The IIHF World Championship gets underway in just a few weeks and USA Hockey has announced the first group of players that will be suiting up for them. GM Chris Drury released 17 names that will be taking part, including captain Patrick Kane. The group is an impressive list of NHL stars that could very well bring home the country’s first gold medal at the tournament in nearly 60 years. The roster so far is as follows:
With now less than two weeks remaining before the December 1st deadline for signing restricted free agents, the pressure is on in Toronto to come to a conclusion with William Nylander. While there seems to be a growing feeling that the team will not cave even if it means having him sit out the entire season–Nylander must sign by December 1st or be deemed ineligible to play at all this year—other front offices are surely circling like vultures waiting for an opportunity to acquire the young forward.
The Carolina Hurricanes have long been considered a team that will show immediate interest if Nylander is truly put out for sale, but others including the Vegas Golden Knights, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers have been linked, however tenuously, throughout the process. The latter’s interest is confirmed by Larry Brooks of the New York Post, who writes that while they should not be considered front-runners they also shouldn’t be ruled out just yet.
In fact, Brooks argues that the potential ask of young defenseman Brady Skjei in return should not deter the Rangers from pursuing Nylander at all. Though he discusses how Skjei doesn’t match exactly what the Maple Leafs are rumored to be looking for, he also points out that the Rangers shouldn’t back away from the table if his name is brought up. The 24-year old defenseman was recently scratched by the team after struggling this season, and hasn’t been able to quite replicate his outstanding 2016-17 rookie season so far.
If any team in the league is serious about prying Nylander away from the Maple Leafs, it will likely take an elite talent that can step into the Toronto lineup immediately. While defense—especially right-handed defense—remains the most obvious need, it’s not clear exactly what GM Kyle Dubas and the rest of the front office has in mind if they do make a deal. Reports have surfaced that they’ve asked teams to indicate who they wouldn’t trade, but very little has come out about the players who have been offered, if it has come to that at all.
It’s now November 18th, and the Maple Leafs are among the league leaders in several categories while finding themselves near the top of the Atlantic Division. Things have gone smoothly so far for them, but it’s getting down to crunch time on one of the biggest decisions of the year. You can bet the Rangers aren’t the only team hoping they make the call to sell.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The stand-off between restricted free agent defenseman Shea Theodore and the Vegas Golden Knights is over and ended in a way that few expected after all this time. Late last night – or early this morning for many – Theodore ended his holdout by signing a seven-year extension worth $36.4MM, per a team release. It is a flat structure without any salary fluctuation or bonuses, but does include a modified No-Trade Clause in the final two years, as reported by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. Theodore will now re-join the Knights at training camp and is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
The new contract carries a $5.2MM AAV, higher than Theodore’s reported comparable contracts of Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey and Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse. However, those two players each signed two-year bridge deals, whereas Theodore was able to land long-term security, as well as eat into unrestricted free agency years, with five extra years at a salary of close to $2MM more. The cap hit for a long-term deal is also commensurate with Theodore’s experience relative to those two, comparable to recent deals signed by the likes of Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev, Florida’s Michael Matheson, and the Rangers’ Brady Skjei. It turns out that term was actually the bigger factor in negotiations than salary, according to GM George McPhee, speaking to the media following the Knights’ preseason game last night. “I don’t know that we were ever really far apart; it was more what’s the right term. They were more interested in going shorter, we were more interested going longer,” McPhee said, adding that “When it was all laid out and explained” to Theodore, there was finally a resolution. McPhee stressed the importance of cost certainty when negotiation a long-term deal with a player they see as a major core piece moving forward, balancing cap space with commitment, and stating that he is “confident” with the long-term core they have put together.
Not long ago it seemed there was no resolution in sight between Theodore and the Golden Knights, only for a surprise long-term deal to be announced overnight. Could another contract negotiation break the same way? With Theodore signed, only the Maple Leafs’ William Nylander and the Ducks’ Nick Ritchie remain unsigned and the news out of both cities has been equally pessimistic. Yet, if Theodore can agree to deal with just some small tweaks and some inside information from management, others can too. With the regular season set to open next week, the clock is ticking for these two remaining RFA’s to make a deal.
Despite rumors this morning that former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has been cleared to talk to NHL teams, Sportsnet’s John Shannon tweets that a source told him the NHL has not cleared the 28-year-old defenseman who left the NHL in 2014 after he was suspended by the league due to a domestic abuse case.
