- Nashville Predators draft pick Vladislav Yeryomenko has signed a three-year contract with Dynamo Minsk of the KHL, ending any speculation that he might sign an entry-level deal in the NHL. The 20-year old defenseman was picked 151st overall in 2018 and played the last three seasons in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen. The Predators will now hold Yeryomenko’s draft rights indefinitely.
Despite his impressive development over the past two years, the Chicago Blackkhawks could find themselves in trouble with defenseman Erik Gustafsson. The 27-year-old has developed far better than they hoped. After a couple years in the AHL, he established himself with solid half-season in 2017-18 and then followed it up with a dominant year last season. If he continues on that course, unfortunately, the team might not be able to afford him when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
Gustafsson, signed out of Finland four years ago, posted an impressive year in 2018-19, scoring 17 goals and posting 60 points and has quietly established himself as a top-line defender for the Blackhawks. In a mailbag column, The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus (subscription required) writes that if Gustafsson continues his success, the team may be forced to trade him at the trade deadline as they likely wouldn’t have the money to pay a top-line defender with their salary cap. Chicago has little money freeing up next year besides their goaltending combination of Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner and they will have to replace that. On top of that, the have a pair of restricted free agents who each should command significant contracts in Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. Regardless, if he commands a significant contract, that could cause a problem if Chicago finds itself in a playoff run.
It might be an easy decision if Chicago is out of the playoff race early and the Blackhawks might be able to nab a first-round pick in exchange for him as Lazerus points out that many teams would be willing to move a late first-round pick for a high quality defenseman.
- Sticking with the Blackhawks, NBC Sports’ Charlie Roumeliotis writes that perhaps the most impressive player in Chicago’s development camp was defenseman Adam Boqvist, the team’s eighth-overall pick in 2018. According to Chicago’s player development coach Brian Campbell, Boqvist was impressive for a young player, who just turned 19, but the young blueliner still needs time to develop. “Yeah, I was impressed,” Campbell said. “Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.”
- In an interview with Nashville Predators general manager David Poile, The Athletic’s Joe Rexrode (subscription required) writes that the GM strongly believes that center Kyle Turris just had a bad season last year. The 30-year-old Turris played in just 55 games, scoring just seven goals and 23 points, not good numbers for a team playing him $6MM for another five seasons. Poile believes that he played impressively for Team Canada at the World Championships and should have a bounce-back season. “I think he’s very happy here,” Poile said. “I don’t think he’s, and I hate speaking for him, but he’s not happy with either how we’re using him or how he’s played. And those are both tied in to each other. So we have to hope and believe after all the conversations and our knowledge of him over many years of success in the National Hockey League, that he’s going to come back and we’ll just chalk this up to a bad year. … That is the question. We want the Kyle Turris that we first traded for. And that’s both on him and on us.”
Despite missing the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, the Vancouver Canucks decided to extend GM Jim Benning today. The reasons for that are complicated—and obviously do not hinge entirely on his postseason record—just as they were when the Minnesota Wild made the decision to fire Paul Fenton just 14 months into his tenure with the team. The inner workings of an NHL front office are almost never made public (unless there is an intrepid reporter like Michael Russo of The Athletic who gets the incredible story), and it is hard to see why some decisions are made.
Still, even the most casual fan can see the seat of specific executives and coaches heating up. When the Edmonton Oilers decided to move on from Peter Chiarelli during another disappointing season, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. On the other hand, it was easy to see why the Carolina Hurricanes recently locked up Don Waddell after he interviewed for another job.
Looking around the league, who is next? Which GM will be let go, either this year or next summer?
It might be easy to look at the teams that have struggled recently, but many of them have replaced their top hockey operations executive over the last few seasons. The Oilers brought in Ken Holland to change the culture in Edmonton, while Steve Yzerman returned to the Detroit Red Wings to bring a new voice to a stagnant team. Florida has gone through quite a bit of turmoil in the front office since their ownership changed but Dale Tallon now seems to be entrenched as a veteran leader.
