- Though it was the New Jersey Devils who eventually landed Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights, there was another team involved in the pursuit of the Russian winger. Vegas executive George McPhee admitted as much to Jesse Granger of The Athletic (subscription required), telling him that two teams made offers for Gusev and the Golden Knights went “back and forth for probably a couple weeks.” Granger was told that team was the Columbus Blue Jackets, but his Athletic colleague Arthur Staple also reports that the New York Islanders were “in the mix” for Gusev but didn’t like the contract terms he was looking for. Gusev eventually signed a two-year, $9MM contract with the Devils.
As with many players taken in the back half of the first round, Holmstrom comes to the Islanders as a prospect with widely different potential outcomes. An excellent skater with and without the puck, he can dance through the competition or catch the opposition on the backcheck. He has had tons of success in the Swedish junior leagues, but has played only a pair of games in the SHL and is still quite raw.
Part of that is due to several injuries that took him off the ice for long chunks of the 2018-19 season, but those setbacks may also be the only reason he was available for the Islanders so late in the first round. Expected to stay in Sweden for the 2019-20 season, if he can get some experience and success at a higher level there could be a quick path to the NHL for the 18-year old.
The New York Islanders have made quite a few moves this offseason, re-signing Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson as well as adding goaltender Semyon Varlamov to their franchise, but the team may not be done yet.
Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post mentions that the team may seriously consider trading defenseman Nick Leddy later this offseason. The 28-year-old Leddy has three years on his contract at $5.5MM per season and with several teams in need of help for a top-four blueliner, the team might be willing to unload him if they can add more offensive talent, especially with prospects Noah Dobson and Bode Wilde not far from arriving in New York.
- In a roundtable discussion on what the chances are that the Tampa Bay Lightning might acquire Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, The Athletic’s Joe Smith (subscription required) writes that while the Lightning has had interest in him in the past, the only way the team would be interested in acquiring him now would be if it were an upgrade and with no obvious trade candidates on their defense, a deal between Buffalo and Tampa Bay seems unlikely. Throw in the fact the team still has to sign restricted free agent Brayden Point to and the chances of acquiring Risolainen seems unlikely.
- There were many moving parts two week ago when the Ottawa Senators acquired Nikita Zaitsev from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Cody Ceci. The Senators acquired forward Connor Brown, but also picked up forward Michael Carcone as part of the deal, a 23-year-old restricted free agent who has battled his way through three AHL seasons and might be ready for a bottom-line role with the Senators now that the team acquired him. The Athletic’s Chris Stevenson reports that he hears that the Senators and Carcone are close to a new deal and could be a name to watch at training camp this fall. The Vancouver Canucks were received quite a bit of interest from Carcone at the trade deadline by both Toronto and Ottawa. He ended up going to Toronto in the Josh Leivo trade, but has since been traded again.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning look to be bringing one of their 2019 draftees over to North America sooner than they had expected as a Russian website, spartak.ru (translation required), reports that Mikhail Shalagin, the team’s 2019 seventh-round pick, is expected to play in the Tampa Bay’s system, presumably with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL, although nothing has come from the Lightning yet and it’s unknown whether the team will offer him an entry-level deal right away or offer him an AHL deal. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound forward scored 48 goals in the MHL and was the MVP of the league last year.
Ryan Dzingel and Jack Hughes may have been the biggest news stories of the day, but more has happened in the hockey world. As always, we’re here to keep track of all the minor moves around the league:
- The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have signed seven players, inking Steve Bernier, John Stevens, Nick Schilkey, Nic Pierog, Kyle MacLean, Mike Cornell and Ryan MacKinnon to one-year AHL contracts. Bernier is likely the most recognizable name in the group, as the 34-year old was a first-round pick and played 637 NHL games. Bernier has spent the last three seasons with the Sound Tigers, scoring 24 goals and 42 points last year.
- Juho Lammikko has returned to Finland instead of re-signing with the Florida Panthers. The 23-year old forward played 40 games with Florida last season but failed to score a single goal and recorded just six assists. A third-round pick in 2014, his rights will be retained thanks to the qualifying offer extended from the Panthers last month but Lammikko will play for Karpat this season in Finland’s top league.
- The Iowa Wild have signed Mitch McLain, Nick Boka, Alex Breton and Jack Sadek to AHL contracts for the 2019-20 season, bringing in some more depth for the organization. McLain returns to the team after spending his first full professional season with Iowa last year, scoring 20 points in 58 games. Boka meanwhile will stay in the Minnesota system after four years at the University of Michigan, despite his exclusive draft rights expiring later this summer.
According to CapFriendly, the New York Islanders have signed goaltender Jared Coreau to a one-year two-way contract, giving them some additional depth at the position. Coreau will earn $700K at the NHL level and be an unrestricted free agent again next summer.
Coreau, 27, has been a top AHL goaltender for years, but struggled last season with the San Diego Gulls and San Antonio Rampage. In his first year outside of the Detroit Red Wings organization he posted just an .889 save percentage and allowed the third most goals of any AHL netminder. He now heads to the Islanders to try and prove he can still be a valuable addition to any depth chart, though there won’t be much opportunity at the NHL level.
The former Northern Michigan University star has played just 21 games in the NHL, all of them coming with the Red Wings. With Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss ahead of him that number isn’t expected to increase, though he might be the next option if someone is injured. The only other goaltender with any NHL experience in the organization is Christopher Gibson, who has just ten starts at that level.
