NHL confirms Olympic Hockey contract situation

The NHL announced a few months ago that the league wouldn’t be shutting down this season to allow its players to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Commissioner Gary Bettman recently confirmed which pro players will be eligible to participate. Current and former NHL players who will be playing in Europe this season will be able to play. In addition, players on one-way American Hockey League contracts can participate. However, those who are playing in the AHL on two-way contracts aren’t eligible to play. Basically, anybody with an NHL contract in 2017/18 isn’t allowed to partake in the Olympic action.

This means the Canadian and U.S. Olympic hockey teams will be weakened drastically for the 2018 tournament compared to every event since 1994, which saw NHL players participate in them. European leagues will be letting their players make the trip to South Korea and this is why several NHL free agents such as Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens decided to sign with KHL teams during the offseason. In addition, the KHL already has an abundance of excellent players to choose from for the games next February, including former NHL stars Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk.   

Canada’s chances of winning a third-straight gold medal look slim, but the nation’s hockey association has already named Willie Desjardins and the team’s head coach with Sean Burke as general manager and Martin Brodeur as an assistant GM, a position he also holds with the St. Louis Blues Meanwhile, the U.S. has announced Tony Granato as its bench boss. Both countries will likely be filling their 25-man rosters with pro players who are based in Europe before adding a few AHL players to the mix. Some possible members of the Canadian team include former NHL’ers Ben Scrivens, Kevin Klein, Derek Roy, Mason Raymond and Max Talbot.

The U.S. may take Keith Aucoin, Nathan Gerbe and goaltenders Jean-Philippe Lamoureux and David Leggio as well as college and junior players. However, any AHL players that are selected to play for their countries are only allowed to leave their domestic clubs for the Olympics and not any of the numerous pre-tournament events including the annual Spengler Cup at the end of December in Switzerland. The U.S. is forgoing most of these pre-Olympic tournaments though and is planning on playing just one, which will be the Deutschland Cup in November.

While Bettman and the NHL owners have put their foot down regarding the 2018 Olympics, it still remains to be seen if certain players decide to go anyway. For example, star Russian winger Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has told the press on many occasions that he plans on playing in South Korea regardless of the NHL’s decision to bypass the event. It’s possible that players such as Ovechkin try to work out a deal with their NHL clubs, but if they do travel to South Korea, it’s unclear if Bettman has the power to throw the book at them via suspensions and/or fines.

Houston pushing for NHL franchise

Quebec City, Seattle and Portland are usually the three cities mentioned when it comes to further NHL expansion. However, Houston should probably be added to that short list. Houston is one of America’s fastest-growing communities and already has a huge fan base for sports with the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball, the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer and the NBA’s Houston Rockets. There would also be a natural NHL rivalry with fellow Texans, the Dallas Stars  

Of course, Houston was home to the Aeros of the old World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972 to 1978 with some of the sport’s most famous players suiting up such as Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty. The Aeros were one of the most successful clubs in the WHA, but weren’t admitted to the NHL when the two leagues merged in 1978.  The Houston Aeros were resurrected between 1994 and 2013 though and operated in the International Hockey League until 2001. They then joined the American Hockey League until relocating to Des Moines in 2013 and becoming the Iowa Wild, a farm team of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.

But with the Houston Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander hoping to sell the NBA franchise, there’s a chance the city could eventually be awarded an NHL team. Alexander attempted to relocate the Edmonton Oilers down to Houston in the 1990s, but was rebuffed by the NHL as it wanted the franchise to stay in Edmonton if it was sold. Alexander approached the NHL once again with a huge offer for the Oilers and promised to keep the club in Edmonton for three years. He then wanted the league to promise him a franchise for Houston in the future. The Oilers solved their financial problems with local support though and remained in Alberta.

While the Houston Aeros played in the city before the new Toyota Center was built, the hockey team shared facilities at the Summit with Alexander’s basketball team the Rockets. At the time, the Aeros were owned by Chuck Watson and his hockey team was given the best options for home games before the Rockets. Alexander wasn’t too happy about this and he attempted to relocate to a new arena, but Watson wouldn’t allow him to break his lease contract at the Summit.