There are others though that may not be so lucky. The Ottawa Senators are heading in a new direction after shedding their previous core, but if the young talent doesn’t develop as hoped Pierre Dorion could be held responsible. John Chayka was the youngest GM in history when he took over the Arizona Coyotes in 2016, but they still haven’t made the playoffs under his watch and now have new ownership of their own. Jason Botterill was expected to have success in Buffalo after finding so much of it in Pittsburgh, but the Sabres haven’t been able to build a full roster around Jack Eichel despite some outstanding individual players.
Nothing is certain when it comes to front offices however. Cast your vote below and explain just why you think they’ll be the first to go!
[Mobile users click here to vote]
*We’ve used Kelly McCrimmon as the Vegas GM, though he won’t officially take that title from George McPhee until September
August 6th: All arbitration cases have now been completed. In total, six cases were decided by an arbitrator’s award this year. That number, though seemingly not many, actually presents a 50% increase over last summer and more than the past two off-seasons combined. Of those six decisions, the teams and players received the favorable decision an even three times apiece, and each award landed within $150K of the midpoint. All things considered, there were few surprises in arbitration, even though there were more awards than expected. Now the question is where the relationships between those teams and players go from here.
Originally published on July 19th: Friday marked the start of the arbitration season in the NHL, with Brock McGinn first scheduled for his hearing with the Carolina Hurricanes. The appointments will come fast and furious after that, with 23 cases left on the books. When we asked our readers how many would actually get to the hearing stage more than 36% of voters thought 3-4 was reasonable, the same number that reached last year.
We know now that at least one will, as Andrew Copp’s agent Kurt Overhardt told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Free Press that their camp will “look forward to” the hearing scheduled for Sunday. Copp and the Jets exchanged figures earlier today. It is important to remember that the two sides can actually work out a deal in the short period after the hearing and before the actual decision is submitted by the arbitrator. For every case except Ville Husso, who the St. Louis Blues took to arbitration, the team involved will be allowed to choose the duration of the contract awarded. They can choose either one or two years, unless the player is only one year away from unrestricted free agency, at which point only a one-year deal is available.
Here we’ll keep track of all the hearings still on the books and the figures submitted. This page will be updated as the numbers come in:
The final arbitration case of the 2019 off-season is in the books. The Nashville Predators announced that the independent arbitrator has awarded forward Rocco Grimaldi a one-year, one-way, $1MM contract. The Predators had requested a minimum $700K salary and two-way contract for Grimaldi, while the 26-year-old filed at $1.275MM, resulting in a $988K midpoint for the case. As such, this award is a win for Grimaldi’s camp in terms of both the nature and value of the contract.
Grimaldi finally found a fit for himself in Nashville last season and failing to impress in stops with the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche. After recording ten points in his previous 37 NHL appearances over four seasons, Grimaldi played in 53 games for the Predators last season and contributed 13 points, plus three goals in five playoff games, while also developing an effective two-way game. Given his meager 5’6″ frame, Grimaldi’s defensive growth came as a nice addition, as did his ability to win puck battles and create offense when called upon by the team.
There are still doubts that the former University of North Dakota star can be a regular in the NHL, seeing as Nashville still sat him for nearly 30 games last season. However, a one-way deal makes it even less likely that the Predators will try to pass Grimaldi through waivers this season. Most likely, he will continue to serve an important depth role and could fight for even more starts in the upcoming campaign.
The award for Grimaldi currently leaves the Predators with just $1.34MM in projected cap space. However, he was their final unsigned restricted free agent, meaning Nashville is done adding to the payroll if they so choose. Additionally, that projection also accounts for 24 players, meaning the team will open up additional space when they are forced to cut a player from camp.
