Smith-Pelly, Mrazek, Duclair among those not getting qualifying offers

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Monday was the deadline for the NHL’s 31 teams to extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents. Players that did not get a QO would then be able to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, and there are some notable names among that group.

A lot of the players that get non-tendered are ones that have arbitration rights and by non-tendering them teams can avoid that situation while still trying to work out a new contract. The trade off there is they risk losing them on July 1.

Perhaps the biggest name to be non-tendered on Monday is Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly.

The Capitals announced on Monday that he was not among their RFA’s to receive a QO but that they are still negotiating with him in the hopes of coming to an agreement on a contract. His QO would have been worth $715,000.

Smith-Pelly’s story is a complicated one because he had a rather forgettable regular season that saw him score just seven goals and only nine assists in 76 games. Along with that he posted rather poor underlying numbers (only 44 percent possession) and averaged just a little more than one shot on goal per game. It was not really a performance that would have inspired the Capitals, a team already tight against the salary cap, to bring him back.

In the playoffs, however, he came through in a huge way by matching his regular season goal output (seven) and scored some massive goals for the team in the Stanley Cup Final, including a game-tying goal in the third period of their Game 5, Cup-clinching victory against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Along with his playoff heroics for the Capitals, Smith-Pelly was also the victim of one of the ugliest moments of the 2017-18 NHL season when a group of Blackhawks fans were kicked out of (and banned from) the United Center for directing racist taunts in his direction as he sat in the penalty box.

During the Cup Final he also went on record talking about why a visit to the White House in the event of a Capitals invite would be troublesome for him, saying that he had already made up his mind on not visiting.

The Capitals can still attempt to re-sign him to a new contract but after signing John Carlson to an eight-year, $64 million contract extension over the weekend they have just a little more than $13 million in cap space remaining with only 16 players under contract.

Among some of the other more notable players to not receive a QO:

Petr Mrazek, Philadelphia Flyers: With goalies Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth injured for the stretch run, the Flyers were desperate for goaltending help and traded draft picks to the Detroit Red Wings to acquire Mrazek. His time with the team was, to say the least, ugly. In 18 games between the regular season and playoffs Mrazek managed only an .890 save percentage. Over the past two seasons with the Red Wings and Flyers his save percentage is just .900.

Anthony Duclair, Chicago Blackhawks: After a promising first full NHL season that saw him score 20 goals with the Arizona Coyotes, Duclair’s production has regressed over the past two seasons and he was eventually traded to the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2017-18 campaign. The change of scenery and fresh start did not really seem to do much for him in the short-term, at least not enough to make the Blackhawks extend him a QO, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times. He is still only 22 years old and has a lot of talent so he is going to be an attractive buy-low free agent for a team in need of some young skill.

Derrick Pouliot, Vancouver Canucks: After being selected with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pouliot’s career simply has not developed as hoped to this point. The Penguins gave up on him prior to this season and traded him to the Canucks where he would go on to play a regular role. In 71 games he scored three goals and recorded 19 assists.

Tobias Rieder, Los Angeles Kings: The Kings acquired Rieder in the middle of the season in an effort to add some much-needed speed to their lineup. He scored four goals and recorded two assists in 20 regular season games with the team but was held off the scoresheet entirely in their first-round playoff loss when they were swept in four straight games. Rieder’s production has been pretty consistent over the first four years of his career, averaging around 12 goals and 30 total points per season.

Related:
PHT Power Rankings: The Top-20 NHL Free Agents
Time For Sabres to upgrade in goal after not qualifying Robin Lehner

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.