NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 15, 2022

by | Jul 15, 2022 | News, NHL | 52 comments

The notable players still available in the unrestricted free agent market, the latest on Johnny Gaudreau and Carey Price, the Senators sign Josh Norris to an eight-year deal, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

DAILY FACEOFF: Center Nazem Kadri and defenseman John Klingberg top Matt Larkin’s list of the best players still available in the unrestricted free agent market. Other notables include winger Nino Niederreiter, center Paul Stastny, and winger Phil Kessel.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kadri and Klingberg could come off the market as early as Friday or perhaps by the end of this weekend. It could take a little longer for the other to find new contracts.

In the case of aging players such as Stastny and Kessel, they could be waiting weeks for new contracts as younger talent gets snapped up in the opening days of free agency. As the dust settles, teams will take time to evaluate their remaining needs and salary-cap space.

SPORTSNET: Calgary fans and pundits remain in shock over winger Johnny Gaudreau rejecting a more lucrative offer from the Flames to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. In his introductory press conference with the Jackets, the 28-year-old Gaudreau said Columbus made the most sense for him and his wife.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sucks when a star player departs via free agency. Usually, it’s because of money. In Gaudreau’s case, he and his wife wanted to move back East to be closer to family.

It was assumed Gaudreau would sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils or New York Islanders to be closer to his family home in New Jersey. However, the Flyers couldn’t afford him, the Isles couldn’t free up sufficient cap room, and the Devils made a contract pitch that apparently wasn’t as good as what the Jackets were offering.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (NHL Images).

The Flames faithful are understandably puzzled and perhaps upset over Gaudreau’s decision. Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that he wanted to move on. That’s what the Flames, their fans, and the Calgary media also need to do now. It’s the business of NHL hockey and sometimes it hurts.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The future of Canadiens goaltender Carey Price remains uncertain as the club still awaits clarity over his ongoing recovery from last summer’s knee surgery. The 34-year-old Price was limited to just five games last season.

Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes said yesterday Price didn’t encounter swelling in his knee when working out but it would occur when he was doing goalie movements on the ice. He’s slated to meet with a Montreal doctor in August.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Price hopes to return to action next season. If he can’t play, the Canadiens can place him and his $10.5 million salary-cap hit on long-term injury reserve.

With the Habs pressed against the $82.5 million cap, putting Price on LTIR would enable them to exceed the cap by the total amount of his average annual value. Until there’s more certainty over his status, Hughes’ has limited ability to make offseason additions unless he makes a cost-cutting move elsewhere.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators yesterday signed Josh Norris to an eight-year, $63.5 million contract. The average annual value is $7.95 million, making the 23-year-old center the third highest-paid player on the club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In just two NHL seasons, Norris rose to become the Senators’ first-line center. He had a respectable 35 points in 56 games as a rookie during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season followed by 55 points in 66 games during his injury-shortened sophomore campaign.

That new contract will put Norris under additional pressure to meet the expectations of his new contract. His ongoing development suggests he’ll have little difficulty rising to that challenge.

THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa suggests the Boston Bruins’ acquisition of Pavel Zacha gives winger David Pastrnak another reason to re-sign with the club. The two were linemates for the Czech Republic in the 2014 and 2015 World Junior Championships and got along well.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It couldn’t hurt, I suppose. Perhaps the long-term plan here is for Zacha to one day center Pastrnak once Patrice Bergeron finally retires. The former first-round draft pick struggled with the New Jersey Devils but perhaps he can regain his once-promising form with the Bruins.

WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: The Capitals signed center Dylan Strome to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is an affordable short-term insurance move in case second-line center Nicklas Backstrom misses the first half of the 2022-23 season (or more) recovering from offseason hip surgery.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers’ run to the 2022 Western Conference Finals made it easier for general manager Ken Holland to attract talent to his club via free agency. He brought back winger Evander Kane and inked former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It helped that Kane had already spent a half-season with the Oilers and clearly enjoyed the experience. Oilers winger and former Leaf Zach Hyman also played a part in convincing Campbell to come to Edmonton.

TORONTO SUN: Speaking of the Leafs, they signed free-agent defensemen Victor Mete and Jordie Benn to one-year contracts worth $750K each.

DAILY FACEOFF: The Nashville Predators signed goaltender Kevin Lankinen and defenseman Mark Jankowski to one-year contracts.


  1. i’m surprised that ANA hasn’t resigned Milano after not qualifying him. He seemed to have good chemistry with Zegras. Can’t tell me that Henrique is a better option at LW than him

    • Agreed. I wonder what Anaheim is doing. They’ve still got to spend more than $9m to get up to the cap floor.

      I can’t help but wonder if their strategy relates to Arizona. Arizona is close to the cap floor and they don’t know what their revenue will look like this year in their little rinky-dink rink. They may be done spending.