Voynov, who has played the past three years in the KHL, has indicated he’d like to return to the NHL and looked to be close to getting that opportunity in July when he was granted an expungement of his domestic abuse conviction. The Kings still own the rights to Voynov as he currently sits on the voluntary retirement list. Assuming he gets cleared at some point, Voynov would have to find a team interested in him, which might be difficult. Then that team would have to trade for his rights as the Kings have showed no interest in bringing the blueliner back.
Shannon added that if the NHL eventually decides to allow Voynov to return, he still would face a suspension from the league. The league, union and Voynov’s agent are all discussing his return.
- Las Vegas Review Journals’ David Schoen reports there is little new information on the contract status of restricted free agent defenseman Shea Theodore. The scribe writes that with just three and a half weeks remaining until the start of training camp, there is some concern the 23-year-old blueliner might opt to hold out rather than settle. While there is no word how far apart they are in negotations, Theodore has expressed interest in signing a long-term deal and is likely to get money comparable to other deals signed by New Jersey Devils’ Damon Severson (six years, $25MM) and New York Rangers’ Brady Skjei (six years, $31.5MM), although a bridge deal isn’t out of the question either.
- After recently meeting with Russian forward Vladimir Tkachyov a couple of days ago, Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was also seen immediately after that in St. Petersburg at a preseason KHL game involving SKA, the team that Nikita Gusev plays for, tweeted international reporter Igor Eronko. The highly-touted 26-year-old, whose rights are owned by the Golden Knights, will be a free agent next season and the team has made it clear they would like to bring him over for the 2019-20 season. Gusev has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last four seasons.
- In another Golden Knights note, The Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins tweets that he’s heard a rumor that Vegas is considering offer defenseman Luca Sbisa a PTO in the coming days. Sbisa produced a solid season for the Golden Knights when he wasn’t injured. Unfortunately, Sbisa only managed to be healthy for 30 contests, but proved to be a valuable leader. His offense also improved as he had 14 points in those 30 games, good second on his career-totals.
Despite the vast improvements made by the St. Louis Blues this off-season, the common perception is that their fate still lies in the hands of goaltender Jake Allen. Last season, in the first of a new four-year, $17.4MM contract, Allen took a major step back. The 27-year-old had been a great success as a part-time goalie early in his career and looked like he was ready for full-time duty after the 2016-17 campaign, but was unable to handle the workload. Allen’s appearances actually dropped last season from 61 to 59 as backup Carter Hutton took over the starter’s job with consistent and impressive play. Allen posted a .906 save percentage and career-worst 2.75 GAA and failed to record a plus quality starts percentage. That has to change next season. As The Hockey News’ Jared Clinton writes, Allen is the key to St. Louis’ success (or failure) in 2018-19. With Hutton gone, replaced with journeyman Chad Johnson, the pressure is back on Allen to be the legitimate starter that he has shown flashes of. The Blues should be applauded for re-hauling their forward core this off-season, somehow managing to add Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Tyler Bozak, and Patrick Maroon without going over the salary cap. The team also continues to sport one of the deeper blue line’s in the league. However, they need consistent capable play out of Allen or it could be all for not. St. Louis has a contender’s roster if only they can get Allen back on track.
- Dallas Stars super-prospect Miro Heiskanen is all-in on making the team this season. The 19-year-old is just one year removed from being selected third overall in the NHL Draft and is ready to show that he was worth the selection. Stars beat writer Mark Stepenski reports that Heiskanen has already arrived in Dallas and has begun working out with teammates, including veteran leaders Jamie Benn and Ben Bishop. The young defenseman has worked hard this summer and is preparing to wow the Stars’ coaches and executives in training camp. For their part, the Stars’ decision-makers already believe that Heiskanen is ready, although they caution that there will be some adjustments to make and that expectations may be getting too high. Some have even stated that Heiskanen is a legitimate threat to No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin of the Buffalo Sabres in the upcoming Calder Trophy race. They might not be too far off; like Dahlin, Heiskanen has two years of pro experience already, in the Finnish Liiga, and possess both elite skating ability and next-level awareness and positioning. With those skills already at a pro level, it might not be too difficult of a transition for Heiskanen after all.
- The New York Rangers not only lost captain Ryan McDonagh last season, but they also lost alternate Rick Nash and head coach Alain Vigneault. In speaking with new coach David Quinn, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen discovered that the freshman bench boss would like to get to know his locker room and see how the season begins before naming a new leader. Quinn said:
“We’ve talked about it as an organization. I think a captain emerges. You don’t want to put a burden on somebody that isn’t ready for it. So I think that will just happen one way or the other. It either will happen that someone will emerge and separate themselves as someone who is clearly going to be the captain, or it won’t happen. I think that will take care of itself.”
