Hockey and All That: Pre-Training Camp Edition

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The offseason between the 2020-2021 and 2021-22 seasons continues to be eventful. It has included additional player signings and acquisitions and other news since NoVa Caps’ previous light-hearted summary of the offseason events in early August. Here is an in-depth, but light-hearted summary of some of the additional hockey news for this offseason.

Oh Brother Where Are Thou

This offseason might end up being known for reuniting brothers who never played together in the NHL. Such moves began when the newly-minted Seattle Kraken chose two different Fleurys in the expansion draft, taking Haydn Fleury from the Anaheim Ducks, and his little brother, Cale, from the Montreal Canadiens. Neither are any relation to Marc-Andre Fleury, the veteran goaltender, but both (pictured below in 2019) are defensemen.

Photo: Cale Fleury (@CJF_98)

Another brother act was set up in Chicago. Longtime Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith wanted to be traded to a team closer to his home in Winnipeg, so the team dealt him to the Edmonton Oilers. One of the players sent back to Chicago in the trade was defenseman Caleb Jones. Caleb’s older brother, Seth, meanwhile decided he did not wish to re-sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. As a result the Blue Jackets, not wanting to lose Jones for nothing, traded his rights as part of a deal with Chicago. So now the Jones brothers are united with the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center and united on the same blueline, when not touring on the road and singing “What a Man Gotta Do”.

Photo: Chicago Blackhawks

Still another brother act took place in New Jersey when the Devils drafted defenseman Luke Hughes with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Back in 2019, the Devils drafted center Jack Hughes, the older brother of Luke, with the first overall pick. So now they have both of the younger brothers of Vancouver Canucks defenseman, Quinn Hughes.  So when do the Devils try to make a trade for Quinn Hughes or do they wait until he reaches free agency?

Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You?

This is a summer very memorable in the “bad boy” department, as in news involving badly behaved hockey players. Defensive prospect Logan Mailloux, who was charged and convicted of sexual misdeeds while playing hockey in Sweden, withdrew his name from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. However, the Montreal Canadiens drafted him in the first round with the 31st overall pick, one that was widely criticized. Eventually, Montreal announced he would not participate in either rookie camp or the team’s regular training camp that season. His junior team, the London Knights, also suspended him indefinitely.

Meanwhile, on the first day of free agency, the Carolina Hurricanes, who have always prided themselves on having players of character in their organization, signed defenseman Tony DeAngelo to a contract. DeAngelo has been suspended multiple times for bad behavior throughout his career. After an altercation with goalie Alexandar Georgiev, the New York Rangers put him on waivers, “technically” placed on the taxi squad but kept away from teammates and did not play for the rest of the season. The Rangers bought out the remainder of his contract. Needless to say, there was much outcry about the Hurricanes signing a player with so many character issues, with some fans even threatening to cancel their season tickets.

Then there is the case of Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks, in which the news gets worse and worse. The list of bad deeds includes bankruptcy, allegations of gambling, and an acrimonious divorce, complete with accusations and counter accusations, to include physical abuse. Many of his teammates have said they do not want to play with him anymore. As time has passed this summer, the story on Kane became more outrageously bad.

Carolina on My Mind

In a summer that featured a hurricane that caused a lot of damage in North America (Hurricane Ida), there was a hurricane of news about the hockey team based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Stories included defenseman Dougie Hamilton leaving the team in free agency, Carolina signing the aforementioned controversial Tony DeAngelo, forward Andrei Svechnikov signing a contract for eight years, Carolina making an offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi a restricted free agent with the Montreal Canadiens, and defenseman Jake Gardner needing surgery for his hip and back, rendering him unable to play this season.

Photo by Terence Leung/NHLI via Getty Images

Hamilton, who had played the last three seasons with the Hurricanes, signed a seven-year contract with the New Jersey Devils. He clearly decided he would rather “reign in hell” than “serve in heaven”. In other words, he’d rather earn top dollar with a rebuilding team that’s expected to finish last in their division, than make less money to play with Carolina, who is a contender.

Even with the departure of Hamilton, there might still be Hamiltonian news related to the Hurricanes. They just signed Svechnikov to an eight-year deal. Svechnikov’s girlfriend is named Julia Hamilton. (As Joe B. would say, no relation to Dougie.)

Photo: NHL

An Offer Sheet of Revenge?

The Hurricanes, as mentioned above, made an offer sheet to Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi with a one-year contract for $6.1 million, in an era where offer sheets to Restricted Free Agents are rare. Recall back in 2019 when the Canadiens made an offer sheet to forward Sebastian Aho, which the ‘Canes almost immediately matched. It would have been a problem for the Canadiens to match the Canes’ offer as they are in a cap crunch. In addition, the current coaching staff on Montreal had made Kotkaniemi a healthy scratch in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Hurricanes’ offer sheet to Kotkaniemi was worded almost exactly the same as the Canadiens’ earlier offer sheet to Aho, except for the dollar amount of the contract, the term, and the signing bonus. The signing bonus for Kotkaniemi was $20 and it appears that number was chosen since No. 20 is Aho’s number. This was a troll job of the first degree by Carolina.

Photo: Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

But by not matching Carolina’s offer, Montreal got the consolation prize of a first-round and third-round draft picks, the first which they traded to the Arizona Coyotes to acquire  Christian Dvorak. Will all the movement now be captured by the latest version of the New World Symphony?

Overall, Montreal’s summer after their most recent Stanley Cup Final appearance has been a net loss, with a first round drafting day failure (Mailloux) and then losing Kotkaniemi, a former early draft pick, to an offer sheet.

