- Coming in at No. 5 on The Fourth Period’s Trade Watch List 2021-22 is Dallas Stars goalie Anton Khudobin. Over the weekend, multiple reports appeared suggesting the Stars were actively trying to find a trade partner for the 35-year-old Khudobin. With just a 3-3-1 record and .873 save percentage on the year, he’s quickly becoming the odd man out in a crowded goalie situation in the Lone Star state. Offseason addition Braden Holtby is having somewhat of a renaissance season with a .927 save percentage in 10 starts, while up-and-comer Jake Oettinger has yet to lose this season and has a .951 save percentage in five starts. Oettinger began the season in the AHL but it’s becoming apparent that after a promising rookie campaign last year, he’s simply too good for a third-string role. Khudobin has two seasons left on his contract with a $3.33MM cap hit and has a four-team no-trade list in effect this season, per CapFriendly.
The Hurricanes have inquired about the availability of Stars defenseman John Klingberg, Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek reports (video link). The 29-year-old is in the final year of his contract and a report earlier in the season suggested that he was seeking a max-term eight-year extension worth over $60MM, a price tag that Dallas clearly hasn’t been willing to meet yet. He’s off to a quiet start to his season with no goals and seven assists in 15 games although his track record suggests he’ll turn things around offensively. The fit in Carolina is interesting as they’re already using LTIR and don’t have the cap space to take on Klingberg’s $4.25MM AAV; they’d need Dallas to retain or to send close to matching money the other way. They already have a strong back end and Klingberg would certainly give them a big boost but it’s the type of trade that is more plausible closer to the trade deadline than this early in the season.
Navigating the salary cap is one of the more important tasks for any GM. Teams that can avoid total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading for the 2021-22 season and beyond. This will focus more on players who are regulars on the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $85,575,985 (over the $81.5MM Upper Limit)
Peterson spending this much time on the roster early on in his first season in North America is a bit of a surprise but the fact he has done well is certainly encouraging for the Stars. With it being his first year, it’s hard to project where his next deal will be but he’s well on his way to hitting some of his games played bonus money. Robertson finished second on the Stars in scoring last season and is hovering near the point per game mark again this year. Limited action in his rookie campaign hurts his bargaining power a little but as long as he can play at a similar level to last year, he should have enough of a case to argue for a long-term contract with an AAV that could check in close to the one Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov recently received (eight years, $7.75MM cap hit).
Oettinger is listed here more to talk about his next contract than anything else as he’s basically the third-string option this season unless they move two veteran goalies out. He could be a regular again in 2022-23 and while he’s someone that Dallas would be wise to try to get a multi-year agreement in place with, there’s little reason for the youngster to agree to that. A one-year agreement that gets him to arbitration eligibility in the 2023 summer would be his best course of action even if it means his salary won’t jump up too much for next season. Meanwhile, as he has ‘A’ bonuses, it’s unlikely he’ll hit them this season unless he’s up full-time before too much longer which will help lessen their carryover penalty.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F Denis Gurianov ($2.55MM, RFA)
G Braden Holtby ($2MM, UFA)
D John Klingberg ($4.25MM, UFA)
F Joe Pavelski ($7MM, UFA)
F Alexander Radulov ($6.25MM, UFA)
F Michael Raffl ($1.1MM, UFA)
D Andrej Sekera ($1.5MM, UFA)
Pavelski’s first season was quiet aside from a strong playoff run which carried over into last year when he led the Stars in scoring. He’s still producing like a top-six forward at a minimum (if not a top-liner last season) but he’s also going to be 38 when 2022-23 gets underway. A one-year deal seems likely which opens up the potential for bonuses as well. Even so, he’s going to be heading for at least a small dip although something in the $4MM-$5MM range is certainly possible. Radulov is the other big-ticket deal coming off the books. He’s coming off an injury-plagued season and is off to a particularly tough start this year. He’ll be 36 next season and there will be questions as to whether or not he can still play in the top six of an NHL team. As someone that has opted to take bigger money overseas once before, it’s definitely a possibility here if his AAV dips into the $3MM range.
