The Hurricanes sign Paul Stastny, the Islanders make some depth signings, the Coyotes’ new arena gets a name and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes signed Paul Stastny to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. The 36-year-old forward scored 21 goals and 45 points in 71 games last season with the Winnipeg Jets. He also gets a $500K performance bonus if the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup.
Carolina Hurricanes sign free agent Paul Stastny (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stastny signing is meant to offset the absence of Max Pacioretty, who is sidelined until February recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. The signing raised some questions over whether Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be knocked out of the second-line center position.
Stastny can play center or left wing. With Pacioretty on the shelf, he could be projected to fill the left wing spot on the second or third line. He can also slide into the second-line center position if Kotkaniemi struggles in that role in the coming season.
DAILY FACEOFF: One day after re-signing Noah Dobson, Alexander Romanov and Kieffer Bellows, the New York Islanders made four depth signings on Tuesday. Defensemen Dennis Cholowski and Paul LaDue and forward Arnaud Durandeau each signed two-year, two-way contracts while forward Hudson Fasching signed a one-year, two-way deal.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Arizona State University announced its new 5,000-seat arena will be called Mullett Arena. The venue is also the temporary home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The venue is named in honor of the Mullett family, who have been long-time supporters of ASU’s hockey program. Nevertheless, this news drew plenty of jokes on social media referencing early-90’s style hockey hair.
NJ.COM: Tampa Bay Lightning forward and New Jersey native Ross Colton recently said it would be cool to one day play for the Devils. He loves being in Tampa Bay and playing for the Lightning but said he grew up as a die-hard Devils fan.
“I understand it’s a business and whatnot. But down the road if I could throw on the (Devils) jersey one day, that would be awesome,” said Colton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Colton could get that opportunity in two years’ time. That’s when he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent unless he signs an extension with the Lightning. His current contract expires next summer when he’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and a year away from UFA eligibility.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: The Sharks signed restricted forward Noah Gregor to a one-year, one-way contract worth $950K. He will be eligible for arbitration next summer.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Tickets for the 2023 Winter Classic between the Penguins and Boston Bruins at Fenway Park on Jan. 2 go on sale today.
The Kraken get their first victory, impressive opening-night performances by Anze Kopitar & Tyler Bertuzzi, the Blue Jackets honor the late Matiss Kivlenieks with a big win, my take on the Senators finally signing Brady Tkachuk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken picked up their first-ever NHL victory by holding off the Nashville Predators 4-3. Brandon Tanev scored twice and Jared McCann and Alex Wennberg each had a goal and an assist. Mikael Granlund had a goal and two assists for the Predators.
Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar (NHL Images).
Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar had a historic night in his club’s 6-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. He matched his single-game career-high (five points) with three goals and two assists, joined Luc Robitaille and Jari Kurri as the third King to score a hat trick on opening night and became the oldest player (34 years, 51 days) in league history to collect five points in a season opener. Teammate Drew Doughty had a four-point night. It was a tough loss for the Golden Knights as captain Mark Stone left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period.
Detroit Red Wings center Tyler Bertuzzi scored four goals but it was the Tampa Bay Lightning emerging victorious with four unanswered goals in a wild 7-6 overtime victory with Ondrej Palat tallying the winner. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman each had four points and Steven Stamkos scored twice for the Lightning.
The Columbus Blue Jackets honored the memory of the late Matiss Kivlenieks with a pregame ceremony, then went on to thump the Arizona Coyotes 8-2. Elvis Merzlikins made 36 saves for the win while Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied two goals and two assists and Max Domi collected three points.
Two unanswered third-period goals by Aaron Ekblad set the stage for Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime winner as the Florida Panthers rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4. Penguins forward Jeff Carter tallied his 400th career goal.
Andrei Svechnikov scored twice and added an assist to power the Carolina Hurricanes over the New York Islanders 6-3. Frederik Andersen made 25 saves for his first victory with the Hurricanes.
An overtime goal by Miro Heiskanen lifted the Dallas Stars over the New York Rangers 3-2. It was a costly win for the Stars as defenseman John Klingberg left the game twice with an apparent leg injury while goaltender Braden Holtby was sidelined by dehydration with 11:53 remaining in the third period. Anton Khudobin stepped in and stopped all six shots he faced.
The Buffalo Sabres got off to a good start to this season with a convincing 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Victor Olofsson and Zemgus Girgensons each had a goal and an assist.
Ottawa Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg made a career-high 46 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators opened a 3-0 lead in the first period and held off a third-period rally by the Leafs, who also lost goaltender Petr Mrazek with an apparent injury to his left leg late in the second period.