Once the lease ended, the Toyota Center was built and opened in 2003 with the billionaire Alexander as a controlling owner. The Aeros eventually moved in, but Alexander raised the rent for the hockey team in 2013 and when they failed to reach an agreement the hockey team moved to Des Moines. Alexander also had a clause written into the Toyota Center lease which stated that an NHL franchise couldn’t play in the arena unless it was owned by him. Therefore, Alexander would either have to be the owner of an NHL franchise in Houston or give it permission to play at the Toyota Center.

The NHL wasn’t pleased with the clause in the contract and it forgot all about Houston as an expansion city. However, the 72-year-old Alexander is reportedly tired of all the head games and now apparently wants to sell the Rockets. He paid $85 million for the basketball club in 1993 and it’s now valued at $1.65 billion. If Alexander decides to relax his control of the Toyota Center the NHL would consider putting a franchise in Houston as it’s America’s fifth-largest metropolitan area. However, unless Alexander has mellowed, it seems as the final word on allowing an NHL team into the Toyota Center still rests with him.

Dave Andreychuk heading to Hall of Fame where he belongs

Left-winger Dave Andreychuk of Hamilton, Ontario has finally been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame after being a member of the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame since 2008. After years of not knowing if he’d be recognized for his on-ice achievements, the 53-year-old found out earlier this summer that he’ll be inducted on November 13th along with fellow forwards Mark Recchi and Paul Kariya of Canada and Teemu Selanne of Finland. Andreychuk played 1,639 regular-season contests in the NHL with Buffalo, Toronto, New Jersey, Boston, Colorado and the Tampa Bay Lightning and is the all-time league leader when it comes to power play goals at 274.

Andreychuk was originally drafted by Buffalo from the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League back in the summer of 1982 with the 16th pick overall. He made his debut with the Sabres in the 1982/83 campaign and spent 11 years with the team before being dealt to Toronto in 1993. Andreychuk played with centre Doug Gilmour most of the time with the Leafs and they became one of the highest-scoring duos in the league. Andreychuk was traded to the Devils in 1995/96 and played four years with the club before moving on to Boston, Colorado and back to Buffalo Sabres for short stints.

The big winger then signed with Tampa and played with the club from 2001/02 to 2005/06 while leading the squad to the Stanley Cup in the 2003/04 campaign as its captain. The Lightning ousted the Calgary Flames in seven games that year for the club’s one and only league championship. The win came a full 22 years and 1,597 regular-season contests after Andreychuk made his NHL debut. His last season came in 2005/06 before hanging up his skates for good. Personally, his most productive season came in 1993/94 when he scored 99 points for the Maple Leafs on 53 goals and 46 assists.

However, Andreychuk felt a connection in Tampa Bay and returned to the franchise in 2006 as a team ambassador for community relations and still works in the front office for the club. Fans and politicians in his hometown of Hamilton never forgot him though and the city renamed the old Mountain Arena after him as it’s now called the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena and Skating Centre. Andreychuk had an excellent career and many fans feel he should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame years ago. His 1,639 regular-season games played rank sixth in NHL history while his 640 goals are 14th all-time and his 1,338 points tie him for 28th overall

As mentioned, his 274 power play goals are a league record with 28 of them coming in the 1991/92 season and 32 more being added in 1992/93 to lead the league both years. He had five seasons of 30 or more goals, had two with at least 40 and broke the 50-goal mark on two occasions. Andreychuk also had 10 other seasons in which he scored at least 20 goals. He didn’t shy away in the playoffs either as the power-play specialist scored 43 goals and 54 assists for 97 points in 162 outings. So now, just over a decade after retiring from the NHL, one of the league’s all-time good guys is finally getting his due. 

Andrei Markov leaves Montreal after 15 years for the KHL

At the age of 38, defenceman Andrei Markov’s pro hockey career is winding down and he’s decided to finish it in the KHL. Markov was a free agent this summer, but the team he’s played for the last 15 seasons, the Montreal Canadiens, didn’t offer him a new contract. It was reported that the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers were in interested in the services of the Russian veteran, but he decided against staying in the NHL.

Markov told the media that if Montreal didn’t re-sign him then he didn’t really want to play with another NHL team and would play elsewhere. This resulted in the blueliner signing with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL for the next two seasons. After being one of the club’s steadiest defenders over the past decade and a half, many fans are scratching their heads as to why Montreal didn’t offer him at least one more year. Markov had also been a pleasant surprise offensively with the Habs by contributing 572 points for the squad in his 990 games.

