The Capitals were able to come to terms with goaltender Braden Holtby before an arbitrator had to rule on his value, but will Washington be able to pull that off again with its final restricted free agent, Marcus Johansson?
“I think they’re status quo from last time,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said of the Johansson contract negotiations, per NHL.com.
Johansson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. He’ll presumably be seeking a decent raise from his old two-year, $4 million contract after recording 20 goals and 47 points last season.
MacLellan is willing to go through the arbitration process if necessary, but of course his hope is to avoid that.
The good news is that Washington has some cap flexibility after inking Holtby to a five-year, $30.5 million contract. If Holtby had been awarded $8 million for the 2015-16 campaign as he was asking an arbitrator for, then signing Johansson while staying under the ceiling might have been a balancing act. As it is, Washington has about $5 million in space.
Though the next Winter Games aren’t until 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, there’s already been plenty of speculation about the NHL ending its streak of Olympic participation that started in 1998, especially with the World Cup being revived in 2016.
The World Cup isn’t necessarily a replacement for the Olympics though, as NHLPA director Donald Fehr argued.
“If you look at the FIFA World Cup – and forget FIFA for the moment since they’re not on the high point of everybody’s list these days – what you see is that is the preeminent event,” Fehr told Sportsnet. “It is not the Olympics. I don’t know what’s going to happen in hockey. I think they can both exist. The players really want to play in both.”
It’s worth noting the deal to bring the NHL to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia wasn’t agreed to until seven months before the start of the Games, so it’s entirely possible that it will be a while before we know what will happen with the 2018 Olympics. The World Cup might even be finished before there’s anything definitive regarding the Olympics.
Related: IIHF says getting NHL players to 2018 Olympics ‘will not be easy’
It seems Lou Lamoriello’s departure from New Jersey might be different from Ray Shero’s move to the Devils in a key way.
Since Shero joined the Devils as their general manager, he has leaned on his former employees with the Penguins to help fill important positions. On Friday it was announced that Tom Fitzgerald was leaving the Penguins to become the Devils’ assistant general manager and the Devils’ new head coach, John Hynes, previously worked for Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate.
Lamoriello, who has resigned as president of the Devils to take over as the Maple Leafs’ general manager, doesn’t plan on bringing any members of New Jersey’s staff with him, per the Bergen Record. He doesn’t even anticipate his son, Chris, joining him in Toronto. Chris Lamoriello has been with New Jersey for 18 years and has spent the past 14 serving as the general manager for the Devils’ AHL affiliate. He holds the title of senior vice president of hockey operations.
“Chris is a New Jersey Devil and he’s a good hockey person,” Lamoriello said. “His fate is in Ray’s hands.”
One person from Lamoriello’s past that might join Toronto though is David Conte as the long-time director of scouting was fired in July after Shero took over.
With the dust settling on Devils president Lou Lamoriello’s surprising departure, New Jersey announced another front office move.
Tom Fitzgerald has left his post as the Pittsburgh Penguins assistant general manager to join the Devils, where he will have the same job title. That might raise some eyebrows, but there are some probable reasons for this move.
The first might be a simply a matter of familiarity. Fitzgerald has spent most of his post-playing career working for former Penguins and current Devils GM Ray Shero. He’s similarly familiar with new Devils head coach John Hynes, who previously served as the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ bench boss.
It’s also worth noting that Fitzgerald interviewed for the general manager job in Pittsburgh, but ultimately lost it to Jim Rutherford. Additionally, Pittsburgh has two other assistant general managers in Jason Botterill and Bill Guerin while Fitzgerald is currently the only member of the Devils’ organization with that job title.
The Devils will not have to compensate the Pittsburgh Penguins for this move with a draft pick. That’s because the new system only covers GMs, team presidents, and head coaches, per The Record.
Related: Lamoriello’s departure removes any doubt: Devils are Shero’s team
Alexander Semin’s 2014-15 campaign was a low point in his career, but his newly inked one-year, $1.1 million pack with the Montreal Canadiens offers him a chance to put that behind him.
It’s a modest deal for Semin and not just compared to the five-year, $35 million contract that the Carolina Hurricanes bought out earlier this summer. With the exception of his entry-level contract, he’s never signed an NHL deal with an annual base salary this low, per General Fanager. One could argue that it’s not a surprising sum though after he scored just six goals and 19 points in 57 contests last season.
“Last year I have bad season for me,” Semin said in a conference call following the signing. “No score, no points, I play not well. I try going back to how I can play.”
As for why he didn’t play like he has at his height, he cited the wrist surgery he had over the summer of 2014 as a possible cause. Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, previously suggested that Hurricanes coach Bill Peters “did not understand Sasha’s game” while Hurricanes GM Ron Francis criticized his “compete level.”
Obviously the first two potential explanations are no longer factors as he won’t be working with Peters next season and his wrist surgery is now well behind him. That leaves the motivation theory and even if you subscribe to that, 2015-16 might be an exception.
The fact that he had to take this contract can be seen as a reflection of how far his stock has fallen. He also reiterated during the conference call that he wants to play in the NHL over the KHL.
If things go terribly in Montreal, then he’ll be in an even weaker negotiating position next summer. At this point, it wouldn’t be overly dramatic to say that he’s not only trying to get back to his old top-tier level of play, but also fighting to simply prove he still belongs at this level.