NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 30, 2021
Alex Ovechkin looks forward to chasing Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, the Blue Jackets sign Zach Werenski to a long-term contract extension, and the Blues sign Brandon Saad. Get the details plus other notable trades and signings in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Alex Ovechkin said the opportunity to pursue Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record factored into his recent signing of a five-year contract with the Capitals. Ovechkin, 35, has 730 career goals and needs 165 more to break Gretzky’s record. To do it, he needs to average 33 goals per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The all-time goal-scoring record is the most reachable of Gretzky’s significant offensive achievements. Nevertheless, it’ll a daunting challenge for Ovechkin, who turns 36 in September.
Ovechkin’s still among the league’s elite scorers, tallying 24 goals in 45 games last season and 48 in 68 games in 2019-20. If not for the pandemic (and a half-season lost to a lockout in 2012-13), he’d be much closer to Gretzky’s record by now. However, he’s also at an age when his production will begin to decline.
The Capitals captain is currently sixth on the all-time list. A 37-goal performance this season would vault him over Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741) and Jaromir Jagr (766) into third overall, 34 behind Gordie Howe (801).
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed defenseman Zach Werenski to a six-year, $57.5 million contract extension. The annual average value is $9.583 million and takes effect in 2022-23.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets consider Werenski among the NHL’s top defensemen over the past five seasons and are paying him accordingly. He’s tallied 189 points in 335 career games. Starting in 2022-23, he’ll be the third highest-paid defenseman in the league with a higher annual cap hit than Colorado Avalanche blueliner Cale Makar’s $9 million and just ahead of former defense partner Seth Jones’ $9.5 million AAV with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Werenski’s a skilled puck-moving defenseman but I don’t consider him worth more than Makar, a Calder Trophy winner in 2019-20 who was a Norris Trophy finalist last season. But after enduring a steady parade of talent departing Columbus via trades and free agency in recent years, the Jackets had to pay the price to keep Werenski in the fold.
His new contract lacks no-trade protection in 2022-23 and a full no-movement clause in 2023-24 through 2026-27, dropping to a modified no-trade in the final season.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues signed winger Brandon Saad to a five-year, $22.5 million contract. The annual average value is $4.5 million. The deal also comes with a full no-trade clause in the first four years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Saad took a pay cut from the $6 million AAV he earned over six seasons on his previous contract. He joins a club undergoing a retooling of its roster since winning the Stanley Cup two years ago. He fills the vacant left wing spot on the Blues’ first line following the departure of free agent Jaden Schwartz to Seattle on Wednesday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers acquired enforcer Reaves in yet another move to bolster their toughness. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, made this move to free up salary-cap space by shedding his $1.75 million cap hit.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning signed winger Corey Perry to a two-year, $2 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perry said he wanted to return to the Montreal Canadiens for another season. The opportunity to play two seasons with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, however, was too good to pass up.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Zach Werenski wasn’t the only defenseman the Blue Jackets signed yesterday, inking Jake Bean to a three-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.33 million. The Jackets acquire the 23-year-old blueliner from the Carolina Hurricanes last week.
MLIVE.COM: Long-time Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Helm and Valtteri Filppula were the last remaining active members of the Wings last Stanley Cup championship in 2008 still with the team last season. Filppula is also an unrestricted free agent and isn’t expected to be brought back.
SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens signed forward Mathiew Perreault to a one-year, $950K contract.