In fact, he’s tied for second overall with Guy Lapointe on the club’s all-time scoring list for points by a defenceman. He had a good season in 2016/17 with six goals and 30 assists in 62 contests so was still productive. Markov ranked 38th in the NHL for scoring by a defenceman last year and Shea Weber was the only Montreal blueliner to outscore him. When it came to points-per-game, Markov was actually ranked 16th-best in the league.

Since letting Markov walk, Montreal has acquired defencemen Mark Streit, David Schlemko, Joe Morrow and Karl Alzner to help fill the gap. Fans are a little puzzled though why the Habs decided to ignore the 38-year-old Markov and then sign the 39-year-old Streit. However, Markov may have priced himself out of the market in Montreal as he reportedly wanted $6 million a year for the next two seasons or would have taken a one-year deal. Montreal has just over $8 million in salary-cap space, but didn’t want to spend the majority of it on Markov.

The team may still sign another one or two free agents, but the pickings are getting slim now. There are still several pretty good defenceman who have yet to be signed though and while they may not be youngsters, they certainly won’t cost as much as Markov was asking. These include veterans such as Dennis Wideman, Cody Franson, Fedor Tyutin and Francois Beauchemin and younger players such as Cody Goloubef and Eric Gelinas.

The Canadiens decided Markov wasn’t worth the money though and must now try to replace his minutes and point production. They may hit the jackpot at training camp if one of the team’s prospects shines and earns a spot on the blue line or they may see how things go at the start of the season with what they have. Streit might be able to step in where Markov left off, but if he struggles we could see Montreal make a trade for an offensively-gifted defenceman before Christmas. 

Will Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa be forced to retire?

Considering Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Marian Hossa is now 38-years-old and will be sitting out the entire 2017/18 NHL season, many fans are wondering if they’ll ever see him play again. It was announced in late June that the high-scoring native of Slovakia would miss the upcoming campaign due to a skin disorder and the side effects he’s suffering from medication to treat it. Hossa still has four years to go on his current 12-year contract which he signed as a free agent in the summer of 2009.

Hossa has played eight seasons with the Blackhawks and won three Stanley Cups with the team. Like the 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr, there’s not really any sign that Hossa’s slowing down with age. He chipped in with 26 goals and 19 assists for 45 points in 73 games in the Windy City last season and was a plus-7 with seven game-winning goals. Hossa broke into the league in 1997/98 with the Ottawa Senators and has also played with the Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

He’s racked up 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games on 525 goals and 609 assists, is a plus-245 and has 85 game-winners. Hossa has also contributed 149 points in 205 playoff contests, played in five Stanley Cup finals and scored 415 of his points while playing in Chicago. His salary-cap hit is $5.275 million per year, but Blackhawks fans definitely want to see him on the ice rather than the club saving cap space by placing him on the long-term injury list.   

Hossa’s skin condition is related to an allergy the player has to his hockey equipment. He’s been treated for the problem for the past few years, but suffers from severe side effects to the treatment. It’s now become so bad that he’s going to have to sit out for a year or even longer. Skin conditions related to hockey equipment were common in the 1970s as several players developed them due to a cleaning product that was used on the equipment.

The cleaning formula was supposed to keep the equipment free from mold and mildew, but numerous players were allergic to it. Those who were developed a painful rash which was given the nickname ‘The Gunk.’ Defenceman Tom Reid of the Minnesota North Stars was one of the players who suffered from the skin rash and was forced to retire from the NHL after the 1977/78 season at the age of 31. Reid said the whole side of his body became infected and he had to wrap himself in towels when trying to sleep.

Reid went on to say that he couldn’t take any more cortisone shots to help relieve the pain and symptoms and he had to hang up his skates for good. With Hossa missing just 46 games over the last half dozen seasons it would seem that his treatments were going well for awhile or he’s used to playing through the pain and side effects. For Hossa to suddenly sit out a season, Blackhawks fans now fear the worst and are wondering if he’ll suffer the same fate as Reid or return in 2018/19.     

