NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – New York Islanders
The opening day of the NHL’s free-agent frenzy saw several stars changing teams as well as some interesting depth moves. Here’s a brief look at the day’s most notable signings.
John Tavares comes home to Toronto.
After being spurned by Steven Stamkos two years ago, the Leafs succeed in wooing hometown boy Tavares, inking him to a seven-year, $77-million contract. The annual cap hit is $11 million and it’s believed the 27-year-old center left money on the table to join the Leafs, who’ll now have Tavares, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri as their top-three centers. However, the Leafs still have a porous defense that needs improvement. With few palatable options remaining via free agency, perhaps they’ll turn to the trade market for help.
James van Riemsdyk returns to the Flyers.
Six years after the Flyers shipped van Riemsdyk to the Leafs, he returns on a five-year, $35-million deal. The annual cap hit is $7 million per season, a tad expensive for a winger who turns 30 next May. Nevertheless, he’s coming off a career-best 36-goal campaign and reached or exceed 54 points in four of the past five seasons. While van Riemsdyk’s presence should provide a welcome offensive boost for the Flyers, he could also be considered insurance in case winger Wayne Simmonds departs next summer via free agency.
Paul Stastny strikes gold in Vegas.
Unable to agree to terms with the Winnipeg Jets, Stastny accepted a three-year, $19.5-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. A skilled two-way playmaker, the 32-year-old center should help fill the void left by the departure of veteran leaders James Neal and David Perron to free agency. He’ll also help take some of the burden off young centers William Karlsson and Erik Haula. At $6.5 million per season, Stastny’s an expensive addition but one the Golden Knights can afford over the next three years.
Jack Johnson becomes a Penguin.
As expected, Johnson signed a five-year, $16.25 million deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, joining his old school buddy Sidney Crosby. His new contract carries a cap-friendly $3.25 AAV, though the term is a little long for a 31-year-old defenseman who struggled last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Still, the Penguins have a history of successful reclamation projects with defensemen (Justin Schultz, Trevor Daley, Jamie Oleksiak). If Johnson regains his confidence in Pittsburgh, he could prove a worthwhile addition to their defense corps.
David Perron and Tyler Bozak get the Blues.
It’s the 30-year-old Perron’s third go-around with the Blues and this tenure will be long than his last, inking a four-year, $16-million contract. A skilled, sometimes streaky playmaking winger, he should provide a much-needed boost to a Blues offense (especially their sputtering powerplay) that really struggled last season. Last season with the Vegas Golden Knights, he enjoyed a career-high 50-assist, 66-point performance.
Bozak, 32, signed a three-year, $15-million deal to come to St. Louis. He’s a solid two-way playerwho should help the Blues shore up their depth at center. He tallied 41 points in 2017-18, marking the fifth time in nine seasons the now-former Maple Leaf exceeded the 40-point plateau.
Handing out deals worth over $4-million annually to 30-something players can be risky, but the Blues were desperate for help up front. Fortunately, the deals aren’t too long. But with over $73 million invested in 22 players, they don’t have much left to re-sign RFAs such as Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri
Cole gets an Avalanche of cash.
A reliable physical defenseman with decent puck-moving skills, the 29-year-old Cole cashes in big this summer, signing a three-year deal worth $4.25 million per season with the Colorado Avalanche. Having won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Cole could bring a measure of leadership and shutdown ability to the Avs blueliner.
Komarov heads to the Island.
After watching franchise player John Tavares sign with Toronto, New York Islanders general manager (and former Leafs GM) Lou Lamoriello replied by signing former Leafs forward Leo Komarov to a four-year, $12-million deal. It’s difficult to fathom what Lamoriello was thinking here. “Uncle Leo” was a popular, hardworking role player in Toronto but the 31-year-old winger struggled through an injury-shortened 2017-18 campaign. His career-best 19-goal, 36-point season came in 2015-16. He’s not worth $3 million annually.
The NHL free-agent market opens today at noon ET. Here’s a list of today’s notable signings, which will be updated throughout the day.
