The Lightning are believed to have made a long-term, low AAV offer to pending unrestricted free agent winger Alex Killorn, notes Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in his latest 32 Thoughts column. The 33-year-old is coming off a career year that saw him put up 27 goals and 37 assists in 82 games and has the most points of any player set to hit the open market. After playing on a $4.45MM AAV deal that has been team-friendly the last couple of seasons, Killorn will have a chance at a sizable increase in free agency. Tampa Bay would undoubtedly love to keep him in the fold but with minimal cap space to work with this summer, they can’t afford to pay market value. Accordingly, their most realistic chance to keep him is a long-term agreement that would almost certainly be an overpayment by the time it expires but a low enough AAV that they can squeak him in under the Upper Limit. Even so, that will be a tough sell.
Benoit Groulx Reportedly Leaving Role As Syracuse Crunch Head Coach
As the cap penalties the Minnesota Wild will be paying due to the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter buyouts are set to hit a combined $14.7MM, Wild general manager Bill Guerin has quite the task ahead of him as he looks to build a team that can take the next step after back-to-back impressive regular seasons and first-round playoff exits. Perhaps the most important piece of business for him to address is a new contract for netminder Filip Gustavsson, who is set to become an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent. Complicating Gustavsson’s case is his extremely impressive performance this past season, where he posted a .931 save percentage in 39 games. With those sorts of numbers, is it possible Gustavsson has priced himself out of Minnesota?
That seems unlikely, as The Athletic’s Joe Smith relays positive word from Gustavsson’s agent about the ongoing contract negotiations: “we’ve started a dialogue and everything is really positive,” says agent Kurt Overhardt, “I don’t think it’s a matter of getting something done. It’s just a matter of when it’s done.” (subscription link) Smith notes that a three-year, $3MM AAV pact would fit with the comparables to Gustavsson’s current situation, and that would likely be a palatable number for the team. In any case, it seems the talented 24-year-old netminder is set to remain in Minnesota after a breakout campaign, despite some cap-related challenges on the team’s side.
More notes from across the NHL:
- Benoit Groulx, the longtime head coach of the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, is ending his tenure in the Salt City according to a report from JF Plante of Le Droit. Groulx has spent the last seven years as the Crunch’s bench boss and has led the team on multiple playoff runs, including a run to the Calder Cup Final in 2016-17. A respected player developer, Groulx’s Crunch teams have produced numerous difference-making NHLers, including Carter Verhaeghe, Yanni Gourde, Taylor Raddysh, Ross Colton, and Anthony Cirelli. Plante cites Arizona Coyotes head coach Andre Tourigny’s current assistant coach opening as a possible landing spot for Groulx, and should such a move materialize that would be a significant and highly valuable addition to the Coyotes organization.
- Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports in his 32 Thoughts blog that the Boston Bruins are “exploring what it needs to do to keep Tyler Bertuzzi,” a player set to hit unrestricted free agency later this summer. The Bruins traded their 2024 first-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings to acquire Bertuzzi, and the 28-year-old subsequently impressed in the black and gold, scoring 16 points in 21 regular-season games and 10 points in the team’s seven-game first-round playoff series. Bertuzzi is likely to have wide-ranging interest this summer in what is considered a thinner free agent class, so it’s unclear whether Boston will be able to get his signature on a contract extension. But given Friedman’s report, we at least now know that the Bruins are actively looking for an avenue to retain the former 30-goal scorer.
Michael Eyssimont Receives One-Game IIHF Suspension
Team USA will be without the services of forward Michael Eyssimont for Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup against Czechia as the IIHF announced that he has received a one-game suspension for a kneeing incident in Tuesday’s game against Sweden. The 26-year-old was a late addition to the team after the Lightning were eliminated in the first round but had suited up all seven games so far. Eyssimont had two assists in those contests along with 11 shots and 29 penalty minutes in just over 12 minutes per game. Team USA has one extra forward on their roster, Montreal prospect Luke Tuch who will likely suit up as the extra forward in Eyssimont’s absence.
List Of NHL Prospects Attending 2023 Memorial Cup
After the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and the QMJHL’s Québec Remparts took home their respective league championships yesterday, the field for the 2023 Memorial Cup is set. They’ll be joined by two WHL teams – the league champion Seattle Thunderbirds and the host team Kamloops Blazers – on their quest to capture the pinnacle of North American junior hockey.
