After re-signing two depth players, Tomas Nosek and Brandon Pirri, as well as adding Patrick Brown, the cap-strapped Golden Knights continue to make minor additions where they can on the fringes of the roster. The team has announced that, in addition to Brown, three other new players are set to join the organization in forward Tyrell Goulbourne and defensemen Brett Lernout and Jaycob Megna. The trio each signed two-way deals worth $700K, with Goulbourne signing on for two years and the blue liners each at just one.
Pirri, 28, can’t seem to convince anyone to reward him with consistent playing time despite scoring at every level. In 31 games for the Golden Knights last season he recorded 12 goals, and has 72 in 259 games despite averaging fewer than 14 minutes a night for his career. The second-round pick can flat out score goals, and he’ll be a depth weapon for the Golden Knights to insert into the lineup whenever they have the opportunity. Unfortunately Pirri has never been trusted to play a complete game at both ends of the rink, and may never earn the kind of big contract that players with his goal scoring talent usually command.
Nosek, 26, took a much different path to the Golden Knights, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Red Wings and winning a Calder Cup in the AHL before being selected in the expansion draft. He registered 17 points in 68 games for Vegas last season playing in a fourth-line role, and will be back to likely fill the same this season. The 6’3″ winger doesn’t bring a ton of offensive skill, but can do enough little things right to receive regular playing time from head coach Gerard Gallant.
The Chicago Blackhawks have added a depth forward, signing Ryan Carpenter to a three-year deal. The contract carries just a $1MM average annual value, giving the team an inexpensive center to plug into the bottom-six.
Carpenter signed with the San Jose Sharks after three years at Bowling Green State University and had trouble cracking the San Jose Sharks’ lineup, playing just 27 NHL games for them over three seasons before the Sharks opted to place him on waivers. He was claimed back in 2017 by the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season and his physicality and offensive ability earned him a spot on the team’s bottom six as he scored nine goals in 36 games and returned for a full season last year. Carpenter played in a career-high 68 games, but found himself often scratched late in the season as Vegas was rotating him and a number of other forwards in and out of their third line, including Brandon Pirri, Tomas Nosek and Valentin Zykov, although Carpenter also was able to fill in on the team’s fourth line as well. With the addition of Nikita Gusev, Carpenter was expendable.
In Chicago, the 28-year-old should find a more permanent home on the Blackhawks’ fourth line. The team just added forward Andrew Shaw, who will likely center that line. Carpenter should add that combination of physical play with some offensive ability. Regardless, he’ll have to hold off a number of players who will be looking for playing time, including John Quenneville, Dylan Sikura, Dominik Kubalik, Anton Wedin.
Last summer saw the launch of the Chicago Pro Hockey League (CPHL), a charitable offseason league meant to give fans a chance to see some of their favorite players for a reasonable price and give professionals a real game environment to hone their skills. Players like Vinnie Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman will return to the league this time around, though several other interesting names will be taking part. Perhaps most notable is Kendall Coyne-Schofield, who will be playing in the Pro Division after impressing at the All-Star festivities earlier this year. Coyne-Schofield has a long history of domination in women’s hockey, including seven World Championship medals, two Olympic medals and an Isobel Cup as NWHL champion this past season. She was also part of the recent boycott, which indicated that she and more than 200 other top women’s players will not play in the NWHL this year.
The full rosters:
Centric Wealth Management:
G Cam Rowe
Jack Phelan Auto Group:
Games will be played on Wednesday nights starting in July and proceeds will go to various charities including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Special Olympics Chicago.
Golden Knights winger Brandon Pirri made quite an impact upon being recalled from the AHL partway through the season and finished up with an impressive 18 points in 31 games. Accordingly, he indicated to SinBin.vegas’ Ken Boehlke that he will be looking to sign with a team that’s willing to give him a full-time NHL opportunity. While that’s certainly justifiable given how he performed with Vegas, it also increases the likelihood that he’ll be looking elsewhere for next season considering he still spent time as a healthy scratch in both the regular season and the playoffs. Considering their cap situation for next year, it’s also likely that Pirri – who made the league minimum $650K salary this season – will get a contract richer than what Vegas can afford.