Toronto Maple Leafs signed center John Tavares to a seven-year, $77-million contract
Philadelphia Flyers reportedly signed left wing James van Riemsdyk to a five-year, $35-million contract.
Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed defenseman Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year contract extension worth $6.75 million per season.
Arizona Coyotes officially announced the signing of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to an eight-year contract extension worth $8.25 million AAV. They also re-signed defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a two-year contract extension worth $5 million AAV, and signed free-agent winger Michael Grabner to a three-year deal worth $3.35 million per season.
Vegas Golden Knights will sign center Paul Stastny to a three-year contract. The annual average value is $6.5 million. They’ve also signed defenseman Nick Holden to a two-year deal worth $2.2 million annually.
St. Louis Blues expected to sign winger David Perron to a four-year deal worth $4 million per season. The Blues have also signed center Tyler Bozak to a three-year contract with an AAV of $5 million and goaltender Chad Johnson to a one-year, $1.75-million deal.
Colorado Avalanche reportedly close to signing defenseman Ian Cole to a three-year contact worth an annual cap hit of $4.25 million.
Chicago Blackhawks sign goaltender Cam Ward to a one-year, $3-million contract with a full no-movement clause. They’ve also signed winger Chris Kunitz to a one-year, $1-million contract and defenseman Brandon Manning to a two-year deal.
Boston Bruins expected to sign goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a two-year contract worth $2.75 million annually. They also signed winger Joakim Nordstrom to a two-year, $2 million deal and defenseman John Moore to a five-year contract worth an AAV of $2.75 million.
Columbus Blue Jackets sign center Riley Nash to a three-year contract worth $2.75-million per season.
Buffalo Sabres will reportedly sign goaltender Carter Hutton to a three-year, $8.25-million contract.
New York Islanders have an agreement in place to bring back defenseman Thomas Hickey on a four-year deal worth an AAV of $2.5 million. They also signed forward Leo Komarov to a four-year, $12-million contract.
Detroit Red Wings expected to sign goaltender Jonathan Bernier to a three-year deal worth around $3 million annually and forward Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $3-million contract.
Dallas Stars expected to sign forward Blake Comeau to a three-year deal worth $2.4 million per season. They’ve also re-signed winger Valeri Nichushkin to a two-year deal worth $2.95-million annually. Roman Polak is reportedly heading to the Stars on a one-year contract worth $1.3 million.
Vancouver Canucks are expected to sign center Jay Beagle to a four-year contract worth $3 million annually and forward Antoine Roussel to a four-year deal worth $3.25 million per season.
Calgary Flames expected to sign center Derek Ryan to a three-year deal worth an AAV of $3.125 million and center Austin Czarnik to a two-year deal worth $1.25-million annually.
Carolina Hurricanes sign goaltender Petr Mrazek to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.
Montreal Canadiens are expected to announced the signing of center Tomas Plekanec to a one-year deal worth a base salary of $2.25 million plus bonuses.
Minnesota Wild will reportedly sign defenseman Greg Pateryn to a three-year contract and signed goaltender Andrew Hammond.
It’s the opening day of the NHL UFA market. Here’s the latest on John Tavares, Erik Karlsson, Paul Stastny and more in your Sunday rumor mill.
**Follow this link to check out the listing of today’s notables UFA signings**
NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports the ongoing wait for John Tavares to reach a decision on his future doesn’t bode well for his possible return to the New York Islanders, though they still have a chance to sign him. As he’s now an unrestricted free agent, they cannot offer him an eight-year deal and can instead only ink him to the seven-year maximum for UFAs. The Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs are among the other suitors. Tavares’ new deal could exceed $12 million annually.
NEW YORK POST: Whether Tavares re-signs with the Isles or elsewhere, Brett Cyrgalis points out they’ll still have some glaring roster holes to address. They’re in need of a starting goaltender, blueline depth and one more scoring forward.
