2020 NHL Free Agency

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Jets sign Josh Morrissey to eight-year contract extension

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It’s not Patrik Laine or Kyle Connor, but the Winnipeg Jets did manage to get one of their most important players signed to a long-term contract ahead of training camp.

The team announced on Thursday that it has signed defenseman Josh Morrissey to an eight-year contract extension that will run through the end of the 2027-28 season. The deal carries a salary cap hit of $6.25 million per season, doubling his current salary.

Morrissey is entering the final year of a two-year deal that pays him $3.15 million this season.

The 24-year-old Morrissey has developed into one of the Jets’ top defenders over the past three seasons and will no doubt be expected to take on an even bigger role this year following the offseason departures of Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot from the team’s blue line.

He was limited to just 59 games a year ago but was on track to have his best season in the NHL with six goals and 25 assists. The 31 total points were a career high.

While getting Morrissey signed long-term is important and eliminates a future headache, the Jets still have a lot of problems to deal with in camp. Laine and Connor remain unsigned as restricted free agents, the team did nothing to address the departures on defense around Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien, and their long-term salary cap situation is about to get awfully difficult once (or maybe if?) they are able to get Laine and Connor re-signed to long-term deals.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Subban ready for Devils to ‘take over the town’ after busy summer

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The closest P.K. Subban ever came to being a devil before this past June was during his junior hockey days in Belleville when he wore No. 6, creating the 6-6-6 across the back of his jersey.

The NHL draft weekend deal that sent him from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils was expected by the 30-year-old Subban. He had a feeling that he would move on from the Predators in either of the last two offseason, knowing that his time in Music City would be a short one after the shocking trade three years ago from the Montreal Canadiens.

Subban enters a Devils team that is trending upward. Following a playoff-less 2018-19 season, general manager Ray Shero was ready to be aggressive in the summer after winning the draft lottery and selecting Jack Hughes with the first overall pick. Along with Hughes and Subban, Wayne Simmonds was added up front on a one-year deal with the hope that he can bounce back offensively, and Nikita Gusev, the talented KHL scorer, was acquired and signed from the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Summer of Ray has put the Devils in “sleeper team” status and it’s not just media and fans thinking that. A number of NHLers at the Player Media Tour last week in Chicago pegged New Jersey as a team that can surprise in 2019-20.  

Subban has one question for those players.

“I’d ask those same players why do you pick us as a sleeper?,” he told NBC Sports. “I think that players are just making something aware that they already know what’s coming, you know? That’s not a shocker to me. You can call us a sleeper, you can call us a contender, you can call us whatever you want. But I can tell you one thing, we’re a team that competes, I know that. 

“Playing in the East for a couple of years, watching this team, New Jersey’s always been a team, no matter where they are in the standings, whether top or bottom, you knew that you were going to have a frustrating game against them. You knew that they were going to compete on everything, you knew you were going to have to work to earn those two points and I don’t think that’s changing any time soon.”

After beginning his NHL career in Montreal and playing in heated rivalry games against the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, Subban is eager to enter similar environments when the Devils play their Metropolitan Division enemies.

“Playing in the [Western Conference] was great, playing in Nashville was awesome. What was the most exciting thing about Nashville was when I went there people asked, “How is he going to deal with the fact that he’s not playing in front of the Montreal Canadiens fans?” I’ll tell you, those Nashville fans delivered a lot of support. 

“I would expect the same in New Jersey and I would expect the same now that I’m in these [Eastern Conference] rivalries. That’s energy that I feed off of. I think I’m going to really enjoy it.”

The Devils have missed the playoffs in six out of the last seven seasons. That followed a 14-season run where they missed only once and reached the Stanley Cup Final three times, winning twice. Shero is following his plan to bring those winning days back, and Subban is excited for what success can do for the franchise.

“To think of being in that type of market and being the only sports team [bearing New Jersey’s name], that’s pretty amazing, actually,” Subban said. “That’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for the team to really take over the town and own it.”

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Torey Krug says contract talks with Bruins ‘nonexistent’

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CHICAGO — Torey Krug says there have been no talks with the Boston Bruins on a new contract with one season left to unrestricted free agency.

Despite a breakout playoff performance that helped the Bruins get to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, Krug is stuck in neutral while the front office focuses on signing restricted free agents Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy. Neither of those players has a deal with training camp set to start next week.

”Maybe a little surprise nothing has been talked about, but I realize that our team is in a different situation,” Krug said Thursday at the annual NHL/NHLPA preseason media tour.