Future of Carolina Hurricanes up in the air

It’s no secret the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes are up for sale, but the team’s fans are worried the franchise may be relocated elsewhere such as Quebec City or Seattle if it’s eventually sold. With the club making several offseason improvements its fans believe the future is bright and are worried what might happen if owner Peter Karmanos Jr. sheds his interest in the franchise. Karmanos originally bought the club back in 1994 for just $47.5 and recent reports hint that attorney Chick Greenberg, a former CEO of the Texas Rangers is interested in acquiring the Hurricanes for approximately $500 million.

The Hurricanes have improved on the ice this summer by acquiring goaltender Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks as well as centre Markus Kruger and defenceman Trevor van Riemsdyk from the Vegas Golden Knights and free agent forward Justin Williams from the Washington Capitals. It’s obvious that Carolina is intending to compete now and fans don’t want to miss out on the action. The Hurricanes have confirmed that an offer for the club has been received, but have been tight-lipped about any other details.

Karmanos stated that he’s considering all of his options and may very well decide to keep the club. Since the Hurricanes have been losing money recently, rumours about the team relocating have run rampant. The team’s attendance has been among the worst in the NHL over the past three years as Carolina ranked 29TH out of 30 in 2014/15 at 12,594, was last in 2015/16 at 12,203 and ranked 30th again last season with just 11,776 fans per home game. With attendance dropping every year Karmanos is hoping the offseason moves made by general manager Ron Francis will result in bigger crowds as the team pushes for a playoff spot after missing the postseason for the past eight years.

It’s believed Greenberg would keep the Hurricanes in Raleigh, but there are plenty of naysayers who don’t believe any such offer was made for the franchise. Something needs to be done to stop the bleeding though as the team averaged over 16,300 fans per game between 2005/06 to 2013/14. Carolina won the Stanley Cup in 2005/06, but made the playoffs just once after that and it appears ticket buyers are getting fed up with the continuous losing. Doubters don’t believe Greenberg has offered $500 million for a team which cost $47.5 million 23 years ago and then moved to Carolina from Hartford in 1997.

In the 2016/17 season, the value of the Hurricanes franchise was estimated at $230 million by Forbes, which was the lowest of all 30 NHL teams. Critics believe a new practice facility is needed and eventually the team’s arena will need to be upgraded or replaced and it doesn’t make sense for Greenberg to pay twice the going rate of the franchise. They believe he may purchase the club and eventually pump a total of $500 million into it, but the cost of the franchise will be nowhere near that price. Forbes also reported the Hurricanes lose approximately $15 million per season and are $200 million in debt.

Greenberg was a part owner of the Texas Rangers as he joined forces with Nolan Ryan to buy the MLB team in 2010. He became the team’s CEO, but left soon after and sold his shares of the franchise. Hurricanes’ fans don’t really care who owns the club as their main concern is that it remains in Raleigh. The on-ice future appears to be bright for the next few seasons, but it won’t mean a thing to the Carolina faithful if the players are hoisting the Stanley Cup in Quebec or Seattle.   

NHL’s top 2016/17 rookies recognized by league

There’s been so much activity in the NHL over the past few weeks that it may have been easy to miss some of the more important announcements. The league handed out its annual awards in Las Vegas recently and also announced the 2016/17 All-Rookie Team. The rookie team included all three players who were finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy this year as Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski made the team along with centre Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine.

Matthews’ Toronto teammate Mitch Marner also made the squad along with New York Rangers defenceman Brady Skjei and Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray. Voting for the All-Rookie Team and the annual awards was done by the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) when the regular season concluded.

Goaltender Matt Murray has already won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, but this was his official rookie season. He posted a 32-10-4 record this year with a 92.3 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against average. He also recorded four shutouts in his 49 games. He’s the first rookie goalie to win 30 games since 2010/11 when Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks achieved it. The 23-year-old Murray’s 32 wins were also a rookie record for the Penguins franchise.

Brady Skjei of the Rangers is probably the least-known member of the rookie squad. He was chosen with the 28th selection in the 2012 draft and the 23-year-old ranked second in scoring for rookie defenceman this season. He scored five goals and 34 assists in 80 games and was a plus-11. Skjei became the top-scoring Rangers rookie blueliner since Brian Leetch had 71 points in 1988/89.