More from the West:
- It appears some changes are on the horizon in Colorado. On top of planning to be more aggressive in adding via free agency, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports that all five Avalanche unrestricted free agents are unlikely to return for next season. Their list of UFAs is headlined by goaltender Semyon Varlamov who lost the number one role to Philipp Grubauer and he will certainly be looking for an opportunity elsewhere. Up front, Derick Brassard and Colin Wilson appear to be on the way out with some young forwards close to making the jump while blueliner Patrik Nemeth is in a similar situation. Gabriel Bourque is the other regular on the roster that could walk and while he could re-sign at a rate close to the $950K he made this season, it’s also quite possible that they opt to try someone else in his role.
- It appears that the Oilers are hoping to be active on the international free agent market. Postmedia’s Jim Matheson notes that Edmonton is eyeing a few European free agent forwards. As their cap space is limited for next season, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to afford some impact wingers so it’s not surprising to see them look overseas in the hopes that someone can potentially step in and play right away while likely being on an entry-level deal; any European player aged 27 or younger is subject to the entry level system.
The Vegas Golden Knights have gone from an empty expansion team roster to a cap crunch sooner than anyone could have expected. The defending Western Conference champs are enjoying another strong season and made a major splash at the trade deadline, acquiring Mark Stone and subsequently signing him to an eight-year, $76MM extension. GM George McPhee made the move knowing that the majority of the roster was locked up through next season and beyond and he would not be forcing anyone out by adding a $9.5MM cap hit to the payroll; or so he hopes. The other side of that coin is the lack of free agents who could depart Vegas naturally this off-season leaves little cap flexibility for the one major extension the team needs to make: top line center and impending restricted free agent William Karlsson.
Karlsson, 26, bet on himself this past year when he signed a one-year, $5.25MM deal with Vegas following a breakout 78-point campaign. He hasn’t quite replicated those numbers this season, but with 44 points through 71 games, Karlsson is on a 51-point pace and has at least proven that he is a reliable contributor and will almost certainly be able to command a raise in his next deal, which is likely to be a long-term pact.
The only problem is that CapFriendly currently projects Vegas to have negative cap space next season. Of course, this does not take into account a likely bump in the cap ceiling nor does it exclude the cap hit of the injured David Clarkson, but the Knights have joined the select few teams who are in a legitimate cap crunch, where the salary they need to add to complete their roster does not match up with the space they expect to work with. For now, McPhee is waiting to see what his options are before moving forward in talks with Karlsson. The Athletic’s Jesse Granger reports that the two sides have not talked contract yet and do not plan to until after the season. Even if early discussions go smoothly, that timeline almost assures that Karlsson will again file for arbitration and bad decision for the team side could cause major problems.
As a result, Granger expects the team to work quickly to move out salary this off-season. In addition to Karlsson, Tomas Nosek and Malcolm Subban are also restricted free agents, while veteran leader Deryk Engelland and goal scorer Brandon Pirri are among the UFA’s they might be interested in re-signing. It’s a group of players that each made no more than $1.5MM this season, but new deals even at those same values add up in addition to Karlsson’s demands. Granger expects the Knights to have $5.75MM in cap space, which is likely not enough to re-sign Karlsson, nevertheless these supporting pieces as well. The team could also use an upgrade at backup goalie, moving on from Subban for a more established piece.
So who could be on the move to help clear up space? Granger points to bottom-six forwards Ryan Reaves and Cody Eakin as the most likely trade casualties. Although Reaves is valued more for his checking game and willingness to defend his teammates, his nearly $3MM salary is hard to swallow given his paltry offensive contributions. Vegas could find a much cheaper option to fill Reaves’ role. Eakin is sixth in scoring for the Golden Knights this season, but is seemingly locked into a fourth-line center slot moving forward which doesn’t match up nicely with his contract of just under $4MM. Granger points out that both Reaves’ and Eakin’s contract expires after next season, so moving them may not be hard. However, McPhee could opt to deal from a greater position of strength: Vegas’ surplus of defensemen. The team could try to trade Colin Miller, who costs slightly more than Eakin against the cap and has taken a step back in his development this year. The 26-year-old is signed for three more years, but there are surely teams out there who would still be willing to take a chance on his upside. Other possibilities to clear cap space, albeit smaller amounts, are defenseman Jon Merrill and forward William Carrier.
Whatever McPhee decides to do, it is clear that he must move some salary out and the sooner the better once the off-season gets underway. The Golden Knights’ focus is elsewhere right now, but if this promising team is to keep their core together and continue their impressive start to the franchise, they need to do what it takes to keep Karlsson around long-term, even if it costs them in the short-term to do so.
