The Washington Capitals have signed Jakub Vrana to a bridge deal, inking the young forward for two years. The deal will carry an average annual value of $3.35MM. GM Brian MacLellan released a short statement:
Jakub is a highly skilled player with a tremendous upside and is a big part of our future. We are pleased with his development the past two seasons and are looking forward for him to continue to develop and reach his full potential with our organization.
The Minnesota Wild have announced new contracts for three different players, signing Carson Soucy, Nico Sturm and Ryan Donato. Soucy has inked a one-year two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level, while Sturm is also on a one-year two-way deal but will earn $874K in the NHL. Donato meanwhile has signed a two-year contract worth a total of $3.8MM.
Donato is obviously the most important of the three as the Wild have huge hopes for the former Boston Bruins forward. Acquired in exchange for Charlie Coyle at the deadline, Donato had 16 points in 22 games down the stretch in Minnesota and should figure into their second or third line this season. The former Harvard standout and Hobey Baker finalist has 34 points in his short 68-game NHL career and an even an Olympic appearance with Team USA at the 2018 Games. With a real scoring ability and upside as a top-six forward, Donato’s deal will serve as a chance for him to prove his worth at the NHL level before signing a long-term deal with the Wild. He’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of this contract.
Soucy, 24, is a depth defenseman for the Wild that has spent the last two seasons playing the majority of his games in the AHL. After a four-year career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he joined the Wild organization in 2017 and has played just seven NHL games. He’ll be waiver-exempt for another season meaning he’s likely headed back to Iowa at least until the team needs an injury replacement.
Sturm though may not be ticketed for the minor leagues so quickly. The 24-year old forward was one of the top college free agents this year and signed with the Wild after an outstanding junior season with Clarkson University. He got into two games down the stretch for Minnesota and could start on the NHL roster right away. The 6’3″ Sturm is an option for the bottom half of their roster, as he plays a polished two-way game that made him a Hobey Baker finalist and the Best Defensive Forward award in the NCAA last year.
The Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks have made a trade, flipping Zack Smith for Artem Anisimov. Though Anisimov comes with a higher cap hit of $4.55MM for the next two seasons, the Blackhawks paid out a $2MM signing bonus yesterday leaving just $5MM left on the contract for the Senators to actually pay. Smith meanwhile carries just a $3.25MM cap hit through 2020-21, but is actually still owed $6.5MM in salary over that period.
Anisimov, 31, also saw his trade protection expire at the start of the month, meaning he could be sent anywhere in the league and led to plenty of speculation over his future in Chicago. Though he has been an excellent player in the past for them, his role has diminished in recent seasons as he moved away from Patrick Kane (and Artemi Panarin previously). With that role reduction also came one in regards to production, as Anisimov recorded just 68 points over the past two seasons combined. With the Blackhawks needing cap space and having new blood coming in the form of top prospect Kirby Dach, Anisimov was an easy choice to move out of town.
For the Senators though, Anisimov’s production will actually be quite welcome. The team is saving actual dollars—something that is much more important to them than cap space—and getting a player who will likely step right into a top-six role and be a key part of their offense. After losing names like Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone last year, the team had just a single forward carrying a cap hit over $4MM—Bobby Ryan. Anisimov is actually now the third-highest active cap hit on the team, behind only Ryan and goaltender Craig Anderson (Marian Gaborik and Clarke MacArthur actually both have higher numbers, but are not expected to play this season).
Smith isn’t nearly the offensive player that Anisimov is, and has actually been limited to just 14 goals over the last two seasons combined. The 30-year old center will give the Blackhawks another depth option to kill penalties and play a solid two-way game, but likely isn’t worth his contract at this point. The Blackhawks could potentially flip him at some point given they already have Ryan Carpenter and David Kampf that can play down the middle behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but perhaps they value his versatility and physical play.
The $1.3MM in cap savings is the important part for the Blackhawks, who were up quite tight against the ceiling with just a 20-player roster and Brendan Perlini still to sign. Part of that cap crunch is due to the $11MM they’re paying to have Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner in goal, but both are scheduled for unrestricted free agency next year, giving the team some flexibility moving forward. If they felt like Anisimov was no longer going to fit in their long-term plans, freeing up some playing time and cap space was a success, even if the move to Smith is a downgrade on paper.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed minor league defenseman Ben Thomas to a one-year, two-way contract. Thomas was not eligible for salary arbitration and will still be a restricted free agent when the deal expires.
Thomas, 23, was a fourth round pick of the Lightning back in 2014 and has spent the last several years in the minor leagues. In 247 games with the Syracuse Crunch he has 76 points and is an important part of their blueline. It’s hard to imagine that he spends much time in the NHL this season, but there may be more opportunity there than in recent years.
Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman were both not retained by the Lightning this offseason, though the team has since brought back Luke Witkowski and signed Luke Schenn as depth options. Still, there will be spots opening before long as there isn’t a clear plan outside of the top-four past this season. Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh are signed long-term, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak are under team control for several more seasons, but other than that there will be competition in Tampa Bay after this season. While Thomas would need to take a healthy step forward in his development to really take a shot at one of those NHL spots, he’s still young enough to have some upside left. This year will be an important one for him to try and get that first taste of NHL action at some point.
The Los Angeles Kings have secured one of their young goaltenders for several years, signing Cal Petersen to a three-year contract. The deal carries an average annual value of $858,333 and is a two-way deal in 2019-20.