Gurianov got this bridge coming off an improbable 20-goal season but still hasn’t been able to establish himself as a consistent top-six forward. He’s young enough (24) to get a longer leash but his qualifying offer jumps to $2.9MM next summer. With the start to the season he’s having, it’s hard to see him getting much more than that in theory but with arbitration eligibility, he should be able to use that to push past the $3MM mark. Raffl has been more of a fourth liner in recent years and after going through the market this past summer, it’s safe to say his value next summer should check in fairly close to his current $1.1MM price tag.
If Dallas is going to reallocate some of Pavelski or Radulov’s money, Klingberg could very well be the beneficiary. A report last month pegged his asking price at over $60MM over eight years, an AAV of $7.5MM or higher. That’s a significant jump over his current price tag although he has the offensive production to try to shoot that high. The Stars may not prefer to go eight years but if it keeps the cap hit lower, they’ll seriously have to consider it. Sekera hasn’t been an impact blueliner for a few years now and has been more of a depth player in Dallas. He’ll have to take a pay cut to get another NHL deal and could be a candidate for an incentive-based deal with a guarantee not far off the minimum with a few hundred thousand in games placed bonuses.
Holtby landing with Dallas was one of the more puzzling goalie moves this summer although they got him at a heavily discounted rate compared to a few years ago. Of course, there’s a reason for that since he was bought out by Vancouver. He’s off to a decent start this season which could help him restore some value and get closer to that higher tier of backups in the high-$3MM range.
Two Years Remaining
Hintz has largely flown under the radar in Dallas with several high-priced veterans in front of him but he was a top-liner for them last season. His output has dipped early on this year but there’s still time to turn that around. Their cap situation in 2020 forced a bridge deal but Hintz will have the hammer in the next negotiation with arbitration rights, a $3.79MM qualifier (120% of the AAV), and being a year away from UFA eligibility. A long-term deal in the $6MM range is certainly doable for him. Glendening is a role player at this point but as one of the best faceoff players in the league most years, it allows him to get more of a premium compared to other fourth liners. As long as he keeps winning draws at a clip better than most, there’s no reason to think he can’t get another deal around this price tag in 2023. Kiviranta was at his best in the 2020 bubble but has yet to establish himself as a full-time NHL player yet and has been limited when he is in the lineup. If that continues, he’ll be hard-pressed to get this on the open market, let alone more.
Hanley has been on a minimum contract for the last several seasons, serving as low-cost depth. That’s a roster spot they’ll want to keep at that price point so he could stick around for a little while yet.
Bishop missed all of last season and all of this year so far which has him on LTIR. However, he has been skating regularly for a while now but they can’t afford to activate him without clearing cap space first so that’s something to watch for from Dallas in the near future. With how much time he has missed and the fact his next deal will be his age-37 season, it’s not a guarantee Bishop gets another contract and if he does, a one-year, incentive-based deal with a lower salary is all he could hope for. Khudobin’s numbers dipped last season and have gotten considerably worse so far in 2021-22. Like Bishop, his next contract will be his age-37 season so he’ll probably be eyeing a one-year deal at best and if his numbers continue to be this poor, it’ll be at a much lower cost than his current one.
Three Years Remaining
D Jani Hakanpaa ($1.5MM, UFA)
Hakanpaa got himself on the map last season as he played in 57 games between Anaheim and Carolina (notable in itself considering it was a 56-game campaign) while providing plenty of physicality from the back end. That resulted in a fairly strong market for him in free agency, allowing him to get three years after only his first NHL season at the age of 29. He’ll need to move into a top-four role to have an opportunity for a bigger deal next time around.
- After clearing waivers earlier this month, Dallas winger Blake Comeau hasn’t made it to the AHL just yet. Instead, it turns out that he is dealing with a nagging injury, relays Mike Heika of the Stars team site (Twitter link). The plan is for the 35-year-old to be re-evaluated in three weeks. Comeau had a goal in six games before passing through waivers unclaimed while averaging just 11:28 per game.
Nov 12: Comeau and Kero have both cleared waivers, according to Matthew DeFranks of The Dallas Morning News. They can now be assigned to the minor leagues. Grimaldi has also cleared for the Predators.
