- Meanwhile, Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin told reporters yesterday that in a perfect world he would be back with the team next season, but that talks are still put off until the end of the season. He confirmed he still has total control over hockey decisions, despite his contract expiring at the end of this season. Arpon Basu of The Athletic examined his comments and suggests that the ball is now squarely in owner Geoff Molson’s court after Bergevin spoke publicly and made his desire to stay clear.
- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson is recovering from injury, but he won’t be back with the team just yet. GM Marc Bergevin explained to reporters today including John Lu of TSN that Edmundson is taking a leave from the team to be with his father who is suffering from cancer. Edmundson has not yet played this season.
Oct 19: Both players have cleared waivers and can now be assigned to the minor leagues.
Oct 18: With Mike Hoffman ready to make his debut, the Montreal Canadiens have placed Alex Belzile on waivers. The team was at the maximum 23 roster spots after claiming Adam Brooks earlier this month, and needed to make room for Hoffman to come off injured reserve. The New York Islanders have also placed Leo Komarov on waivers after the veteran forward played just 10:50 on Saturday night in his only appearance of the season. Matt Martin is likely the cause in this case, as he too is ready to come off injured reserve and reclaim his spot on the team’s fourth line.
Belzile, 30, was the definition of a minor league journeyman until he appeared in the 2020 playoffs for the Canadiens, suiting up six times and registering his first NHL point. He appeared twice for the team last season, recording another assist, but is still without a goal at the NHL level. That’s certainly not the case in the minor leagues, where he is often among the scoring leaders on whatever team he suits up for. Belzile has donned the sweater of the Gwinnett Gladiators, Hamilton Bulldogs, Alaska Aces, Idaho Steelheads, Fort Wayne Komets, San Antonio Rampage, Colorado Eagles and Laval Rocket over his long career. His one-year, two-way contract carries an AHL salary of $250K, should he clear and be assigned to the Rocket once more.
Komarov meanwhile is much more expensive, as he’s in the final season of a four-year, $12MM contract signed in 2018. The 34-year-old forward will actually only earn $2MM this season but carries a $3MM cap hit, which only $1.125MM of can be buried should he be assigned to the minor leagues. Because of that, clearing waivers certainly shouldn’t be a challenge, just like he did in January, February, and March of this year. While Martin is set to jump back on the line with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, Komarov will still likely be a useful call-up should the Islanders run into any injury trouble.
- Canadiens defenseman Sami Niku has been given the green light to return from his concussion, relays Sportsnet’s Eric Engels (Twitter link). However, he won’t be in the lineup tonight against the Rangers. Niku had his contract terminated by Winnipeg last month and signed with Montreal soon after. The Canadiens have an open roster spot and won’t need to make any moves to activate him off IR.
The NHL has permitted the Canadiens to place defenseman Shea Weber on LTIR, reports Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic in the latest Insider Trading segment. Shortly following the playoffs, Montreal announced Weber would not play at all this season and may not play again but there were reports that the league wanted to take a closer look at his case since he was able to play for the entirety of the playoffs. To that end, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told LeBrun that “We are not currently challenging that Shea Weber satisfied the CBA requirements necessary to qualify for LTI”, allowing for the possibility for them to re-evaluate the situation later on. Montreal will need to make use of Weber’s LTIR assuming goaltender Carey Price returns at some point this season.
The circumstances of Strome’s placement on the protocol list are unknown, but he could miss up to 10 days if he can’t produce two negative tests. That could potentially be five missed games for Strome, making him eligible to return on October 29 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, he can come back sooner if he produces the aforementioned negative tests.
In Strome’s absence, it’s likely a chance for the young Filip Chytil to step into the second-line center role between Artemi Panarin and Kaapo Kakko. It’s an undeniable upgrade from his current wingers in Barclay Goodrow and Julien Gauthier, and it gives him a chance to show some promise of what he can do in a top-six role. McKegg could draw into the lineup as the fourth-line center, bumping Kevin Rooney up to third-line duties between Goodrow and Gauthier.
While Vancouver fans are relieved to see Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes back in action after they signed new contracts to stay with the team, they’ll have to wait a bit longer to see one of their young core members debut this season. Head coach Travis Green said Friday morning that it’s doubtful Brock Boeser plays in that night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Boeser has been on the shelf with an undisclosed injury since October 2. He was expected to only miss one week, but that timeline has passed and his status is now day-to-day. In his absence, it appears rookie Vasily Podkolzin will now get a look on the second line with Pettersson and J.T. Miller.
Some other injury notes from around the league:
- New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff notes that defenseman Damon Severson is progressing and could play in New Jersey’s game next Tuesday against the Seattle Kraken. The Devils play their season opener tonight, meaning Severson might only be on the shelf for one game. Severson suffered an undisclosed injury on October 4 and has been listed as day-to-day since then.
- The Montreal Canadiens could see a big free-agent addition make his debut soon. Head coach Dominique Ducharme says that winger Mike Hoffman could be ready for the team’s Tuesday or Thursday night games next week, but he’ll miss Saturday’s tilt against the New York Rangers. That’s about right on time for Hoffman, who was projected to miss four weeks with a lower-body injury suffered in late September.
- With the St. Louis Blues’ season opener looming Saturday in Colorado, they could be without forward David Perron, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas. Perron was absent from the Blues’ practice today but was seen at the facility wearing street clothes. Head coach Craig Berube called it a “maintenance day” for Perron, who’s questionable for the game with an undisclosed injury.
Mittelstadt left Thursday night’s 5-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens with an upper-body injury. It’s unclear as to when or on what play Mittelstadt sustained the injury. Jokiharju played the entirety of last night’s contest, logging 16:39 of ice time. He’s sidelined with a lower-body ailment.
