The Blackhawks sign Connor Murphy to a new contract, the Islanders reportedly ink Casey Cizikas to a new deal, Evander Kane puts his San Jose home on the market, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks yesterday signed Connor Murphy to a four-year contract extension. The 28-year-old defenseman will earn an annual average value of $4.4 million through 2025-26.
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murphy gets a slight pay bump from the $3.85 million AAV of his current deal that expires at the end of this season. He should fill the second-pairing right-side role on the Blackhawks blueline with Seth Jones holding the first-pairing spot on their rebuilt defense corps. He’s also expected to take on more of a leadership role.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The term of Cizikas’ new deal seems excessive for a 30-year-old checking line forward but it’s an affordable annual average value. The length of the deal was likely what it took to get Cizikas to accept that annual cap hit.
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello still hasn’t officially announced Cizikas’ new deal but it’s the first indication that one of the club’s unrestricted free agents has been signed. The secretive Lamoriello reportedly doesn’t want his rivals to know how much salary-cap space he actually has.
THE MERCURY NEWS: Embattled San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane is selling his San Jose home for almost $3.2 million. Kane filed for bankruptcy in January and is going through a messy divorce from his estranged wife Anna, who accused him of gambling on Sharks’ games. Those allegations are under investigation by the NHL.
SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted former NHL forward Patrick Sharp is returning to his roots as a coaching advisor with the University of Vermont’s Men’s Hockey Team. Sharp played for them from 2000 to 2002.
TORONTO SUN: A recent survey named the Maple Leafs’ Carlton the Bear as the NHL’s top mascot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sun greeted this news with derision. “Were the voters four years old?”, they asked, calling the Leafs mascot “bland and uninspiring.”
Updates on the Blues and Bruins plus latest on Patrick Sharp, Martin Erat, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist receives one-game suspension (Photo via NHL Images).
NHL.COM: St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist received a one-game suspension by the NHL department of player safety for boarding Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. The incident occurred during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Sundqvist will miss Game 3 tomorrow night in St. Louis.
BOSTON HERALD: Grzelcyk is listed as day-to-day and is in concussion protocol. He didn’t travel with the Bruins but they haven’t ruled him out for Game 3.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Former Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp is rapidly rising among the ranks of NBC Sports’ NHL analysts.
RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: Former NHL winger Martin Erat has officially retired. He spent 13 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals and Arizona Coyotes from 2001-02 to 2014-15. Erat spent the past three seasons in the Czech Extraliga.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Erat spent over 10 seasons with the Predators and enjoyed his best seasons in Nashville. However, he’ll be remembered for being traded to the Capitals in 2013 for then-promising prospect Filip Forsberg. Erat lasted only two more seasons in the NHL while Forsberg went on to become a big star with the Predators.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed defenseman Juuso Riikola to a one-year, $850K contract.
Game recaps, Mike Matheson fined, Patrick Sharp to retire and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patrik Berglund tallied a hat trick to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. With the win, the Blues (94 points) moved one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference, setting the stage for their showdown tonight to decide who qualifies for the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov tallied his 100th point of the season in a 7-5 win over the Buffalo Sabres (Photo via NHL Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning widened their lead over the Boston Bruins for first overall in the Eastern Conference by defeating the Buffalo Sabres 7-5. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist to reach 100 points for the first time in his career. Teammate Yanni Gourde set a franchise record for goals (25) and points (64) by a rookie. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos sat out the game with a lower-body injury but is expected to be ready for the playoffs.
The Pittsburgh Penguins (100 points) secured home-ice advantage in the upcoming 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators. Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel each collected two points while goaltender Casey DeSmith made 35 saves. The Penguins sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the first time in Crosby’s career, he played in every game during the regular season.
Jakob Silfverberg scored a goal and set up two others as the Anaheim Ducks (99 points) downed the Dallas Stars 5-3 to take over third place in the Pacific Division.
If the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers end the season tied for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, they’ll play a one-game play-in on Tuesday to determine which one qualifies for the postseason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers have 96 points with one game remaining while the Panthers have 92 points with two games left. The Flyers face the New York Rangers this afternoon. If they win that game or pick up a point in an overtime/shootout loss, they’ll clinch that playoff berth and the Panthers will be eliminated.