Comeau is clearly the biggest surprise of the three, given his place with the Stars and history in the NHL. The veteran winger has been wearing an “A” as an alternate captain at times this year and has more than 900 games played at the NHL level. Many of those have come with the Stars, who he has been with since 2018, when he signed a three-year, $7.2MM deal with the club in free agency.
Now on a one-year, $1MM contract he signed in June, Comeau’s cap hit will be entirely buried in the minor leagues even though he is a 35+ player. The restrictions on those contracts were changed in the 2020 CBA Memorandum of Understanding, but even before that his one-year deal would have been able to come off the cap if they assign him to the minor leagues.
It’s been years since Comeau was forced to play in the AHL though and it seems as though he and Grimaldi could potentially get claimed, if a team needs an experienced forward. Grimaldi has been a regular for the past three years in Nashville and even scored ten goals in 40 games last season. Kero doesn’t have quite as much experience, but did suit up 39 times for the Stars.
Notably, this is a change for Dallas, who have seemed unable to drag themselves out of the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The team has lost another two games in a row, sit at 4-6-2 on the year, and have a -12 goal differential. The organization has some young players that could potentially inject some energy into the lineup, but Comeau’s placement on waivers still comes as something of a surprise.
TSN’s Chris Johnston notes on Thursday’s edition of Insider Trading that free agent goaltender Tuukka Rask is working his way back after offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum and could be ready to return to game action as soon as January. Johnston notes specifically that Rask could be an option for Team Finland at the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, potentially a huge boost to an already strong Finnish program. While Johnston reports that Rask’s main focus in his “mind and his heart” remains with the Boston Bruins, the door isn’t completely closed on other options, either. Regardless, it’s good to see one of the league’s best goalies of his generation working his way back to health for what could be his last chance at a championship.
More notes from around the league:
- Arizona Coyotes assistant coach Phil Housley has entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol, per the team’s public relations department. He won’t travel with the team on their upcoming road trip. He’ll miss three games, including a back-to-back set against the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators this Friday and Saturday. Arizona’s next home game is a week from today against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and pending test results, Housley could be available to return then.
- According to the team, Nashville Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier is out for Thursday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues with an upper-body injury. The Predators note that he’ll be evaluated further when the team returns home. Carrier blocked a shot that hit him up high during Wednesday night’s game against the Dallas Stars and did not return.
Shore had bounced around the Oilers’ bottom-six forward group so far this season but stayed mostly in a fourth-line role. He’d scored a goal and an assist through eight games, averaging just 8:37 per game.
Tyler Benson and Colton Sceviour are the two extra forwards on Edmonton’s active roster. They’ll both likely get opportunities to draw into the lineup in Shore’s absence. Neither have them have registered a point this year in three and two games, respectively.
Shore signed a two-year, $1.7MM extension with the team on June 9, prior to the opening of free agency. The 27-year-old forward has struggled to maintain a regular spot in an NHL lineup over the past three seasons after playing all 82 games in his first two full NHL seasons with the Dallas Stars in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Given his timeline, Shore is likely to miss between 12 and 19 games.
While the college hockey season has been underway for a full month, this weekend marks a momentous return to the game for a number of schools. The Ivy Leagues are finally back, getting started on Friday night with their first games in 19 months. Not since before the 2019-20 NCAA Tournament was cancelled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have some of these historic programs graced the ice, as the Ivy League schools cancelled all sports last year. The decision left the ECAC, home to all six Ivy League men’s hockey participants, with just half of its teams, cost the Ivy League’s a number of their players and recruits, and left the college ranks without some of its best programs and players. That is all in the past now, as play has resumed for Ivy League elite. No. 15 Harvard and No. 16 Cornell have maintained their preseason top-20 spots despite the late start based purely on high expectations. The Crimson will jump right into conference play against Dartmouth on Friday, while the Big Red host Alaska. Princeton, who has also received some votes in the national rankings, opens on the road against Army, while Brown and Yale get started against one another. It’s good to have all of those teams back.
