The start of training camp often brings about a small flurry of transactions and this time was no exception as several notable moves highlight the top stories of the week.
Goalie Extensions: With Columbus set to have both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo entering the final year of their contracts before being eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, it felt like only a matter of time before one of them was extended. That’s what happened as Merzlikins inked a five-year, $27MM extension, his $5.4MM AAV representing a small raise on his current $4MM deal. Merzlikins has played in just 61 career regular season games but he has played well for the Blue Jackets over his two NHL campaigns. With his deal now done, Korpisalo is likely to be involved in plenty of trade speculation over the next few months unless he’s able to agree to a new deal of his own as well.
Meanwhile, the Kings also signed netminder Cal Petersen to a three-year, $15MM extension, ensuring he’ll be sticking around beyond the upcoming year. The 26-year-old has just 54 career appearances in the NHL, the bulk of which came last season. It’s a high price tag for someone that isn’t all that proven but with Jonathan Quick now 35 and not a true starter anymore, this move allows Los Angeles to keep their goalie tandem intact a little longer while being short enough to not cripple their cap situation if they have to go in a different direction later on.
Calling It A Career: Veteran center Travis Zajac has decided to retire but wanted to do so as a member of the Devils. He did just that, signing a one-day contract before officially hanging up his skates. Zajac played in over 1,000 games with New Jersey over his 15-year career with his only time away from them coming near the 2021 trade deadline when he was moved to the Islanders to help in their playoff run. Overall, he sits third in Devils history in games played and points while making more than $60MM in career earnings.
Kaprizov Signs: It took a lot longer than the Wild had hoped for but they eventually were able to sign top winger Kirill Kaprizov to a five-year, $45MM contract. It’s a significant sum for someone with just one NHL season under his belt – a pandemic-shortened one at that. However, Minnesota is clearly banking on the hope that the 24-year-old, who led the team in scoring last season, still has some room to improve and that he’ll be the focal point of their attack for the next five seasons. Kaprizov received a full no-move clause in the final two seasons of the deal; those were the only ones he was eligible to receive trade protection for as those were the UFA-eligible years.
Two Months For Malkin: When Penguins center Evgeni Malkin underwent knee surgery this summer, there was no firm timeline for his return, only an indication that an update would be coming at training camp. That update has arrived and the news isn’t great for Pittsburgh as it was revealed that Malkin will miss the first two months of the season as he continues his recovery. This comes on the heels of Sidney Crosby having wrist surgery that will see him missing some time to start the season as well. The Penguins will turn to veteran Jeff Carter in the top center role for the time being.
Bridge For Dahlin: While the Sabres weren’t able to sign Rasmus Dahlin to a long-term contract, they did manage to get a bridge deal in place, signing the 2018 top pick to a three-year, $18MM pact. Dahlin struggled considerably last season which certainly didn’t help his bargaining power in negotiations but over his first three NHL campaigns, he has shown flashes of a strong offensive game. The term of the deal means that the 21-year-old will be a restricted free agent at its expiration, giving the two sides another shot at working out a long-term agreement. His qualifying offer at that time will be $7.2MM.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.