Pitting best against best at the U21 level from across the continent, the tournament also gives NHL-drafted prospects an early taste of high-pressure hockey on a larger stage than regular junior play. If you’re looking to see your favorite team’s prospects have big performances at this tournament, which runs from May 26 to June 4, we’re providing a comprehensive list of NHL-affiliated prospects attending the tournament.
There will be a new champion this year after last year’s winner, the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, lost to the Gatineau Olympiques in five games in their first-round series in the QMJHL playoffs. Chicago and Dallas lead the way with three representatives at the tournament, while nine teams (Boston, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Tampa Bay) don’t have any prospects playing this year.
C Nathan Gaucher (Québec, 2022 22nd overall)
LD Olen Zellweger (Kamloops, 2021 34th overall)
RW Dylan Guenther (Seattle, 2021 9th overall)
LD Jérémy Langlois (Québec, 2022 94th overall)
RD Vsevolod Komarov (Québec, 2022 134th overall)
LW Lucas Ciona (Seattle, 2021 173rd overall)
C Justin Robidas (Québec, 2021 147th overall)
LD Kevin Korchinski (Seattle, 2022 7th overall)
LD Nolan Allan (Seattle, 2021 32nd overall)
C Colton Dach (Seattle, 2021 62nd overall)
Columbus Blue Jackets
LW James Malatesta (Québec, 2021 133rd overall)
C Logan Stankoven (Kamloops, 2021 47th overall)
RD Gavin White (Peterborough, 2022 115th overall)
RW Matthew Seminoff (Kamloops, 2022 179th overall)
Detroit Red Wings
LD Evan Nause (Québec, 2021 56th overall)
Los Angeles Kings
C Caedan Bankier (Kamloops, 2021 86th overall)
RD Kyle Masters (Kamloops, 2021 118th overall)
C Owen Beck (Peterborough, 2022 33rd overall)
C Jared Davidson (Seattle, 2022 130th overall)
LW Reid Schaefer (Seattle, 2022 32nd overall)
RD Luke Prokop (Seattle, 2020 73rd overall)
New Jersey Devils
RW Chase Stillman (Peterborough, 2021 29th overall)
New York Islanders
LW Daylan Kuefler (Kamloops, 2022 174th overall)
New York Rangers
LW Brennan Othmann (Peterborough, 2021 16th overall)
LD Brian Zanetti (Peterborough, 2021 110th overall)
C Jon-Randall Avon (Peterborough, undrafted)
San Jose Sharks
C Tucker Robertson (Peterborough, 2022 123rd overall)
St. Louis Blues
C Zachary Bolduc (Québec, 2021 17th overall)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
C Fraser Minten (Kamloops, 2022 38th overall)
C Connor Lockhart (Peterborough, 2021 178th overall)
Vegas Golden Knights
C Jordan Gustafson (Seattle, 2022 79th overall)
RW Jakub Demek (Kamloops, 2021 128th overall)
C Ryan Hofer (Kamloops, 2022 181st overall)
C Brad Lambert (Seattle, 2022 30th overall)
Minor Transactions: Gatcomb, Veinbergs, Hanna
The Abbotsford Canucks announced today that they have signed forward Marc Gatcomb to a one-year AHL contract extension. Gatcomb doesn’t offer much in the way of offence having put up just three goals and five assists in 45 games this season. It was the first full AHL season for the 23-year-old after he spent four years at the University of Connecticut.
The Woburn, Massachusetts native was never drafted to the NHL and had previously signed as a free agent last summer after wrapping up his college career. He had a stint in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings dressing in six games and tallying a goal and three assists but wrapped up the season in Abbotsford. He was praised by Abbotsford general manager Ryan Johnson as being one of the most improved players and seemed to gain the trust of head coach Jeremy Colliton. This was evidenced in the playoffs where Gatcomb appeared in all six of the club’s playoff games.
In other minor transactions:
- Tampa Bay Lightning 2022 seventh round draft pick Klavs Veinbergs committed to Colorado College today. The 20-year-old will begin his college career after spending last year with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League where he put up 12 goals and 16 assists in 50 games. Veinbergs has represented his country in multiple international tournaments and made a bit of noise at the World Juniors in the summer of 2022. He is the fourth Latvian drafted by the Lightning with the last one being in 2013 when Tampa Bay selected Kristers Gudlevskis.
