2021 was certainly another eventful year, both on and off the rink. 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 a look at August, an extremely busy month on the NHL calendar last year.
Going Home: After announcing at the very end of July that he wouldn’t be returning to the Boston Bruins, David Krejci finalized a new contract with HC Olomouc in the Czech Extraliga, confirming his departure from the NHL. The veteran forward explained that he wanted his children to live in Czechia around his extended family, even if he still did have some hockey left in him. The 35-year-old left the NHL after 962 games, every single one of them with the Bruins. In 35 games overseas, he has 34 points.
Arbitration Season: More than two dozen players ended up filing for arbitration, creating deadlines for the ongoing negotiations. Every single one of them ended up settling with their respective teams before a hearing took place, with some like Neal Pionk and Juuse Saros even landing long-term deals. In a season without any salary cap growth, teams were obviously loath to leave final terms in the hands of an arbitrator.
Flat Cap Society: Speaking of the salary cap, in early August Daily Faceoff published a comprehensive report on the situation facing the league with regards to hockey-related revenue. That report accurately predicted that there would be a $1MM increase from 2021-22 to 2022-23, and suggested that substantial increases wouldn’t happen until 2026. With rebounding revenues in the early part of this season it appeared as though the escrow debt could be paid down a bit earlier, but recent attendance restrictions could very well move things back to the original timeline suggested in August.
Coots Is Rewarded: The Philadelphia Flyers weren’t going to wait around with Sean Couturier or get anywhere near unrestricted free agency. In late August the team locked up their two-way star by signing him to an eight-year extension that will keep him under contract until 2030. Things have gone downhill quickly in Philadelphia this season but Couturier remains a huge part of their future. It remains to be seen whether the same can be said about captain Claude Giroux, who has also been eligible for an extension since last summer and is now just a few months from unrestricted free agency.
Eichel Changes Reps: In a move that eventually did result in his departure from Buffalo, Jack Eichel changed representation by hiring superagent Pat Brisson of CAA Sports. The move immediately sparked talks between the two sides on how to get him off the Sabres roster, but it would still be several months before he was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights and allowed to have his preferred surgery.
The College Experience: Despite being the first overall selection in 2021, Owen Power officially announced that he would be returning to the University of Michigan to try and experience what he’d missed as a freshman. The Wolverines had been removed from the NCAA tournament because of COVID issues in 2021 and with Matty Beniers, Kent Johnson, Brendan Brisson, Thomas Bordeleau, and others all returning, Power certainly couldn’t pass up a chance to compete for the national championship. He’ll be a Sabre before long, but Power’s decision ultimately could have an added benefit–he’s now also eligible to play for Canada at the Olympics.
Offer Sheet Revenge: Two years after the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, the Carolina Hurricanes finally got their revenge. They agreed to a deal with RFA Jesperi Kotkaniemi, one that would ultimately bring him to Carolina when the Canadiens decided not to match. Manufactured for social media or not, the Hurricanes made it quite obvious that the Kotkaniemi contract was a direct response to the Aho signing. While he started slow, the 21-year-old Kotkaneimi has begun to find his game in Carolina and now has 16 points through 33 games.
Tragedy, Again: After the hockey world mourned the loss of Matiss Kivlenieks in July, more tragedy struck in August as Jimmy Hayes passed away unexpectedly at the age of 31. The older brother of Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes and a veteran of more than 300 NHL games himself, Jimmy Hayes was a beloved teammate that received an outpouring of heartfelt memories from legions of friends, family, and fans all across the hockey landscape. Months later, Hayes’ family told The Boston Globe that fentanyl had contributed to his sudden death and hoped by sharing his story others can avoid his fate.