After falling just short of a National Championship last year and seeing three other teams in the top spot this season other than them, the now-No. 1 St. Cloud Huskie finally got tired of playing second fiddle. After No. 2 Michigan impressed two weeks ago but came back to earth last weekend and dropped the top ranking, St. Cloud was happy to take over. The team sits at 6-2-0 on the year, but one of those losses was a controversial overtime decision against No. 7 Minnesota two weekends ago, just one night after they handily beat the Gophers. St. Cloud then dominated the Wisconsin Badgers last week. The Huskies have proven themselves, but now comes the new challenge of holding on to the throne as opposed to chasing it.
The Wolverines still remain the biggest threat and few are regretting making them the off-season title favorite. In the in-season Ice Breaker tournament in Duluth, Michigan took down both the host, No. 4 Minnesota Duluth, and No. 3 Minnesota State, then the top team in the rankings, and did so in convincing fashion. They faced some cross-state kryptonite last weekend in No. 12 Western Michigan, suffering a loss in game one and needing OT to take game two. However, the star-studded Wolverines have shown they can skate with anyone and are still a top contender.
The Bulldogs shook off their loss to Michigan, picking up a win against an outmatched No. 8 Providence College (who also lost to Minnesota State) in the Ice Breaker and then sweeping rival Minnesota last weekend. Give the Gophers credit for their strength of schedule though, facing Duluth and St. Cloud in their past four games. Providence also got some strength of schedule credit in the latest voting and didn’t hurt their case with wins over No. 11 Denver and New Hampshire last weekend.
Amidst all the in-fighting between the other top-ten teams, No. 5 Quinnipiac and No. 6 North Dakota have flown under the radar and lander quietly into prime positions. The Bobcats and Fighting Hawks squared off with each other last weekend and by splitting the series somehow each got a boost in the rankings. North Dakota also split their prior series with No. 17 Bemidji, but a 4-2-0 record against some top competition is enough to get them to No. 6.
Speaking of quiet contenders, who had No. 10 Nebraksa-Omaha as sharing the best winning percentage in the NCAA with Michigan at this point in the season? The 5-1-0 Mavericks were off last weekend and may have only beaten Alaska the weekend before, but they’ll take a top-ten spot by whatever means they can get it.
The season really starts to take off this weekend, not only for the Ivy Leagues making their debuts but for a number of top teams like Quinnipiac, Western Michigan, the defending champs No. 12 UMass, No. 18 Michigan Tech, and a number of other teams who have four or fewer games played so far this season and still haven’t shown exactly what they can be.
The Other Savoie
The 2021-22 season was supposed to be all about Matthew Savoie. The star center for the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice is a consensus top-five pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and could easily go as high as second overall in July. His 16 points in 11 games thus far is tied for third-best in the WHL.
Yet, not to be outdone is older brother. Carter Savoie is off to a torrid start to his NCAA season and, though far too early to be worth much weight, might just be the current Hobey Baker favorite. The Denver winger, a fourth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2020, has taken a major step forward in his sophomore year. Savoie recorded 20 points in 24 games as a freshman, getting off to a very solid start to his college career. Through six games this season though, Savoie already has 12 points, more than half of last year’s total and one assist shy of his 24-game mark from last season. Savoie’s six goals are the same has his younger brother, but in nearly half as many games. Savoie currently leads the NCAA in points per game and is tied for fourth in plus/minus. He sits tied for third in overall scoring, but only trails those with two more games played than he has and is remarkably the only player in the country with 12+ points from a ranked team or who is a plus player.
Right now, Savoie looks like the most dangerous scorer in college hockey. He could end up being an x-factor come tournament time for the current No. 11 team in the country too. Denver should cherish it while it lasts though; at this rate, Savoie will score his way right to Edmonton next season. A team that can always use affordable secondary scoring, Savoie is on pace for a season that will make him a contender for an Oilers roster spot next year. Will all of this be enough for the older brother to steal the spotlight from his younger brother? Wait and see.
