2019 has been a very busy year throughout the hockey world. There have been several big trades and free agent signings (including a record-setting contract), plenty of changes behind the bench, and much more. Over the coming days, PHR will take a look back at the top stories from around the game on a month-by-month basis. Next up is the month of October which featured a lot of newsworthy headlines from the Central Division in particular.
DeBrincat Extension: Many teams have been wasting little time locking up their young stars to long-term contracts but Chicago decided to take a different path with winger Alex DeBrincat. Instead of a deal that bought up some UFA years, they instead agreed to a three-year bridge contract. The deal carries a reasonable $6.4MM AAV but is considerably backloaded with a $9MM salary in 2022-23. That’s notable as it will represent his required qualifying offer that summer when he will be a year away from UFA eligibility. As a result, while DeBrincat’s contract gives the Blackhawks a little bit more cap flexibility over the next three years, it’s going to cost them a lot more on his next deal.
Cap-Clearing Trades: With the Rangers looking to free up some cap room, they shipped winger Vladislav Namestnikov to Ottawa in exchange for minor league defenseman Nick Ebert and a 2021 fourth-round pick. New York also retained 18.75% of his $4MM contract. The deal has worked out relatively well for the Senators as the pending UFA has picked up 18 points in 36 games which could give him some trade value in advance of next month’s trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Penguins were able to find a taker for Erik Gudbranson’s $4MM deal, sending the blueliner to Anaheim for veteran winger Andreas Martinsen and a 2021 seventh-round selection. GM Jim Rutherford likes to be aggressive with his in-season movement and this deal gives him some funds to make something happen.
Josi Sticks Around: While it took a little longer than expected, the Predators and Roman Josi agreed to an eight-year extension that carries a $9.059MM AAV. The deal will make the defenseman the third-highest-paid defenseman in the NHL when it kicks in next season. It also contains a full no-move clause, a significant rarity for Nashville who seldom agrees to put any type of trade protection in a contract. Josi has been one of the more productive blueliners around the league in recent seasons but has taken it to another level in 2019-20, averaging more than a point per game for the first time in his career. GM David Poile still has some work to do when it comes to locking up the rest of his back end as Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro are the only other regulars under contract for next season.
Key Injuries: Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko didn’t make it through ten full games before suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery and has his availability for the rest of the season in question. It’s possible that he could return for the final few weeks but if that happens, St. Louis wouldn’t be able to make any key additions at the trade deadline as they’d have to get cap compliant before activating him off LTIR. Meanwhile, Dustin Byfuglien’s confusing saga continued as it was revealed that he underwent ankle surgery that would keep him out for several months. The Jets indicated that they were not involved in the decision-making process for the procedure and there are now questions regarding whether or not they should have been allowed to suspend him without pay for not reporting considering that Byfuglien was injured.
Schenn Signs: October didn’t just have bad news for the defending champions as they locked up a key part of their core with an eight-year, $52MM contract extension for center Brayden Schenn. He was a key secondary scorer for them last season and chipped in with some timely goals and plenty of physicality over the postseason when he averaged more than three hits per game. With Ryan O’Reilly signed through 2022-23, the Blues now have their top two centers locked up for at least the next three seasons putting them in good shape at that position for the foreseeable future. St. Louis now will turn its focus to re-signing Alex Pietrangelo as their captain is also in line to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.