FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.
The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.
Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.
“Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”
Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.
The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.
Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks
“Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.
“I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”
Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.
Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.
“On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”
The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.
“It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.
It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.
“(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”
Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.
“It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”
NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.
Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.
Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.
Lightning and Capitals brawl, meet again Sunday in Tampa
That was just the start of the fisticuffs as tensions boiled over Friday night between these teams, which face off again Sunday in what could be another feisty game for players with short memories.
“I don’t know about that but probably,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said after his team lost 5-1. “Two teams that want to win hockey games. That was a bad hit, and it set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Aube-Kubel was ejected and assessed a match penalty, which is an automatic suspension pending review by the NHL’s department of player safety. If suspended, he’d miss at least the second half of the home-and-home series, if not more for a hit Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said “defines the word blindside.”
The Lightning were none too happy with Aubel-Kubel’s hit early in the second period that knocked Foote out of the game. Maroon just didn’t wait until the next shift to express it.
“That’s what Patty does,” Hedman said. “He stands up for his teammates. He’s not going to take anything. That fired up the bench.”
A handful of other players were involved in the initial scrum, and they exchanged some pushes and shoves around the fight before Maroon and Hathaway got separated. Nick Paul hopped off the bench for a second before being urged back by Lightning teammates to avoid what would have been an automatic 10-game suspension.
The Capitals killed off all five minutes, and Sonny Milano — who was serving Aubel-Kubel’s penalty — scored coming out of the box on a breakaway 7 seconds after the Lightning power play expired.
A few Washington goals later, a line brawl erupted with 5:40 left in the third with Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry fighting Anthony Mantha and teammate Vladislav Namestnikov dropping the gloves with Washington’s Erik Gustafsson. With some roughing mixed in, the incident added up to 26 penalty minutes and finished Mantha’s second career Gordie Howe hat trick — a goal, an assist and a fight.
Expect another chippy game 48 hours later.
“I think it’s going to be the same,” said Kevin McCarthy, who coached the Capitals in Peter Laviolette’s absence. “When you play a team back to back, there’s always something that carries over from the previous game. Especially the way the game went tonight, it was physical on both sides and we expect that again.”
Free agent goalie market only makes Shesterkin, other values more precious
Nothing can swing a playoff series quite like a red-hot (or ice-cold) goalie. When you’re charting the importance of a goalie, you don’t compare them to a two-way center or elite defenseman. Instead, you’re often asking how a goalie’s importance compares to, say, a quarterback.
Uncomfortably, you don’t necessarily “get what you pay for” with NHL goaltending. Even so, during the past two offseasons, it sure feels like the “floor” keeps rising on what you pay for NHL goaltending — whether that netminder’s track record is strong or not.
Among other things, these recent trends only make (relatively) reliable goaltending more precious, especially on team-friendly deals.
Even shots in the dark are costing at least $2.75 million per year
After wearing out his welcome with the Capitals, Vitek Vanecek received a new opportunity by way of a trade to the Devils.
At first, that at least feels a little steep. But then you realize that it more-or-less falls in line with the floor rising for the goalie market. Even goalies with limited track records mostly fetch $2.75M per year. Consider some of the mid-level signings:
Technically, the Maple Leafs traded for Matt Murray‘s contract from the Senators. It doesn’t feel unreasonable to throw him in this group, however, as he carries a considerable cap hit (about $4.7M) amid muted expectations.
Then, add in some weightier investments, such as Jack Campbell‘s contract with the Oilers, and the Red Wings’ proactive Ville Husso addition.
For some, it inspires a reasonable response: all of that spending makes the Capitals’ investment in Darcy Kuemper feel like a better “calculated risk.”
Overall, not a bad point. Yet, with Kuemper’s age (32) and his history of injuries — most recently an eye injury that forced him to work on tracking — there’s enough risk there that Washington could regret the move. (Injuries and health challenges often get worse, especially for big goalies.)
Instead, a different point lingered. The select few NHL teams with excellent goalies (or, let’s be honest, goalies they think are excellent) at value prices should thank their lucky stars.
And, in cases where those bargains are running out soon, they really might want to use that as motivation to go for it. Consider a team-friendly but short-term goalie contract the netminding equivalent to a rookie contract. You may only get one window where a difference-making person is making team-friendly money.
Personally, Igor Shesterkin was my pick for best goalie in the world in 2021-22. Hockey Viz’s goalie saving charts provide one way to measure Shesterkin’s historically great season. Saving close to 50 goals above expected is truly ludicrous, and you can still make a Hart Trophy debate for Shesterkin. Once he got over a few early struggles, he was spectacular during the playoffs, too.
