Can you really pick just five? In a news cycle in which superstar Erik Karlsson being ruled out for the season doesn’t even crack the top ten headlines, here are the five most important stories (admittedly with some other notes sprinkled in) of the week that was:
Bouwmeester Suffers Cardiac Incident: The hockey world stood still on Tuesday night, after the game between the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks was suspended under very scary circumstances. Veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester suffered a “cardiac event” while on the bench during the first period of the contest, collapsing onto the ground. Bouwmeester required resuscitation by the teams’ training staffs to re-start his heart before he was rushed to the hospital. While awaiting word on his condition, there was an outpouring of support from teams and players in all corners of the hockey world for the well-respected veteran. Fortunately, the team issued a statement that Bouwmeester was in stable condition, followed by a report on Friday that he had undergone successful heart surgery. While questions remain about Bouwmeester’s availability to the reigning Stanley Cup champs this season, as well as the future of the impending free agent’s career, the focus will be on rest and rehabilitation for a while still to come.
Minnesota Fires Boudreau: In 13 seasons as an NHL head coach, Bruce Boudreau has only missed the playoffs twice and those seasons occurred seven years apart. However, one of those seasons was 2018-19 and things were not looking good for a return to the postseason in Minnesota this year. New GM Bill Guerin opted to cut ties with his veteran coach on Friday before he could miss consecutive postseasons for the first time in his career. Assistant Dean Evason was named the interim replacement, while Boudreau will begin looking for a new home – a process that historically has not taken him very long.
Elsewhere in the division, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice received the opposite treatment, despite similar struggles this season. Already one of the longest-tenured coaches in the NHL, Maurice received a three-year contract extension from the Jets.
Penguins Acquire Zucker: Firing Boudreau was not the only major shake-up in Minnesota this week. Long-time Wild star Jason Zucker was finally traded on Monday after more than a year of speculation, even through front office changes. In the end, he winds up with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the same team that nearly acquired him this summer for Phil Kessel. Former Pittsburgh executive Bill Guerin made good on his major trade as Minnesota GM, landing a 2020 first-round pick, top prospect defenseman Calen Addison, and a capable forward and potential extension candidate in Alex Galchenyuk. Meanwhile, the Penguins add the forward they have been seeking – especially in light of Jake Guentzel’s season-ending injury – in Zucker, a veteran with the speed and skill to keep up with Sidney Crosby and three more years remaining on his contract at a reasonable rate. Zucker scored two goals in just his second game with the Penguins on Friday.
Devils Deal Two Key Players: The trades kept rolling on Sunday with the New Jersey Devils as the center of attention. Another new GM, Tom Fitzgerald, is making good on his promise to maximize the return on tradable assets from the rebuilding club. In two separate deals, the Devils added a first-round pick and second-round pick in 2020, promising forward prospect Nolan Foote, and minor leaguer David Quenneville. Of course, it came at a cost, as long-time captain Andy Greene was dealt to the rival New York Islanders and fan-favorite forward Blake Coleman was moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Still, with such strong returns and pieces like Sami Vatanen, Wayne Simmonds, and more expected to go as well, this is the beginning of potentially franchise-altering deadline for New Jersey.
Oilers Extend Nurse: The Edmonton Oilers needed some good news this week, with superstar Connor McDavid out two-to-three weeks with an injury and fellow forward Zack Kassian suspended for seven games. They got it with news of a contract extension for young defenseman Darnell Nurse. Nurse, 25, signed a two-year, $11.2MM deal prior to restricted free agency and a potential arbitration battle this summer. The new AAV for Nurse represents a sizeable salary bump, but for good reason, as he has established himself as a dependable top-pair defender and a point-producer. While the relationship between Nurse and the Oilers was once a concern, it now seems to be in good order, with expectations already that the two sides will negotiate a more long-term extension after next season.