The arbitration figures for the last few cases came out fast and furious today from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Rocco Grimaldi was third, with Friedman reporting that the forward submitted a $1.275MM ask while the Nashville Predators filed for a $700K/$200K two-way contract. Grimaldi is scheduled for a hearing on Sunday. It is important to remember that the two sides can continue to negotiate up to (and for a short period after) the hearing. The arbitrator does also not need to choose one filing or the other, but will almost always decide on a number near the mid-point of the two.
Grimaldi, 26, received the biggest opportunity of his professional career last season with the Predators when the team dressed him for 53 games. The former University of North Dakota standout had previously played just 47 NHL games in his entire career, despite being the 33rd pick in 2011. It’s not like he hasn’t kept up his offense, as Grimaldi has routinely been one of the most dangerous players in the AHL. His height however—standing at a generous 5’6″—still likely plays a part in how teams and scouts evaluate him for the NHL.
Regardless of his stature, Grimaldi became a valuable part of the Predators this season. Though he recorded just 13 points when he was on the ice the shot totals were drastically shifted in Nashville’s favor, and though part of that is quality of competition there is nothing wrong with having your fourth line feed the other team’s their lunch on a regular basis. Grimaldi averaged just ten minutes per game, but was effective in that role.
In the postseason he was given even more responsibility and it paid off. Grimaldi scored three goals in five games for the Predators, which amazingly actually led the entire team. Roman Josi was the only other Predator to score more than one goal in their first round loss to the Dallas Stars.
Grimaldi is coming off a one-year, two-way contract with the Predators that carried a $650K salary in the NHL, meaning he’s going to get a raise no matter what happens through arbitration. The league minimum has increased to $700K this season and it seems likely that he will be able to secure a deal even higher than that. Whether he can keep his job on the NHL roster is another story, but one that he’s ready to fight for.
The Chicago Blackhawks got eight amazing seasons from star forward Marian Hossa from 2009 to 2017 and that is expected to continue in the future. Granted the 40-year-old’s playing career is over, but in an interview with Chicago Blackhawks President John McDonough, The Athletic’s Scott Powers (subscription required) writes that McDonough feels that Hossa will definitely work with the Blackhawks.
Obviously, Hossa is still under contract as his rights are owned by the Arizona Coyotes for the next two seasons, but McDonough said that Hossa will have a role within the organization when Hossa’s contract is up.
“He will work for the Blackhawks. Rocky (Wirtz) and I feel very strongly about that,” McDonough said. “Marian Hossa’s contributions to the Blackhawks are immeasurable. Immeasurable. Not just his on-ice performance, which is Hall of Fame. The way he goes about himself personally and professionally and he’s kind and respectful and polite … But Marian Hossa will play a role here when he’s done, and we’ll have that conversation with him.”
Hossa scored 186 goals with the Blackhawks and helped the franchise win three Stanley Cups during that time.
- Scott Billeck of NHL.com writes that the Winnipeg Jets have high hopes that 2017 first-round pick Kristian Vesalainen is ready to take on an NHL role this season. The 20-year-old played in three leagues last season, which included a return-trip to Jokerit of the KHL. He played five games for the Jets last season before choosing to return to the KHL where he scored six goals and 17 points in 31 games. With Jokerit’s season over, Vesalainen decided to return to North America and join the Manitoba Moose of the AHL where he posted four goals and 13 points in 22 games. However, Vesalainen has continued to work on his strength and conditioning, which he hopes might get him a chance at a bottom-six role next season. “Vesalainen is stronger and where he could do the drills last year because he’s a gifted man, it wasn’t easy for him to drive through drills and always push,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “And at the end of practice, he’s still coming out of the corner now hard. He’s just physically stronger. He can do an hour long of all those drills and he’s just a more mature player. How that relates to [training camp], we’ll see. But clearly, there’s been some good work done there.”
- The Athletic’s Saad Yousuf (subscription required) writes that the Dallas Stars are getting good reports on defenseman Stephen Johns, who sat out the entire 2018-19 season with concussion-related symptoms. The scribe writes that there are still questions that linger with the 27-year-old, including the fact that he still needs to be cleared by team doctors, but the team hopes that the 6-foot-4, 225-pound blueliner can contribute to the blueline despite not having been on the ice for 18 months. Johns scored eight goals in 75 games for Dallas back in the 2017-18 season.