Frequent alternates Marc Staal or Jesper Fast could emerge as favorites, but neither jumps out as a spectacular candidate for captain. Long-time forward Mats Zuccarello also wore the “A” often, but one has to wonder if it would be worth giving the “C” to a player on an expiring contract who seems unlikely to earn an extension. The same could be said for top center Kevin Hayes. While it is uncommon, Quinn could lean towards awarding the captaincy to star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who Rosen writes he has already gotten to know very well. Young defenseman Brady Skjei, fresh off of a six-year extension this summer, appears to be the cornerstone of the Rangers’ rebuild and could emerge as a top candidate. As Quinn says, only time will tell.
Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert 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 into the 2018-19 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $73,823,569 (under the $79.5MM Upper Limit)
F Pavel Buchnevich (one year remaining, $925K)
D Neal Pionk (one year remaining, $925K)
F Lias Andersson (three years remaining, $894K)
F Filip Chytil (three years remaining, $894K)
D Anthony DeAngelo (one year remaining, $863K)
G Alexandar Georgiev (two years remaining, $793K)
With the team in quick rebuild mode, there are some entry-level deals already and if the team continues to trend in that direction, they will have quite a bit more. The team’s most prominent player at the NHL level to date would be Buchnevich, who improved on his rookie campaign with a 14-goal, 43-point season last year. He saw more ice time as well, improving from 13:16 ATOI to 15:01 as well as saw significant time on the team’s power play, potting five goals and 11 assists with the man advantage and has earned himself a solid spot in the team’s top-six. Another improved season could see him being an expensive restricted free agent.
The team has high expectations for their two 2017 first-rounders in Andersson and Chytil. Both have shown excellent skills and have received some time playing for the NHL with Andersson seeing seven games, while saw nine games. Both are expected to earn time with the Rangers out of training camp, but both may find themselves on bottom-six lines unless they can prove that they can center the second or third lines in training camp.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F Kevin Hayes ($5.18MM, UFA)
F Mats Zuccarello ($4.5MM, UFA)
D Rob O’Gara ($874K, RFA)
F Cody McLeod ($750K, UFA)
D Fredrik Claesson ($863K, RFA)
F Peter Holland ($675K, UFA)
D Steven Kampfer ($650K, UFA)
G Marek Mazanec ($650K, UFA)
The team agreed to a one-year deal with Hayes, avoiding arbitration, but now face the possibility that Hayes could walk away at the end of the season as he will be unrestricted, which will force the team into two possible directions, including attempting to work out a long-term deal with the team after Jan. 1, 2019, or trading him, possibly at the trading deadline if the two sides can’t agree on anything. Hayes, who has been a jack of all trades playing multiple positions, seems to have developed into a solid center as he produced his best season ever, which included 25 goals, eight more than any previous year. The question is, do the Rangers view him as a fixture in their lineup as they continue to rebuild?
At age 30, Zuccarrello still puts up solid numbers, but despite the high-end minutes that the veteran gets, he falls into a similar category to that of Hayes where you have to ask whether he is in the team’s long-term plans. The winger is penciled in to play on the team’s top line once again, but has only put up 31 goals over the past two seasons. He does produce quite a few assists (81 over the past two years), but what the Rangers need more than anything is goals. Zuccarello will also turn 32 before he begins his next contract and at that age, how long are the Rangers willing to commit to him?
Two Years Remaining
Kreider is coming off a tough year in which he had to deal with blood clots and had surgery to relieve the pressure and missed almost two months of time. The 27-year-old didn’t have as solid of a season as he tallied just 16 goals in 58 games, which is a far cry from the 28 goals he scored in 2016-17 although a lot of that is due to the fact that his playing time dipped as the team didn’t want to play him too many minutes due to the blood clot issue. Regardless with a full offseason to rest and recuperate, Kreider should be able to bounce back as one of the team’s top scorers.
