NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 15, 2022
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.
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.