THE ATHLETIC/TORONTO SUN: If the Leafs miss out on Tavares, James Mirtle reports they’ll target former Carolina Hurricanes center Derek Ryan. Lance Hornby also reports they could pursue Ryan but doesn’t rule out the Leafs bringing back Tyler Bozak.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The longer it takes Tavares to reach a decision, the more it appears he could be leaving Long Island. Still, some pundits were speculating the cone of silence on his decision could be the doing of Isles GM Lou Lamoriello, suggesting they’re still very much in the mix. So far, there’s no hint as to which club he favors. Hopefully, we’ll find out by this afternoon. As for Ryan and the Leafs, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports he’s expected to ink a three-year deal with the Calgary Flames.
LATEST ON THE SENATORS AND JETS
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the waiting game between the Senators and captain Erik Karlsson continues. The Sens can officially open contract extension talks with Karlsson today but there’s a feeling he could be traded in the coming days. Ottawa is the only team that can offer him an eight-year contract and Garrioch doesn’t rule out a “sign-and-trade” scenario.
The Vegas Golden Knights are among a group of teams with interest in the Senators’ superstar and they could also be willing to take on winger Bobby Ryan in the deal. Garrioch notes the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals had interest in Karlsson leading up to last season’s trade deadline and may have re-entered the picture.
Garrioch also expects the Senators will be active in the free-agent market. They’re believed among a group of teams that “kicked tires” on former Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny. There’s talk they had interest in former New York Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan, though he might return with the Isles. They may have contacted former Vegas winger David Perron.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given all that’s gone done with the Senators since last fall, it’ll be very surprising if Karlsson opts to stay in Ottawa. They’ll have to pony up something at least comparable to LA Kings’ blueliner Drew Doughty’s new contract (eight years, $88 million) to have a realistic shot of tempting him to re-sign.
The Senators will set a high asking price for Karlsson if they trade him but there will be teams willing to meet it. I don’t think the Capitals are among them, as they seem intent on keeping their Cup champion roster intact. As for the Lightning, a decision on Karlsson could depend upon whether they win the Tavares sweepstakes.
WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe reports the door remains open for Paul Stastny to return with the Winnipeg Jets, who shed $4.1 million in cap space by shipping goaltender Steve Mason and restricted free agent forward Joel Armia yesterday to Montreal. However, they’ll need to invest between $1.25 million to $2 million of those savings in a backup goaltender. Possible backup options could include Chad Johnson, Kari Lehtonen, Petr Mrazek and Calvin Pickard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe shedding Mason’s contract was done with re-signing Stastny in mind. Cap Friendly indicates they now have over $28 million in cap space for 2018-19, but they must re-sign RFAs such as Connor Hellebuyck, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey and they’re in line for significant raises. They must also ensure sufficient cap space beyond this season when Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Tyler Myers will need new contracts.
LATEST ON RYAN O’REILLY
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports the Buffalo Sabres paid center Ryan O’Reilly his $7.5 million signing bonus for 2018-19. He wonders what effect that could have upon his value in the trade market, as clubs interested in his services were unwilling to pay out that bonus.
It could mean the Sabres keep O’Reilly or perhaps this will push up their asking price for the 27-year-old center. The Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues are believed among the suitors. Where John Tavares signs could also effect O’Reilly’s trade value.
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports the Blues are unwilling to part with promising Robert Thomas as part of the return for O’Reilly.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams that lose out on Tavares could set their sights on O’Reilly. It’s possible he could be dealt later this week, but the Sabres aren’t under pressure to trade him. With O’Reilly under contract through 2022-23, they can take their time and wait for the right offer.
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS, HURRICANES, BLUE JACKETS AND RANGERS.
LA PRESSE: Richard Labbe reports the Montreal Canadiens are among a dozen teams with interest in former Chicago Blackhawks winger Anthony Duclair.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander reports the Carolina Hurricanes are believed to have contacted free-agent goaltenders Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek. They’re also still listening to offers for left wing Jeff Skinner, though they haven’t yet received anything to their liking.
SPORTSNET: The New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets have interest in former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov.
