There was plenty of big news around the NHL over the past seven days including a big contract extension and a coaching change. Those are among the news that’s highlighted in our key stories.
Tocchet To Vancouver: After weeks, if not months of speculation, the long-expected coaching change in Vancouver happened with Rick Tocchet being hired to take the place of Bruce Boudreau. In addition, the Canucks hired long-time NHL blueliners Adam Foote (assistant coach) and Sergei Gonchar (development coach) while letting assistant Trent Cull go. This is the third head coaching role for Tocchet whose teams with Tampa Bay and Arizona played to a .475 points percentage over parts of six seasons. As for Boudreau, Vancouver played to a .549 points percentage over 103 games but the team had been struggling considerably this season and are 14 points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
More Canucks Changes? At a press conference early in the week, Canucks president Jim Rutherford indicated that “major surgery” on the roster will be needed for next season. Pending UFA center Bo Horvat appears likely to move in the coming weeks but clearly, he has more than that in mind. Moving pricey contracts is harder than ever so Vancouver’s management group will have their work cut out for them to do the shakeup that they’re seeking. One player that they’re hoping won’t be a part of those changes is rookie winger Andrei Kuzmenko as Rutherford stated that extension talks with the pending unrestricted free agent are underway. Kuzmenko has 41 points in 45 games this season and will be adding quite a few million per year to the $925K he’s getting on his entry-level deal over the coming months.
Seven For Boldy: With Minnesota’s cap situation getting even tighter next season as buyout costs for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter get higher, there was an expectation that they might have to do a bridge deal for young winger Matt Boldy. That wasn’t the case, however, as they inked the 21-year-old to a seven-year, $49MM extension that begins next season and runs through 2029-30. Boldy is in just his second NHL season but has been productive in his limited action with 29 goals and 42 assists in 92 career contests. Minnesota is banking on Boldy taking another step forward offensively and if he does, this could wind up being a bargain fairly quickly. They now have over $74MM in commitments to just 14 players for next season which won’t give GM Bill Guerin much flexibility with which to round out their roster.
Kane Returns: As the Oilers look to hold onto a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference, they welcomed back a key player as Evander Kane was activated off LTIR. Kane landed on there early in the season after having his wrist sliced by a skate and while he wound up being out for two months, he still returned well ahead of schedule. Kane has 13 points in 17 games so far this season and is already back on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. To create the cap space needed to activate Kane, Edmonton placed winger Kailer Yamamoto and defenseman Ryan Murray on LTIR. Yamamoto is expected to be out for a few weeks which buys them a little time but, barring further injuries, they will need to make some cap-clearing demotions once the winger returns.
Key Injuries: Unfortunately, Max Pacioretty’s return for the Hurricanes was short-lived. After working his way back from a torn Achilles that he sustained in the offseason, he suffered the same injury in just his fifth game of the year and will be out for the season. It’s hardly an ideal situation for the veteran as he’s eligible for free agency this summer while Carolina was certainly hoping to get more from a key offseason acquisition although they’ll be able to spend up to his $7MM AAV on a replacement. Meanwhile, the Canadiens have shut down winger Cole Caufield due to a shoulder injury that will require surgery in the coming days. The 22-year-old had 26 goals in 46 games this season, his final one before being eligible for restricted free agency in July.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.