NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 20, 2023

by | Jul 20, 2023 | News, NHL | 29 comments

Nicklas Backstrom talks about his recovery from hip resurfacing, the Leafs’ Ilya Samsonov and the Blackhawks’ Philipp Kurashev face arbitration, the latest notable contract signings and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is looking forward to playing a full season after his recovery from his hip resurfacing procedure last year.

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (NHL Images).

Backstrom, 34, indicated that he’d been dealing with chronic hip pain since 2015 which eventually worsened, affecting his play and quality of life away from the arena. Since the procedure, he said that he’s gotten his life back and is confident he’ll be even stronger for the Capitals in the coming season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Backstrom missed the first half of last season recovering from the procedure, finishing with 21 points in 39 games. At the end of last season, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan expressed uncertainty over whether he could fully regain his form.

Backstrom’s performance will likely be the main focus when Washington’s training camp opens in September. Improvement in his play will be a significant factor in the outcome of the Capitals’ 2023-24 season.

TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs and goaltender Ilya Samsonov are $2.5 million apart in their salary arbitration filings. Samsonov seeks a one-year contract worth $4.9 million while the Leafs countered with $2.4 million. The two sides have until Friday to reach an agreement on a new contract before the scheduled arbitration hearing.

THE ATHLETIC: The Chicago Blackhawks and forward Philipp Kurashev have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract with an arbitration hearing slated for Thursday. It appears that this will go before an arbitrator. Kurashev seeks a one-year, $2.65 million deal while the Blackhawks seek a two-year contract with an average annual value of $1.4 million.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets and Gabriel Vilardi have avoided arbitration as the two sides agreed to a two-year contract with an AAV of $3.437 million.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: The Golden Knights avoided arbitration with forward Brett Howden, signing him to a two-year contract with an AAV of $1.9 million.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: The New Jersey Devils signed former Boston Bruins forward Tomas Nosek to a one-year, one-way contract worth $1 million.

SEATTLE HOCKEY INSIDER: The Kraken signed head coach Dave Hakstol to a two-year contract extension through 2025-26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken’s performance this season landed Hakstol that extension. They reached the playoffs in just their second season of existence. He was a finalist in 2022-23 for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year.

ESPN.COM: New NHL Players Association executive director Marty Walsh is focused on getting NHL players involved in the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympic Winter Games in Italy. He indicated that he’s been working with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, collectively together with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL last participated in the Winter Olympics in 2014.

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Former NHL defenseman Markus Nutivaara said he doesn’t miss playing hockey after a hip injury prematurely ended his playing career. The 29-year-old announced his retirement two weeks ago.

Nutivaara began to feel the effects of the injury in 2019-20. He said that when his hip failed to improve, his back started to fail and other problems flared up. “I skated on one leg for three years,” he said. He indicated that he underwent two operations to address osteoarthritis in his hip until the doctors informed him they could do no more.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: During the interview, Nutivaara said his hip is still pretty bad. He took the time to praise the San Jose Sharks for their support, singling out his Finnish teammates as well as Sharks icon Joe Thornton.

Nutivaara also warned young players off taking painkillers. He said that he took them often during the 2019-20 season, indicating that he felt stomach pain doing so. He said it wasn’t worthwhile to continue his playing career if he needed painkillers to do it.

TSN: Nate Thompson has announced his retirement following his 15-season NHL career. He last played in 2021-22 with the Philadelphia Flyers. The 38-year-old forward scored 65 goals and collected 99 assists over 844 career games with the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets and Flyers.


  1. Nate,put your suitcase away! You have accumulated a lot of frequent flyer miles!

    • Not a bad career for a sixth round role player.
      Over 800 games played.
      That guy got the best out of the talent given to him by hard work and a great attitude.
      Stick tap to Nate.

      • SOP/Steve

        Concur on all accounts

        The consummate journeyman who gave it all

        Enjoy the next chapter Nate

      • And, SOP, he overcame a drug problem and kept his career going. Great story.

      • Nate Thompson taught Suzukihow to be a Pro.
        I was sorry to see him go, a journeyman who was a great mentor,

    • That’s great he’s retired. But what’s really great is he’s going to help me with that new stupid NHL sudoku app that’s all the rage. I’m sure someone in here knows what it’s called. You match players and teams who’ve played together or on the same team etc etc. Like. Name a player who’s played for St.Louis and has also played on five NHL teams.

