With the puck dropping on the Anaheim Ducks season on Thursday night, the team was without two of their indispensable restricted free agents. On Friday, GM Bob Murray crossed center Rickard Rakell off his ‘to-do’ list. As first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Rakell signed a six year contract with an average annual value of $3.8-million; at the end of the contract Rakell will be a UFA.
This is a relief to Ducks fans as Rakell had a breakout 2015-16 season and was integral to the team’s secondary scoring.
In his second full season in Anaheim, Rakell scored a career high 20 goals and 43 points. He led Anaheim in game-winning goals with seven, and was fourth on the team in overall scoring.
The NWHL could be facing its first labor battle as the deadline for free agency nears a close on Sunday, July 31.
As of the evening of July 30, the league has 17 total spots over four teams left to fill. They could easily fill the paid positions with any number of the unsigned players from the inaugural season, and would have done so by now if it weren’t for players from the US Women’s National Team (USWNT). All 11 returning and three draft picks from the USWNT roster are not under contract.
Waiting until the last hour to sign the USWNT members isn’t something new to the NWHL.
After the league was announced, the players for the USWNT decided to leave the CWHL for the newly formed NWHL that paid it’s players. Free agency closed on August 17 with the NWHL announcing they had filled all their roster spots, but would not disclose any players not previously named. From a league statement: “The NWHL still plans to announce the final team rosters and contract details as soon as the players are ready.”
“Ready” meant freed from the obligations of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). It took over a month before the issues were resolved and the all the new players announced. The season went on as planned and the heavy USWNT-laden Boston Pride went on to win the inaugural Isobel Cup.
Last season, Mike Hoffman and the Ottawa Senators went through the always nasty salary arbitration process. Hoffman filed for arbitration again this offseason; however, a week before his scheduled hearing, the two sides came to an agreement. Hoffman, 26, will stay with the Senators for the next four years on a contract worth $20.75-million.
First reported by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Hoffman will earn $3.8-million for during the 2016-17 season. In the remaining three years of his contract, he’ll make $5.65-million. According to General Fanager, those final three years include a no trade clause where Hoffman can submit a list of 10 teams he would not accept a trade to.
Hoffman is one of the late round draft jewels all NHL teams hope to get. Ottawa selected the forward in the fifth round, 130th overall, in the 2009 draft.
After a couple cups of coffee with the Senators, the forward broke out in 2014-15 season with 27 goals, 48 points in 79 games earning him a sixth place finish in the Calder voting. The following season he set an NHL career high in goals (29), assists (30), and points (59). He led the Senators in goals including a team high nine power play goals.
Kevin Hayes and the New York Rangers salary arbitration appointment on July 27 is officially cancelled. The two sides came to an agreement on Friday. First reported by NHL pundit Aaron Ward, Hayes signed a two-year, $5.2-million contract keeping him as an RFA at the end of the deal.
In two seasons with the Rangers, Hayes has 31 goals, 81 points in 158 NHL regular season games. After a strong rookie season with 49 points in 79 games, Hayes had a bumpy second second with New York.
Appearing to be in the infamous sophomore slump, Hayes was healthy scratched by Alain Vignaultduring the regular season. In December 2015, Vignault had some harsh words for Hayes in the New York Post:
“In Kevin’s case, I think we made it clear our expectations about him and what we felt he could do were very high,” Vigneault said. “Obviously, he hasn’t lived up to that.
“Did we overestimate his possibilities? I don’t know, time will tell. But I do know that what I’m seeing now, and what we’re seeing now, is not good enough.
“I think we all have our tipping points, and I think Kevin has had an extra-long leash, especially considering [center Derek Stepan] was out for quite some time,” Vigneault said. “But there’s just nothing going on. At the end of the day, we’re at the point now where we have to make some decisions in the best interests of the team.”
The St. Louis Blues and restricted free agent Jaden Schwartz avoided arbitration as the forward signed a five year, $26.75-million contract, as first reported by Jeremy Rutherford.