- Canadian defenseman Shane Hanna signed an extension today to remain in Germany and play with the Starbulls Rosenheim of the DEL2 league. Hanna, a native of New Westminster, British Columbia previously played 78 games with the Texas Stars of the AHL where he put up two goals and 11 assists. The 29-year-old has fared better offensively the past four years but has bounced around in the process playing in Slovakia, Italy, and Denmark.
Latest On Pittsburgh Penguins Front Office Search
The Pittsburgh Penguins are in for a busy offseason, replacing key front-office fixtures after missing the playoffs for the first time in almost two decades. In addition to yesterday’s reporting on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ intention to hire two separate people for the roles of general manager and president of hockey operations, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun expanded in detail today on the current status of Pittsburgh’s search to fill their vacant roles.
LeBrun relayed previously corroborated reports from league sources that the Penguins have conducted initial Zoom interviews with potential candidates for the general manager role, with this number set at around a dozen. From this group, Pittsburgh has begun the process of narrowing down individuals for in-person second-round interviews for the job.
LeBrun has now confirmed seven individuals who were part of that complement of about 12. Among them is Los Angeles Kings senior advisor Marc Bergevin, Carolina Hurricanes assistant general manager Eric Tulsky, St. Louis Blues VP of hockey operations Peter Chiarelli, Buffalo Sabres associate general manager Jason Karmanos, and three members of the New Jersey Devils organization: senior vice president and assistant general manager Dan MacKinnon, assistant general manager Kate Madigan, and director of player development Meghan Duggan. There are two other likely candidates that LeBrun could not confirm, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant general manager Mathieu Darche and Seattle Kraken assistant general manager Jason Botterill, who previously held the same role with Pittsburgh.
Some candidates from the first round of interviews were informed today that they are no longer being considered for the positions, LeBrun said.
Also in line with previous reporting, LeBrun mentioned the Penguins expressed interest in including Brad Treliving, the former general manager of the Calgary Flames, in their first round of interviews. However, the Flames denied permission, given Treliving’s expiring contract with the team legally expires on June 30.
As for a president of hockey operations, LeBrun also linked the Penguins to former Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka. Chayka held his post with the Coyotes from May 2016 to July 2020, when he abruptly resigned before the start of the delayed Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NHL later suspended Chayka from working in the league for the entire 2021 calendar year after he pursued other league opportunities while still under contract with Arizona. It also later came to light that, under Chayka, the Coyotes had held an illegal private scouting combine for eligible draft prospects in direct violation of league rules, resulting in multiple pick forfeitures for Arizona.
Surprisingly, the reason for the uncertainty about Chayka’s potential involvement with the Penguins isn’t due to his concerning NHL history – rather, LeBrun reports Chayka could have additional NHL opportunities available to him outside of Pittsburgh.
Tampa Bay Lightning Sign Matt Tomkins
The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed netminder Matt Tomkins to a two-year, two-way contract for next season, according to a team announcement.
For Tomkins, 28, this signing serves as his return ticket to North American professional hockey after two seasons spent abroad in Sweden’s SHL. Tomkins was a 2012 seventh-round pick who spent four seasons with Ohio State in the NCAA. After his collegiate career concluded, he spent two seasons with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, turning in some decent performances that won him ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors four times as well the right to play eight AHL games with the Rockford IceHogs.
That run as a starter in the ECHL earned Tomkins the chance to be the IceHogs’ third goalie in 2019-20, and he ended up playing in 13 games and posting an .896 save percentage. The following year, the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the AHL’s season and Tomkins ended up the only IceHogs goalie to play in double-digit games, producing a .907 save percentage in 15 games. It was after that season that Tomkins chose to sign overseas, and he earned a role as the starting goalie for Froluda HC in the SHL.
His success with Frolunda (.908 save percentage in 33 games) established him in the SHL and got him a contract with Farjestad BK, the defending champions. It also earned him the chance to start for Team Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. This past season, Tomkins was Farjestad’s starter and went 20-12 with a .911 save percentage.
The Lightning only have two goalies under contract for next season, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Hugo Alnefelt. Since Alnefelt, 21, may still need some more time to develop with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, the Lightning may have a need for a backup netminder, as current backup Brian Elliott, 38, could retire. It’s unlikely the Lightning have signed Tomkins with the intention of him ending up Vasilevskiy’s backup, though.