Zach Werenski was the league’s top rookie defenceman this season as he scored 11 goals and 36 assists for 47 points in Columbus. He played 78 games and was also the best rookie blueliner when it came to plus/minus as he was a plus-17. The 19-year-old was drafted eighth overall in 2015 and he’s now ranked sixth overall for points by a teenaged rookie defender in NHL history. He also set new franchise records for rookie points and assists in Columbus and his 47 points is ranked second ever for points by a blue Jackets defenceman.

Winger Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets was chosen second overall in the 2016 draft and he was ranked second in rookie scoring last season with 36 goals and 28 assists for points in his 73 outings. His goals and points totals were rookie records for the Jets franchise. Laine led all rookies with a 17.6 shooting percentage and tied for power play goals with nine. He was top-10 in the league when it came to game-winning goals, shots on goal, and power-play assists and points. He also became the first player in league history to score three hat-tricks before turning 19 years old.

Mitch Marner was drafted fourth overall by Toronto in 2015 and the 20-year-old led all first-year players in assists with 42. He also had 19 goals for 61 points in 77 contests. Marner was top-10 in rookie power play assists, goals and points as well as goals, game-winning goals, points and shots on goal. He set a new Maple Leafs franchise record for assists by a rookie and with fellow first-year players William Nylander and Auston Matthews; Toronto became the second NHL team ever to have three rookies with at least 60 points in the same campaign.

Auston Matthews won the Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year and was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft by Toronto. He finished the season with 40 goals and 29 assists for 69 points in 82 games. He led all rookies in goals and points and his 40 goals ranked tied for second in league scoring. Matthews set a new franchise record for rookie goals and points and became the first NHL player in the modern era to score four times in his first league game. The 19-year-old led all rookies in game-winning goals with eight and shots on goal with 279. Matthews was top-10 for rookie power-play goals, assists and points as well as overall shooting percentage, and assists.

Most NHL free agents already snapped up

It didn’t take long for NHL teams to get into the free agent frenzy as numerous teams started tinkering with and fine tuning their rosters on July 1st. There were some big-name-players available as well as some lesser-known’s as well as seasoned veterans and relatively inexperienced players. Some were signed for the league’s minimum annual salary and others inked multi-year multimillion dollar deals.

In case you missed anything, we’ll recap all the major 2017 unrestricted free agent signings up until lunchtime on July 3rd.

Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks signed goaltender Ryan Miller from Vancouver to a two-year deal. They also made some minor moves by inking Steve Oleksy, Mike Liambas, Derek Grant and Scott Sabourin.

Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes signed defenceman Adam Clendening from the New York Rangers for a year while forward Nick Cousins signed for two years from Philadelphia.

Boston Bruins
The Bruins inked Kenny Agostino, Paul Postma and Jordan Szwarz to one-year deals.

Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres signed forward Benoit Pouliot from Edmonton, forward Seth Griffith from Toronto and goaltender Chad Johnson from Arizona to one-year contracts while Defenceman Matt Tennyson left Carolina and signed for two years.

Calgary Flames
Calgary signed forwards Marek Hrivik from the New York Rangers and Luke Gazdic from New Jersey to one-year contracts.

Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes inked forward Justin Williams from Washington to a two-year deal. They also agreed to terms with forward Josh Jooris and defencemen Brenden Kitchon and Dennis Robertson.

Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks re-signed forward Patrick Sharp from Dallas for a year and added forward Tommy Wingels from Ottawa for a season. In addition, the team came to terms with goaltender J-F Berube from Vegas and forward Lance Bouma.

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado signed goaltender Jonathan Bernier from Anaheim to a one-year contract and also signed Andrew Agozzino, Joe Cannata and David Warsofsky.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus signed defenseman Cameron Gaunce from Pittsburgh to a two-year deal and defenceman Andre Benoit for one year.

Dallas Stars
The Stars acquired forward Martin Hanzal from Minnesota for three years and re-signed defenceman Patrick Nemeth.

Detroit Red Wings
The Wings signed defenceman Trevor Daley from Pittsburgh to a three-year deal.

Florida Panthers
The Panthers inked forward Evgeny Dadonov from Russia and signed forward Radim Vrbata from Arizona to a one-year contract and forward Micheal Haley from San Jose to a two-year deal.

