Another slow week during the August NHL doldrums. Most experienced hockey insiders use this time to vacation without worrying about breaking news. Nevertheless, PHR is here to report on all the news, all the time. Despite the doldrums, the hockey world saw one of the most anticipated summer signings, injuries, NCAA free agents, and a new AHL team. Check out the five most important stories below:
Leon Draisaitl Signs 8-Year / $68MM Contract with the Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl, a restricted free agent this summer, agreed to an eight-year, $68MM contract with the Edmonton Oilers. That deal will pay Draisaitl an average of $8.5MM a year. The contract makes Draisaitl one of the highest paid players in the league, coming in tied for the 10th-highest cap hit in the league next season.
KHL Signings: Alexey Marchenko, Marek Mazanec, and Dwight King
This week saw three NHLers sign KHL deals. Marek Mazanec goes from the Nashville Predators to HC Slovan Bratislava. The signing was unusual because Nashville and Mazanec agreed to a two-way, $650K contract earlier this summer. Dwight King signed with Avtomobilist after finishing last season with the Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens. Finally, former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Alexey Marchenko is rumored to have signed with CSKA Moscow after being unconditionally waived by the Maple Leafs.
Injuries: NYI Shane Price and NJD Travis Zajac Out for Months
The Metropolitan Division lost two players to significant injuries this week. The New York Islanders lost forward Shane Prince for four-to-six months after Prince underwent ankle surgery. Prince was poised to step up this season after showing elite offensive ability in the AHL. Across the state line, the New Jersey Devils lost star forward Travis Zajac to a torn pectoral muscle. Zajac underwent surgery this week and will also be out four-to-six months. This is a huge blow to a team looking to build on drafting the first overall pick.
Will Butcher Becomes NCAA Free Agent
As expected, Will Butcher declined to sign with the Colorado Avalanche—the team who drafted him—and became an unrestricted free agent. Butcher most recently won the Hobey Baker award for best men’s NCAA hockey player. While Butcher will not garner as much attention as Jimmy Vesey and Justin Schultz, he has already met with numerous teams seeking his services.
Matt Cullen Signs with the Minnesota Wild
Stanley Cup-winning Matt Cullen signed a one-year deal worth $1MM (plus $700k in performance bonuses) with the Minnesota Wild. Cullen had been reportedly deciding between the Wild and Penguins, but eventually decided to return home to Minnesota and forego his shot at a “three-peat” with Pittsburgh. 2017-18 will mark his 20th season in the NHL, and he remains a very effective two-way center. Despite playing some of the lowest minutes of his career, he registered more than 30 points for the 13th time, and continued his career-long streak of winning more than 50% of his draws. He’ll likely slot into the fourth-line role in Minnesota, but will provide ample depth behind the star-studded forward group.