by Dan Adkisson
NHL Signings and Latest Rumors
With the NHL summer coming to a close, most teams have wrapped up their off-season plans to strengthen their squads for the following year. Come October, the new 2021-22 season will be underway; and with players such as Filip Gustavsson, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Tyler Ennis looking to increase ice hockey’s intensity, things are stacking up to be an exciting year.
In this guide, we will highlight some of the latest NHL signings and rumors, giving you some of the headlines being talked about throughout the world of hockey this week.
Each team is doing their best to strengthen their squad this year, gaining the tactical edge on their opponents. Here is some team news regarding some of the moves certain clubs are making:
Swedish-born Filip Gustavsson has extended his contract for two seasons, on a deal carrying an average annual salary of $787,500. The Swedish goaltender had an impressive record this past season, with a 5-1-2 record and a 2.16 goals against average (GAA). Although the sample size of games played was relatively small, Gustavsson’s role within the Senators organization appears to be growing. He also played 13 games with the AHL Belleville Senators, producing a respectable 5-7-1 record. If his development continues as planned, Ottawa believes they’ll have a solid deal in place with the young 23-year-old netminder; with bigger plans to come, involving him staying on the NHL roster for many years to come.
The Coyotes are going through another significant transition phase. They have been looking to trade — or have already traded — many of their veteran players to make room for new blood that can hopefully add some life and energy to their on-ice product. These changes will also see the team save quite a bit of money, as some of their more senior players have larger contracts than the team can presently afford. For now, it appears winning games isn’t the top priority in Arizona. Restructuring the roster and securing a new building remain the current focus, as they’re also trying to balance immediate needs with a more extended plan that will allow them to thrive in the future.
Carolina management made one of the more shocking moves in recent NHL history with a recent offer sheet to Finnish centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Near the end of the 2020-21 season, several people close to the young forward were quietly suggesting he may have played his last games in Montreal, after the Canadiens opted to healthy scratch him during the Stanley Cup Final. Many thought that Kotkaniemi would have left via a trade in the months that followed, yet nothing materialized — until now. The Hurricanes put together an offer sheet with a $6.1M average salary. It’s a number Montreal must match if they want to keep the player. In doing so, NHL rules state that Montreal would not be able to trade Kotkaniemi for a minimum of one year, according to CapFriendly. The centre has scored 22 goals with 40 assists and 62 points over 162 games. While the absence of those numbers would create an immediate hole in the Canadiens lineup, if the player is truly unhappy in Montreal, it may be best for all involved to end the relationship and move on.
Around the league, each team has a goal of seeing progress from their younger prospects, where guys are further establishing themselves as legitimate NHL players; with further hopes that a few select players eventually become stars in the league. This past season, the Sabres saw two potential breakout stars come from their team, giving Buffalo fans something inspiring to look forward to.
Casey Mittelstadt – After a shaky 2019-20 season with the Sabres, Mittelstadt rebounded to answer most of his critics last year, recording 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 41 games played. With that 13 point increase, it was his most productive season yet, on a point-per-game basis. As such, the Sabres have signed Mittelstadt to a new contract, paying him an average of $2.5 million over the next three years. The commitment shows Buffalo sees Mittelstadt’s potential and they’ll be looking to expand his minutes in the coming years, giving him even more opportunity to succeed.
Dylan Cozens – In Cozens, the Sabres have a 20-year-old who is just coming into his own as an NHL player. The Canadian centre recorded 13 points (4G, 9A) during his first season in the world’s top hockey league. Originally drafted in the first round by Buffalo, they expect Cozens to be a key part of their future core. He’s under contract for two more seasons at his Entry Level price of $894K AAV. Thus, they’ll want to see more solid offensive numbers from him in the upcoming season, hoping to take advantage of his inexpensive contract during his second season in the NHL.
NHL Heritage Classic
The sixth edition of the NHL Heritage Classic game appears to be set for March 13, 2022 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. Not officially confirmed by the league yet, rumors suggest the CFL’s Tiger-Cats home stadium would host a one-off outdoor game pitting Toronto and Buffalo against each other. The last edition of the NHL’s occasional event in Canada saw the Winnipeg Jets beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 in October 2019. What’s different about this version of the Classic is that Toronto would be included. They are the only Canadian-based team to not play in one of the five previous Heritage Classic games. Also unique would be a game between the rival Leafs and Sabres, as they have never taken their feud outdoors, nor has an American-based team participated in the event previously.