NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 10, 2023
The Jets’ Connor Hellebucyk and Mark Scheifele and the Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin sign contract extensions plus an update on Jake Guentzel and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
JETS SIGN HELLEBUYCK AND SCHEIFELE
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets yesterday announced the signings of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and center Mark Scheifele to identical seven-year contract extensions with an average annual value of $8.5 million. The deals go into effect next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was surprising news from the Jets. Given their eligibility for unrestricted free-agent status next summer, Hellebuyck and Scheifele frequently appeared in trade speculation during the offseason. It was assumed one or both would be shopped before the March 8 trade deadline if the Jets were out of playoff contention by then.
Re-signing Hellebuyck and Scheifele is a big win for Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. He faced considerable criticism over the direction of the club in recent years, sparking calls for a roster rebuild from fans and pundits.
Cheveldayoff locked up this club’s two best players on long-term extensions with a reasonable average annual value, signaling that this club has no intention of rebuilding the roster. These moves also put a dent in the belief around the league that the small-market club can’t retain their best players.
Hellebucyk and Scheifele are both in their playing prime and would’ve earned considerably more from next summer’s free-agent market. By accepting less money to stick with the Jets, they’ve provided a big vote of confidence in Cheveldayoff’s plans.
However, it’s also a substantial investment by the Jets in two 30-year-old players who will be in decline by the second half of their seven-year deals. While the salary cap is projected to rise considerably over that period, having $16 million tied up in two aging stars still takes a big bite out of their payroll. It could become a salary-cap headache down the road.
TSN: Speaking of the Jets, defenseman Ville Heinola underwent surgery on his fractured left ankle and will be sidelined for a minimum of eight weeks.
CBS SPORTS: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers has ruled himself good to go for his club’s season opener on Wednesday against the Calgary Flames. He’d missed preseason play with neck spasms.
SABRES SIGN DAHLIN TO EIGHT-YEAR EXTENSION
THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Sabres yesterday announced they reached an agreement with Rasmus Dahlin on an eight-year, $88 million contract starting in 2024-25. The average annual value is $11 million, making it the most lucrative contract in Sabres history.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a hefty new contract for Dahlin but one that should prove worthwhile for the Sabres. The 23-year-old defenseman is among the league’s elite puck-moving blueliners, reaching or exceeding 40 points in four of his five NHL seasons. Those include his 53-point performance in 2021-22 and last season’s career-best (to date) 73-point output.
Dahlin is the cornerstone of the Sabres’ blueline corps and one of their core players. He will play a key role in this club’s future as they attempt to transition into a perennial playoff contender. This deal ensures they’ll have Dahlin under contract throughout the prime of his career. $11 million annually makes him one of the league’s highest-paid defensemen but it could be worth it for the Sabres over the long term.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE ATHLETIC: Jake Guentzel is hopeful of signing a new contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. “I’ve pretty much grown up in Pittsburgh,” he said. “I love this place so much. I really do. This is a great place, both for me and my family. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Guentzel is in the final season of his contract earning an AAV of $6 million. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Contract talks haven’t started yet but both sides seem confident that a deal will get done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins will have to pay Guentzel a raise if they hope to retain him. Perhaps they can convince him to accept between $8 million and $9 million for the security of a long-term contract.
TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray will be sidelined for six to eight months following bilateral hip surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray will likely spend the season on long-term injury reserve. He will become an unrestricted free agent next summer but his playing career is probably over.
The Leafs also announced Curtis McElhinney as their new director of Goaltending Development and Scouting, Jake Muzzin was named a pro scout and Chris Bourque was named a college free-agent scout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Muzzin is in the final season of his standard player contract with the Leafs but he is moving on to a post-playing career. He’s on what I call permanent LTIR due to a neck injury suffered during a game last October.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Sidelined forwards Roope Hintz, Wyatt Johnston and Radek Faksa remain questionable for the Stars’ season opener on Thursday against the St. Louis Blues.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Golden Knights defensemen Alec Martinez and Zach Whitecloud were placed on injured reserve yesterday.
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Flyers blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen was placed on IR with an undisclosed injury.
TSN: The Tampa Bay Lightning signed forward Austin Watson to a one-year, one-way contract worth just over $776K. He played four games with the Lightning during the recent preseason on a professional tryout offer.
NYI HOCKEY NOW: The Islanders placed forward Ross Johnston on waivers yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Johnston clears waivers he’ll likely be sent to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
DAILY FACEOFF: The Ottawa Senators reclaimed defenseman Lassi Thomson off waivers yesterday from the Anaheim Ducks. Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche claimed goalie Ivan Prosvetov from the Arizona Coyotes, the Calgary Flames claimed forward A.J. Greer from the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins claimed defenseman John Ludvig from the Florida Panthers.
NEW YORK POST: The NHL has banned its teams from using Pride Tape during pregame warmups as it continues to move away from special initiatives that caused issues for a handful of players, including Pride Night.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: “Hockey is for everyone.”