Granato notes that Arttu Ruotsalainen and Will Butcher will likely draw into the lineup Saturday against Arizona in the place of Mittelstadt and Jokiharju. He also says the team wants “to get everybody in,” making it seem like additional call-ups from the AHL’s Rochester Americans are likely coming to bolster the roster.
It’s an extremely tough break for a Sabres team that got off to an unexpectedly strong start, albeit through just one game. They’ll now have to move forward without their number one center in addition to a top-pairing defenseman for multiple weeks.
If Granato’s “couple of weeks” prognosis holds true, Mittelstadt and Jokiharju could miss six games over the course of the next two weeks. The Sabres have a rather light schedule to begin the season but have a pair of tough matchups against the Boston Bruins on October 22 and the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning on October 25.
With their season starting tomorrow night, the Montreal Canadiens have locked up their future. Nick Suzuki has signed an eight-year extension that will carry an average annual salary of $7.875MM. The deal will start in the 2022-23 season and keeps Suzuki far away from restricted free agency and any potential offer sheet. Chris Johnston of the Toronto Star reports that the deal will include a 10-team no-trade list (which is only applicable for the final four seasons of the contract). PuckPedia tweets the full breakdown:
- 2022-23: $6.0MM salary + $4.0MM signing bonus
- 2023-24: $10.0MM salary
- 2024-25: $10.0MM salary
- 2025-26: $8.75MM salary
- 2026-27: $6.25MM salary
- 2027-28: $6.0MM salary
- 2028-29: $3.0MM salary + $3.0MM signing bonus
- 2029-30: $3.0MM salary + $3.0MM signing bonus
Suzuki, 22, is coming off a very strong season with the Canadiens and has assumed the team’s first-line center spot, an undisputed role now that both Philip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are playing elsewhere. The young forward recorded 41 points in 56 games, but it was once again his outstanding postseason that really put him on the map for many fans. In 22 games on Montreal’s quest for the Stanley Cup, Suzuki scored seven goals and 16 points while averaging almost 19 minutes a game.
That ice time is likely to only go up from here as he transitions from up-and-comer to established leader, helming the Canadiens attack every night. This extension is betting that he’ll take on that responsibility without issue, making him the team’s highest-paid skater for next season, even eclipsing Shea Weber’s LTIR-bound contract.
Make no mistake, there is risk in a deal of this magnitude for someone so young. Suzuki’s career-high in goals is 15 and he has just 82 points through his 127-game career to this point. While those are fine totals, this deal is assuming they will increase as he enters the prime years of his career; a safe assumption, but one nonetheless.
With the deal registered, the Canadiens now have more than $84MM committed to 18 players for next season. A good chunk of that–$7.86MM–is Weber’s deal that will likely be moved to LTIR once again, but it still means that the team won’t have a ton of extra space to work with moving forward. Long-term deals for Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher, Josh Anderson, Christian Dvorak, Jeff Petry, David Savard, Jake Evans, Joel Armia, and Carey Price mean that this group is unlikely to see sweeping changes for quite some time. Even Mike Hoffman, Joel Edmundson, and Tyler Toffoli are signed for two more years after this season, meaning this is essentially the group for the next while.
No matter what, this is a contract extension that has a high probability of looking like a steal in a few years, should Suzuki continue on his current development path. At worst, he’s a little overpaid as he settles into the level he has already reached. But the Canadiens haven’t had a franchise center in some time, and certainly weren’t going to risk letting this one get poached in restricted free agency, or increase his price with a true breakout offensive campaign.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Three players were claimed off waivers today, just before opening night rosters are submitted. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that the Seattle Kraken claimed Alex Barre-Boulet from the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Montreal Canadiens claimed Adam Brooks from the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers claimed Patrick Brown from the Vegas Golden Knights. The Washington Capitals also re-claimed Axel Jonsson-Fjallby from the Buffalo Sabres and assuming they were the only team to put in a claim, can now send him directly to the minor leagues. The other 39 players placed on waivers yesterday have cleared.
Barre-Boulet seemed the likeliest player to be claimed among yesterday’s group, as the 24-year-old has not only shown extremely well at the minor league level, but also is signed at league minimum for the next three seasons. The former Lightning prospect signed a three-year deal in July that pays him $750K at the NHL level this year and next, and $775K in 2023-24 when the minimum increases. That alone makes him valuable and he’ll now get a chance to show exactly what he can do in Seattle, rather than be blocked by countless talented teammates in Tampa Bay.
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Barre-Boulet was a superstar in the QMJHL but lacks the size of a traditional NHL player. That certainly hasn’t held him back in the AHL, as he has posted 136 points in 144 games for the Syracuse Crunch since turning pro. That includes eight goals in just ten games last season, which helped elevate him to the NHL level where he played in 15 games for the Lightning. Though he is by no means a lock to produce for the Kraken, it was an easy choice to add his talent to the organization when it came available.
Brooks too seemed like an inevitable loss for the Maple Leafs when they decided to place him on waivers instead of Michael Amadio yesterday. Toronto will lose their depth forward to the rival Canadiens and could see him on the other side of the ice quickly. Montreal will travel to Toronto on Wednesday for their season opener, though it’s not clear if Brooks will step directly into the lineup. The 25-year-old has always seemed to play well when given the chance–that just hasn’t been very often. He has played just 18 regular season games for the Maple Leafs thus far, registering eight points.
There seems to be something of a trend in Philadelphia, where Brown will be the latest Boston College alumni to join the roster. He played college hockey with both Kevin Hayes and Cam Atkinson, winning the national championship in 2012 with the former. He adds plenty of pro experience but not a lot at the NHL level, given he’s only suited up for 33 regular season games. Incredibly, that total has almost been matched by his postseason experience, where he has played in 22 games the last three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes and Golden Knights.