The deal holds an average annual value of $5.35-million and runs through the 2020-21 season. According to General Fanager, Schwartz’s contract contains a modified no trade clause for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 season.
Drafted by the Blues in 2010 at No. 14 overall, Schwartz, 24, has played a total of 240 games with the team scoring 70 goals and 87 assists.
The forward was limited to 33 games this past year after fracturing his ankle in practice just seven games into the regular season. The injury required surgery causing him to miss 49 games from October to February.
Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic can cross off the highest priority item off his ‘to do’ list this offseason. The team has signed restricted free agent Nathan MacKinnon to a seven year, $44.1-million contract.
In his post-signing conference call with reporters, the 20-year-old MacKinnon seemed humbled by the contract he earned.
“Honestly, it was very weird signing it today,” said MacKinnon. “I hesitated before I sent it back … just thinking about where I’m from and that kind of money is just crazy to me. But I’m very lucky, and I know I’m very fortunate.”
At the same time, he realizes that big money brings big expectations, ones he’s ready to perform to.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove in this league,” said MacKinnon. “I can take my game to a whole other level … I’m really excited to show that next season, especially with this new contract … there is a lot of pressure to perform and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of that.”
After signing Aaron Ekblad to an eight year, $60-million dollar extension earlier this week and inking free agent Jason Demers to a five year, $22.5-million contract today, the Florida Panthers are opening up their wallet again to secure their future.
Now on the receiving end of the team’s generosity is restricted free agent Vincent Trocheck. The soon-to-be 23-year-old forward signed a six year, $28.5-million deal as reported by Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman. The contract carries an average annual value of $4.75-million; however, specifics of the deal are yet to be released.
Trocheck missed the final six regular season games and four playoff games after breaking his ankle blocking a shot. He returned for the final two games of the Panthers playoffs series loss against the New York Islanders. The forward was a part of the wrong end of playoff history in Game 6 as he dropped to the ice as he tried for an empty net goal and it was ignored by the referees. Mass chaos ensued.
Not every signing is earth shattering on free agent day. Still the addition of less heralded players can mean the difference between winning and losing in the post-season; even though we may not know it right now.
Here’s a running list of some of the other signings on Free Agent Frenzy Friday with a quick rundown of the details you need to know. Plus we tap the brains of the bloggers and media alike in what this signing does – and in some cases, doesn’t – bring to the team that they joined.
[Ed. Note: We’ll update this post throughout Friday evening as the NHL contracts keep rolling in. Check out Puck Daddy for stories and features on the signings rocking the hockey world.]
UPDATE at 9:36 p.m. EST
Dale Weise (RW), Philadelphia Flyers
Contract: 4 years, $2.35-million AAV
2015-16 team(s): Montreal Canadiens traded to Chicago Blackhawks
Previous contract: 2 year, $1.025-million AAV
2015-16 stats: 14 goals, 13 assists in 71 GP; 42 PIMs
What the pundits say: “Contract aside, Weise is a good option on the ice. He’s a better player than [Ryan] White in just about every way and certainly better than the average fourth line player — I mean, scoring nearly 30 points as a fourth line player in back-to-back years is certainly better than the average. Like White, Weise can also play on the second power play unit. He’s even a few months younger than White! The downside is that he’s coming off of an up year, and I guess there’s no guarantee that he repeats that performance for the next four.” – Broad Street Hockey
In March 2016, the first ‘leaked’ National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) emails made their way to the inboxes of several women’s hockey writers. Others followed. They alleged unpaid debts, mismanagement behind the scenes and general chaos for the first-year league.
How did NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan feel about this campaign?
“Someone has a lot of time on their hands to try and undermine the NWHL and all the hard work we’ve put into this league,” she said in an interview with Puck Daddy. “I would much prefer to actually handle a problem someone has with me rather than hear about it through a blog post.”
What a difference a year makes.