NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2022
Evgeni Malkin to test UFA market while Penguins re-sign Rickard Rakell, Avs promote Joe Sakic and re-sign Valeri Nichushkin, Senators trade Matt Murray to the Leafs and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Darren Dreger broke the news yesterday that long-time Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin intends to test the free-agent market when it opens on Wednesday at noon ET. Colleague Pierre LeBrun reported there was a bit of progress in negotiations between Malkin and the Penguins but his decision to go to market reflects his frustration with the process.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins reportedly are offering Malkin a three-year term while he’d prefer a longer deal. I can’t say I blame him considering the Pens re-signed teammates Kris Letang and Bryan Rust to six-year contracts.
There’s still time for the two sides to reach an agreement and the Pens have the cap space to re-sign him. Nevertheless, Malkin could draw plenty of interest in the open market. Whether he’ll get a long-term deal remains to be seen.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins re-signed Rickard Rakell to a six-year deal worth an annual average value of $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rakell was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the March trade deadline, netting 13 points in 19 regular-season games with the Penguins. The AAV is reasonable but the term is too long for a 29-year-old winger who last reached 30 goals in 2017-18.
Maybe Rakell will regain that form with the Penguins, but I think his chances of doing so would be better skating alongside Malkin. His linemates for next season could include an aging Jeff Carter and a frequently injured Jason Zucker.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche promoted general manager Joe Sakic to president of hockey operations. Assistant general manager Chris MacFarland takes over as the GM.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic will still be involved in the major decisions but MacFarland will handle the day-to-day work. The move was made in part because other clubs were expressing interest in hiring MacFarland as a general manager. This was a shrewd decision by the Avs to keep him in the fold.
Speaking of the Avalanche, they signed Valeri Nichushkin to an eight-year contract with an annual average value of $6.125 million. The 27-year-old winger was slated to become a UFA on Wednesday. Meanwhile, it appears winger Andre Burakovsky will be testing the free-agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bought out by the Dallas Stars in 2019, Nichushkin turned his career around in Colorado, enjoying a career-best 52-point regular season and netting nine goals and 15 points in 20 playoff games in their march to the Stanley Cup. It’s a major raise for Nichushkin on a deal that seems rather lengthy. However, it could work out for the Avs over the long term if he maintains that high level of two-way play.
OTTAWA SUN: The Ottawa Senators traded goaltender Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with a third-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-rounder in 2024 for future considerations. The Senators also retained 25 percent of the 28-year-old Murray’s $6.25 million annual cap hit through 2023-24.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As more than one pundit and fan pointed out on social media, this trade will either make Kyle Dubas look like a genius or ensure the coming season will be his last as Maple Leafs GM.
When healthy, Murray is a good goaltender who backstopped the Pittsburgh Penguins to two Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. However, he’s been plagued by injuries in recent years that have sidelined him for lengthy periods of time and hampered his performance. Dubas now needs to find a reliable backup goaltender for Murray.
Senators GM Pierre Dorion is enjoying a fine off-season thus far. He acquired a proven 40-goal scorer last week in Alex DeBrincat and freed up a logjam in goal while shedding the bulk of Murray’s cap hit. He now has room to pursue some additional veteran depth via free agency or the trade market.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers have granted Evander Kane’s agent permission to speak with other clubs. However, they remain hopeful of working out an agreement on a new contract with the 30-year-old winger. It’s believed they offered Kane a three-year deal worth $4.75 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how Kane’s situation pans out. The uncertainty over the outcome of his contract termination grievance with the San Jose Sharks plus his well-documented personal baggage could scare off other clubs, making the Oilers perhaps his best option.
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports St. Louis Blues winger David Perron could be heading to market. The Blues want to re-sign him but currently lack sufficient cap space to do so. Perron could command up to $6 million annually on the open market.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins are reportedly in negotiations with David Krejci for a potential return to Boston. The 36-year-old center spent last season playing Czechia.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO/CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks placed Henrik Borgstrom and Brett Connolly on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out their contracts. They’ll become UFAs on Wednesday. They’ve also brought back Derek King as an assistant coach following his solid stint as their interim bench boss in 2021-22.
NYI HOCKEY NOW: Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov has been offered a one-year contract by his former KHL club CSKA Moscow. He’s a restricted free agent who cannot be signed to an offer sheet. It’s believed this is an attempted leverage move by his agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The KHL offer is for less than $1 million US. I doubt Isles GM Lou Lamoriello will be swayed by this tactic. There was concern over whether this offer meant Romanov would have difficulty returning to the United States. However, he and his wife are reportedly in Miami.
TSN: Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Ondrej Kase and Chicago Blackhawks forwards Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik were among a number of restricted free agents who did not receive qualifying offers by Monday’s 5 pm ET deadline. They are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Puck Pedia also has a list of RFAs who didn’t get qualifying offers. Some, like Samsonov, Kase, Strome and Kubalik would’ve cost more to qualify than their teams could afford because their actual salaries were higher than their annual cap hit. Some of them could’ve also received higher salaries through arbitration. These players could still sign with their current clubs but it would be for less than what they would’ve received through qualifying offers or arbitration.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Ben Bishop has returned to the Dallas Stars as a coach in an informal capacity.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks have parted ways with scouting director Doug Wilson Jr.