OTTAWA SUN: Speaking of the Senators, they finally signed Brady Tkachuk after he missed all of training camp and their season-opener. The 22-year-old left winger agreed to a seven-year, $57.5 million contract. The annual average value is over $8.33 million for this season, followed by an AAV of $8.205 million for the remainder of the deal. It also pays him $10.5 million in actual salary during the third, fourth and fifth seasons of the deal, and includes a full no-movement clause in the final three seasons. There are no signing bonuses.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a significant signing for the Senators, getting one of their best forwards under a long-term deal without ponying up any money upfront in each season. It’s still a good deal for the winger, making him the club’s highest-paid player in terms of annual average salary.
The Tkachuk camp had reportedly sought a three-year deal but general manager Pierre Dorion said what impressed him was the winger’s desire to stay in Ottawa for the long term. This move sends a positive message to the club’s long-suffering fans that they can retain their best young players.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL approved the Montreal Canadiens’ request to place Shea Weber on long-term injury reserve. The league will continue monitoring the defenseman’s health and injuries but he legitimately cannot play right now. This move also allows the Canadiens to activate Carey Price when the goaltender returns from the league’s player assistance program.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics believe Weber could return to the Canadiens’ lineup in time for the 2022 playoffs when his cap hit no longer applies. While that’s possible, everything I’ve heard and read coming out of Montreal suggests it’s also unlikely. Weber is reportedly recovering from three different injuries (knee, ankle, thumb) that could bring his career to an end.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog received a two-game suspension from the league’s department of player safety for boarding Chicago Blackhawks center Kirby Dach on Wednesday.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Emil Bemstrom is out four-to-six weeks with a left oblique strain suffered during practice on Tuesday.
SPORTSNET: According to Sportico, the Toronto Maple Leafs has the highest value of all NHL franchises. The New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins round out the top five. In last place are the Arizona Coyotes.
Told forward Tobias Rieder is signing a 1-year deal with Vaxjo of the Swedish Hockey League.
Rieder, who has played 478 NHL games for 5 teams, was released from a PTO with the Ducks last week.
Elvis Merzlikins talks about his offseason and his plans for the coming season, the Senators re-sign GM Pierre Dorion plus updates on Charlie McAvoy, Gustav Nyquist, Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE ATHLETIC: In an interview with Aaron Portzline, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins spoke about the tragic death of teammate and close friend Matiss Kivlinieks and the birth of his son Knox Matiss Merzlikins during the offseason. Kivlinieks’ loss has given Merzlkins motivation to win the Vezina Trophy.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (NHL Images).
“I don’t want to make any promise, but I can tell you, Aaron…my plan is to win a Vezina Trophy. I’m gonna win a f*****g Vezina for him.”
Merzlikins credits Kivlinieks with saving the life of his family when his late friend was struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar on July 4.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Merzlikins will be jockeying for the starter’s job with Joonas Korpisalo. He said he and Korpisalo have a good relationship and understood the duo could split the playing time this season. A Vezina-worthy performance by Merzlikins, however, will ensure he gets the bulk of the starts and could help the Blue Jackets rebound from a lousy performance last season.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed general manager Pierre Dorion to a three-year contract extension through 2024-25.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion has done a good job handling the Senators’ rebuild. He drafted young core talent such as Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Drake Batherson and acquired Josh Norris. Promising prospects such as Jake Sanderson, Tyler Boucher, Shane Pinto and Jacob Bernard-Docker are also in their pipeline.
The Senators showed real signs of improvement last season. They’ll attempt to build on that with those youngsters playing key roles.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy and his agent aren’t concerned over the lack of contract extension talks. “I’m just really excited for the year, just worrying about this summer, being in the best spot to be ready for camp,” said McAvoy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McAvoy is a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. Both sides are probably willing to wait and see how this season pans out before engaging in serious contract discussions. Given how much defensemen such as Colorado’s Cale Makar, Chicago’s Seth Jones, and Edmonton’s Darnell got this summer, I daresay McAvoy’s next contract will average over $9 million per season.
NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist is looking forward to the coming season after missing the entire 2020-21 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery.
THE PROVINCE: Former Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen signed a one-year contract with KHL club Spartak Moscow. The Canucks released the 25-year-old forward this summer following an allegation of sexual misconduct against the former first-round pick.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks hired John MacLean as an assistant coach. He replaces Rocky Thompson, who stepped down last week due to medical reasons preventing him from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
THE ATHLETIC: The Seattle Kraken signed defenseman Dennis Cholowski to a one-year, two-way contract worth $900K at the NHL level.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Simon Gagne, Paul Holmgren, Bob Kelly, Lou Nolan, Mark Recchi and Rick Tocchet are the six finalists for inductions into the Flyers Hall of Fame. A voting committee will make the final selection and the induction ceremony will be held during a game this season.