Vancouver Canucks center Adam Gaudette is the winner of the 2018 Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA Division 1 hockey.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp has indicated his intent to retire at the end of this season. He spent 14 seasons in the NHL, 11 of those with the Blackhawks, helping them win three Stanley Cup titles.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharp had a productive NHL career, tallying 20-or-more goals and 40-plus points eight times. Over the last two seasons, however, it was apparent that age and the wear-and-tear of his long career had taken a toll upon the 36-year-old winger. Best wishes to him in his future endeavors.
SUN-SENTINEL: The NHL’s department of player safety has fined Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson $2,000.00 for diving.
NEW YORK TIMES: Jaromir Jagr isn’t ruling out a possible return to the NHL next season. Jagr began this season with the Calgary Flames but was released from his contract on Jan. 28 and returned to the Czech Republic to play for his hometown team Kladno.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jagr’s age (46) and his on-ice struggles with the Flames this season will scare off most clubs. An NHL return could depend on him swallowing his pride and accepting a professional tryout offer.
THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE: Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden once again calls upon NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to take action in the prevention of head injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dryden is right that Bettman is the league’s central decision maker and could implement significant rule changes when it come to concussions and hits to the head. However, Bettman’s reluctance to do so could be tied to the lawsuit the NHL is currently embroiled in with former players who believe the league didn’t do enough to protect them from head injuries.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators were saddened yesterday to learn of the death of 17-year-old Jonathan Pitre, the youngster who suffered from a rare, painful disease called epidermolysis bullosa. In 2014, the Senators signed Pitre to a contract making him a scout for a day. They also closely supported his fight against the disease.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rest in peace, Jonathan. My condolences to his family, friends and the Senators organization.
Analysis of Notable NHL Free Agent Signings – July 1, 2017
Joe Thornton re-signed a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks on July 1, 2017.
As the opening day of the 2017 NHL free-agent market winds down, here’s a brief look at the day’s notable signings.
San Jose Sharks re-sign defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (eight years, $7 million annual average value) and goaltender Martin Jones (six years, $5.75 million AAV). Both contracts kick in on July 1, 2018. The Sharks also sign center Joe Thornton (reportedly one-year deal and around $6.5 million).
Vlasic’s an elite NHL defenseman and his new contract puts him among such notables as Drew Doughty of the LA Kings and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’d say he belongs there. He’s a crucial part of the Sharks defense corps.
Jones’ new salary places him around fifteenth among the highest-paid goalies. If the 27-year-old returns to his solid form of 2015-16, this could prove a bargain for the Sharks over the long run.
Despite all the speculation linking Thornton to other clubs leading up to July 1, it wasn’t surprising that he re-signed with the Sharks. He was seeking a three-year deal but apparently was willing to accept a one-year deal for a full $6.5 million salary.
It’s been reported Thornton’s future in San Jose was tied to long-time Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau. Thornton’s signing could signal Marleau’s return.
Anaheim Ducks re-sign defenseman Cam Fowler (eight years, $6.5 million AAV) and goaltender Ryan Miller (two years, $2 million AAV).
Like Vlasic’s and Jones’ new contract, Fowler’s kicks in next July. Though he was the subject of frequent trade speculation last summer, it’s apparent the Ducks consider him the key cog of their blueline. Th 25-year-old’s new contract is comparable to that of St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo.
As for Miller, his days as an elite netminder are in the past. He’ll take on a backup/mentor role for starter John Gibson.
New York Rangers sign defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (four years, $6.65 million AAV). The biggest name in this summer’s UFA market lands where he was always expected to go. He finished among last season’s leading scorers among blueliners though he’s earned criticism for his defensive game.
The 28-year-old will be skating on the right side of the Blueshirts top pairing with Ryan McDonagh. He’s being overpaid for his services but the Rangers at least didn’t lock him up for too long.
Pittsburgh Penguins re-sign defenseman Justin Schultz (three years, $5.5 million AAV). Schultz rejuvenated his NHL career with the Penguins, playing a role in their consecutive championships in 2016 and 2017. Tallying a career-high 51 points last season, he was among the league’s highest-scoring blueliners. That ensured the Pens would keep the mobile rearguard in the fold and give him a healthy raise to boot.