- In his most recent mailbag, The Athletic’s John Glennon (subscription required) writes that while the Nashville Predators are likely done with offseason moves (minus signing restricted free agent Rocco Grimaldi), he wouldn’t be surprised if the Predators attempted to move center Nick Bonino during training camp or early in the season. Bonino is coming off a solid season (17 goals, 35 points) and has just two years remaining on his contract at $4.1MM AAV, which makes him an interesting trade candidate for teams in need of a veteran center. Colton Sissons, who just signed a seven-year, $20MM contract, could easily take over Bonino’s role as the center on the fourth line.
The Nashville Predators and Colton Sissons have avoided arbitration, and will be together for a long time. The two sides have agreed on a seven-year, $20MM contract. That means Sissons’ cap hit is just under $2.86MM moving forward, and the hearing scheduled for July 26 is no longer necessary. CapFriendly has the full breakdown:
- 2019-20: $3.45MM
- 2020-21: $2.5MM
- 2021-22: $3.65MM
- 2022-23: $2.775MM
- 2023-24: $3.5MM
- 2024-25: $2.3MM
- 2025-26: $1.825MM
While a contract of this length is still surprising to see, it’s not like Predators GM David Poile hasn’t done it before. In 2016 he signed a 24-year old Calle Jarnkrok to a six-year, $12MM deal to secure one of his bottom-six forwards for a reasonable price and hope for a breakout. Jarnkrok had just completed a 16-goal, 30-point season for the Predators, both easily career highs. Those totals line up well with the 15 goals and 30 points that Sissons just had, also career highs. Knowing that he will likely provide at least that, Poile is betting on a potential breakout while mitigating his risk with a relatively low cap hit.
That’s not to say that Sissons is guaranteed to score 15 goals in every year of the deal. The 25-year old needed a 13.6% shooting percentage to do it in 2018-19, though there are many other factors to take into account. One of them is how often he starts his shifts in the defensive zone, almost never given the chance to take a faceoff in the opponent’s end. Even if that production does dip a bit, he’s a valuable penalty killer and defensive center that has proven he can step into a larger role if forced. With Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino still on the roster though, it seems unlikely that will be necessary.
The other thing to consider when it comes to Sissons is his off-ice influence on the Predators. The young forward has been known as a pure leader for quite some time, first serving as captain for the Kelowna Rockets before being named the youngest captain in Milwaukee Admirals history when he was just 21. That kind of presence is exactly what the Predators are hoping to lock up.
Like usual for the Predators, the deal includes no signing bonuses or trade protection. It will buy out five years of unrestricted free agency, taking Sissons to the age of 32.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet broke news of the signing on Twitter.
It might be tough for Dylan Strome to duplicate his performance with the Chicago Blackhawks this season. The under-performing center found his game once he was traded to Chicago and posted 51 points in 58 games. However, Strome could be in line for another breakout season as the Blackhawks have concentrated their focus of Strome’s offseason workouts on strengthening his lower-body, which the team feels is his biggest weakness, according to Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Because the 6-foot-3 Strome uses a short stick which forces him to play leaning slightly forward. The down side to him doing that is that his vision is limited as his head is leaning downwards towards the ice. The team’s plan is to develop his lower-body and core, so he can play more upright and increase his vision.
“He has all the potential to be able to do exactly what he wants to do,” said Paul Goodman, the Hawks’ strength and conditioning coach. “But physically, [he’s] just going through a maturation process and understanding how his body can actually be pushed further and also be able to translate into better speed, better power, better change of direction, better vision.”