A roundup of media speculation over the Toronto Maple Leafs’ offseason plans. Enjoy!
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman speculates over possible changes for the Toronto Maple Leafs. General manager Lou Lamoriello is completing a three-year contract but has a provision allowing him to remain in an advisory role for two more years. His decision could affect the status of assistant GMs Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas. If Lamoriello departs, Friedman wonders if he’d join his son Chris with the New York Islanders.
Pending free-agent winger James van Riemsdyk loves Toronto and wants to stay but Friedman said it’s hard to see how a new contract will fit. He also anticipates the Leafs will look at upgrading their blueline, noting they “kicked tires” on some in-season options such as Ryan McDonagh and Chris Tanev, though they were never really close on anything at the time.
Friedman’s colleague Damien Cox believes the Leafs should consider bolstering their goaltending depth. While acknowledging starter Frederik Andersen’s heavy workload, he feels the Leafs need to upgrade between the pipes if they’re to improve. Among his suggested options are promoting Garrett Sparks, giving backup Curtis McElhinney more work or bring in a goalie via trade or free agency to compete with starter Frederik Andersen.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran considers signing New York Islanders pending free-agent center John Tavares a long-shot bet for the Leafs, suggesting they offer up a one-year, $16-million contract. If landing Tavares isn’t possible, he proposes short-term options such as San Jose’s Joe Thornton (depending upon his recovery from knee surgery) or New Jersey’s Michael Grabner.
McGran believes they must bring in a top-flight mobile defenseman. Acquiring big-ticket blueliners such as Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty or Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (who are both eligible for UFA status in 2019) would be expensive. He suggests pending UFAs such as Washington’s John Carlson or Detroit’s Mike Green could be targets.
McGran also wondered about Lamoriello’s future with the Leafs, as well as what type of contract restricted free agent forward William Nylander might get. He also thinks the Leafs would be wise to open contract extensions talks with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who have a year remaining on their entry-level deals. He expects UFAs such as van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Tomas Plekanec and Dominic Moore won’t be back, but perhaps Mike Babcock favorites Leo Komarov and Roman Polak might be retained.
NATIONAL POST: Michael Traikos feels the Leafs need better defensemen if they hope to contend for the Stanley Cup, even if that means trading someone like William Nylander to get one. He points out the Leafs have considerable depth at forward but it’s a different story on the blueline, “with (Jake) Gardiner, Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev playing too high in the line-up.” While they could pursue a UFA such as John Carlson or Mike Green, Traikos suggests better options, such as Vancouver’s Chris Tanev or Calgary’s T.J. Brodie, could be available via the trade market, or perhaps Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson or Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty. Pursuing a quality defenseman, however, could cost someone such as Nylander, Connor Brown or Kasperi Kapanen.
THE ATHLETIC: In addition to musing over the futures of Lamoriello and the notable UFAs, the possibility of signing Tavares and new contracts for Matthews, Marner and Nylander, Jonas Siegel also noted the Leafs need to bolster their blueline, especially on the right side. If Washington’s John Carlson is unavailable, Siegel wonders if the Leafs will circle back on Vancouver’s Chris Tanev in the trade market. However, he feels trading William Nylander for a defenseman “should be a definite no-go.” That will make it tricky to determine who or what the Leafs can give up to get that blueliner.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes “there’s a real possibility that not one of the Leafs’ six players headed for unrestricted free agency — forwards James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Dominic Moore and Plekanec and defenceman Roman Polak — will be re-signed.” He doesn’t think van Riemsdyk will accept a hometown discount to stay in Toronto.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect plenty of media speculation over the Leafs’ offseason plans in the coming weeks, especially when the 2018 NHL Draft weekend (June 22-23) draws near. It’ll certainly be interesting to see whether Lamoriello returns as GM or if Hunter or Dubas takes over. Newsday’s Andrew Gross said there’s no indication the Islanders are interested in Lamoriello, though he acknowledged his ties to the organization through his son.