Rangers’ Quest to Combat Tom Wilson

The infamous Rangers-Capitals game of May 3, which included a line brawl involving Tom Wilson and several Rangers players, resulted in a chain reaction of reactions. The Rangers criticized George Parros, the head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for not suspending Wilson, which resulted in the DoPS issuing the Rangers a fine of $250K. The next game involving the two teams, which took place two days later began with a line brawl involving all six forwards on the ice and included six fights in the first five minutes of play.

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Rangers’ reaction was to fire their President and their General Manager and promote their Associate General Manager to fill both those positions. Then during the offseason, they decided to make the team tougher. They traded Pavel Buchnevich, one of the players involved in the brawl with Wilson, for Sammy Blais. They also acquired Barclay Goodrow, Patrik Nemeth, and Jarred Tinordi, who are physical players and enforcer Ryan Reaves, who was well known for past tussles with Wilson. It appears that the team is more concerned with combatting Tom Wilson than trying to win.

Islanders Last Minute Operations

For most of the offseason, the main roster moves that the New York Islanders made were to trade Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd to free up salary cap room.  They had several players from their prior year’s team who had still not signed contracts: Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri, and Ilya Sorokin, even after more than a month into free agency it was radio silence from Long Island. There were rumors that Lou Lamoriello had already signed those players and, in addition, had also signed free agent Zach Parise, as Lamoriello in the past had often signed players, without announcing the news.

But on September 1 came a wave of signings to prove those rumors right. Beauvillier, Cizikas, Palmieri, and Sorokin all signed multi-year contracts. Then on Friday, September 10, came the long-awaited news that they were signing Parise in free agency. It appeared that the Islanders were the logical team for him to join as his former General Manager in New Jersey (where he began his career) in Lamoriello, now holds that position with the Islanders. Additionally, Parise’s father J.P. used to play with the Islanders. So now Islanders fans are learning what New Jersey Devils had learned nearly two decades ago, “In Lou We Trust”.

NHL: New York Islanders Announce Signings

Injury News is the Pits in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Penguins just learned that star center and captain Sidney Crosby had wrist surgery and would be out for six weeks and possibly miss the early part of the regular season; this is the second surgery he had on that wrist. This news came on top of the news from earlier this summer of their other center Evgeni Malkin having knee surgery and would also miss the early part of the regular season.  With both their top centers out and uncertain goaltending (as in uncertain on how Tristan Jarry will perform), what are the implications for Pittsburgh?  Does that mean that Jake Guentzel will win the Hart Trophy for MVP this year as he single-handedly carries Pittsburgh to the playoffs? Or will this be the first stage of acquiring the supporting cast for Connor Bedard when they start the “Sell-off of 2021-22” and tank to win the draft lottery? History seems to have shown a theoretical law that when the Pittsburgh Penguins are ever a bad team, there is a generational player just waiting for them to draft.

Associated Press

Could the NHL Music Be Stopping for Some Free Agents

With it already being September and training camp for most teams beginning in less than two weeks, there are still are some longtime NHL players who became unrestricted free agents after the 2020-21 season and have not yet signed contracts for the upcoming season. These include defensemen Jason Demers, Sami Vatanen, and Ben Hutton, and forwards Patrick Marleau, Travis Zajac, Eric Staal, Alex Chiasson, Bobby Ryan, and Alex Galchenyuk, and goalies Devan Dubnyk and Curtis McElhinney. If berths on NHL teams could be compared to chairs in the game “Musical Chairs”, could the music be stopping and these players (and others) be left without a job? With most teams very tight against salary cap ceiling, their unpalatable options could well be: 1) Retirement; 2) Signing a PTO contract before the beginning of training camp; 3) Signing a contract in a European League, although the season has already started in the KHL.

NHL: Best Unrestricted Free Agents Available

It’s Nearly Training Camp…Do You Know Where Your Restricted Free Agents Are

With less than a week to go before training camp, several prominent restricted free agents have still have not signed new contracts. They include Quinn Hughes, Elias Petersson, Kirill Kaprisov, Brady Tkachuk, Rasmus Dahlin, Nolan Patrick, Kailer Yamamoto, and Robert Thomas. The current rumor mill has Tkachuk mulling over a new, eight-year contract and the talks between Kaprisov and the Wild stalling. The question is … will any of these players get an offer sheet,  sign before Training Camp or before the season or even still be unsigned when it’s December 1, the absolute drop dead date deadline for signing a contract in order to play in the NHL for 2021-22.

NHL: Top Restricted Free Agents

The Dispossessed, the Disgruntled, and the Unwanted

The offseason was notable for some stars who were either discontented or their team was discontented with them, with none of them expected to remain with their team for the start of the 2021-22 season. The relationships were considered beyond repair. There was  Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, who had a herniated disc in his neck and wanted to have experimental surgery but the team wished him to have a more conservative treatment. Then there is Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues, who had his third shoulder surgery and was frustrated with the results of his other surgeries that were performed by the team doctor, and wanted to be traded elsewhere. There was also Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitalsm whose team was frustrated with him for violating Covid-19 protocol, getting the disease twice, as a result, and overall underachievement, and the Caps rumored to be wanting to deal him. However, the flat cap space worked against any change of scenery. With the flat cap in effect, no team wished to take on any large cap hits of players with questionable health and/or productivity, so no trade involving any of them took place. So, they and their fans of their current teams watch and wait.

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

by Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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