      Maybe Anaheim ends up taking on other teams’ salary dumps if they’re not on players’ no-trade lists.

  2. I would think Zacha’s an improvement over Huala, he is a borderline second liner at best. The way the bruins press are buttering this up you’d think they landed Sidney Crosby. Will not respond to Mr Know it all #4 or the so called vet?

    • This is a direct quote from Don Sweeney on the Zacha acquisition, not sure where in it he refers to Crosby though:
      “He’ll have a chance to hopefully play in a top-nine scenario with us and with [Brad Marchand] being out, a significant opportunity early on with power play and situational play that he can benefit from,” said Don Sweeney. “But we do believe there’s more [offensive] potential there, and that’s up to Pavel to take advantage of the opportunities he’s presented with.

      “We just felt that Pavel Zacha was a player that we had targeted in the middle of the ice in a multi-positional-type player. Younger. I feel there’s growth and potential there moving forward. We hope to be able to find a deal with him being a part of the organization now and beyond.”

      • Big. B

        Sweeney is a bum. Ask mr 1/2 empty RWM Lol.

  3. Re: Gaudreau and “It’s the business of NHL hockey …”

    Which is why I remain firmly fixed in the “nuts to sentimentality” camp when it comes to hanging onto players “so they can retire as a (whatever).”

    It seems fine when a player like Gaudreau turns down millions to leave his long-time team for whatever reason and attributes that to “it’s a business” … but when a GM does that with an aging player whose skills have eroded strictly for the betterment of the team he can’t cite “it’s a business” without being castigated.

    Classic double standard.

    • There is business value to holding on to star players that have generated an emotional attachment among the fans George. They still put butts in seats sell jerseys etc. the backlash the team can get also can hurt them. Especially in a sport like hockey that in most us markets is second or third string the fan base is made up of a significant amount of casual / fair weather fans.

      • But that should be the GM’s decision and if and when he decides to move that sort of player the fan-boy complement simply has to learn – the hard way – that ALL moves are made for the betterment of the team – if it blows up in his face – either hanging on too long or dealing the player – then he pays the price with his job.

        The GM with gonads will make the move that he sees best for his team.

  4. What the hell are the Leafs doing??? They already have 4 left side defensemen and now they go sign too more, who were not good enough for Ottawa and Minnesota. In the process, they eat up valuable cap space, which could have been used to sign Engvall and Sandin. Is Kyle Dubas INSANE???

    • Dubas isn’t insane, David. He’s desperate. His foolish signing of John Tavares four years ago continues to handcuff the Leafs as he struggles to ice a supposed contender with limited salary-cap space.

      • I am neither a Leaf fan nor hater and have always wondered why they signed JT to that contract. Love JT as a player but not worth 11mil a year for 7 years at that point in time and agree that single signing is what has killed the Leafs the last 4 years.

      • Exactly, Lyle. The Leafs went for the big shiny object and it has hurt them. It’s hard to resist the hometown boy that wants to come home, but sometimes it has to be done. Vegas has also been hurt by constantly going after the big shiny object.
        There may be a lesson in this for the Habs with Dubois. I don’t see the Jets trading him this year, but they may have no choice next year and it’s likely he will be available in 2 years. I’d love to see him with the Habs, but if Suzuki continues to progress as a #1 Center next season, and I think he will, and if Dach takes a big step forward to establish himself as a solid #2 Center, the Habs May be best off not going for the big shiny object at the expense of using cap money to fill other positions at which there will be greater need.

      • Howard, what IS the infatuation with Dach – other than the fact he was a # 3 overall in 2019?

        He has 152 NHL games under his belt with Chicago and has all of 19 goals 40 assists to show for it, which works out to an 82-game average of 10g 22a 32 pts. He’s also a collective -18 over his career to date.

        If he’s going to suddenly start putting up numbers commensurate with the being a # 3 pick that’ll be a helluva pick up … but he also could be another Puljujarvi

      • George, I think you missed the part where I wrote “if” Dach takes a big step forward. I did not say or imply that it’s anywhere near a guarantee. I do have some optimism, though. Remember, he only turned 21 halfway through the season. And as bad as things were with the Habs, the Hawks were a real tire fire this past season. Surrounded by turmoil. And frankly, I have more faith in the Habs management and coaching staff turning things around than the Hawks.

      • George, I think you missed the part where I wrote “if” Dach takes a big step forward. I did not say or imply that it’s anywhere near a guarantee. I do have some optimism, though. Remember, he only turned 21 halfway through the season. And as bad as things were with the Habs, the Hawks were a real tire fire this past season. Surrounded by turmoil. And frankly, I have more faith in the Habs management and coaching staff turning things around than the Hawks.

