NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2023
The free-agent market opens today, Matt Duchene and Blake Wheeler join the list of notable UFAs, the Golden Knights re-sign Adin Hill, a large number of RFAs don’t receive qualifying offers, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
THE TENNESSEAN: On the final day of the June buyout window, the Nashville Predators bought out the contract of forward Matt Duchene, making him an unrestricted free agent when the market opens today at noon ET.
Duchene, 32, had three years remaining on his seven-year contract with an average annual value of $8 million. The buyout counts as $2.55 million against the Predators’ salary cap payroll for 2023-24, rising to $5.55 million in 2024-25 and $6.55 million in 2025-26 before dropping to $1.55 million for each of the final three years of the buyout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: New Predators general manager Barry Trotz continues to make an immediate impact on his roster. Duchene had been inconsistent over the previous four seasons and his play was not up to the level expected of his salary. The cap hit is significant in years two and three of the buyout but the anticipated sharp increase of the cap over the period will lessen the pain.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets bought out the final season of winger Blake Wheeler’s contract. The cap hit for that year was $8.25 million. The buyout will count as $2.75 million against their cap for this season (2023-24) and 2024-25.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the end of an era for the Jets. Wheeler, 36, was the last player remaining from the club’s relocation from Atlanta to Winnipeg in 2011.
Wheeler put up decent numbers this season (55 points in 72 games) but the wear and tear of his long career has caught up with him and he no longer fits into the club’s plans. Whispers of divisions within the dressing room saw him stripped of the club’s captaincy last year. The Jets tried to trade him before June 30 but couldn’t find any takers.
DAILY FACEOFF: Duchene and Wheeler join this summer’s unrestricted free-agent class, sitting among the top 10 on Frank Seravalli’s list of notable UFAs.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins bought out defenseman Mike Reilly before Friday’s buyout deadline. They’ll have a cap hit for 2023-24 of over $333K and $1.333 million for 2024-25.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: The Red Wings bought out recently-acquired Kailer Yamamoto. Because he’s under 26, the 24-year-old winger’s buyout is one-third of the remaining value over twice the remaining term. The cap hit for this season is over $433K and $533K for 2024-25.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like Duchene and Wheeler, Reilly and Yamamoto enter this summer’s UFA class. They could draw interest from clubs seeking affordable depth.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: As expected, the Golden Knights officially announced their signing of goaltender Adin Hill to a two-year contract with an AAV of $4.9 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The expectation is Hill will share the Golden Knights’ goaltending duties with Logan Thompson. However, there is some trade speculation swirling about Thompson. I’ll have more on that in today’s Rumor Mill.
DAILY FACEOFF: The Carolina Hurricanes signed winger Jesper Fast to a two-year contract extension with an AAV of $2.4 million.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed Mattias Janmark to a one-year, $1 million contract. The 30-year-old checking-line forward took a slight pay cut from last season’s $1.25 million cap hit, citing his desire to be part of “something special” with the Oilers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Janmark believes the Oilers are a Stanley Cup contender for 2023-24 and was willing to take less money to stay put.
PUCK PEDIA: 113 players did not receive qualifying offers by yesterday’s deadline, making them unrestricted free agents. Among the notables are Mackenzie Blackwood, Jesse Puljujarvi, Max Comtois, Christian Fischer, Tyson Jost, Denis Gurianov, Nolan Patrick, Daniel Sprong, Caleb Jones, Klim Kostin, Colin White and Sam Steel.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of these players had arbitration rights this summer which might’ve resulted in them receiving more from an arbitrator than their clubs could comfortably afford. The cost of qualifying some of them would’ve also been more expensive than their actual value based on performance.
Not every player will end up signing with other teams. Kostin, for example, is reportedly close to a new contract with the Detroit Red Wings, who acquired his rights earlier this week from the Oilers.
DAILY FACEOFF: The Columbus Blue Jackets will formally introduce Mike Babcock as their new head coach at a 10 am ET press conference today.