Considering how much the Rangers leaned on him (and figure to keep leaning on him), he may slip next year. Perhaps you don’t think Shesterkin’s the absolute best goalie in the world, tabbing the reliable machine Andrei Vasilevskiy. That’s perfectly fair.
For the Rangers, that debate is mostly noise. He’s an incredible steal at a bit less than $5.7M per year, and in the meat of his prime at 26 years old.
One can only guess how much Shesterkin will cost in three years. For the time being, the Rangers should try to make the most of this bargain (not to mention whatever’s left of the peaks for Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider).
For the past couple seasons, Juuse Saros has stood alongside Connor Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy as a workhorse goalie who combines the quantity of all of those starts with the quality of making tough saves. Last season, Saros and Hellebuyck were the only two goalies in the league to make 1,900 saves and face at least 2,000 shots.
That whole time, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Predators were riding Saros too hard. Whether it was fatigue or just bad luck, Saros suffered an injury at the end of the regular season, and was unavailable for the playoffs.
As it stands, there’s some room to worry about such a workload for a goalie who succeeds at least in part based on world-class athleticism.
Much like Hellebuyck, it’s impressive to note that value the Predators already extracted from their goalie bargain. Saros is a steal at $5M, still young at 27, and cheap for three years. Really, his ascent to the elite makes the Predators’ rebuild phobia easier to stomach.
Canucks found themselves a gem with Demko
In many of these cases, NHL teams are reaping the rewards from drafting and developing their own goalies. For all that’s gone wrong with the Canucks, they have some promising young core pieces, and Thatcher Demko may just provide the most bang-for-the-puck. (Though Quinn Hughes is a nice value, especially in a defenseman market that went pretty bonkers last summer.)
Demko’s merely 26, and if he’s truly as elite as he looks, his deal may end up being more valuable than others. That’s because his $5M cap hit lingers for four seasons (through 2025-26), one more than Shesterkin.
Demko stands with Vasilevskiy and Saros as a young goalie who maybe faced too much of a workload. As time goes on, that’s something for the Canucks to think about.
Most of all, they should avoid wasting a great opportunity where Demko’s getting paid less than he’s worth.
Short-but-sweet NHL goalie bargains
Connor Hellebuyck: $6.166M for two more seasons
You could argue that the Jets already got their money’s worth for Connor Hellebuyck’s six-year, $37M contract. He’s been one of the truly great workhorses in the NHL, propping up some abysmal Jets defenses.
But the Jets could end up haunted by the thought that they wasted having one of the best goalies in the world at such a team-friendly $6.166M cap hit. (The Jets have also not-quite fully exploited the value they’ve enjoyed with the likes of Mark Scheifele.)
At 29, Hellebuyck could very well deliver far above his cap hit for these remaining two seasons. With Rick Bowness being fixated on defense above anything else (at least in Dallas), it may be a more nurturing situation.
Really, though, this contract is part of a fascinating window for Winnipeg. Scheifele’s only under contract for two more seasons, and Pierre-Luc Dubois could set things up to walk as a free agent around that time.
If things don’t work out, that Hellebuyck contract could be a key part of a Jets rebuild. Either way, it’s already been a bargain for Winnipeg, and could very well be extremely fruitful for two more seasons.
For those who pay attention to stats along the lines of Goals Saved Above Average/Expected (there are quite a few variations of the general idea), two names rose as 2021-22 went along: Ilya Sorokin and Ville Husso. In Sorokin’s case, he built a credible argument to end up a Vezina Trophy finalist.
#Isles Mathew Barzal on Ilya Sorokin: "There hasn't been enough Vezina talk, really."
Barry Trotz: "He's absolutely correct on that."
Says Sorokin won't get votes b/c Isles aren't playoff-bound. Adds narrative in NY is Igor Shesterkin. "Our guy is right there."
Amusingly, the biggest nitpick of the Islanders’ savvy, projection-based investment with Sorokin is that the savings are a bit brief. The 26-year-old’s $4M cap hit only runs for two more seasons.
Two other factors loom. For one, it remains to be seen if Barry Trotz’s departure makes life tougher for Islanders goalies. Beyond that, there’s the other Islanders goalie: Semyon Varlamov carrying a $5M cap hit dilutes some of the bargain of having a possibly elite young goalie at $4M.
To play “4D Chess” for a second: perhaps Varlamov eats up enough starts to limit Sorokin’s volume, and then the Islanders might extend Sorokin for another value contract? Maybe that type of thinking slips toward Charlie Kelly’s mailroom conspiracy board, but if nothing else, it’s at least a short-term boon for the Islanders.
