Golden Knights re-sign Shea Theodore, Brian Gionta retires, Islanders sign Luca Sbisa, and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights have re-signed defenseman Shea Theodore to a seven-year, $36.4-million contract.
Vegas Golden Knights re-signed Shea Theodore to a seven-year contract (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So much for the assumption Theodore would get a short-term bridge deal. The annual average value of this deal is $5.2 million, which is a considerable raise over his entry-level contract.
The 23-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent. He’s a skilled puck-moving blueliner with considerable upside who’s expected to develop into a reliable top-pairing rearguard. If he reaches his full potential this new contract could become a wise long-term investment by the Golden Knights.
SPORTSNET: Forward Brian Gionta announced his retirement yesterday after 16 NHL seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins.
The 5’7″ winger debuted with the Devils in 2001-02 and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2003. Gionta went on to captain the Canadiens and Sabres. He had seven 20-plus goal campaigns, including a career-high 48 goals in 2005-06, finishing with 291 goals and 304 assists for 595 points in 1,026 career games. He has accepted a developmental coach role with the Sabres.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best of luck to Gionta in his future endeavors.
THE SCORE: The New York Islanders signed free-agent defenseman Luca Sbisa to a one-year, $1.5-million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sbisa was probably hoping for a more lucrative contract after playing a top-four role during the 2018 playoffs with the Vegas Golden Knights. If he pans out for the Isles this season he could earned a better contract with them.
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues forward Robby Fabbri is listed as day-to-day with a groin injury.
CBS SPORTS: The Florida Panthers released center Mark Letestu from his professional tryout offer.
Recent updates on the status of the four remaining unsigned RFAs in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Luke Fox and Jared Clinton recently updated the status of Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, Anaheim Ducks winger Nick Ritchie and New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood. The four are the final remaining unsigned restricted free agents.
No sign of an end to the contract standoff between William Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo via NHL Images)
Nylander is the biggest name on the list. Fox notes the young Swede’s initial ask was $8 million per season while Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas would apparently settle for something comparable to the $6 million annual average value of Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers.
Nylander remains in Sweden while Dubas remains patient. Fox believes the longer this goes the greater likelihood they’ll agree to a bridge deal. With Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner due for next contracts next summer, Larkin notes the Leafs must tread carefully, as Nylander’s new contract could set the parameters for negotiations with the other two.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The longer this standoff continues the more speculation could arise suggesting the Leafs consider trading Nylander. Dubas has said he doesn’t intend to go that route.
Given Nylander has no leverage other than to not report, the Leafs GM can afford to be patient, especially if the team isn’t significantly hurt by his absence. If this standoff drags into the regular season, however, it will raise questions over Nylander’s long-term future with the Leafs, especially if he ends up settling for a bridge contract.
The recent re-signings of Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey and Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse have have not affected Theodore’s negotiations with the Golden Knights. Fox cites John Shannon’s Sept. 17 tweet indicating the two sides remains no closer to an agreement. Clinton suggests St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Colton Parayko’s contract ($5.5-million AAV for five years) could be along the lines of what the Theodore camp is seeking.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Golden Knights have over $9.4 million in projected salary-cap space, giving them more than enough room to re-sign Theodore to a Parayko-style deal. However, I think they’d prefer something comparable to Morrissey or Nurse because of his limited body of work.
Theodore still has considerable potential but only had parts of two NHL seasons on his resume before joining the Golden Knights. GM George McPhee might prefer evaluating his development over the next two years before committing to a more lucrative deal.
Fox also cites reports indicating a lack of progress in talks between the Ducks and Ritchie. He feels a short-term contract is Ritchie’s best bet, while Clinton believes the Ducks want to see more than they have out of the winger before investing long term.
Fox and Clinton both noted reports indicating talks toward a short-term deal between the Devils and Wood broke down following the start of training camp. So far, there’s no indication they’ve picked up.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ritchie and Wood have potential to become better NHL players. However, they aren’t as valuable to their respective teams as Nylander and Theodore are to theirs, which is the only real leverage the latter two have.
Updates on the unsigned restricted free agents in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz updates us on the seven restricted free agents still without contracts with NHL training camps now underway.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander tops the list of unsigned restricted free agents. (Photo via NHL Images)
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs. Gretz said there are reports the two sides are far apart in negotiation as Nylander doesn’t want to sign a bridge deal. The Leafs have already invested big money in John Tavares and must re-sign Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner next summer. While some suggest the Leafs should trade one of their young players, Gretz believes they can make this work.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran reports it’s believed Nylander seeks $8 million per season while the Leafs are offering $6.5 million annually. General manager Kyle Dubas wants to get the young forward signed as soon as possible but said he doesn’t want his club setting any marketplace records. In other words, the Nylander camp won’t be getting $8 million per season.
The Leafs are intent on holding the line here. The longer this holdout goes, the more pressure shifts onto Nylander, who has no leverage other than to withhold his services.
Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights. He was among their top defensemen last season for the Golden Knights, whose blueline will be shorthanded by Nate Schmidt’s suspension for the opening 20 games of the regular season. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the two sides are far apart.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word on how much Theodore seeks or what the Golden Knights are offering. Cap Friendly indicates his annual cap hit was just over $863K per season on an entry-level deal. While the Knights have the cap space to re-sign Theodore, they obviously want to keep it manageable while they have the leverage.
Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers. The indefinite absence of veteran defenseman Andrej Sekera adds a measure of urgency for the Oilers to get Nurse under contract. However, his agent said there’s a disagreement with management over Nurse’s value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nurse was reportedly willing to accept a bridge contract. If so, the sticking point here is likely dollars.The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson presumes the Nurse camp could look at Calgary’s Noah Hanifin’s contract (six years, $4.9 million annually) as a comparable.
Cap Friendly indicates the Oilers have around $3.9 million in cap space. That doesn’t leave much room to re-sign Nurse and perhaps add another blueliner to offset Sekera’s absence. The Oilers can only seek cap relief by placing Sekera on long-term injured reserve at the start of the season if they’re sitting over the cap ceiling when the season begins.
Sam Reinhart, Buffalo Sabres. Gretz feels there’s a bit of a mystery over Reinhart’s potential. While there’s still the possibility he can break out, his three seasons of 20-25 goals and 45-50 points could be what to expect of him going forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart and the Sabres have kept negotiations under wraps as much as possible. It’s assumed the Sabres could be pushing for a two-year deal. Considering Reinhart’s production and questions over whether he’s capable of greater production, that might be the best way to go right now.
Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg Jets. Gretz believes the Jets want to avoid the contentious Jacob Trouba contract negotiation storyline repeating itself with Morrissey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe recently speculated over what type of contract Morrissey could receive and its effect upon the Jets’ limited salary-cap space. He notes a bridge deal worth between $3.-$3.5 million annually will push the Jets closer to the $79.5-million salary-cap ceiling. A longer-term pact could cost between $4.75 million – $5.5 million, which would be more difficult (though not impossible) for the Jets to handle.
Nick Ritchie, Anaheim Ducks. Given Ritchie’s performance to date, Gretz considers him the one player in this group destined to get a short-term “prove-it” contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far, there’s no indication the two sides are close to reaching an agreement.
Miles Wood, New Jersey Devils. Gretz cites Devils GM Ray Shero saying at the start of training camp that the two sides are getting closer to an agreement but “philosophical issues’ remained.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wood’s agent recently said his client is keen to join his teammates at training camp. However, dialogue between the two sides remains quiet. It’s believed the two sides are working toward a bridge deal.
Latest on Max Pacioretty, speculation over what notable RFAs might get and the Canucks’ efforts to land a marquee player in your NHL rumor mill.
IS A PACIORETTY TRADE COMING SOON?
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Yvon Pedneault reports sources say the Montreal Canadiens could trade left wing Max Pacioretty very soon, perhaps within the next several days. He also claims Pacioretty told Canadiens owner Geoff Molson last season that it might be better if he were dealt to a new team days after general manager Marc Bergevin told him, “I’m going to trade you.”
Will the Montreal Canadiens trade Max Pacioretty soon? (Photo via NHL Images)
Pedneault also went through the oft-reported details of how a trade of Pacioretty to Los Angeles during the 2018 NHL Draft fell through because a contract extension couldn’t be worked out with the Kings, as well as the Canadiens’ captain changing agents during the period. He feels the only resolution to this situation is a trade as soon as possible.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Bergevin is trying to trade Pacioretty before the start of the season in October he could find it difficult getting a decent return. I’m not saying it’s impossible but Bergevin isn’t dealing from a position of strength right now.
The better time to make that move could be near the Feb. 25 trade deadline when playoff contenders are looking to bolster their rosters. However, the downside is Pacioretty’s status will cast a pall over the upcoming season, becoming an unnecessary distraction for the team.
Then again, Bergevin could follow the recent example of Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic. Around this time last year, most fans and pundits blasted Sakic for not trading unhappy center Matt Duchene before the start of training camp. Sakic, to his credit, ignored the criticism and waited for the right offer, which eventually came in November.
A similar scenario could unfold for Pacioretty. Maybe the Kings revisit their interest in the left winger. Maybe a high-scoring forward on a playoff contender gets sidelined indefinitely early in the season, forcing his club into the trade market for immediate help. Maybe Bergevin swaps Pacioretty for another pending UFA in hopes of re-signing that player to a new contract.
SPECULATION OVER NEW CONTRACTS FOR KEY RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos looked at the remaining unsigned notable restricted free agents, speculation over the cost of getting them under contract. Based on Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander’s 48 goals and 135 points in 185 games, he could get “something in the $45-million range” spread over six or seven years. Traikos expects the Winnipeg Jets will try to lock up defenseman Josh Morrissey to “a long-term deal that looks better with every year.”