While National Signing Day is right around the corner on November 10, most players make verbal commitments long before signing an NLI and most of those commitments stick. There has been a flurry of such news of late, some of which will become official in a couple and some that is for further down the road, but all of which is worth monitoring.
While the biggest recruiting news of the recent stretch was USNTDP standout and likely top-16 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Rutger McGroarty, committing to Michigan. However, he was far from the only draft prospect to do so of late. The following are recent commits that are all not only eligible for the 2022 Draft, but are likely to hear their names called at some point: Alex Bump (Vermont), George Fegaras (Cornell), Quinn Finley (Wisconsin), Gibson Homer (Arizona State), and Dylan Silverstein (Boston College). The latter is the most notable addition; Silverstein is currently a teammate of McGroarty’s on the USNTDP, the starting goalie for the elite development club. He now heads to a program that has been producing top young NHL goalies with regularity. Silverstein is not expected to be one of the top two or three netminders selected in July, but after his time at BC he could be a polished, pro-ready prospect in goal.
Western Michigan skipped the draft hype and grabbed a player who has already been drafted. Defenseman Samuel Sjolund, a fourth-round pick of the Dallas Stars this year, has committed to join the Broncos. The two-way blue liner is an import from Sweden who is just beginning his first season in the USHL, but already has three points and a +3 rating in eight games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, where he’s playing alongside several other NHL prospects and NCAA commits. Western Michigan is not known for collecting NHL talent, with just two drafted players on the roster right now, but has been a growing program in recent years and made a statement last weekend against their powerhouse neighbors in Ann Arbor. Sjolund is joining a program that is ready to make some noise at a championship level before too long.
With all of the rumors swirling around the Vegas Golden Knights and Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel, the bold take right now may actually be the a deal is not imminent. There are quietly signs pointing in that direction as well. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that trade talks for the elite center did in fact heat up earlier this week, but have since cooled. Dreger notes that there is mounting pressure on the Sabres to make a move with Eichel’s camp threatening to file a grievance with the NHLPA in regards to his deferred neck surgery. GM Kevyn Adams is well aware of that threat, but won’t let it dictate how he handles what will likely be the biggest trade of his career as a hockey executive. While Dreger acknowledges that just one phone call could shift the status quo, all is quiet for the time being. On the Vegas side, The Athletic’s Jesse Granger responded to eager fans that the Sabres are not even scouting the Knights’ Friday night game. If the two sides are close on a deal that is expected to contain at least some current members of the Vegas roster given the cap implications for both teams, wouldn’t Buffalo be getting all the information they can before a pivotal trade? Sure, an Eichel trade could very well happen and maybe it does happen tonight or this weekend, but those doomscrolling their Twitter feeds awaiting deal at any moment may be disappointed – Eichel to the Knights is not done yet.
- Another team interested in Eichel has been the Anaheim Ducks. While acquiring a player of his caliber is as far from a knee-jerk move as possible, the Ducks do have some added incentive today. The team announced that top forward Rickard Rakell has been placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The team did not provide any details on the severity of the injury or the expected length of Rakell’s absence, only stating that he was hurt in the team’s most recent game on Thursday. While Rakell has the appearance of a slow start with just four points in eight games, eighth in scoring for the Ducks, he has quietly led the team in goal-scoring with four tallies making up his only four points. Rakell is also leading all forward in ice time. The dangerous winger has finished no lower than second in team scoring in each of the past four years so his absence will certainly be felt. Vinni Lettieri, recalled to fill Rakell’s roster spot, is far from a suitable replacement. With division rival Vegas suddenly “close” on an Eichel deal, is the loss of Rakell the last straw for the Ducks to get them to jump back into the race and win the Eichel sweepstakes?
- Another player sidelined out west is Dallas Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpaa. The big blue liner has entered the NHL’s COVID Protocol, the team has announced. He has been ruled out for Friday night at the very least with the team likely to update his status this weekend. A free agent addition brought in to add some grit to the back end in Dallas, Hakanpaa leads the team in hits and in limited ice time at that. As he continues to learn from veteran pair mate Andrej Sekera, Hakanpaa could continue to develop into a great shutdown option for the Stars. They hope to have him back on the ice soon.