      • Howard I think you’re misunderstanding George as typing you might miss the tone. I think George’s point is in the 3 yrs so far it doesn’t seem like Dach will be move than what we’ve seen. He’s right but could be wrong as you pointed out, he’s very young still but also young players not ready for the big show get killed like Montreal and other teams have done to players in the past.
        The safe bet is that he may not show much more than he already has, but in reality who really knows?

        Lyle, I don’t think your assessment of Dubas is correct. If by desperate you mean he’s finding bodies with NHL experience to provide depth which they sorely lacked in the past when injuries hit as opposed to using unproven AHL players I guess you mean desperation in that trying to cover his ass and have ready NHL experienced players able to call up than anything desperate.

        Handcuffed would be a great word to describe his as well as about another dozen GMs situation who are trying to achieve success and many not even close.

      • George, you will remember that Danault was a successful reclaimation project. Yes, different player and different management team, but in the right circumstances it can work. As Wright and Slafkovsky are ranked as a toss up the cost was Romanov. The Habs are deep in D prospects, so worth the gamble, IMO.

        I might throw in the example of Kane in Edmonton. Not quite the same, but the change of scenery worked for him too, apparently.

    • Muzzen leaving????

      • Justin Holl more likely. The latest signings could be players for the Marlies and available for callup if needed.
        If I were a Flames fan, my question would be why didn’t Gaudreau let management know prior to the draft that he was heading east. Calgary’s in a bind now that didn’t need to happen imo.

      • Exactly BCLeaf Fan – both Mete and Benn are shown as on-NHL roster players at CapFriendly – they were signed purely as AHL depth.

        Re Gaudreau – when it’s a player doing something like that “it’s a business …”

      • But both don’t really move the needle much and are costing the Leafs two contact slots from the 50 allowed.

        At some point the Leafs need to cut bait with Kerfoot. Good player, redundant on the Leafs and costing under a million in salary screams trade. I’d rather they trade from there than the blue line where having redundancies won’t be as wasteful as keeping Kerfoot.

    • I wonder if Gaudreau would have considered Philly if they had cap space available. Torts has squashed several skill players.

      • Good heavens, Rick! Are you being attacked by bees? 😉

      • Actually, Lyle, that’s the most astute comment he’s made in months.

      • P Bowles, you made me spit-out my coffee. Thanks for the good laugh.

      • You a actually a vet, or just making it up that you are? I can’t see a vet who would be as clueless as you are?

      • RWM, you can’t even spell and use proper grammar and you’re questioning my intellect? Sad. Sad.

      • Just as I thought you’re a phony.

    • Not sure why a big deal is made about signings like Mete, Benn, Maglin etc. These are all players that will be demoted out of training camp unless someone impresses beyond expectations. They will either be plucked off waivers or play in the AHL.
      Nothing to note here and certainly nothing to get upset over.

      • Thanks, Taz, both of those players will need a defenceman traded to make the Leafs. They will need to clear waivers to join the Marlies. No big deal.

    • Hey David Gallant,

      They are loading up on depth D that can be buried in the minors at no cap cost (or more likely lost to waivers!) and in advance of trading Jake Muzzin or Kerfoot and Holl. Then they will get a top six winger like Kane or Wheeler. Finally they will sign Sandin and Engvall with the remaining cap$, as these guys have little to no leverage as RFAs. Also, Benn plays right side D pretty well. Not a fan of the goalie moves, especially only 25% salary retention, as they won’t be able to move Murray if he flops. He’s not insane just stubborn and a bit desperate!

    • I’m certainly not defending Dubas (and frankly as a Canucks fan I find joy and hilarity in the Leafs’ failings), but Jordie Benn can play both right and left sides.

  5. The “silver lining” for the Habs with Price is that, even if he’s healthy, it’s unlikely the team will make the playoffs in the upcoming season. By the next year, when the team should look to take the next step forward, there will hopefully be more clarity. If Price is able to play the season, that’ll be a sign that they can continue to count on him to play out his contract. However, if he once again misses all or most of the season, it’ll be obvious that he’s done. His contract would then go on LTIR and both team and player would be able to move on.

    • Having a player well past his prime, and extremely unlikely to play a full season meaning sporadic LTIR relief, is not my definition of sliver lining, Howard.

      I am thankful for the years Price gave the Habs. But in viewing what is best for the team, it would be best if Price were unable to play and was on LTIR permanently. The Habs then know what they can and can’t do with the cap relief.

      They would still not make the playoffs but they can take more steps to improve. Pretty hard to argue against this view, IMO.

      • That was exactly my point, LJ. If he misses practically the whole season once again because of his knee injury, that would likely be the end of his career. He could then go on permanent LTIR, like Weber did and the Habs will know they can move on. That’s the “silver lining”. At this point, it is likely to be all or nothing. The situation will have dragged on for two years.