  2. Glad to see Nosek getting a spot in NJ. I believe he will be a solid addition to their 4th line and PK.

  3. The Leafs are countering with 2.4 million for Samsonov? Is that some kind of joke? He was 27-10-5 with a 919 save percentage. For his career he is 79-32-13 with a 909 save percentage. I would almost suggest he should be seeking more than 4.9 million.

    Arbitration cases can get nasty, I doubt he comes out of it very happy even if he gets awarded 4.9 million, which he should.

    • thats what happenes when you spend all your cap on a literal handful. its a team game not the NBA. hopefully players and agents get that concept one day and stop trying to ryin the game with greed

      • Both players and owners are trying to maximize their earnings. Some of the high end guys have taken a “little less” over the years to try and keep the team together, but the mid level and lower end guys need to fight for every dollar.

        So if Samsonov gets hurt this season, which will impact his performance and future earnings, are the Leafs gonna step up and pay him anyway next season?

        We both know the answer. Call it greed if you want.

      • 1. Don’t over value one good year, especially goalies.
        2. Spending on talent makes sense and better than than overspending on replacement players, ie 3rd and 4th liners, bottom pairing defenders, depth players, and lastly, goalies.
        3. There are no guarantees, you need luck as much as you do skill or to some here, cap space to win.

    • New episode of : Uptairs/Downstairs brought to you by TML courtesy of NHL/NHLPA, where only the Big 4 get compensated…next year it will get even worse, as the star players will get all the benefits of Cap increase and the rest…..well, Let them eat cake!

  4. Joseph Woll will be Toronto’s number 1 goalie

    They can move on from Campbell/Samsonov

    This guy is No Swayman ..,

    The cap structure will not allow the Leafs to resign Samsonov – Bon voyage –

    Their should be a goalie out there that can compliment Woll

    I.e.- Calgary has 3 goalies , 1 can be had …

    Same as Nylander – I like him a lot , again Leafs cannot fulfill his 10 mil- request
    Brodie has to move on as well
    5 mil/ year

    • Hi Ken

      Possibly re Woll…. But down the road maybe, not there yet to carry 1G job, IMHO

      TRE/Samsonov camp….Split the diff…. 1 year $3.65 M, buyout Murray, net Cap savings of $0.35 M

      If Samsonov dives this year… let him go; if he shines… extend with term commensurate with 23/24 performance

      Agree… WW to go…. Trade for (lesser cap) solid D

      Brodie…. Very hard to move…. Setting aside that he can nix 10 franchises…. $5 M cap…. Who has that space AND wants him…. But most importantly…. Back loaded contract….. cash owed this year is $7.5 M all in Sal…. Middle team (hard to think that any would , but if) taking just 25% (almost $1.9 M cash) would want pretty dang fair sweeteners

      I’d say high likelihood Brodie starts season with Leafs unless there is a multi-player move happening (and I don’t think Leafs can maneuver with Grier for EK)

  5. Good signing (Nosek @ $1M)

    Why only 2 year extension on Haxtol?

    Backstrom …. As a Pens fan….. take more time to recover…. Relax, take a load off….. we’ll see you in the fall of ‘24 👍

    Re Olympics…. Can Marty please work with Bill instead of Gary

    Tre and Samsonov camp…. Both sides skew “value” as a negotiating tactic…. All parties do this

    Split the diff…. $3.65 M, 1 year…. Then buyout Murray…saves $0.35 M in Cap. Worst case… $4M award to Samsonov…. Buyout Murray, zero Cap effect

    Give Samsonov his big contract (term and $’s) next year

    No matter what, Tre has to make other moves…. Still a bunch over the cap

    Doobie…. All these other GMs are “settling out of court” on their RFAs bound for Arb….. sign off on O’Connor and with same fax to NHL head office; attach the Granlund “B-Bye” paperwork; and then immediately sign Dumba👍👍👍

    • Toronto Maple Leafs have stanley cup aspiration; I don’t see them going with s goalie with 11 career starts over two season to be their number 1 goalie.

      I see tons of comments after Vegas won the cup, that you don’t need an elite goalie to win the cup.

      Vegas had a defensive system that Cassidy uses and that Boston still uses and Vegas had 6 dman that they could put out at any time.

      Toronto doesn’t play that defensive game and they don’t have the 6 dman to complement the system.

      I dont see Toronto going for the cup by starting Woll as their #1 goalie.

      • I think caper what’s you’re saying is, no matter who you have in net, that won’t be helping your team win when your forwards are just watching the puck in their defensive zone. 😀

      • And you have one good offensive defensemen no good defenders.

        Nylander to the Islanders and a 1st for Pelech and Pullock.

