The NHL has revealed the nominees for another award, naming Deryk Engelland, Wayne Simmonds and Blake Wheeler finalists for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award. The award is given “to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season.”
The Vancouver Canucks extended their general manager Jim Benning today, rewarding the work he’s done to start a rebuild around a new core of young players. Speaking with media at the press conference (via Rick Dhaliwal of News 1130), Benning reiterated that he’s been working the phones to try and make his team better and will use free agency to “add players who will help support the young players.”
Heading into the trade deadline, the Canucks have a few expiring contracts to auction off in Thomas Vanek and Erik Gudbranson, while big decisions will still have to be made over the future of Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The twins are pending free agents and will turn 38 before next season, but could still be brought back to provide that support to Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and the rest of the young Vancouver players. “Picks and prospects are going to be like gold” says Benning when asked about the trade deadline, an exciting prospect for fans hoping for no quick fixes.
- Speaking of GMs trying to fix a struggling franchise, Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers said on Sportsnet radio yesterday that he’ll only look for long-term benefits at the trade deadline and avoid “kneejerk reactions.” The Panthers have played better of late, but still find themselves well out of the race in the Atlantic Division. Though a wildcard spot is still definitely within reach, it doesn’t sound like Florida is willing to spend at the deadline to try and get over that hump.
- The NHL handed out several fines today, issuing maximum penalties to Madison Bowey, Dustin Byfuglien and Deryk Engelland for separate incidents. The three players will face harsher penalties in the future, and draw a watchful eye from the Department of Player Safety.
If there were any last thoughts that the Vegas Golden Knights – who are on pace to be the best expansion team in sports history – would be sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline, they went out the window with the team’s convincing 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. Tampa, who sits atop the league standings with 65 points, is now just two points ahead of Vegas, with the Knights holding a game in hand. Not only is Vegas playoff-bound in their first season, but they have a legitimate chance at the President’s Trophy. Unbelievably, they have a chance at a Stanley Cup title in their inaugural season as well.
For that reason, the idea of the team selling off their impending unrestricted free agents like James Neal, David Perron, or Luca Sbisa has become unthinkable. Despite the long-term benefits that trading away those players for picks and prospects may have on the young franchise, GM George McPhee is surely unwilling at this point to take the wind out of his team’s sails when they truly feel they can win it all in 2018. There is some evidence already that this team is happy with it’s current roster and more interested in extensions than blockbusters. Deryk Engelland and Jonathon Merrill recently signed new deals and the team is reportedly focused on an extension for Neal. The current Golden Knights roster is unlikely to change this season.
That just may include additions as well. For the same reason some are holding out that the Knights will be sellers is the same reason they are extremely unlikely to be buyers too. In just their first year existence, Vegas is in no position to be dealing away picks and prospects. While most teams are already stocked with prospects, Vegas has just their 2017 selections and a few free agent signings to build off. Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Jake Leschyshyn, Erik Brannstrom, and Nicolas Hague are nothing to laugh at, but the team needs to focus on quantity just as much as quality among their junior-level prospects. Their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, has been a middling team this season (currently 18th in the league), and that’s with a veteran free agent signing leading the team in scoring in Brandon Pirri and another team’s goalie as their starter in Kasimir Kaskisuo. Tomas Hyka may be the only prospect on the Chicago roster to ever make a noticeable difference in Vegas. The Stanley Cup is the toughest championship in sports to win and even a number one seed only gives the Knights the same shot that 15 other teams get, not a guaranteed trip to the final. In short, Vegas cannot afford to give up talented top prospects, nor can they give up the draft picks needed to keep filling out the system, for a greater chance at a a difficult title to claim.
The Vegas Golden Knights are rolling right now, playing far better in 2017-18 than anyone could have ever possibly imagined. There is no way they are sellers at the deadline but, due to the constraints of being an expansion franchise, they are unlikely to be sellers either. Like the old saying goes though, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Vegas is no less threatening this season or moving forward if they do indeed stand pat this season.
The Vegas Golden Knights have locked up another pending free agent, signing Deryk Engelland to a one-year, $1.5MM extension. The deal also includes up to $1MM in performance bonuses according to CapFriendly, similar to the deal he is currently on. Engelland was set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, but has revitalized his career with the Golden Knights and been a huge part of their success on and off the ice.