Premium prices probably justified
Andrei Vasilevskiy: $9.5 million AAV for six seasons (through 2027-28)
Over and over again, I wonder if the Lightning will finally lean on Andrei Vasilevskiy so much that he “breaks.” Year after year, he defies those worries.
With Vasilevskiy, you wade through certain layers of nitpicking. Close to the time he signed his big, current deal, people pointed out that he mainly saved around the number of goals he was expected to. When wading into “best in the world” debates, one might point to relative hiccups, like so-so numbers in the Maple Leafs series.
Yet, as a whole, Vasilevskiy pulls off the remarkable feat of being a bargain at $9.5 million.
By racking up all of those miles — not just heavy in the regular season, but with three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances — I still wonder if the bottom might fall out. Such a thought could make that lengthy, $9.5M investment go “JustAbout Bob.”
Of course, there’s an obvious distinction even if Vasilevskiy starts to shew closer to Sergei Bobrovsky. The Lightning have already won two Stanley Cups with him.
And would it be that shocking if he just kept chugging along? I’d love to see Tampa Bay find a way for more backup help, but if that never happens, Vasilevskiy is still (somehow) just 27.
Other goalies who may or may not be bargains
Jacob Markstrom is tricky. At 32, Markstrom’s play could slip, and the Flames may take a serious step back in front of him. Still, his $6M cap hit looks more reasonable considering the far-less-proven goalies who are making comparable money.
What does the future hold for John Gibson? When he signedat $6.4 million, it seemed like a mega-steal. Yet, the 28-year-old’s results have been mixed-at-best the past three seasons. There’s talent there, but that $6.4M AAV through 2026-27 is something of a mystery. Maybe we won’t really get a true answer until he’s traded, or the Ducks make big improvements?
Jake Oettinger — currently 23 and an RFA — stands as a fascinating goalie contract situation to watch.
While playoff injury issues soured the end, both Frederik Andersen (32, $4.5M) and Antti Raanta (33, $2M) delivered serious value for a Hurricanes team that could be even better in 2022-23. Both are entering contract years, though, so those savings may be short-lived.
In the end, it’s about making the best, most-educated guesses you can about a mysterious position
To reiterate: even the most promising-looking goalies on this list could flop. And it’s not outrageous for a deal that looks dicey (multiple years of Jordan Binnington at $5M, maybe even Bobrovsky?) could work out, short-term and/or long-term.
There are just so many variables that go into goalies succeeding, failing, or merely getting by.
That said, if recent seasons are decent indications of what’s next for at least the most established goalies, then Shesterkin, Saros, Demko, Sorokin, and others could improve their teams’ odds in enormous ways.
In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the best free agent signings of the offseason (so far).
While there are still a handful of top free agents still available (Nazem Kadri, John Klingberg), most of the top players have already found new homes. Some of those signings are going to work out very well. Others might not.
So let’s try to figure out which ones might be the best investments. We are limiting it this to players that signed after the opening of the free agent signing period this past Wednesday. So players that re-signed with their teams before that are excluded from the list. Also a reminder: This is not a ranking of the best players to sign. It is a ranking of the best signings, taking into account the player, production, contract term, salary cap hit, risk, and total value.
Who all makes the cut?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus Blue Jackets (seven years, $68.25 million). The most stunning free agent signing was also the best. Yes, most long-term free agent contracts end in a buyout or a trade. But there are always exceptions. This could very easily be an exception. Gaudreau is a top-tier offensive force and is still at an age where he should perform at an extremely level for the foreseeable future. The Blue Jackets needed a star, and they got one. Even If Gaudreau is not a 115-point player again and levels off at an 80-or 90-point level he will still be worth it.
2. Claude Giroux, Ottawa Senators (three years, $19.5 million). Giroux might be getting older, but he is still an outstanding player and the Senators are getting him on a really good deal. Not too much term, reasonable salary cap hit, not much risk, and it helps round a rapidly improving Senators’ top-six. Are they a playoff team because of it? Probably not. But they are better. And more entertaining.
3. Darcy Kuemper, Washington Capitals (five years, $26.25 million). The Capitals badly needed a goalie and completely revamped the position by dumping Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek and signing Kuemper in free agency. Kuemper drew some criticism in the playoffs this year, but his overall track record in the NHL is very strong. Among goalies with at least 100 games played over the past three years, Igor Shesterkin is the only goalie with a better all situations save percentage than Kuemper’s .920.