Petersen, 24, is a very interesting player to watch for the Kings the next several years. Signed as a free agent after he decided not to agree to a contract with the Buffalo Sabres in 2017, Petersen has now played two seasons in the minor leagues and made his NHL debut when the Kings were without any goaltenders at one point. In 11 games at that level he recorded a .924 save percentage and 5-4-1 record despite the team not having a good year. Considered a legitimate NHL prospect, a three-year deal locks him in at a huge bargain if the team decides he’s ready to take on some of the load.
His presence, along with that of 27-year old Jack Campbell, creates a fascinating situation in Los Angeles. Veteran starter Jonathan Quick still has four years left on his contract that carries a $5.8MM cap hit, and is a franchise icon that helped them to two Stanley Cup runs including a Conn Smythe trophy in 2012. Quick is one of the most accomplished American-born goaltenders in NHL history, but is also now 33, coming off years of injuries and just posted an .888 save percentage through 46 games.
Quick’s contract comes with a large cap hit, but drops dramatically in actual salary after this season. In the last three years of the contract the veteran netminder is owed just $9MM total, and amazingly he has no trade protection in the 10-year deal. If the Kings decided to move on, Petersen could be in line to take on at least some of the starting responsibility if they deem him ready. The question is whether that would be an improvement, especially since Campbell is scheduled for unrestricted free agency of his own next summer and likely will look for a substantial raise.
Either way, a three-year deal gives Petersen some stability and keeps him in the organization he chose after leaving college. It will also take him right to UFA status in 2022, the earliest he could have been eligible for it.
The Calgary Flames have re-signed Rinat Valiev inking the minor league defenseman to a one-year deal, meaning he will not need the arbitration hearing scheduled for early August. The same can be said about Ryan Lomberg, who has also signed a one-year two-way contract. Both deals will carry $700K salaries in the NHL.
Valiev, 24, has bounced around the minor leagues the last few years, suiting up for the Toronto Marlies, Laval Rocket and Stockton Heat. The third-round pick from 2014 has just 12 games in the NHL and likely won’t see much more with Calgary this year. He will however be asked to be a leader on the Heat as one of the more experienced defensemen and a bridge for Artyom Zagidulin and Alexander Yelesin, both coming over from Russia for their first years in North America. Valiev will qualify for Group VI unrestricted free agency next summer unless he somehow finds his way into 68 games at the NHL level.
Lomberg, 24, is much of the same story. Undrafted he joined the Flames organization a few years ago after a couple of years in the NCAA and USHL, but hasn’t made a huge impact at the NHL level. Playing in 11 games for Calgary he has been used almost exclusively as a physical presence, recording 32 penalty minutes and just a single point. Lomberg is however a real contributor when playing for the Heat, and he’ll likely return there to continue his role in the minor leagues.
The Edmonton Oilers have signed forward Josh Archibald to a one-year contract. Archibald became an unrestricted free agent when the Arizona Coyotes decided not to issue him a qualifying offer earlier this offseason. The contract will pay him $1MM according to PuckPedia.
Archibald, 26, will be the latest low-cost winger the Oilers will try and squeeze some offensive production out of, after he scored 12 goals and 22 points in 68 games for the Coyotes last season. In 121 NHL games the former Pittsburgh Penguins forward has 36 points, with a lot more experience on the penalty kill than the powerplay. Archibald may very well get a chance to find some chemistry with Edmonton’s top centers though, as his only real competition on the right wing currently is Alex Chiasson, Zack Kassian and perhaps Sam Gagner or Markus Granlund, depending on how the team deploys their forward group. With Jesse Puljujarvi still not looking like he’ll play for Edmonton this season, that group certainly doesn’t have a clear order in terms of skill level.
While Archibald is a useful player at the bottom of a lineup that can help out in a variety of ways, his signing does seem a bit puzzling when the Oilers have little cap space and several options for the bottom-six. It doesn’t come with a ton of risk as the entire deal can be buried in the minor leagues if necessary, but it’s hard to imagine that Archibald will be a real difference-maker on this team. With 23 players now projected for the NHL roster, the team has just under $3MM in remaining cap space and a roster that looks generally the same as last season. Obviously the hope is that head coach Dave Tippett can turn things around, or that riding out some of these contracts will put them in a better position down the road.
Archibald will be an unrestricted free agent after the contract expires.
The Vegas Golden Knights have locked up one of their minor league defensemen, signing Jake Bischoff to a three-year contract through the 2021-22 season. The deal carries an average annual value of just $716,667, making Bischoff an incredibly cheap depth option for the team. The 24-year old defenseman will be an unrestricted free agent at the deal’s end.
Bischoff came to the Golden Knights as part of the team’s expansion draft trade with the New York Islanders, and has spent the last two seasons in the minor leagues. A former star at the University of Minnesota, Bischoff has a polished two-way game that has him knocking on the NHL door. Prior to this offseason the Golden Knights were overloaded with depth defensemen though, meaning there was limited opportunity to get into any actual game action. Bischoff made the Golden Knights out of camp last year but failed to suit up for a single NHL game.
This time around though that might not be the case. Vegas currently has just five other defensemen on one-way contracts, meaning Bischoff will be battling with the likes of Zach Whitecloud and Jimmy Schuldt for playing time. That is of course if they even keep the rest of the group, which is certainly not a guarantee given they need to clear some cap room at some point in the future. Nick Holden’s $2.2MM cap hit seems like an obvious choice, though that would only limit their NHL experience even further. Deryk Engelland is expected to sign with the Golden Knights before the season begins, adding another name into the competition for players like Bischoff.