Senators re-sign Josh Norris to 8-year, $63.6 million contract

Josh Norris Ottawa Senators
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There are a lot of reasons for optimism right now if you are an Ottawa Senators fan.

They have already added Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, and Cam Talbot to their roster this offseason, and on Thursday extended another one of their key players to a long-term contact extension.

The team announced that it has signed forward Josh Norris to an eight-year, $63.6 million contract extension that will begin with the 2022-23 season. That averages out to a $7.95 million salary cap hit per season. Norris entered the offseason as a restricted free agent.

He is the fourth player in this young Senators’ core to sign a long-term deal, joining Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, and Drake Batherson who are all signed through at least 2027.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

Norris, 23, is coming off of a breakout season that saw him score 35 goals, 20 assists, and 55 total points in 66 games. Originally a first-round draft pick by the San Jose Sharks in 2017, the Senators acquired Norris in the 2018 trade that sent defenseman Erik Karlsson out west. That trade has turned out to be a potential franchise-changer for the Senators as it not only landed them Norris, but also the 2020 first-round pick that resulted in another of Ottawa’s key young players, Tim Stützle.

It is rare that a trade involving a superstar works out so well for the team giving up the best player, but this has gone about as well as the Senators could have hoped.

The big question on Norris is whether or not he can maintain this goal scoring pace. He has shot around 19 percent through the first two years in the league, which is a fairly high number and we only have 125 game sample size to go by here. Shooting percentages can fluctuate a bit, and if he does not maintain that current level it could cut into his production a bit. The encouraging thing is that his shot volume increased this season while his underlying possession numbers also took a step forward.

The Senators still have some holes to address on defense, and even with the addition of Talbot goaltending is a concern, but given their forward additions and overall forward depth the Senators are shaping up to be one of the most exciting teams in the league this season.

It might not result in a playoff spot, but for the first time in a few years there should be a real sense of hope for the team’s fans. If nothing else, there at least seems to be a clear direction.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.