Los Angeles Kings
The Kings signed forward Michael Cammalleri from New Jersey to a one-year contract while defenceman Christian Folin from Minnesota agreed to a one-year deal and goaltender Darcy Kuemper from Minnesota agreed to a one-year deal.

Minnesota Wild
The Wild signed goaltender Niklas Svedberg from Sweden and defenseman Kyle Quincey from Columbus to year-long contracts. Forward Kyle Rau inked a one-year deal while forwards Cal O’Reilly and Landon Ferraro were signed for two years.

Montreal Canadiens
The Habs signed defenseman Karl Alzner from Washington for five-years and centre Peter Holland from Arizona for two years. They also inked forward Byron Froese and defenceman Matt Taormina to two-year deals.

Nashville Predators
Nashville signed forward Nick Bonino from Pittsburgh to a four-year contract and forward Scott Hartnell from Columbus for a year. They also signed goaltenders Anders Lindback and Matt O'Connor to one-year deals as well as forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie.

New Jersey Devils
The Devils signed forward Brian Boyle from Toronto to a two-year deal.

New York Rangers
The Rangers signed defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk from Washington for four years and signed goaltender Ondrej Pavelec from Winnipeg for a season.

Ottawa Senators
Ottawa signed forward Nate Thompson from Anaheim to a two-year deal.

Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers agreed to terms with goaltender Brian Elliott from Calgary on a two-year contract and signed forwards Mike Vecchione, Phil Varone and Corban Knight to two-year contracts.

Pittsburgh Penguins
The Stanley Cup champs signed goaltender Antti Niemi from the Rangers and added defenceman Matt Hunwick from Toronto for three seasons. Defenceman Justin Schultz also re-signed for three years.

San Jose Sharks
The Sharks re-signed forward Joe Thornton for one more year.

St. Louis Blues
The Blues inked forwards Chris Thorburn, Beau Bennett and Oskar Sundqvist to one-year deals.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa signed defenseman Dan Girardi from the Rangers to a two-year contract after New York bought him out. They also signed goaltender Michael Leighton from Carolina and forwards Chris Kunitz from Pittsburgh and Alex Gallant to one-year contracts. Defenceman Mat Bodie and Jamie McBain also inked year-long deals.

Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs re-signed goaltenders Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks to two-year deals. They also signed defenseman Ron Hainsey from Pittsburgh for two years as well as forward Dominic Moore from Boston for one year and forward Patrick Marleau from San Jose for three years. They also inked forwards Colin Greening, Vincent LoVerde and Chris Mueller.

Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver signed defenceman Michael Del Zotto from Philadelphia while forward Sam Gagner from Columbus inked a three-year contract. Goaltender Anders Nilsson signs from Buffalo for two years and forward Alex Burmistrov signed from Arizona for a year along with defenceman Patrick Wierioch from Colorado. Forward Anton Rodin was also re-signed for a year.

Washington Capitals
Washington re-signed forwards Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov. They also inked forward John Albert for a year.

Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg signed goaltender Steve Mason from Philadelphia to a two-year contract while forwards Michael Sgarbossa and Buddy Robinson signed for one year and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov signed from Buffalo for three years. In addition, defenseman Cameron Schilling inked a one-year, two-way deal.

Recapping the first round of the NHL Entry Draft

It was an extremely busy week for the NHL as the league released the 1,271-game 2017/18 schedule, announced its annual award winners and held both the Expansion and Entry Drafts. We’ll recap everything but the schedule over the next few weeks just in case you missed any of the action. The seven-round amateur Entry Draft was held in Chicago on June 23-24 and we take a look at the first round below along with the players’ regular-season stats from 2016/17.

2017 NHL Entry Draft

1. The New Jersey Devils selected centre Nico Hischier of Switzerland with the first overall pick. He played with Halifax in the QMJHL last season with 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games. Hischier becomes the highest-drafted Swiss player ever.

2. Philadelphia Flyers took centre Nolan Patrick of Brandon in the WHL. He scored 20 goals and 26 assists in 33 games in 2016/17 and has 205 points in 163 career junior contests. He also racked up 30 points in 21 playoff games last year and was the WHL’s playoff MVP.