The Leafs’ priority must be improving their defense corps. They gave up too many shots-against and scoring chances, blew too many leads and relied too much on Andersen to bail them out. As per Cap Friendly, the Leafs have less than $50 million invested in 16 players once the all-but-retired Nathan Horton’s cap hit is placed on long-term injured reserve at the start of next season. That’s more than enough to address their blueline needs via free agency or trade. They could also make one or two affordable additions without eating up too much of their long-term cap room.
If Carlson hits the free-agent market, the Leafs should definitely pursue him. If he’s unavailable, Green might make a decent short-term addition that won’t break the bank. If there’s a chance of acquiring a superstar such as Doughty or Karlsson, they should at least look into it to determine the cost of return and salary. If they can find more affordable trade options, they must do it. As Traikos observes, it could cost them a good young forward but such a move could be addition via subtraction if it improves the defense.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times since last summer: the Leafs don’t need John Tavares. They already have a first-line center in Matthews, whose best days are still ahead of him. Nazem Kadri is a good fit on the second line. If they keep Nylander they can put him into the third-line role. Blowing their brains out for Tavares on a long-term contract will take up valuable cap space that would be better used plugging the gaping holes on their blueline. Even if he accepts a one-year deal for the 20 percent maximum salary, it would still be a waste of money that won’t address their defensive needs.
I concur with Koshan’s take on the Leafs’ UFAs. While I understand the wish of Leafs fans to keep JVR in the fold, that might not be possible if he won’t accept an offer that’s less than what he’d get on the open market. There could be more cost-effective short-term options via trade or free agency as they develop their promising young forwards.
Andersen faced more shots this season than any other NHL goaltender. To be a reliable playoff starter, the Leafs must reduce his workload. They’ll likely look to within to address that issue for next season.
Second-round playoff opening dates confirmed, Messier Leadership Award nominees revealed, Francois Beauchemin to retire. Details and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The dates for the opening games of the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs have been revealed.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will face the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their series in Washington at 7 pm ET on Thursday, April 26, while Game 1 of the San Jose Sharks-Vegas Golden Knights series begins at 10 pm ET in Las Vegas.
Game 1 of the Nashville Predators- Winnipeg Jets series opens at 8 pm ET on Friday, April 27 in Nashville.
The Tampa Bay Lightning await tonight’s winner of Game 7 between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. If the Bruins win, the opening game will take place at 3 pm ET on Saturday, April 28 in Tampa Bay. If the Leafs advance, they’ll face the Lightning in Tampa Bay at 8 pm ET on Saturday.
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds and Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler are this year’s nominees for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
TSN: Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov is cleared to play in Game 7 tonight against the Bruins, but it remains to be seen he’ll be dressed for that contest. Komarov hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury in Game 2.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury) and Patric Hornqvist (upper-body) are listed as day-to-day heading into their series with the Capitals.
NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski played through an undisclosed injury suffered during a game against the Bruins on Oct. 30. Werenski wouldn’t say if the injury requires surgery.
NJ.COM: New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen admitted he suffered a concussion following a hit from Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov in Game 4 of their opening-round series. He missed Game 5 of that series and will continue working out and rehabbing in New Jersey until fully recovered.
CBS SPORTS: Minnesota Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek suffered an undisclosed minor injury during his club’s opening-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. He’s not expected to undergo surgery.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Former Coyotes captain Shane Doan is auctioning a signed jersey in an effort to support the families affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 16 people.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow this link if you want to bid for Doan’s jersey. As of 6 am ET today, the largest bid was $2,000.00. The auction concludes Friday.
98.5 FM SPORTS MONTREAL: After 14 seasons, long-time NHL defenseman Francois Beauchemin has announced his retirement. Beauchemin tallied 76 goals and 212 assists for 288 points in 903 regular-season games, adding 10 goals and 39 points in 101 playoff contests. He spent the bulk of his career with the Anaheim Ducks, winning a Stanley Cup with them in 2007.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Beauchemin and his family in his future endeavors.