Engelland was perhaps a surprise selection by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft, seeing as he was already an unrestricted free agent after playing last season with the Calgary Flames. There was a method to their madness however, as Engelland right from the start has been marketed as a hometown boy making good. Engelland is from Edmonton, but played for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL and makes his home in Las Vegas during the offseason. He’s taken on a leadership role with the team, helping players get comfortable in the city.
He’s also been much more than just a placeholder on the ice. The big, physical defenseman has been a mainstay on the blueline for Vegas, logging nearly 20 minutes a night and contributing 13 points in 41 games. Easily on pace to break his career-high of 17 points, he also leads the team in shorthanded ice time and is a +9 on the season.
The $1.5MM figure is an interesting one for Engelland, who is making just $1MM in salary this season but has a potential to earn another $1MM in performance bonuses. It’s unclear what those bonuses actually are, but should he hit all of them this year but not next, he actually could be taking a pay cut to return. Though he’ll be 36 when the 2018-19 season begins, the Golden Knights will gladly keep him around even as his skills diminish, if only for his impact on the early connection of the franchise to the city.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs making stops in Calgary on Tuesday and Edmonton on Thursday, the rivalry between those Canadian Eastern and Western Conference matchups are off the charts. The Athletic’s James Mirtle (subscription required) wonders if it wouldn’t be a smart idea to change the conferences, especially down the road when the Quebec Nordiques return to the NHL.
The scribe’s suggestion is create an all-Canadian conference to replace the Central Division, moving all eight Canadian teams including the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Quebec City in the same division. Non-Canadian Central Division teams would be moved to either the Atlantic Division or the Pacific Division where the Canadian teams left holes.
There would be two key outcomes to this move, including increased revenue as rivalry matchups in 34 out of each team’s 82-game schedule will increase ratings and increase ticket sales. Currently, Canadian teams only play 16 games against in-country rivals. Playoffs would also promote multiple Canada-vs.-Canada rivalries and also would increase TV ratings.
Mirtle mentions some downsides to realigning the divison, which would include increased travel times for other teams such as the Minnesota Wild if they were moved to the Pacific Divison, but still feels the NHL should seriously look into that over the next few years.
- The Dallas Stars will be without wing Antoine Roussel, who is expected to miss tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks with the flu, according to coach Ken Hitchock. The coach added that Roussel is day-to-day regarding Sunday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Roussel has three goals and eight points in 25 games for Dallas.
- Las Vegas Review-Journal’s David Schoen writes that Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland remains day-to-day after suffering an injury to his hand in Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. The 35-year-old blueliner missed last night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. He has two goals and nine points in 24 games this season and has been a key piece to the expansion team’s successful run so far this year.
- Craig Morgan of NHL.com tweets that Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said that defenseman Jakob Chychrun might play Sunday against the Vegas Golden Knights. The 2016 first-round pick hasn’t played this year and is currently on a conditioning stint with the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL. He had knee surgery in August and would make a big addition the Coyotes defensive core. He played 68 games for Arizona last year as an 18-year-old.
With the Matt Duchene trade in the books for a week now, The Hockey News’ Lyle Richardson writes that the Edmonton Oilers are one of three teams to watch over the next couple of months when it comes to making a big move. Citing the league’s need for playmaking centers, the scribe suggests the team could try and move center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his large contract ($6MM AAV through the 2020-21 season) and try to get a much-needed wing.
Richardson cites Edmonton as well as the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Buffalo Sabres as the three teams most likely to make the next big trade in the league. In fact, he suggested the Oilers attempt to move Nugent-Hopkins to Columbus, who were the losers in getting either Duchene or Kyle Turris via trade. However, could the Blue Jackets fit Nugent-Hopkins under their salary cap without Edmonton retaining some of that salary? The suggestion was the Oilers would either require Cam Atkinson or Josh Anderson in return to make that deal work.
Nugent-Hopkins has been playing well this year as he’s put up six goals and six assists this season. Known as a defensive forward, the former No. 1 overall pick could be a key asset for Columbus or any other team needing a center.
- Los Angeles Times’ Curtis Zupke writes that veteran forward Marian Gaborik got his first full practice under his belt Saturday after having knee surgery back in April. The 35-year-old is not expected to be activated soon as the Kings are taking a cautious approach with the injury-prone winger, who has had knee and foot issues over the last two years, which has seen him play 110 games in the past two-plus seasons. “I felt pretty good,” he said. “Things have been getting into flow. Obviously I’ve missed a lot of time so [I need to] get used to everything — my legs, just the whole body as a hockey player, to get back into things, and to just keep going and ramping things up, and get my timing back. It’s pretty much the whole package I have to get back.”