3. The Dallas Stars took Finnish defenceman Miro Heiskanen of HIFK and he scored five goals and five assists last season in 37 games.

4. Colorado Avalanche drafted defenceman Cale Makar from Brooks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) after he was named the best defenceman in Canadian Junior Hockey and the AJHL last season. Makar scored 35 goals and 100 assists in a total of 111 games last campaign.

5. The Vancouver Canucks selected Swedish centre Elias Pettersson from Timra of the nation’s second division after he scored 19 goals and 22 assists in 43 games last season.

6. The Vegas Golden Knights chose centre Cody Glass from Portland of the WHL after scoring 32 goals and 62 assists in 69 contests.

7. The New York Rangers added Swedish centre/winger Lias Andersson, from HV71 after scoring nine goals and 10 assists in 42 outings last season. The Rangers traded forward Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for the draft pick and defenceman Anthony DeAngelo.

8. The Buffalo Sabres took American centre Casey Mittelstadt from the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL after he racked up 21 goals and 43 assists in 25 games and was named All-USA Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.

9. Detroit Red Wings selected centre Michael Rasmussen from Tri-City of the WHL after playing 50 games last season and scoring 32 goals and 23 assists.

10. The Florida Panthers chose right-winger Owen Tippett from Mississauga of the OHL after scoring 44 goals and 31 assists in 60 games last year.

11. The Los Angeles Kings took centre Gabriel Vilardi from Windsor of the OHL after he contributed 29 goals and 32 assists in 49 contests last year.

12. Carolina Hurricanes chose centre Martin Necas from Brno of the Czech Republic after playing 41 games last year with seven goals and eight assists.

13. The Vegas Golden Knights took centre Nick Suzuki from Owen Sound of the OHL after scoring 45 goals and 51 assists in 2016/17.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning chose defenceman Callan Foote from Kelowna of the WHL after scoring six goals and 51 assists in 71 outings last season. He’s the son of former NHL star Adam Foote.

15. The Vegas Golden Knights selected Swedish defenceman Erik Brannstrom from HV71 after he tallied a goal and five assists in 35 contests last year.

16. The Calgary Flames drafted Finnish defenceman Juuso Valimaki from Tri-City of the WHL after he scored 19 goals and 42 assists in 60 games.

17. The Toronto Maple Leafs chose Swedish defenceman Timothy Liljegren from Rogle after scoring a goal and four assists in 19 games last year.

18. The Boston Bruins took defender Urho Vaakanainen from JYP in Finland after he posted a pair of goals and four assists in 2016/17.

19. The San Jose Sharks picked up centre Joshua Norris from the USA Under-18 team after he scored 23 goals and 28 assists in 52 contests last season.

20. St. Louis Blues took centre Robert Thomas from London of the OHL after he scored 16 times and added 50 assists in 66 games last year.

21. The New York Rangers added centre Filip Chytil from Zlin of the Czech Republic after scoring four goals and four assists in 38 outings last campaign.

22. The Edmonton Oilers chose right-winger Kailer Yamamoto from Spokane of the WHL after he scored 42 goals and 57 assists in 65 games last season. The 5-foot-7-inch Yamamoto has scored 227 points in his 190 WHL games.

23. The Arizona Coyotes selected defenceman Pierre-Olivier Joseph from Charlottetown of the QMJHL after he played 62 times last season and scored six goals and 33 assists.

24. Winnipeg Jets took winger Kristian Vesalainen from Frolunda in Sweden after he tallied a goal and five assists in 26 contests last year.

25. The Montreal Canadiens drafted college centre Ryan Poehling from St. Cloud State of the NCHC after he posted seven goals and six assists in 35 games as the youngest player in the NCAA.

26. The Dallas Stars took goaltender Jake Oettinger from Boston University. He posted a save percentage of 92.7 last season along with a 2.11 goals-against average and a record of 21-10-3 in 35 games. He was the second-youngest NCAA player last season.

27. The Philadelphia Flyers selected centre Morgan Frost from Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL after he chipped in with 20 goals and 42 assists in 67 outings last year. The Flyers traded forward Brayden Schenn to St. Louis for this draft pick.

28. Ottawa Senators added centre Shane Bowers from Waterloo of the USHL after he scored 22 goals and 29 assists in 60 contests.

