Even the day before the draft, Jack Eichel didn’t want to say if he would spend another season with Boston University or sign an entry-level contract over the summer. There was a time when he wasn’t sure himself, but playing in the 2015 World Championship helped inform his decision.
That was the first time he played competitively with and against some of the world’s top professional players. Versus that level of competition he had two goals and seven points in 10 games.
“Before the world championships, I was a little bit unsure,” he told the Buffalo News. “After going over there and having the experience I did, talking to a lot of guys, I came back pretty set on moving on. I could never really make anything public because I hadn’t been drafted yet.”
He made it official Wednesday by signing with the Buffalo Sabres. Along with Evander Kane and Ryan O’Reilly, he’ll be tasked with breathing new life into the worst offensive team of 2014-15. Expectations should be conservative for next season, but there’s no question that the hope is Eichel will develop into the cornerstone of this franchise.
James Wright is trying to work his way back to the NHL. After spending a season with Zagreb Medvescak KHL of the Kontinental Hockey League, he has signed a one-year, two-way deal with the New York Islanders, per TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie.
His contract is worth $800K at the NHL level.
Taken by Tampa Bay in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Wright went on to score four goals and 12 points in 146 games with the Lightning and Winnipeg Jets. He played in a career-high 59 contests with Winnipeg in 2013-14, but was still unsigned in Sept. 2014 and opted to head to the KHL.
Wright had 15 goals and 19 points in 53 contests with the Croatian club last season.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Here’s Puck Daddy’s take on the winners and losers for the first day of the free agent period. (Puck Daddy)
Sportsnet ran a winners/losers column too, but theirs more strictly looked at things from the perspective of the teams. (Sportsnet)
Here’s a breakdown and analysis of the noteworthy Day 1 signings. (TSN)
Weighing some of the biggest signings and acquisitions on a case-by-case basis. (ESPN)
What are the best value deals so far? (Bleacher Report)
Finally, with the benefit of hindsight, let’s look at the best and worst signings of 2014. (Sports Illustrated)
The day after the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Artem Anisimov in the Brandon Saad trade, they have completed a five-year contract extension, according to Andy Strickland.
The financial terms of the deal weren’t immediately known, but Anisimov, 27, has one season left on his current three-year, $9.85 million deal.
Update: His contract is worth $22.75 million, per TSN’s Darren Dreger. That works out to a $4.55 million annual cap hit.
Like many members of the 2014-15 Columbus Blue Jackets, Anisimov was limited by health issues last season. In his case, he missed time because of a concussion and later triceps injury, but he still finished with seven goals and 27 points in 52 contests. He averaged 16:22 minutes per contest and was used regularly in both power play and shorthanded situations.
“He’s a player we’ve been trying to acquire for quite some time,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said in Tuesday night’s post-trade conference call. “I talked a long time about our desire to find a big centerman. There’s very few of them in the NHL. You just look around at the 30 teams and to be able to get a guy in the prime of his career at 6-foot-4, who could do a little bit of everything, it’s someone we’ve been chasing for a long time.”
“We were finally able to acquire him. I think he fits in very nicely to our team. He’s able to play offensively as well as the penalty killing role. He’s done a little bit of everything in his career and I think for our needs, to know that we’ve got Toews and Anisimov, for years to come, that was a very big part of this.”
It’s worth noting that Chicago is still in a difficult cap situation despite moving Saad and that could lead to the Blackhawks making additional trades in the near future.
The Carolina Hurricanes plan to buy out Alex Semin’s contract after just two seasons of his five-year, $35 million deal. The move wasn’t shocking given that he scored just six goals and 19 points in 57 contests in 2014-15, but Hurricanes GM Ron Francis nevertheless made made his rationale clear.
“He certainly has had some injuries, but last season he did not have the compete level we expect,” Francis told the News & Observer. “We talk about holding our players accountable, and there were some things we felt he did not hold up to, so we made this decision.
“When we talk about accountability and a consistently high compete level, we have to follow through, or they make no sense. He did not have that high compete level, for whatever reason.”
Semin has had some terrific stretches in his career, but inconsistency has been a problem. As his former coach Bruce Boudreau put it back in 2013, “[Semin] can show flashes of absolute brilliance one minute. Then you’re going, ‘What are you doing?’ the next.”
Despite the latest setback, his agent remains confident that Semin will play in the NHL next season as teams have already expressed interest in him. He’ll be one of the more intriguing free agents on the market.
Will the next team that signs him be getting an 80-point player? Or will his struggles persist?