- Vegas Golden Knights’ goaltender Malcolm Subban was spotted skating at City National Arena today, tweeted SinBin. Subban, who went down with a lower-body injury, was deemed out for four weeks on Oct. 22, so it looks like he might be on target for a return within the next couple of weeks. The team has been forced to use their fourth-string goaltender, Maxime Lagace, for the past two weeks as the team has been decimated by injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury, Subban and Oscar Dansk.
- Sticking with the Golden Knights, The Canadian Press’ Darren Haynes points out that Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland has more points (2-7-9) than quite a few defensemen, including San Jose Brent Burns, Nashville’s Roman Josi and Calgary Mark Giordano. Engelland, who played for the old Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL earlier in his career and made Las Vegas his home from that point on, has never put up more than 17 points in a season. Always known as a defensive player, the 35-year-old has been reborn in Las Vegas, who is just eight points away from a career-year.
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 2017-18 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: $69,375,832 (under the $75MM Upper Limit)
While the brand-new franchise is focused on building up a powerhouse team over the next five years, which means draft picks and more draft picks, which will create a revolving door at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, there should be at least one constant who is already locked in for the future in Theodore. The just-turned 22-year-old is considered to be a long-term piece and despite the team’s overwhelming defensive logjam, the hope is Theodore is on the team’s opening day roster. Theodore shined last year during Anaheim’s playoff run when he along with several other defenseman had to step in for injured players and fared well. Theodore, a offensive defenseman, was a first-round pick of the Ducks in 2013 and despite having just nine points in 39 regular season games last year, he put up eight goals in 14 playoff games.
Tuch, a talented forward acquired near the expansion draft in a side deal with the Minnesota Wild, has a chance to immediately make the team out of training camp. The 21-year-old wing was a first-round pick in 2014 and scored 18 goals for the AHL’s Iowa Wild last year.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F James Neal ($5MM, UFA)
F Mikhail Grabovski ($5MM, UFA)
D Jason Garrison ($4.6MM, UFA)
F David Perron ($3.75MM, UFA)
D Luca Sbisa ($3.6MM, UFA)
D Clayton Stoner ($3.25MM, UFA)
D Brayden McNabb ($1.7MM, UFA)
D Jonathon Merrill ($1.14MM, RFA)
F William Karlsson ($1MM, RFA)
D Colin Miller ($1MM, RFA)
D Deryk Engelland ($1MM, UFA)
G Calvin Pickard ($1MM, RFA)
F Jon Marchessault ($750K, UFA)
F Teemu Pulkkinen ($700K, RFA)
The Golden Knights will be looking to move as many of their players at the trade deadline as they can. Neal should be their biggest trade bait as many teams wouldn’t mind adding a goal-scorer right in time for the playoffs. The 30-year-old wing is coming off a 23-goal season in Nashville and has scored 165 goals in the last six seasons combined. The team hopes that playing on a top line should keep his scoring numbers up high so that his price increases at the perfect time, but a recent report that a wrist injury suffered during the playoffs last year is still affecting Neal and he will miss two to four weeks is concerning. The team also has high hopes it can move Perron. After putting up a career-high 28 goals in 2013-14, he has struggled with injuries but rebounded last year with an 18 goal season. If he can stay healthy and produce similar numbers, he might be worth a mid to late pick.
One key decision the team will have to make is what to do with Marchessault, who is coming off a 30-goal season a year ago in Florida. At $750K, he is a bargain for the next year, but if he can duplicate his numbers from last year, he would be in line for a big payday. Complicating the situation is that Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant is a big fan of the 26-year-old and was the head coach in Florida wlast year when Marchessault started his breakout season.
The team also has a number of restricted free agents who they will likely hold onto. While Pickard’s name is rarely mentioned in Vegas as he is the current backup, don’t be surprised if Pickard is penciled in as the goaltender of the future. The 25-year-old struggled with Colorado last year (although he did have one of the worst teams around him), but was a promising prospect before that. Miller is another who should be retained. The 24-year-old was a promising defender in Boston who was just beginning to get full-time work. He got into 61 games last year and showed quite a bit of promise. Karlsson should get a bottom line spot in the lineup. The 24-year-old is coming off a 25-point season and the team hopes he takes his game up a notch.
