 KHL games last season.
  • Vancouver release forward Landon Ferraro from his PTO. Doesn’t seem as though there’s a spot for him with the AHL team in Utica either.
  • The Flames released defenseman Eric Gryba from his PTO. Gryba then announced his retirement from the NHL.
  • The Dallas Stars released forward Scott Upshall from his PTO. Upshall, 35, might be close to retirement as well.
  • Former Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf is a UFA and is not attending a training camp though he’s not announced he’s retiring. Similar situation for former Sabres forward Jason Pominville.

Leafs

  • It was good to see the team reach a 6 year contract agreement with forward Mitch Marner ($10.893 M /season AAV). Marner is now the second highest paid winger behind NY Rangers Artemi Panarin ($11.64 M/ season) but the Leafs bought two season’s of Marner’s UFA years. Marner’s agent said they received two offer sheets, speculated to be Columbus and Minnesota, before agreeing to the new deal. Marner said the other day his goal was always to remain a Leaf adding he did not want to miss training camp. He contacted Kyle Dubas last week to expedite contract talks.
  • The team is expected to announce their captain just prior to their October 2nd season opening game against Ottawa. Seems as though Auston Matthews is the leading candidate. Morgan Rielly and John Tavares would get A’s plus possibly a third assistant. Coach Babcock says he sees the Leafs captain in the mold of former Raptors star Kawhi Leonard – let’s his play do the talking, clutch and wins championships.
  • The team has played four of eight preseason games and I heard where Babcock said he’s going to step up the intensity of practices and get more of the regulars involved. I also expect roster cuts as soon as Monday. Their remaining four preseason games are:
    • At Montreal on Monday, Sept. 23
    • Vs Montreal at home on Wed. Sept. 25
    • At Detroit on Friday, Sept 27
    • Vs Detroit at home on Sat. Sept 28
  • Kasperi Kapanen has switched from RW to LW on the John Tavares and Mitch Marner line and it seems it’s been a bit of an adjustment for him. He said particularly accepting passes from defenseman in the the neutral zone on his backhand.
  • Looks as though defenseman Tyson Barrie will take over from Jake Gardiner as the QB on the team’s second PP group. Morgan Rielly will continue to QB the Leafs first PP group.
  • First rounder (2018) Rasmus Sandin has impressed so far in the preseason. Babcock says he chooses the smart, simple play and has high hockey IQ. Seems he has a chance to make the opening night roster. Even getting a few NHL regular season games would benefit a 19 year old player who should be a future full time NHL defenseman.
  • Seems as though the team’s forth line will consist of Freddy Gauthier at center with wingers Jason Spezza and Trevor Moore. Spezza is a center but Babcock is seems to prefer Gauthier there while still trying to find a spot for the 36 year old Spezza. Marner said the other day, Spezza is a bit like Patrick Marleau – a lot of NHL experience and a team-first player willing to play anywhere.
  • The position of back-up goaltender to Freddy Andersen is an open competition between Michael Hutchinson and Michal Neuvirth, who is on a PTO. Hutchinson is on a one year deal at a league minimum $700,000. Neuvirth has had a number of injuries the past few seasons and struggles to stay healthy but recently said part of the reason he chose to take a chance on a PTO with the Leafs is their top level medical people that could help him stay healthy. Andersen has started 66, 66 and 60 games in his three seasons in Toronto. He said recently he’s looking at starting approx 55 games this season.
  • Babcock said the other day both forward Zach Hyman (knee/ACL surgery) and defenseman Travis Dermott (shoulder) are expected to miss 14-15 games to start the season.
  • The team signed their second round draft pick (53rd overall) from the 2019 Entry Draft, forward Nick Robertson, to his 3 year entry level contract this past week. Robertson is playing with the Peterborough Petes in the OHL where last season he recorded 27 goals and 28 assists for 55 points in 54 games.
  • Forward Matt Read is still in Leafs camp on a PTO. Saw him interviewed and he said at age 33 and playing in the AHL most of last season, he believes this could be his final chance for an NHL opportunity. Read has played in 449 career NHL games recording 88 goals and 100 assists.
  • Former Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks was placed on waivers by Las Vegas and was subsequently assigned to the AHL. Vegas is going with Malcolm Subban as their back-up.

Retirement

  • Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi announced his retirement after 13 NHL seasons. Girardi was signed in 2006 by the New York Rangers as an undrafted player and went on to play in 927 NHL games.

Odds & Ends

  • Some owners want the Dec. 1 deadline to sign an RFA (otherwise they can’t play that season), moved up earlier. Fan lose out when the player doesn’t play and the player can’t get up to game speed having missed half the season. Plus it’s a distraction to the team when a players holdout drags on.
  • Flames captain Mark Giordano is again the fittest Flames player. The players were tested on the first day of training camp. Giordano will turn 36 years old on October 2nd and won the Norris trophy as the league’s top defenseman last season.
  • With the Anaheim Ducks, both Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves will not play in the 2019-20 season. Kesler is recovering from hip surgery and Eaves has missed the last year and a half with some type of virus that has apparently re-occurred. It’s doubtful either player will resume their NHL playing careers.
  • Former Senators defenseman Marc Methot is considering retirement. He missed all but 9 games last season while a member of Dallas Stars and required knee surgery. Method was a terrific d partner for Erik Karlsson when they both played with the Senators.
  • Alex Ovechkin will receive the Wayne Gretzky International Award as part of the US Hockey Hall of Fame Induction celebration on December 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. The award was established in 1999 and honors international individuals who have made a major contribution to the growth of hockey in the United States. Ovechkin recently turned 34 years old and is entering his 15th NHL season, all with the Capitals. He is recognized all over the world and was in China this summer promoting the NHL.
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