The team also have high expectations from two other forwards that the team acquired through at the trade deadline a year ago in Namestnikov and Spooner. Namestnikov was the biggest name to arrive in New York in the Ryan McDonagh trade with Tampa Bay. He was a key player for the Lightning, posting 20 goals and 44 points with them, but he actually lost playing time once he arrived in New York and put up just two goals and four points in 19 games. The team hopes that a new coach and proper training camp with his new team will make quite a difference. Spooner came over in the Rick Nash trade with Boston and has posted solid numbers with the Bruins over the past few seasons and could turn out to be a top-six wing or third-line center in New York. Between the two teams, Spooner combined for 13 goals and 28 assists.
The team also expect big things from Vesey, who signed as a undrafted collegiate free agent a couple of years ago and if finally starting to show that he belongs in the NHL. The 25-year-old winger has put up solid numbers for two years, but could find himself getting more opportunities in the team’s rebuild. In two years, he’s combined for 33 goals and 55 points.
7:04 p.m.: CapFriendly released a breakdown of Skjei’s new six-year, $31.5MM contract, which will have a $28.5MM base salary as well as $3MM in signing bonus money. Here is the breakdown:
2018-19: $4.7M Base + $1M SB
2019-20: $4.4M Base + $1M SB
2020-21: $4.2M Base
2021-22: $4.4M Base + $1M SB
2022-23: $5.4M Base
2023-24: $5.4M Base
11:33 a.m.: The Rangers have locked up a key part of their back end, announcing that they have re-signed defenseman Brady Skjei to a six-year contract, avoiding salary arbitration. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports (Twitter link) that the deal carries a $5.25MM cap hit.
The 24-year-old was the only Ranger to play in all 82 games last season. While his production dipped from 39 points to 25 (4-21-25), he took on a lot larger of a role on New York’s back end, jumping from 17:28 of playing time per game to 21:02. Skjei was also only one of eight NHL players to record at least 150 shots, 125 hits, and 115 blocks.
With Ryan McDonagh now in Tampa Bay, it’s likely that the Rangers will be relying on Skjei even more next season and beyond. New York still has Kevin Shattenkirk and Marc Staal as veterans on their blueline but with their stated goal of rebuilding around their younger nucleus, there’s a good chance that Skjei could be tasked with the number one role in 2018-19 and for several years after that.
The signing now gives the Rangers just two remaining restricted free agents to re-sign in centers Kevin Hayes and Ryan Spooner. Both are slated for arbitration hearings next week with Hayes scheduled for August 2nd and Spooner for August 4th.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We’re getting closer to turning the calendar over to August, and there is still a lot of work to do for teams around the NHL. 10 arbitration cases remain unsettled, including for star players like William Karlsson and Mark Stone. Both will be extremely interesting to follow, as their respective teams have tough decisions on their hands.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, do you hand out a long-term expensive contract to a player that is still relatively unproven. Though Karlsson scored 43 goals this season he had just 18 career tallies beforehand, and finished this season with an impossible 23.4% shooting percentage. There is almost no chance that he can maintain that rate going forward, meaning his huge 2017-18 season may be a career-high. On the other side of that coin though is the increased opportunity he was given after switching teams, which could provide a realistic chance for him to be a 30-goal, 65-point player going forward. Signing him now would likely get you a bit of a discount on that type of scoring threat, though Vegas would assume almost all of the risk.
In Ottawa, there’s no clear direction on how the team will deal with Stone’s impending unrestricted free agency. Obviously one of the team’s most talented players, an arbitration award of one year would stop the Senators from negotiating with Stone’s camp until January on any potential extension and could make him a prime trade candidate. The 26-year old posted his fourth consecutive 20-goal season in 2017-18 despite playing in just 58 games. With all the turmoil in Ottawa it could be difficult to convince him to stick around long-term.
Beyond the arbitration cases though there is an incredible amount of talent left on the RFA board. Dylan Larkin, William Nylander, Sam Reinhart, Shea Theodore, Josh Morrissey and many others remain unsigned and could all be looking at expensive long-term deals with their respective clubs. These players are already excellent players in the NHL before they’ve even become eligible for arbitration and could really grind the offseason to a halt if they decide to hold out. There’s no indication that anyone is planning a long negotiation, but we’re now almost a month into the signing period without any deals.