      • Hi Caper

        Certainly not this year re Woll…. Maybe in 24/25… certainly has potential

        Dark G….. fantastic deal…. If Tre could do that ( GMLL I’m confident won’t)…. That is a true mover/shaker move

        A Murray buyout ($4 M saved) and WW out (just shy of $7 M)…. Total ~ $11 M out… P & P in at $11.9 M….. makes Leafs (already nigh $9 M over); another $900 K worse in Cap…. But waaaaay better as a team

        You get that deal done Dark G….. free Tim’s for a year 👍🤞🙏😀

    • Pengy, Leafs are $3.2 million over the cap with 22 players, an unsigned Samsonov and using Muzzin’s full LTIR. Add a healthy Robertson (or similar ELC player) and they exceed the cap by $4 million with a 23 man roster.

      Buyout of Murray plus Samsonov at $4 million leaves them in the exact same spot.

      Need to get rid of a $5 million contract – best scenario in my opinion is to package Nylander and Brodie (or Murray) in a trade for a right D. If Tre can pull it off, he will be known as “Tre the Magician”.

      • Looking at cap friendly they have already accounted for Muzzin’s LTIR.

      • Hi HotG

        With you in general; but Murray in deal costs more assets

        Sign Samso, buyout Murray…. Then no need to sweeten any deal

        Brodie also will require a big sweetener ($5 M cap but $7.5 Cash)

        WW for a solid second pairing, big, gritty D; at less Cap is a move to make IMHO

        I do believe WW for Oleksiak works.

        Big Rig last year 9-16-25 and plus 13…. His best year by far…. Also the biggest player in the NHL; and by far

      • Hi HotG

        With you in general; but Murray in deal costs more assets

        Sign Samso, buyout Murray…. Then no need to sweeten any deal

        Brodie also will require a big sweetener ($5 M cap but $7.5 Cash)

        WW for a solid second pairing, big, gritty D; at less Cap is a move to make IMHO.

        I do believe WW for Oleksiak works.

        Big Rig last year 9-16-25 and plus 13…. His best year by far…. Also the biggest player in the NHL; and by far

      • Is there an echo in here?

      • Ron Moore, it isn’t just one good year for Samsonov, the prior year he was 23-12-5 .896 and the two years before that 13-4-1 .902 and 16-6-2 .913. He actually hasn’t had a down year with an overall record of 79-32-13 and .908 save percentage. It may not be a lot of games, but he seems to win a lot more than he loses and I wouldn’t call Washington a great team in 2021-22.

        Doesn’t Toronto have to go through with the arbitration in order to have the opportunity to buy out a contract? I see on TSN they are saying they should settle prior to the arbitration, but I’m pretty sure there will be no buyout opportunity if they do that.

      • Hi Dave

        Buyouts happen as soon as a settlement is reached (mutual before Arb; or through Arb)

        So Tre/Samsonov can agree today; send paper work in; and at same time submit waiver paperwork (Murray technically must clear first before being bought out) for the purposes of buyout

        If they wait until Arb…. Final decision is with Arb (no negotiating after like in the past) and if the award is not to piking and there is a walk away…. No door open for buyout (must have an agreed deal)

        All the more incentive [for Tre (with Samsonov) re Murray; and Dooby (with O’Connor) re Granlund] to get a deal done…. Pronto

      • If Brad Treliving were to trade Wil Nylander for Jamie Oleksiak, he would be promptly fired. Maybe even fired into a lake or the sun.

        Oleksiak is a spot picker (generally fights guys at the end of a shift) who isn’t very good at defending or offense.
        My favorite J.O. moment was when Tom Wilson knocked him silly a few years back.
        On second thought……pull the trigger, Tre.
        If he’d take J.O. for Nylander, he’d be all over Nylander for Forbort.

  6. I know a team can walk away from an arbitration decision if the player wins it. Can a player walk away if the team wins the decision??

  7. The leafs need to get some house cleaning Done and get there Cap under control asap….

    Starting with Matt Murray & his 1 yr $4.6M contract
    should be moved with a pick or a prospect asap…
    Jake Muzzin’s $5.6M for one more year
    thats $10.2M

    they will still need to fined $M to re-sign Samsonov

    its looking more like sorting out who they are going to move from the Big 4… ⁉️

    it Should be John Tavares & his $11.M contract, I know he has a NMC but there are ways around that…..
    Willie is to young & good to move……

    Leafs and goaltender Ilya Samsonov are $2.5 million apart in their salary arbitration…
    Give Samsonov $4.M then try to sign him to a longer deal,
    Joseph Woll will be the back up and need a couple of years to prove himself ….