- Of course it’s still quite early to decide who any team might be losing to Seattle in the upcoming expansion draft in 2021, The Athletic’s Adam Vingan (subscription required) writes that quite a bit has already changed for the Nashville Predators as the team now must protect defenseman Dante Fabbro, which complicates matters for the team. Nashville was hoping to only have to protect Roman Josi (with the assumption that he re-signs with Nashville), Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. That would have allowed the team to protect seven forwards. Instead, the team will be forced to protect Fabbro and will only be able to protect four forwards instead, thereby exposing an extra three forwards to Seattle.
- The Athletic’s Michael Russo (subscription required) writes that with the recent signing of Ryan Donato to a two-year deal at $1.9MM, the Minnesota Wild’s top priority is to ink restricted free agent Kevin Fiala now. While Donato opted to sign a two-year bridge deal to prove his value to the franchise, Russo believes that with general manager Paul Fenton’s familiarity with Fiala, the GM might consider trying to lock up Fiala to a much longer deal and hope to get a bargain out of him down the road. Evolving Hockey’s contract projections suggest that it would cost Minnesota about $4.97 AAV to lock him up for five years, but is the team willing to gamble on him is the real question.
- The St. Louis Blues have had a relatively quiet offseason this summer, but that could change next season as the team has two key players who will be unrestricted free agents next season, including center Brayden Schenn and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Both are critical to the team, but St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tom Timmermann writes that keeping both will be challenging as they are both still quite young and should garner quite a bit of attention on the open market next summer unless general manager Doug Armstrong can find a way to lock them up early.
In the NHL, the salary arbitration process is more often used as a negotiating tool – an incentive to get a deal done before the uncomfortable setting of a hearing and the unknown of an arbitrator’s decision – than it is for its actual purpose. A vast majority of players who file for arbitration end up settling before their hearing or even at the last moment before an award is handed down. Last year, 44 players filed for arbitration and 40 settled prior to their hearing. The year before, all 30 cases were resolved before an arbitration award could be made.
So what about this year? There were initially 40 cases of player-elected arbitration and one case of team-elected arbitration (the St. Louis Blues and goalie Ville Husso), but that number is now down to 25 open cases. That’s a substantial drop-off, but time is running out for some RFA’s and their teams to come to terms, as the first scheduled hearing is set to take place on Saturday, July 20th. Listed below are all of the remaining cases:
July 20: Brock McGinn, Carolina Hurricanes
July 21: Andrew Copp, Winnipeg Jets
July 22: MacKenzie Weegar, Florida Panthers; Zach Aston-Reese, Pittsburgh Penguins; Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues; Christian Djoos, Washington Capitals
July 23: Evan Rodrigues, Buffalo Sabres
July 24: Oskar Sundqvist, St. Louis Blues; Neal Pionk, Winnipeg Jets
July 25: Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers
July 26: Colton Sissons, Nashville Predators
July 27: Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames
July 28: Mirco Mueller, New Jersey Devils
July 29: David Rittich, Calgary Flames; Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers
August 1: Remi Elie, Buffalo Sabres; Chandler Stephenson, Washington Capitals
August 2: Linus Ullmark, Buffalo Sabres; Charles Hudon, Montreal Canadiens; Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils
August 4: Jake McCabe, Buffalo Sabres; Anton Forsberg, Carolina Hurricanes; Sheldon Dries, Colorado Avalanche; Rocco Grimaldi, Nashville Predators; Joel Edmundson, St. Louis Blues
Given the time constraints and the complexity of each of these cases, how many will feel forced to go to hearing? Will Trouba be one of that select group, as he was last year? Will the Sabres struggle to settle four cases before their scheduled hearing dates? Will the Blues see through their team-elected case with Husso? Will other goalies prove to be difficult negotiations? And will polarizing players like Bennett and Buchnevich fail to find common ground with their teams? Or will it be under-the-radar players like Gemel Smith and Brett Kulak last year who go through the full process?
There are many questions left about this group of restricted free agents and time is running out before we know the answers. So the choice is yours: will we see an unprecedented class of arbitration awards or will all or most cases reach a resolution in the coming weeks?
[Mobile users click here to vote]