29. The Chicago Blackhawks chose Finnish defenceman Henri Jokiharju from Portland of the WHL after scoring nine goals and 39 assists in 71 games last season.

30. The Nashville Predators selected Finnish right-winger Eeli Tolvanen from Sioux City of the USHL after he scored 30 goals and 24 assists in 52 games.

31. The St. Louis Blues finished the first round by taking Russian forward Klim Kostin from Dynamo Moscow of the KHL. Kostin played just 18 games last season due to shoulder surgery. The Blues traded Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh for the draft pick.

Several NHL teams make moves before expansion draft

There were several NHL transactions before the league’s trade-freeze came into effect just before the expansion draft is announced on June 21st. The biggest deal took place on June 15th when the Tampa Bay Lightning traded forward Jonathan Drouin and a sixth-round draft pick in 2018 to the Montreal Canadiens for defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a second-round pick in the 2018 entry draft. The 22-year-old Drouin was then promptly signed to a six-year contract worth $33 million by the Habs.

Drouin, who was drafted third overall by Tampa in 2013, was scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st while the 18-year-old Sergachev was taken ninth overall by Montreal in 2016. Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman said the teams will only swap the draft picks if Sergachev plays fewer than 40 regular and postseason games with Tampa next season. Tampa decided to trade Drouin rather than risk losing him for nothing to the Vegas Golden Knights in the upcoming expansion draft. Sergachev doesn’t need to be protected in the draft since he’s signed to an entry-level contract.

Sergachev is a big offensive defenceman at 6-feet-3-inches tall and posted 10 goals and 43 points in 50 games for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season. He also helped the team win this year’s Memorial Cup. Drouin, who can play both wing and centre, chipped in with 21 goals and 53 points for Tampa in 2016/17 and gives Montreal some insurance in case free agent forward Alexander Radulov signs elsewhere this summer.

Montreal made another move just two days later when they dealt defenceman Nathan Beaulieu to the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round pick in this summer’s entry draft, which will be the 68th selection overall. The 24-year-old Beaulieu was drafted 17th overall by Montreal in 2011 and was also scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st. The 6-foot-2-inch defenceman played 74 games with the Habs in 2016/17 and posted four goals and 28 points and added an assist in five playoff contests.

The Arizona Coyotes also made a move by trading veteran goaltender Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames for goaltender Chad Johnson, defensive prospect Brandon Hickey, and a third-round draft pick. Johnson is scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st as is Calgary’s other goaltender Brian Elliot. The 35-year-old Smith played 55 games with Arizona last season with a record of 19-26-9 with a save percentage of 91.4 and a goals-against average of 2.92.

Smith still has two years left on his current contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.67 million.  Johnson went 18-15-1 in 2016/17 with a 91.0 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average in 38 games. Elliot played 49 games with the Flames with a 26-18-3 mark along with a 91.0 save percentage and a 2.55 goals-against average. This move gives Calgary some goaltending insurance in case Elliot decides to leave town and sign with somebody else this summer.

Another move saw the New Jersey Devils make a trade with the San Jose Sharks as they picked up defenceman Mirco Mueller along with a fifth-round draft pick (143rd) this summer for a second (49th) and fourth-round (123rd) pick in June. The 22-year-old Mueller was chosen 18th overall by San Jose in 2013 and has spent his time since then between the AHL and NHL. He played just four games with the Sharks last season with a goal and assist to his name.

In addition, the Washington Capitals sent a fifth-round draft pick in 2018 to the Minnesota Wild for centre Tyler Graovac. The 24-year-old Graovac, who stands 6-feet-5-inches tall, scored seven goals and nine points in 57 career outings with the Wild. He was drafted 191st overall in the seventh round in the 2011 entry draft. Graovac also has 102 points in 202 career games in the AHL with Iowa on 49 goals and 53 assists.

There has also been a couple of coaching announcements since the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup. The Buffalo Sabres appointed Hall of Fame defenceman Phil Housley as their new head coach on June 15th. Housley spent the past four seasons with the Nashville Predators as an assistant coach and replaces Dan Bylsma behind the bench in Buffalo. Also, on June 12th, the Florida Panthers announced Bob Boughner as their new bench boss. Boughner is a former assistant coach with San Jose and he replaces Tom Rowe.