With the halfway point of the season now behind us and the trade deadline fast approaching, the All-Star break seemed like the perfect time to take a preliminary look at the UFA Class of 2019. These rankings are based on votes from writers Gavin Lee, Brian La Rose, Zach Leach and Holger Stolzenberg. We ran the top-10 yesterday, and spots 11-20 a few days ago.
Today, we’ll look at those names that just missed the cut but will still be interesting options this summer. All of these players were included on at least one ballot, but did not accumulate enough points to crack the top 20.
Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers — Included on two of the four ballots and sitting as high as 15th, Zuccarello would probably make it into the top-20 most years. Unfortunately he hasn’t really been able to take advantage of the increased opportunity in New York this season, recording just 24 points in 35 games through the first part of the year. The versatile forward has always been a reliable presence in the Rangers’ attack, but he hasn’t looked the part of a 20-goal scorer for several years and this year has just 13 even-strength points. A foot infection has come at the worst time for both player and team, as Zuccarello was working on a five-game point streak through the middle of January and was improving his trade stock greatly. A strong finish on a playoff contender could certainly help his free agent market.
Alex Edler, Vancouver Canucks — It’s hard to vote for Edler as a free agent, given how adamant both sides have been about the potential of the veteran defenseman ending his career in Vancouver. Still, he made it onto one ballot all the way up at #14 earning him a place on our honorable mentions. The oft-injured Edler has been good again this year when in the lineup, but is about to turn 33 and has been clear about his desire to stay with the Canucks. If they can’t find a middle ground, there will be teams hoping Edler can find a way to stave off his decline a few more years—look for a deal similar to the ones Ron Hainsey and Trevor Daley signed in 2017.
Robin Lehner, New York Islanders — 15-7-4, .931 save percentage and a 2.02 goals against average. Still only good enough to get Lehner onto a single ballot. The former Buffalo Sabres starter has turned heads this year, but given that he’s only played in 27 games there should still be plenty of doubt over whether he can handle the load. If Lehner continues to find success down the stretch and leads the Islanders back to the playoffs—and perhaps a series win—someone will find the room to make him a starting goaltender offer in the summer. Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is notorious for finding a premiere goaltender to start as frequently as possible. Whether he believes Lehner can be that is still to be seen.
Derick Brassard, Pittsburgh Penguins — Hard to believe that last season Brassard was one of the most sought after assets at the trade deadline, and now can’t even get on more than a single ballot. A year in Pittsburgh has not been good for the veteran center, as he has recorded just 27 points in 66 games including a dismal performance in the playoffs. Brassard is obviously not a fit in Pittsburgh, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be interest in him should he reach free agency. The question is how many years is a team willing to offer for a player who will be 32 before the 2019-20 season begins and is likely coming off his worst season in the NHL.
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings — On just a single ballot, Howard is another player overshadowed by the talent available at his position. A warrior for the Red Wings for parts of the last 13 seasons, it’s hard to imagine that a team will be willing to pay up for a 35-year old goaltender. Re-signing in Detroit as a part-time starter might make the most sense, especially since they obviously value him quite highly. Howard is still playing well enough to take a team to the playoffs, but betting he’ll be able to do that again going forward is a pretty risky gamble.
Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning — Overlooked for basically his whole career, Stralman was another who received just a single vote. Despite seeming like he’s been in the league for decades, the veteran defenseman won’t turn 33 until August and is still playing excellent hockey for the best team in the NHL. Sure, his game has slowed a bit since he was a 30+ point defenseman, but teams are always looking for right-handed depth on the blue line and Stralman brings over 100 games of playoff experience. If the Lightning can bring home a Stanley Cup it would only further cement his place as a viable free agent option for any contender.
Brandon Pirri, Vegas Golden Knights — It’s not often that a player who has spent much of the season in the minor leagues receives a vote as one of the top free agents, but Pirri has been an unusual case for his entire career. The simple fact is that he can flat out score, has shown by his eight goals and 13 points in 14 games for the Golden Knights this year. No one is going to be handing out a long-term big money deal, but Pirri has done enough work to improve his game away from the puck that there will be interest. That is, if the Golden Knights don’t extend him themselves.
It’s another busy day in the NHL with 24 teams in action, including the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks who are battling for position in the Pacific Division. As teams prepare for tonight we’ll be right here keeping track of all the minor moves.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo once again, who will serve as backup for Michael Hutchinson tonight. Frederik Andersen is close to returning for Toronto but will be held out of at least one more contest as he continues to rehab from a groin injury. Kaskisuo played yesterday for the Toronto Marlies, and has still not received a single start in the NHL.