      • I hope you are correct that it is one or the other, Howard. My worst fear is that it falls into a “on LTIR, off LTIR” carousel. Woe betide the Habs if that is the case.

  6. Good signing by Dorion to get Norris locked up for 8 years – now has Chabot, Tkachuk, Batherson, Norris on long-term and Giroux and Forsberg for 3 each.

    Joseph shouldn’t be a problem – nor should Formenton and Brannstrom, although I have a feeling one or both of them could be involved in any deal for a Top 4 RD depending upon who it is, the cap hit and term.

    • Idk George, for me that monet is to early.

      As of today Norris hasn’t earned that contract but maybe he plays into it and it becomes a valued deal.

      No different then the Contract Charlie McAvoy got. At present Charlie isn’t a $9m dman; hopefully he plays into it.

      Last season had to most career season ever in the NHL. At most all teams had at least 3.

      I believe the condensed schedule played a big part of it and we’ll see some regression this season.

      • caper, clearly you haven’t watched him much. Norris is the real deal – a 6′ 1″ 200 lb C who handles face-offs very well and in his rookie year had 17g 18a 35 pts in 56gp – an 82-game average of 25g 26a 51 pts.

        This past season, after missing the first 16 games, he potted 35 goals and 20 assists for 55 pts – and 82-game average of 44g 25a 69 pts.

        A 19th overall in 2017 by SJ, he’s the gift that will keep on giving for Karlsson.

      • Capers might be alluding to having seen this movie before with Colin White. Lots of promise, never put it together as expected. Will it be the same with Norris?

      • White never, ever, put up the numbers that Norris has so far. Nor could he win more than 20% of his face-offs, which is why they bumped him to RW.

        All I will say is, wait and see. I’ve seen enough hockey over 6 decades to recognize ability mixed with determination … and Norris has it in spades.

    • I thought Norris would come in at $7 AAV. So not a big issue with his contract. And he is worth locking in … following the TB model of locking in players when young. And none of the young core has NMC’s which means any can be flipped if needed.

      Whatever D’man the Sens go after I hope he has limited term. It is almost needing a short term solution until Sanderson is ready for the top pairing role. I think that is why they were mentioned with Burns. I just hope they don’t go after Klingberg.

      Getting rid of Zaitsev in the next year will be key given the fact they have two huge potential contracts next year (Stutzle and Debrincat) plus need a goalie in the future. Removing Z and Hamonic from the cap saves a lot of money.

  7. Lyle I think what the Calgary fans and media is upset over; how did the GM not know Johnny wasn’t coming back and if he did, should of moved Johnny last season.

    The airwaves and media are all saying they need to go talk to Tkachuk immediately and find out what his plans are. Can’t let another star walk out the door with no return.

    • Caper. Seams almost every GM. Is afraid to pull trigger in last year of a deal. If your star is not willing to re up and at a fair rate you need to move the player for the best deal Or team takes big steps backwards next season and beyond. They do not resign most often because they are leaving

      • Well in fairness to the Flames I believe they had a legitimate shot last year. So whether Johnny said I’m not coming back or not your stuck in a crappy spot.
        They used him as an own rental hoping that at about 50% they could convince him to stay.
        Stuck between a rock and a hard place. But you can’t get burnt 2 years in a row so MT has to be moved unless he reups

  8. One thing that has puzzled me the last few years is why don’t teams convert players to another position. I don’t think that should be a regular practise but it rarely seems to occur.

    I have wondWred every time I have seen Mete over the years…..why isn’t he a centre. Obviously too small to clear the crease but skate like the wind and seems to be an intelligent player. He was assistant Captain for team Canada. Presumably some leadership aptitude.

    I would have in training on face offs and would be coaching him on positional play of a centre.

    Thoughts anyone??

    • IMO, OBD, it comes down to re-thinking the game. Center and D each require a different mind set and how one views and reacts to the game. Each of these positions requires a few years NHL experience to become proficient. Tall order, so to speak, for Mete.

      Easier to be a winger when, not to over simplify, a player goes north – south, and when in doubt go to the front of the net.

      • which becomes a lot tougher when you’re 5′ 9″ and the D are giants

    • My same thought about Morgan Reilly, OBD. He’s a Red Kelly clone.

    • Perhaps it speaks to the lack of development, or development options, offered at the NHL level. While the AHL is seen as a development/conditioning/proving league by us fans, they compete seriously and mean to win. So where does a guy like Mete go to redevelop his game?

      Andrei Markov was a forwarded converted to defence and played a sublime game based on skating and positioning. A lot of fun to watch. So it can be done, but I think the window of opportunity to have an NHL career is so brief that it’s unlikely for a Mete to redvelop.

      • I should have probably pointed out that Markov changed his position prior to being drafted … the point being he was developed as a forward.