While Grabovski likely won’t see the ice ever in Las Vegas (freeing the team of his $5MM cap hit), Garrison is a defender who may prove to have some value if he can produce on one of the team’s top defensive lines. The 32-year-old struggled at times in Tampa Bay and his offensive numbers have declined in the past couple of years. McNabb is considered to be an excellent defender and should provide solid defense for Vegas. He missed a lot of time due to a broken collarbone injury he suffered last October, forcing the 26-year-old in and out of the lineup all season and he eventually lost his starting job at the end of the year, but should get regular minutes with the Golden Knights. Sbisa is another player who should get playing time in hopes the team can move him later this year. The 27-year-old blueliner was a solid defenseman, but few teams were interested in his $3.6MM pricetag.
To some observers, the Vegas Golden Knights have some problems. The team has 13 defensemen on their roster, 11 with NHL experience. Yet, general manager George McPhee is not worried about the glut of defenders on his roster. While the coaches get a say, it will be McPhee who will make the final decision on who plays.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s David Schoen writes that the team will likely keep eight defenders on their 23-man roster, so that should give defenseman a bit of comfort room. He also writes that it looks like nine players will compete for those eight spots. Three veterans will undoubtedly make the roster in Jason Garrison, Deryk Engelland and Luca Sbisa. Expect Brayden McNabb, the physical defender from the Los Angeles Kings to get a spot on the defensive roster as well as Nate Schmidt, who just signed a new two-year deal for $4.45MM. That’s five. Colin Miller, who led the Boston Bruins in Corsi For and Goals For percentage last season, should also be in the top six.
That leaves a still a number of defensemen who will be fighting for those last two spots.
“Our defensemen can count. They know there are a lot of D here right now,” McPhee said. “We’ll just have to see how camp goes and how we proceed. To be fair, you’d like to say it’s going to be the best six guys, but we’ll see. Sometimes you have to think short term and long term in this job and do what’s best for the organization from that standpoint.”
That quote might suggest that former Anaheim Ducks’ Shea Theodore, who the team picked up in an expansion deal, might be forced to start the season for the AHL Chicago Wolves as he still has waiver options remaining. Theodore, who had a major impact for the Ducks’ defense in the playoffs last year is still just 22 years old and only has 53 games of NHL experience so far, not including the playoffs. He put up just nine points in 34 games last year, but put up eight points in 14 playoff games in an expanded role. Others who will have to fight for spot include Jon Merrill, Clayton Stoner, Griffin Reinhart and Brad Hunt.
Schoen speculates that Merrill is likely to stay with the team, which could leave Stoner out. The team picked up Stoner with Theodore in part of an expansion trade deal. The Anaheim Ducks wanted to rid themselves of Stoner’s $3.25MM contract, but the 32-year-old injury plagued defender has not played since early last season and played in just 14 games last year.
Of course, none of this speculation makes any difference if the team can make a deal. The Golden Knights, who have already traded off several defensemen since the expansion draft, could be waiting for training camps to start. They may be hoping that an injury or a lack of depth could prompt a team to trade for one of their glut of defensemen. However, for now, McPhee continues to state that he is happy to have so much depth on their blueline.
“The neat thing about this process, and I’ve tried to explain this to a number of people, it’s still a blank canvas,” McPhee said. “We’re completely open minded about what might develop. I’m open for some unknown surprises. It’s wide open, and it should be.”
There were some confused faces a couple of months ago when fading veteran defenseman Deryk Engelland was one of the first players that the Vegas Golden Knights began to negotiate with when the team’s clock started to get the first-crack at negotiating with free agents. Afterall, the long-time veteran was never a blueliner to put up offensive numbers, but it was his defensive skills and speed that had begun to show signs of wear and tear in the last year or two.
Yet, the Golden Knights chose to ink the 35-year old to a one-year, $1MM deal instead of taking one of Calgary’s exposed players in the expansion draft. Perhaps the main reason is that Engelland has been an offseason resident of Las Vegas for the last 14 years, according to Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated. He initially spent two years in Las Vegas starting in 2003, playing for the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers, where he eventually met his wife and then settled down in the city. His knowledge and experience with the fledgling sports city has proven valuable to many Vegas-bound players who are slowly arriving for the team’s inaugural season. The veteran has helped several players including defenseman Nate Schmidt and forward Erik Haula in getting settled before the season starts.
Engelland’s veteran presence and leadership skills should prove valuable to a stable of young defenseman such as Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Luca Sbisa, Brayden McNabb, Jonathon Merrill and Colin Miller amongst several others.
