Monday, 28 December 2020

Some NHL Moves

There has been a flurry of moves in the NHL over the past few days as teams gear up for training camps and the regular season set to begin play on January 13. As reports comes in about players possibly missing time due to injuries and/or surgery needed for injuries, a few teams have looked to restock the cupboards while other teams have added firepower or look to find some cap compliance prior to the season starting. It has made for a few crazy weeks in the NHL, and today's article is all about a summary of what went on in the last week or two regarding NHL rosters.

The Kings added Andreas Athanasiou on a one-year, $1.2 million contract on December 28. The Kings can use a bigger body who can score after dealing away Tyler Toffoli, and Athanasiou could be that guy if he's worked on his skating. If he can't keep up wth Kopitar, though, expect him to play down the lineup on this low-risk move by the Kings.

The Canadiens signed forward Corey Perry to a one-year, $750,000 contract on December 28. This might be one of the last contracts that Perry signs in his NHL career at age 35. His limited mobility likely makes him more of a power-play specialist, but Perry could be a very cheap scoring threat in Montreal's bottom-six.

The Canadiens also added another bottom-six forward in Michal Frolik on December 23 when they signed him to a one-year, $750,000 contract. He wasn't playing much in Calgary and didn't add much in Buffalo, but Frolik is a decent penalty killer and is a cheap veteran option on the wing for the Habs.

Carolina inked 13th-overall pick Seth Jarvis to a three-year, $832,500 entry-level deal. The Winnipeg-born Jarvis is coming off an outstanding year with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks where he scored 42 goals and 56 assists, and it seems the Hurricanes have plans for his future with the deal made today.

On December 27, the Ottawa Senators signed third-overall pick Tim Stuetzle to a three-year, entry-level deal. Financials were not disclosed. With Stuetzle's play at the World Juniors in Edmonton currently, the Senators have to be excited about having this player in their lineup soon.

The Senators also swung a trade yesterday as Tampa Bay came begging for some salary cap help. The Senators traded the rights to Marian Gaborik's and Anders Nilsson's LTIR contracts to the Lightning in exchange for Cedric Paquette, Braydon Coburn, and a 2022 second-round pick. Paquette is a solid addition to Ottawa's bottom-six while Coburn likely can play on the bottom pairing in Ottawa. The cap relief in moving out the contracts for the Lightning should make them compliant once the season starts, and they paid for that relief with the second-round pick going to Ottawa.

The Senators also swung a trade on December 26 by adding Derek Stepan from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick which they previously acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Stepan gives the Senators a solid two-way centerman down the middle, and Stepan has already indicated that he wants a bigger offensive roles compared to what he had in Arizona.

The Chicago Blackhawks signed winger Carl Soderberg to a one-year, $1 million deal on December 26. Soderberg was effective last season for the Coyotes at times, but he's slowing down at age 35. Joining a rebuilding Chicago team won't help his speed, but he can still score goals as shown by his 17 markers last season.

The Blackhawks also added winger Drake Caggiula on a one-year, $750,000 contract on December 21. Caggiula will likely play on Chicago's bottom-six rotation, but he can be an effective player when paired with a playmaker. If he's relegated to simply killing penalties, this is still a very low-risk signing for the Blackhawks.

The Oilers dipped into the free agency waters and added defenceman Slater Koekkoek on a one-year, $850,000 deal on December 26. Koekkoek appeared in 42 games with the Blackhawks last season where he had one goal and nine assists, and it appears he'll follow a similar lower pairing role in Edmonton. Koekkoek needs to show some consistency to remain in Edmonton's lineup, but it's likely he's simply holding a spot for a future Oilers defender such as Philip Broberg.

The Blue Jackets added a veteran depth defender in their signing of Michael Del Zotto to a contract of undisclosed length and value on Christmas Day. Del Zotto won't upset the pairings in Columbus, but he can play a bottom pairing and kill penalties for the club. His 49 games with the Anaheim Ducks saw him net two goals and 13 assists in 2019-20.

The Predators added some strength down the middle by signing Erik Haula to a one-year, $1.75 million contract in December 23. Haula's best season came in 2017-18 with Vegas where he and his linemates were forechecking nightmares for opponents, so this could be a really good signing for Nashville if they play this uptempo style. Unfortunately, head coach John Hynes doesn't, so I don't really know how Haula fits into his scheme. We'll find out on January 13, I guess.

The Capitals added some depth on their wings with the signing of Conor Sheary to a one-year, $735,000 contract on December 22. Sheary played really well with Sidney Crosby in his first stint in Pittsburgh, was virtually invisible in Buffalo, returned to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline and continued to look lost, and now ends up in Washington where he likely will get a bottom-six role. It's a low-risk signing by the Capitals, but they need to find a way for him to rediscover his ability to score.

The Capitals also invited former Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson to camp on a professional tryout contract. Anderson will be taking the place of Henrik Lundqvist who announced he would be sitting out this season earlier this month before revealing that he needs open heart surgery to correct the heart issues with which he's been diagnosed. Anderson will be a good replacement for Lundqvist in helping Ilya Samsonov become Washington's full-time starter. The Capitals will sign Anderson to a deal once Lundqvist has been placed on LTIR.

The Blues added former Panthers sniper Mike Hoffman to their camp on a professional tryout contract. Hoffman's inclusion will be made official once the Blues can clear some cap space through Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko both being placed on LTIR. Hoffman makes the Tarasenko absence sting a little less as the Blues open their season without one of their best players, and they're hopeful to have two dynamic wingers available for the playoffs in 2021. Salary caps are merely guidelines for some teams, I guess.

The Arizona Coyotes are going all-in with the PTOs in their efforts to have a full camp. As we already know, the Coyotes offered a PTO to former Leafs forward Frederik Gauthier for him to play. Gauthier has 13 goals and 18 assists in his NHL career, but he hasn't found the consistency needed to remain in a lineup. The Coyotes are hoping to see that change.

They also offered a PTO to former Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre. After having spent the majority of the last three seasons in the AHL, McIntyre's options were limited after being let go by the KHL's Dinamo Riga. Arizona is hoping he can rediscover his goaltending touch that prompted the Bruins to select him out of the University of North Dakota, so it's likely we'll see McIntyre on the taxi squad to start this season for Arizona.

The Coyotes are also inviting former Blues defenceman Jordan Schmaltz to camp on a PTO. Schmaltz played 43 games in the AHL last season between Toronto and Bridgeport, and the Coyotes are hoping to find a little magic in another former UND Fighting Hawks player with their invitation. It's hard to see Schmaltz taking a roster spot at this point from anyone in Arizona, but he's been skating there and could slide into the taxi squad for the Coyotes once the season starts.

And just because it needs to be mentioned, it seems that Ilya Kovalchuk's days in the NHL are over after he signed a two-year deal in the KHL with Avangard Omsk on December 26. Kovalchuk had ten goals and 26 points in 46 games last year with the Kings, Canadiens, and Capitals, but it appears he'll play out the rest of his career in his homeland with this new deal announced. If this is the last time we see him in the NHL, Kovalchuk recorded 443 goals and 876 points in 926 games over his career.

There's a quick synopsis of the last two weeks of moves around the NHL. We'll see how everything shakes down regarding Tampa Bay's and St. Louis' cap compliance situations, but it seems they have a plan to thwart that detail. As for Kovalchuk, I wish him well in Russia. Considering that I still have a McFarlane statue of him on my desk in a Thrashers uniform, it's been a very successful career for the Russian sniper. Here's hoping he finishes his career as he wants in his native land.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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