Montreal Canadiens sign defenseman Karl Alzner (five years, $4.65 million AAV). The Canadiens land themselves a quality replacement for Alexei Emelin, who was plucked away by Vegas in the expansion draft. The 28-year-old Alzner is a durable, physical shutdown defender. The Habs got him for a reasonable deal.
Dallas Stars sign center Martin Hanzal (three years, $4.75 million AAV). The 6’6”, 226-pounder brings size and two-way skills at center for the Stars. However, he also has a long injury history and only two 40-point seasons on his resume. The salary’s a little pricey but the Stars didn’t saddle themselves with a lengthy term.
Carolina Hurricanes sign right wing Justin Williams (two years, $4.5 million AAV). Williams, 35, returns to the team where he won his first Stanley Cup in 2006. He gets a nice pay raise over the $3.25 million per season of his previous two-year deal. Despite his age, he remains a reliable second-line right wing. The rebuilding Canes should benefit from his skills and leadership.
Nashville Predators sign center Nick Bonino (four years, $4.1 million AAV) and left wing Scott Hartnell (one year, $1 million AAV). Bonino’s two championship seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins bolstered his free-agent value. The Pred needed two-way depth at center and willingly ponied up for him. This move likely means they’re out of the bidding for Avalanche center Matt Duchene.
The Predators also shipped Colin Wilson to the Colorado Avalanche to make room for Hartnell, who was recently bought out by Columbus. He’s returning to the club where his NHL career began. While the 35-year-old is in decline, he could be a worthwhile checking-line depth addition for the Preds.
Winnipeg Jets sign goaltender Steve Mason (two years, $4.1 million AAV) and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (three years, $4.33 million AAV). Mason’s earning the same annual cap hit as he did on his previous three-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Jets needed an experienced goalie to carry the bulk of the workload until promising Connor Hellebuyck is ready for the full-time starter’s job. As with former Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec, however, consistency is an issue for Mason.
Kulikov, meanwhile, hopes to get his career back on track after a back injury hampered him during his brief tenure with the Buffalo Sabres. When healthy, he’s a mobile, big-minute defender. But if his back woes flare up again, this could become a costly error for the Jets.
Vancouver Canucks sign forward Sam Gagner (three years, $3.1 million AAV) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (two years, $3 million AAV). Gagner’s 50-point bounce-back performance last season with the Blue Jackets earns him a big raise over his one-year, $650K deal in 2016-17. If he can maintain his usual 40-point production, he could provide a decent boost to the Canucks offense.
Del Zotto, meanwhile, takes a bit of a pay cut for two seasons in Vancouver. He’ll provide the retooling Canucks with experienced puck-moving depth, buying time to allow their younger rearguards to develop.
Tampa Bay Lightning sign defenseman Dan Girardi (two years, $3 million AAV) and winger Chris Kunitz (one year, $2 million). The Bolts get older, but perhaps not necessarily better. They sought an experienced top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. However, the 33-year-old Girardi has a lot of miles on him and has lost a step or two. That’s one reason the Rangers bought him out.
Same goes for Kunitz, who’s also getting $1 million in bonus money. He helped the Penguins win three Stanley Cup titles since 2009 but saw his production decline over the past two years. Yzerman’s taking a couple of gambles here, but at least they’re affordable and only short term.
Toronto Maple Leafs sign defenseman Ron Hainsey (two years, $3 million AAV). Hainsey reached the playoffs last season for the first time in his career, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup. The Leafs expect he’ll bring experienced depth to their defense corps, but it remains to be seen how much the 36-year-old has left in the tank.
Philadelphia Flyers sign goaltender Brian Elliott (two years, $2.75 million AAV). After washing out with the Calgary Flames last season, the 32-year-old Elliott will try to get his career as an NHL starter back on track with the Flyers. His deal is a reasonable one, but he’s unlikely to end the Flyers’ seemingly never-ending carousel of mediocre goaltending.
Florida Panther sign right wing Radim Vrbata (one year, bonus-laden contract, $2.5 million base salary). The 36-year-old Vrbata will replace now-departed winger Jaromir Jagr. He was the Coyotes’ leading scorer last season with 55 points and could be a decent short-term addition to the Panthers’ scoring lines.