- Lyle Richardson of The Hockey News writes that despite an earlier rumor that Boston’s David Pastrnak might be traded which was quickly shot down by Bruins’ general manager Don Sweeney, the team’s hopes of signing him to a six-year deal for $6MM annually is not going to happen. Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl’s new eight-year, $64MM deal will only make negotiations with Pastrnak’s camp more challenging for the GM. Richardson writes that he believes Pastrnak’s camp may not ask for the $8.5MM AAV that Draisaitl received, but the Bruins must at least come up to a minimum of $7MM annually to get a long-term deal struck.
- Speaking of long-term deals, Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington writes that phenom Jack Eichel has made it explicitly clear that he wants to sign a long-term deal to stay in Buffalo. The scribe also writes that both sides want the extension completed before training camp starts next month. “I’ve made it clear that I want to be a Sabre. I want to be in Buffalo when we start winning,” Eichel reiterated. “I want to reward the city. It’s been two great years. I don’t want to go anywhere else.” After recent extensions for Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, the team must figure out where Eichel’s contract should fit. Harrington suggests a deal around $9MM per year is what Buffalo hopes to ink him to. The 20-year old is coming off a second 24-goal season, but this year he did it in fewer games, having missed 21 games due to a high ankle sprain suffered at the beginning of the season.
In the NHL, there are only a few ways you are allowed to have performance bonuses included in your contract. One way is to be on an entry-level contract, of which almost every one contains some sort of incentive. Young players can earn either Schedule A or B bonuses for various performance markers, though the really big numbers are only usually given out to the very highest of draft picks. Even Mitch Marner for instance, drafted fourth overall in 2015 can only earn up to $850K each season and doesn’t have any Schedule B bonuses in his deal.
The other contracts that can include bonuses are more rare, and they’ll be the focus of this article. These can be given out to players who sign a one-year contract after they turn 35, or a one-year deal coming off a substantial injury (the qualifications for such an injury are that they have already played at least 400 games in their career, and spent at least 100 days on injured reserve in the final year of their previous contract). Many of these have been given out, and we’ll detail them here.
Radim Vrbata – Florida Panthers
Vrbata was given a one-year deal with the Panthers this summer after a solid season with the Arizona Coyotes, and will earn $2.5MM in guaranteed salary. He also can earn a total of $1.25MM more through performance bonuses:
- $250K for 10th goal
- $250K for 15th goal
- $250K for 20th goal
- $250K for 45th point
- $250K for making playoffs
Mark Streit – Montreal Canadiens
Streit was given a $700K contract from the Montreal Canadiens just this week to add some extra depth to a defense corps that was losing Andrei Markov. His deal includes $300K of unknown performance bonuses, that could take the total contract to $1MM.
Johnny Oduya – Ottawa Senators
Oduya earned a one-year $1MM contract from the Ottawa Senators, and while it’s not clear where he fits in exactly on the blueline he could earn much more should he find a prominent role. The deal includes $1.25MM of performance bonuses:
- $250K for 41st game played
- $250K for 65th game played
- $250K if ranked in top-5 TOI for Ottawa defensemen
- $250K if ranked in top-3 TOI for Ottawa defensemen
- $250K for making playoffs
Chris Kunitz – Tampa Bay Lightning
Kunitz is looking for his fifth Stanley Cup this season with the Lightning, who gave him a one-year $2MM contract. The former Penguin can earn another $1MM in various unknown ice-time bonuses, likely tied to where he ends up among Lightning forwards.
Patrick Sharp – Chicago Blackhawks
Sharp is returning to his old stomping ground this year after the Blackhawks signed him to a one-year $800K contract, but there is no guarantee he plays much of the season. Sharp’s been hurt by several injuries the last few seasons, and because of it Chicago included a $200K bonus for playing just ten games this year.
Mike Cammalleri – Los Angeles Kings
Cammalleri was bought out by the New Jersey Devils this spring, only to immediately find a new home with the Kings on the west coast. His $1MM contract has an additional $200K in performance bonuses, though the exact details are still unknown.
Deryk Engelland – Vegas Golden Knights
When the Golden Knights signed Engelland after the expansion draft, they were bringing back someone who knew the city and could help their young players get acclimated to their new surroundings. They signed him to a one-year deal worth $1MM, but it also includes another $1MM in unknown performance bonuses.
Thanks to CapFriendly for many of the performance bonus details.