Despite numerous recent delays in the groundbreaking of construction of the New York Islanders future 19,000-seat arena in the Belmont Park area, the Islanders got some good news today. Empire State Development hopes to approve the final environmental impact statement next week, according to David Winzelberg of the Long Island Business News.
The project has been held up due to the environmental report, but Empire State Development has scheduled a meeting of its board of directors and seek “authorization to accept and approve” it. The approval of the final environmental impact statement should be the final step to beginning the construction of the $1.18 billion plan to build the Islanders new arena, a 250-room hotel and a 435,000 square-foot retail village onto the Belmont property.
On a separate note, however, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was also scheduled to be on Long Island Monday to announce a new railroad station at the Belmont project, but has postponed that appearance.
- The Boston Herald’s Marisa Ingemi wonders if this might be the right time for the Boston Bruins to seriously consider moving defenseman Torey Krug. With a number of restricted free agents they must deal with, including an incredibly pricey one for Charlie McAvoy as well as contracts for Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen, the team might want to free up some money. Throw in some of their holes on offense and their depth on defense, moving Krug might make some sense. The 28-year-old is on the final year of his contract and will likely get a significant raise from his $5.25MM current salary. Will Boston want to commit to a 29-year-old long-term?
- The Athletic’s Joe Yerdon (subscription required) writes that while the hiring of Jason Botterill two years ago hasn’t resulted in immediate success for the Buffalo Sabres, the same can’t be said for the team’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. Since Botterill and Randy Sexton took over in May of 2017, the two have put quite a bit of effort into rebuilding their AHL affiliate, which has now made the playoffs two years in a row after missing the playoffs for three straight years before that. That has been evident once again this week when the team added a number of top AHL talent, including forwards Jean-Sebastian Dea, Curtis Lazar and C.J. Smith, defenseman John Gilmour and goaltender Andrew Hammond. The belief is that Botterill believes that AHL success should only add that needed depth that can eventually help the NHL squad as well.
- The Islanders are hoping to add to their center depth this offseason, GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters, including Newsday’s Andrew Gross. Three of their top four are set with Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, and Casey Cizikas but a vacancy was created when Valtteri Filppula left for Detroit in free agency. Lamoriello indicated they could save the spot for one of their prospects (or a couple of college players they have interest in) but it’s possible that they could look to someone like Derick Brassard or veteran Brian Boyle, players that will likely require only a short-term commitment to bring into the fold.
The New York Islanders have added some minor league depth, signing Cole Bardreau to a two-year, two-way contract. Bardreau was a Group VI unrestricted free agent this summer after failing to receive an opportunity at the NHL level with the Philadelphia Flyers. The deal carries an average annual value of $700K at the NHL level.
Bardreau, 25, was signed by the Flyers out of Cornell University in 2015 and jumped immediately into the professional ranks with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. A former member of the USNTDP and World Junior gold medalist, Bardreau has played the part of reliable two-way center for the Phantoms for the last several years but never received a chance at the NHL level. He’ll have to clear waivers to be sent down to the minors this year, but that shouldn’t be a problem if the Islanders choose to lend him to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the season.
With Robin Lehner off the market, the New York Islanders went with their backup plan and grabbed former Colorado Avalanche keeper Semyon Varlamov. The team has announced that Varlamov has agreed to a four-year contact that will carry a $5MM average annual value. Varlamov will join Thomas Greiss in an Islanders’ tandem that is the reigning Jennings Trophy winners.
Varlamov, 31, has been a dominant goaltender in the NHL at times but on the surface doesn’t look like much of an upgrade from Lehner. Starting 39 games for the Colorado Avalanche last season he posted a .909 save percentage, but has been a Vezina finalist in the past and has a career .916 mark. He certainly could experience a boost in the Barry Trotz-led defensive system, but it is the length of the deal that seems out of place. Varlamov has dealt with injuries over his career and hasn’t played in a playoff game since 2014, not exactly the workhorse talent that GM Lou Lamoriello has targeted for his teams in the past.
The veteran goaltender came in at No. 20 on our Top 50 UFA list, though we projected him for just a two-year contract worth a total of $6.5MM. That number was obviously blown out of the water by the $20MM guarantee which includes a $6MM salary in year one. The Islanders had plenty of cap space to use today and were able to re-sign captain Anders Lee in addition to Varlamov, but the day clearly didn’t go as originally planned. They’ll have to hope the tandem with Greiss can repeat last year’s performance and get them back to the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
After adding goalie Cam Talbot earlier, the Calgary Flames have addressed their depth at the other two positions, signing defenseman Brandon Davidson and forward Byron Froese, per team releases. Both veteran players have signed one-year, two-way contracts with NHL AAV’s of $700K.
Both Davidson, 27, and Froese, 28, have bounced around the hockey world of late and are hoping to find more stability by landing in Calgary. Davidson, an Alberta native, has spent two stints with the Edmonton Oilers, as well as time with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, and Chicago Blackhawks in the last four years alone. Davidson has struggled to score at the NHL level, but has shown that he can be a dominant physical force at times. Froese, from nearby Manitoba, did not see any NHL action last year, but was traded nonetheless from the Montreal Canadiens to the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the second time in three years he had been traded and Philly became his fourth team in that span, joining Montreal, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. Like Davidson, Froese has really never been more than a part-time player at the highest level due to concerns about his offensive ability. However, he has established himself as a solid two-way forward.
Given the depth that the Flames have on both the blue line and up front, the odds are the Davidson and Froese will spend much of next season with the AHL’s Stockton Heat. However, their NHL experience and reliable defensive ability should make them top call-up options for Calgary when injuries strike.