4. Frank Vatrano, Anaheim Ducks (three years, $10.95 million). Absolutely love this signing by the Ducks. Vatrano is not a star, but he can do two things really well: Generate shots and score goals. The Panthers never should have traded him, the Rangers are going to miss him, and the Ducks got him on a nice three-year deal for just $3.6 million per year.
5. David Perron, Detroit Red Wings (two years, $9.5 million). Perron is getting older, but this is a really strong deal for a Red Wings team making to take a big leap forward. He is a legit top-line winger and the Red Wings have almost no risk on a two-year contract.
6. Andrew Copp, Detroit Red Wings (five years, $28.25 million) . This deal reminds me a lot of the Philip Danault signing in Los Angeles a year ago. Similar term, player, cap hit, and team situation. I like Copp over somebody like, say, Vincent Trocheck because he is a year younger, better defensively, and has a term that is two years shorter.
7. Vincent Trocheck, New York Rangers (seven years, $39.375 million). Trocheck is a very good player and will be a nice second-line center for the Rangers. But this is also the type of free agency contract I hate and the type that should scare the heck out of you as a fan of a team. A seven-year term for a soon-to-be 30-year-old non-star is not going to end well. Also, the Rangers had to watch Copp, Ryan Strome, and Vatrano all leave to make this signing happen. Does that make them a better team?
8. Andre Burakovsky, Seattle Kraken (five years, $27.5 million). Good player on an okay contract, but I do wonder what the overall plan is here for Seattle? Just a weird approach from the very beginning. How will he produce away from the high powered Avalanche offense?
9. Ryan Strome, Anaheim Ducks (five years, $25 million). Strome averaged a 22-goal, 60-point pace per 82 games during his time with the Rangers and was a legit second-line center offensively. He has had some shortcomings defensively at times, but if he repeats what he did in New York with the Ducks he will be a fine addition.
10. Dylan Strome, Washington Capitals (one year, $3.5 million). What I love about this deal is just how cheap it is. One year and only $3.5 million? For a player that will probably a produce a similar level of offense as Copp or Trocheck down the middle? He might be a half-tier below those two as overall players, but the price is certainly right as they look to get by without Nicklas Backstrom.
11. Mason Marchment, Dallas Stars (four years, $18 million). If he is just a late-bloomer and his 2021-22 season was not a fluke this contract could be one of the best signed all summer. But he has so little NHL track record to go by it is tough to be fully convinced of that.
12. Ondrej Palat, New Jersey Devils (five years, $30 million). He is not Johnny Gaudreau or Alex DeBrincat, but Palat is a strong top-six addition to a Devils team that badly needs some complementary players for Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. In the short-term, at least. How many more years does he have as a top-six producer?
13. Calle Jarnkrok, Toronto Maple Leafs (four years, $8.4 million). Jarnkrok is one of the steadiest players you will find in the NHL in terms of what he brings. He will score 15 goals, 30 points, play good defense, and be a really solid third-line player. The four-year term is maybe a year too long, but you can not beat the salary cap number.
14. Brett Kulak, Edmonton Oilers (four years, $11 million). Kulak is not going to carry the Oilers’ defense, but he was very good after being acquired at the trade deadline and this is a very strong re-sign by the Oilers after he went to market. In a thin defense crop, the Oilers did well.
15. Dominik Kubalik, Detroit Red Wings (two years, $5.5 million). This is a nice gamble for the Red Wings. Kubalik has his flaws, but he does have some finishing ability as a goal scorer even if it it peaked as a rookie. The price is right for this.
16. Ilya Mikheyev, Vancouver Canucks (four years, $19 million). The Canucks always have a couple of random players in the middle of their lineup making far more than you realize for too many years. This one might continue that trend. Mikheyev does a lot of things well, but I am not sure he is going to score 20 goals again.
17. Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (five years, $25 million). Just not sure how much I trust Campbell to be the answer behind a weak defensive team. That contract is concerning.
18. Josh Manson, Colorado Avalanche (four years, $18 million). Manson was a good addition for Colorado at the trade deadline, but this also seems like a luxury re-signing (and maybe even an overpay) for a team that is already loaded on defense.
19. Jan Rutta, Pittsburgh Penguins (three years, $8.25 million). The Penguins really tried to overhaul their defense this offseason and it started with the Rutta addition. He is not going to be one of their top defenders, but given what players like Erik Gudbranson and Ben Chiarot signed for this is not a bad deal for what the Penguins will expect of him.
20. Justin Schultz, Seattle Kraken (two years, $6 million). Another bizarre move for Seattle, but again, given the market for other defenders it is not a terrible deal.