Instead, Tomkins could be the replacement for pending unrestricted free agent Maxime Legace as the veteran partner for Alnefelt in Syracuse. Legace endured a difficult season with the Crunch, producing a dismal .888 save percentage in 41 games played.
This signing of Tomkins could very well be the team acting quickly to replace Legace in Syracuse, though it is also possible, if unlikely, that Legace is re-signed and one member of the trio sees time in the ECHL.
Lightning Want To Retain All UFA's
- In a recent article summarizing the end of the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, writer Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times adds an interesting note about the Lightning’s pending unrestricted free agents heading into the offseason. Although already signing trade deadline acquisition Michael Eyssimont to a contract extension yesterday, it appears that General Manager Julien BriseBois has an interest in retaining all of the Lightning’s soon-to-be free agents, as he has reached out to all of their agents already. Players such as Alex Killorn, Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ian Cole, and Brian Elliott are all slated to hit the open market on July 1st.
Tampa Bay Lightning Sign Michael Eyssimont To Two-Year Contract Extension
The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced that forward Michael Eyssimont has been re-signed to a two-year, one-way contract extension. Per the team release, the deal carries an $800k AAV.
The Lightning acquired Eyssimont, 26, in a trade with the San Jose Sharks a few months ago. Before that point, Eyssimont had been claimed off of waivers from the Winnipeg Jets by San Jose. He was set to become a Group Six unrestricted free agent, meaning this contract extension keeps Eyssimont from testing the open market.
Eyssimont is a 2016 fourth-round pick who brings considerable energy to any line he plays on. A former top scorer at St. Cloud State in the NCAA, Eyssimont three middling seasons with the Ontario Reign in the AHL, seasons where he failed to establish himself as a true NHL option.
Eyssimont signed with the Jets in the summer of 2021 and took a step forward with their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. Eyssimont scored 42 points in 58 games with Manitoba and earned the right to make his NHL debut. This season, Eyssimont only spent nine games in the AHL before being called up to Winnipeg in November. After earning another shot in the NHL, Eyssimont didn’t look back, turning in quality play for the Jets.
Winnipeg attempted to send him back down to the Moose in January but at that point, Eyssimont had shown enough at the NHL level to entice another club to claim him on waivers. The Sharks did exactly that, and Eyssimont turned in a healthy eight points in 20 games in San Jose before being dealt to the Lightning, a team with designs on competing for the Stanley Cup.
While the Lightning fell in the first round to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Eyssimont’s individual season was far from a disappointment.
In just one season Eyssimont went from little-known AHLer to a well-regarded bottom-six energy player for one of the NHL’s most highly-regarded franchises.
His new contract is a one-way deal, helping his odds of remaining in the NHL for next season, although if he continues to play as he has recently finding a spot on coach Jon Cooper’s roster shouldn’t be a major issue.
For Tampa Bay, this contract locks in a bottom-six player at a highly affordable price. Should Eyssimont take another step forward in his game next season, the two-year term of this contract allows the Lightning to retain him on their roster at an $800k price tag.
It’s a solid bet for Tampa Bay’s front office to make, as well as a nice reward for a hard-working player who has only recently established himself as an NHLer.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Jeff Halpern Linked To Washington Capitals Coaching Vacancy
The Washington Capitals will have a new head coach next season after opting not to renew the contract of Peter Laviolette, as announced last month. Today, Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic reports the Capitals plan to interview former player and current Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Jeff Halpern as part of their search process for Laviolette’s replacement.
After retiring as a player in 2014, Halpern amassed eight seasons of coaching experience, all with the Lightning organization. He’s been behind the Lightning bench as an assistant since 2018, meaning he was involved in both of Tampa’s back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021. Before that, he spent three seasons with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, Tampa’s affiliate, as a development and assistant coach.
Washington moved on from Laviolette after missing the playoffs for just the second time since 2008. In his years as an assistant, Halpern has not missed the playoffs. He helped guide a Crunch team to the Calder Cup Finals in 2017, a year after missing the playoffs altogether, a team that featured a breakout playoff performance from then-prospect Yanni Gourde.
As a player, Halpern played nearly 1,000 NHL games across 14 seasons, accruing 373 points. The center served as Washington’s captain in 2005-06, Alex Ovechkin’s rookie season.