Below is the full list of unsigned restricted free agents:
Ondrej Kase (ANA)
Nick Ritchie (ANA)
Marek Langhamer (ARZ)
Sam Reinhart (BUF)
Noah Hanifin (CGY)
Garnet Hathaway (CGY) – Scheduled for arbitration, July 30
Hunter Shinkaruk (CGY)
Patrik Nemeth (COL) – Scheduled for arbitration, August 4
Gemel Smith (DAL) – Scheduled for arbitration, August 1
Dylan Larkin (DET)
Matt Puempel (DET)
Darnell Nurse (EDM)
Michael McCarron (MTL)
Kerby Rychel (MTL)
Miikka Salomaki (NSH) – Scheduled for arbitration, August 2
Kevin Rooney (NJD)
Steven Santini (NJD)
Miles Wood (NJD)
Kevin Hayes (NYR) – Scheduled for arbitration, August 2
Ryan Spooner (NYR) – Scheduled for arbitration, August 4
Cody Ceci (OTT) – Scheduled for arbitration, August 1
Mark Stone (OTT) – Scheduled for arbitration, August 3
Robert Hagg (PHI)
Jordan Schmaltz (STL)
William Nylander (TOR)
William Karlsson (VGK) – Scheduled for arbitration, August 4
Shea Theodore (VGK)
Eric Comrie (WPG)
Nicolas Kerdiles (WPG)
J.C. Lipon (WPG)
Josh Morrissey (WPG)
Nic Petan (WPG)
Almost four dozen players decided to file for salary arbitration this summer, and while some of them have already been signed to contracts many others now know when their hearing will take place. The NHLPA released the full schedule of hearings, spread out from July 20th to August 4th. Remember that players can sign up until an arbitrator awards a contract, including in the short window after the hearing.
Jacob Trouba – Team filing: $4.0MM, Player filing: $7.0MM. Awarded one-year, $5.5MM contract.
Brett Kulak – Team filing: $650K, two-way contract, Player filing: $1.15MM, one-way contract. Awarded one-year, $850K contract.
Brandon Montour – Team filing: $1.5MM, Player filing: $4.5MM Settled before hearing, two years $6.775MM
Garnet Hathaway – Team filing: $650K, Player filing: $975K Settled before hearing, one-year $850K
Mark Stone – Team filing: $5.0MM, Player filing $9.0MM Settled before hearing, one-year, $7.35MM
William Karlsson – Team filing: $3.5MM, Player filing $6.5MM
The New York Rangers have made a few changes, but so far remain quiet this offseason as the real changes the team has made has been in their coaching staff. From new head coach David Quinn to assistant coaches Greg Brown and David Oliver, the team expects many of the changes to be within the organization as new coaches mean using players in different ways, which could see several players see big improvements.
Shayna Goldman of The Athletic (subscription required) breaks down some of the changes the coaching staff intends to implement this season and suggests the team could get boosts in performance from multiple players, targeting Kevin Hayes, Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk. Assuming Hayes isn’t traded this offseason as has been rumored, the team could see him take another step in his development.
Shifted into a shutdown role more recently, Hayes has been successful, but he has the skills to be a top offensive forward if needed, which could happen this season. Buchnevich is another offensive force who has been slowed by injuries, while the team has high expectations for Skjei and Shattenkirk (finally healthy) to return to form as top-four defenders.
- The Athletic’s Josh Yohe (subscription required) explains the reasoning behind the Pittsburgh Penguins’ recent signing of center Derek Grant. While there has been recent talk about the excessive amount of centers the team has, there have been even more after the team added Grant. Yet, Yohe writes that the Penguins feel the team needs as many centers as they can find for depth purposes and that Grant could find himself playing either center or wing, depending on how training camp shakes out. However, the possibility the team might still make a late offseason trade remains a legitimate possibility, suggesting that Derick Brassard could be moved still.
- The Athletic’s Nick Kelly (subscription required) writes that Pittsburgh Penguins Jake Guentzel is enjoying his offseason this year, while playing in Da Beauty League, because he got some extra time off when the Penguins were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs this past year. While he has no wish to get that extra time off again, Guentzel has spent his time this offseason in the weight room in hopes of becoming a more well-rounded player. He hopes to take his game to the next level after a full season in which he tallied 22 goals and 48 points last year. However, he scored just two goals in his final 20 games, suggesting he needs to work on his strength and conditioning to take that next step.
- Newsday’s Andrew Gross writes that the New York Islanders Joshua Ho-Sang should get a clean slate with a new coaching staff and management coming into the fold. Ho-Sang is expected to take on a full-time roll with the organization this year after he spent most of last season in the AHL due to issues with Ho-Sang’s attitude. The 22-year-old criticized management about how they were handling their development. He started the season in New York, posting solid numbers, including two goals and 12 points in 22 games, but was sent down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to work on other parts of his game and played 50 games there, but struggled at times, finishing with just eight goals.