Los Angeles Kings sign winger Mike Cammalleri (one year, $1 million AAV). After being bought out by the New Jersey Devils, Cammalleri returns to the city his NHL career began. The 35-year-old still has a decent scoring touch, but injuries in recent years have limited his effectiveness.
Chicago Blackhawks sign winger Patrick Sharp (one year, $800k AAV). The 35-year-old tallied 20 goals and 55 points in 2015-16 but injuries limited him to just 18 points last season. Having recovered from hip surgery, perhaps a return to Chicago, where he had his best seasons, can help him regain to form. It’s an affordable risk for the cap-strapped Blackhawks.
New York Rangers sign Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year contract.
The NHL free-agent period opened at noon ET today. Here’s a look at the day’s notable signings thus far. Analysis of the most noteworthy signings will follow later today in my Soapbox section.
Pittsburgh Penguins re-sign defenseman Justin Schultz to a three-year contract worth $5.5 million per season.
San Jose Sharks have reportedly re-signed center Joe Thornton to a one-year, $6.5 million contract.
Tampa Bay Lightning sign winger Chris Kunitz to a one-year, $2 million contract.
Anaheim Ducks signed goaltender Ryan Miller to a two-year deal worth $2 million annually.
Los Angeles Kings sign winger Mike Cammalleri to a one-year, bonus-laden contract with a $1 million base salary.
Anaheim Ducks re-sign defenseman Cam Fowler to an eight-year, $52-million contract extension. The deal kicks in on July 1, 2018.
San Jose Sharks re-signed defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to an eight-year, $56 million contract extension and re-up goaltender Martin Jones to a six-year, $34.5 million extension. Both deals commence on July 1, 2018.
Pittsburgh Penguins sign goaltender Antti Niemi to a one-year, $750K contract.
Buffalo Sabres sign goaltender Chad Johnson to a one-year, $2.5 million contract.
Carolina Hurricanes sign winger Justin Williams to a two-year, $9 million contract.
Pittsburgh Penguins sign defenseman Matt Hunwick to a three-year, $6.75 million contract.
Winnipeg Jets sign goaltender Steve Mason to a two-year deal worth $4.1 million per season.
Buffalo Sabres signed winger Benoit Pouliot to a one-year, $1.15 million contract.
The Tampa Bay Lightning signed defenseman Dan Girardi to a two-year deal worth $3 million per season.
The Detroit Red Wings signed defenseman Trevor Daley to a three-year, $9.5 million contract.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is heading to the Winnipeg Jets. Three years, $4.33 million AAV.
Center Brian Boyle is reportedly heading to the New Jersey Devils on a two-year deal. (Update: It’s two years, $5.5 million)
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the Toronto Maple Leafs are signing defenseman Ron Hainsey to a two-year deal. (Update: $3 million per season. )
TSN’S Darren Dreger reports center Nick Bonino is joining the Nashville Predators. Four years, $4.1 million AAV.
NBC SPORTS cites a report from NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes saying the New York Rangers signed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year deal worth $6.9 million per season. TSN’s Frank Seravalli, however, reports Shattenkirk’s agent calls this premature, claiming his client is still considering his options.
TSN contributor Aaron Ward reports hearing the Montreal Canadiens have agreed to a five-year contract with defenseman Karl Alzner worth roughly $4.5 million annually. (Update: It’s a five-year, $23-million contract. $4.6 million AAV).
SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reports it looks like the Vancouver Canucks will sign forward Sam Gagner (three years, $3.15 million per). Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (two years, $3 million) goaltender Anders Nilsson (two years, $2.5 million AAV) and forward Alex Burmistrov are also expected to join the Canucks.
Winger Patrick Sharp is rejoining the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s reportedly a one-year, $1 million contract. ($800K base salary, $200K in bonuses).
Center Martin Hanzal is expected to join the Dallas Stars. (Update: Three years, $4.75 million annually).
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier is joining the Colorado Avalanche. (Update: Two years, $2.75 million per season)
Goalie Ondrej Pavelec is heading to the New York Rangers. (Update: One year, $1.3 million).