NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2023
NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: Jesper Bratt recently explained to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that he used the pressure of his two short-term contracts as motivation to justify that he was worthy of a long-term deal.
“I liked going into the summer pressuring myself a little more,” said Bratt. “Okay, I have to prove myself. I gotta work harder, I gotta show them how good I am.”
The result was back-to-back 73-point campaigns for Bratt, including breaking the 30-goal plateau last season for the first time. Earlier this summer, the 25-year-old winger signed an eight-year, $63-million contract ($7.875 million average annual value).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bratt acknowledged his new challenge will be justifying his lucrative new contract. He’ll have little difficulty doing that if he remains a 30-goal, 70-plus-point winger.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets forward Gabriel Vilardi arrived in Winnipeg last week to begin preparation for training camp later this month. Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in June as part of the Pierre-Luc Dubois, the 24-year-old Vilardi claimed to be unaware of the club’s soap opera over the past two seasons over a perceived lack of accountability and leadership among the players.
Vilardi claimed he was surprised to find out that the Jets didn’t have a captain last season. “I thought Mark Scheifele was the captain. I don’t even know. That gives you my answer,” he said, going on to say that he uses that line often.
“I’m here to play hockey. That’s my job. From what I’ve seen so far, Winnipeg isn’t that bad. We’ll see the winter.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vilardi was the key piece in the four-asset return that the Jets received from the Kings for Dubois. He’s coming off a career-best performance of 24 goals and 41 points in 63 games. His performance this season could play a crucial role in the Jets’ playoff hopes for this season.
VANCOUVER HOCKEY NOW: Rob Simpson reports Canucks winger Tanner Pearson feels he’s 100 percent recovered from the hand injury that limited him to just 14 games last season. That could create a salary-cap crunch for the Canucks, who are currently some $4.4 million over the $83.5 million cap. Pearson, 31, carries a $3.25 million AAV for the coming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pearson was mentioned earlier this year as a potential trade candidate if he was ready to return for the start of this season. Those rumors could surface again if he is indeed good to go for 2023-24.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators and Shane Pinto aren’t close to a new contract. However, it’s hoped the restricted free agent center will be signed soon. NHL training camps open on Sept. 21.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pinto, 22, completed his entry-level contract last season. It was his first full NHL campaign and he showed promise with 20 goals and 35 points in 83 games. The Senators, however, are bumping up against the cap.
The Senators can exceed the cap by 10 percent until the start of the season when they must be cap compliant. Signing Pinto will mean clearing some cap space via demotions and/or trade.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers president Keith Jones said his club was getting close to a new contract for Morgan Frost. The 24-year-old center completed his ELC last season. He had 19 goals and 46 points in 81 games in 2022-23. “Morgan’s an important player for us in the future. That will work itself out,” said Jones.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Speaking of the Flyers, 2023 first-round pick Matvei Michkov was a healthy scratch for SKA St. Peterburg’s KHL season-opening on Saturday. Chosen seventh overall by the Flyers, the 18-year-old winger is considered one of Russia’s top hockey prospects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This news caused a bit of a stir yesterday on hockey Twitter..er, sorry, “X”. A scoring winger, Michkov was apparently scratched because of his defensive play.
I wouldn’t put too much stock into Michkov getting benched unless this becomes a trend over the course of this KHL season. He’s under contract with SKA St. Petersburg through 2025-26. There’s plenty of time for this kid to develop his game before joining the Flyers, provided his KHL club will let him go.
SPECTOR’S NOTE Bowey’s last NHL season was in 2021-22 with the Vancouver Canucks, playing two games with them and spending the rest of the season with their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford. He spent last season with the AHL’s Laval Rocket.