Traikos also suggests the six-year, $33-million contract of Montreal Canadiens center Jonathan Drouin “looks like a fair comparable” for Buffalo Sabres forward Sam Reinhart. He feels a bridge contract might be the best option for Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Ritchie. As for Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, Traikos suspects the holdup getting him under contract might be tied to putting some money aside in case Ottawa Senators blueliner Erik Karlsson becomes available.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how these shake out. All of them are coming off entry-level contracts, meaning their only leverage is threatening not to play unless their teams meet their asking prices. However, that’s a tactic seldom employed and rarely successful. Each situation is also unique. Signing a player to a long-term deal might be worthwhile for one club while a bridge deal could be preferable to a team with limited short-term cap space.
CANUCKS SEEKING A MARQUEE PLAYER?
THE PROVINCE: Ed Willes recently noted the reports of the Vancouver Canucks apparently inquiring into the availability of Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. He doubts the Canucks could land Karlsson but notes it’s the third time GM Jim Benning “made noises about pursuing a marquee name”, pointing out his previous interest in P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos two years ago.
It leaves the fans wondering about the vision of the Canucks, pointing out it would cost three or four of their promising prospects to land someone such as Karlsson. Willes believes Benning should know making that type of move “will further alienate a fan base whose patience has been worn to a nub.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps Benning is feeling pressure from ownership to make a big splash that hastens the club’s rebuild and improves ticket sales. The Canucks GM recently said he had no intention of trading away his promising assets. Of course, we all know what a GM says and what he does can be two different things.
Maybe the Canucks front office is keen to speed things along but circumstances (such as the exorbitant price of acquiring a big-name talent) could force them into staying patient with their own prospects.
Updates on David Backes, Karl Alzner, Kevin Hayes, Shea Theodore and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Having shed 10 pounds in the offseason, a leaner David Backes hopes to garner more playing time and take on a larger role with the Boston Bruins. Backes, 34, hopes the weight loss will improve his speed in order to compete with younger, faster opponents.
Boston Bruins forward David Backes hopes a leaner frame will improve his speed. (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Backes struggled through an injury-hampered performance last season, netting 33 points in 57 games. While getting leaner could improve his speed this season, his age could still work against him. At some point, players lose a step regardless of how hard they work to get faster.
SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner is drawing upon his disappointing 2017-18 as motivation to improve this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Alzner’s motivation might not be enough to overcome his lack of speed. The game is trending toward faster talent and Alzner had difficulty last season containing fleet-footed opposition.
NHL.COM: Despite signing a one-year contract with the New York Rangers, center Kevin Hayes hopes his play this coming season will lead to a long-term extension. Hayes said he wants to be a leader with the Rangers and aspires to spend his entire career with the Blueshirts.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights and restricted free agent defenseman Shea Theodore appear no closer to a deal with the start of training camp less than three weeks away.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Theodore could be seeking a long-term deal but I think the Golden Knights are leaning toward a two- or three-year bridge contract. He’s coming off an entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights so I expect Vegas general manager George McPhee will use that leverage to his advantage. Theodore could refuse to report to training camp but that tactic rarely works nowadays. I expect he’ll be inked to a short-term contract by the time training camp opens in mid-September.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes joined all of Arizona’s pro sports teams in expressing condolences to the family of Senators John McCain, who passed away last night at age 81.
Latest on the Senators plus updates on Shea Theodore, Brandon Carlo and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Ian Mendes reports of cautious optimism in Ottawa following a recent meeting between mayor Jim Watson and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk regarding a proposed new area at LeBreton Flats. Both men expressed optimism over working together to get the project going. Watson suggested construction might begin by next June. Melnyk noted some issues still remain but he doesn’t consider them insurmountable.
OTTAWA CITIZEN: cites a report by ESPN’s John Buccigross claiming prospect forward Brady Tkachuk is expected to announce today that he’ll forego returning to Boston University this fall and will instead sign a pro contract with the Senators. He was selected fourth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Ottawa Senators prospect Brady Tkachuk is expected to turn pro. (Photo via NHL.com)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After months of being dogged by bad news, these reports provide Senators fans with a sliver of hope. Construction of a new arena will kill off the relocation rumors. Tkachuk could be a promising part of the club’s future. If he cracks the lineup, perhaps he can help them bounce back from last season’s poor performance.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Contract negotiations continue between the Vegas Golden Knights and restricted free agent defenseman Shea Theodore. General manager George McPhee remains hopeful of reaching an agreement before training camp opens in mid-September.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Golden Knights have over $8.6 million in projected salary-cap space so they have plenty of room to re-sign Theodore, their only unsigned free agent. The blueliner is coming off an entry-level contract.
While Theodore’s considered a key part of their future the Golden Knights could be reluctant at this point to ink him to a long-term deal. He could get a two-year bridge contract worth around $3.5-million per season with the promise of a more lucrative deal if he plays up to expectations.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo hopes to be a more physical presence this season. The 21-year-old blueliner has recovered from a broken fibula and added several pounds of muscle this summer.
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis examines how the Rangers abandoned their usual offseason script to stick with their young program as their primary tool of rebuilding.