- Mackenzie MacEachern scored twice for the San Antonio Rampage last night and today he’s headed to the NHL. The St. Louis Blues have recalled the 24-year old forward for the first time this season. MacEachern is still waiting for his NHL debut, but has 15 points in 31 games for the Rampage this season.
- With Mike Green returning to the Detroit Red Wings lineup, the team has sent Brian Lashoff back to the minor leagues. Lashoff has been bouncing up and down, but is still waiting for his first chance to actually play in an NHL game this season.
- Brandon Pirri was returned to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. However, hours later, he was recalled to Vegas, per the AHL’s Transactions Page. Pirri has scored seven goals and ten points in his eight appearances for the Golden Knights, but is in a tough situation as one of the only waiver-exempt players on the roster. Should Pirri play two more games with the Golden Knights he would become waiver eligible again.
- Troy Grosenick has been recalled under emergency conditions by the Nashville Predators. He’s taking the place of Juuse Saros who is day-to-day due to illness.
Another week begins in the NHL with a five-game slate including a prime time matchup between the Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs. Both teams are among the very best in the league this season but find themselves behind their division leader at the midway mark. As always, we’ll keep track of all the minor moves that lead up to tonight’s games.
- Those Maple Leafs have recalled Kasimir Kaskisuo under emergency conditions once again, indicating that Frederik Andersen will not be healthy enough to suit up tonight. The team will go with Michael Hutchinson in net once again, after Kaskisuo allowed five goals in a start for the Toronto Marlies yesterday afternoon.
- Darren Archibald has been recalled by the Ottawa Senators, a quick promotion for the minor league forward after being acquired earlier this month. Archibald came over in the Anders Nillson trade with the Vancouver Canucks, and will get an NHL opportunity in Ottawa.
- Brandon Pirri has been recalled by the Vegas Golden Knights, after William Carrier was moved to injured reserve. If Pirri plays three more games with Vegas he’ll need to pass through waivers again before being sent down.
- All three players on waivers yesterday—Nikita Scherbak, Chris Wideman and Jordan Schmaltz—have been reassigned to the minor leagues. The St. Louis Blues have recalled Samuel Blais in Schmaltz’ place.
- Ben Street has been recalled by the Anaheim Ducks, just a few days after clearing waivers. Street has played 21 games for the Ducks this season, recording five points. The Ducks have also recalled Jake Dotchin, who similarly cleared waivers earlier this season.
- The New Jersey Devils have sent John Quenneville back to the AHL, another setback in a career that just can’t seem to take the next step. Quenneville remains a talented prospect for the Devils, but now has played 17 NHL games the last two seasons without recording a single point. New Jersey has recalled Egor Yakovlev to fill the roster spot.
It’s hard to perform any better than Brandon Pirri has when he was finally given an opportunity of late. The veteran forward had nine points in a seven-game stint with the Vegas Golden Knights, including six goals. Still, he’s on his way back to the minor leagues today as the Golden Knights will welcome Max Pacioretty back off of injured reserve. Pirri was still waiver exempt and was the only real choice the team had to make room on the roster unless they wanted to expose another player. That will cost him a job for now, but he’s clearly made an impression on the team. Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon told David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Pirri “will be back.”
Pirri is one of the most interesting cases of a goal scoring talent that can’t seem to find a home in the entire NHL. Originally a second-round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, Pirri went the collegiate route for just one season before jumping straight to professional hockey. He found success immediately at the minor league level and has routinely been among the AHL’s best players whenever he’s there. In fact, through 323 AHL games Pirri has scored 293 points including an incredible 41 in just 28 games this season. The sniper also has produced a fair amount at the NHL level, even posting a 22-goal season in just 49 games for the Florida Panthers in 2014-15.
Still, that offensive upside has come with very real defensive concerns and teams have repeatedly given up on him throughout his career. When he signed a two-way deal with the Golden Knights in 2017, he found himself back in Chicago with the team’s AHL affiliate and worked hard for his recent opportunity. Though being sent down is obviously an obstacle, it’s hard for the team to argue with the production. You can bet with the next injury Vegas suffers Pirri will be back up, perhaps for good this time.
If he plays in three more games with the team, Pirri would need to clear waivers once again. Though it’s obviously possible, given the lack of previous interest around the league, the Golden Knights may not want to risk it.