”I understand that we have two guys that need to be signed and that can have big effects on our cap situation moving forward and our boss has to deal with that. Of course I wish there was dialogue and I wish there was some sort of call or something like that, but it’s just nonexistent.”

Krug’s 16 assists in the playoffs tied for the most among all players. Only 11 defensemen in the NHL had more points during the regular season.

The 28-year-old was quick to say he doesn’t feel disrespected by the lack of contract talks, but he doesn’t lack confidence in what he has shown on the ice.

”I put together a resume that I’m very, very comfortable with and happy about,” Krug said. ”You’ve just got to be patient and try to do your part, be a solider. You don’t get these opportunities too often. You just try to take advantage of it.”

With the Bruins in a salary-cap crunch, Krug could be headed toward a significant payday if he hits the free agent market. Since he became a full-time NHL player in 2013-14, his 286 points are just eight shy of P.K. Subban‘s total over that time, and Subban is entering the sixth season of a $72 million, eight-year contract.

Krug doesn’t have the Norris Trophy on his resume like Subban, though his postseason raised the bar on how he’s seen by teammates and around the league.

”He brings it all,” Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said. ”He skates, he battles hard, hits, shoots. He can play power play, penalty kill. Not a whole lot more you can ask for.”

Krug’s signature moment of the playoffs came during Game 1 of the Cup Final when he got up from a tussle helmetless and raced down the ice to hit St. Louis forward Robert Thomas with a crushing open-ice blow.

”He’s a very big competitor,” Rask said. ”He doesn’t shy away from that.”

Don’t expect Krug to shy away from physicality in a contract year, which he believes won’t be any kind of distraction.

”It’s nothing that will affect me personally in how I play,” Krug said. ”If anything, it’s just added fuel to the fire.”

Hischier set to face pressures of contract year

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New Jersey Devils.

The guys at the Spitting Chiclets podcast did an excellent interview last week with Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche.

Why are we talking about MacKinnon on Devils Day at PHT? Just keep reading.

MacKinnon spoke about his sophomore season being a tough one with just 14 goals after winning the Calder Trophy a year before.

It took him two more seasons before he’d flip a switch in his head, one that would take him from a mid-50-point guy to the near-100-point player he’s been for the past two seasons.

MacKinnon said he was starting to feel like he was a bust after being taken first overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | Three questions | X-factor]

Now, I’m not saying that Hischier feels the same way. Both are different players. But both are first-overall picks with a tremendous amount of expectations levied upon them, ones that will last throughout their respective careers.

So if MacKinnon was battling mental demons, one could come to the conclusion that Hischier may do so at some point as well.

Hischier dealt with injury in his second year, much like MacKinnon, and was limited to 17 goals and 47 points — down from the 20 goals and 52 points in his rookie season. That said, his points per game rose in his second campaign even if the overall number didn’t.

And none of this is to say that Hischier has been a bust at all. He’s far from that and an excellent two-way center who, now given some tools around him, a great candidate to have a breakout season.

But the pressure is, nevertheless, going to be there for the Swiss kid. There’s a lot of money waiting on the table for him next offseason when his entry-level deal comes to a close.

Hischier remains a massive piece for the Devils moving forward.

The team now has him and Jack Hughes as their 1-2 punch down the spine of the team, a better defense with the addition of P.K. Subban and a greater supporting cast with Nikita Gusev and Wayne Simmonds.

And while the point totals may not jump off the page, the fact is the Devils outscore opponents and create more high-danger scoring chances when Hischier is on the ice.

Hischier is far from being labeled a bust, much like MacKinnon was.

The pressure is on, however, as he enters a season where a big impact could lead to a bigger contract next summer.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning sign franchise netminder Vasilevskiy to eight-year extension

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The Tampa Bay Lightning locked up one of the faces of their franchise for the foreseeable future, as they signed goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to an eight-year, $76 million contract extension on Monday. Vasilevskiy’s agent, Dan Milstein, made the announcement via his Twitter account. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Vasilevskiy’s new cap hit will come in at around $9.5 million per year. The contract also comes with almost $45 million in bonuses.

The 25-year-old is now under team control for the next nine years because he still has one year remaining on his current deal which will pay him $3.5 million next season. He still isn’t the goalie with the highest AAV in the league, as that honor belongs to Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price, who’s cap hit comes in at $10.5 million per season.

He’ll also earn $500,000 less per year than Sergei Bobrovsky, who signed with the Florida Panthers over the summer. But Vasilevskiy is in a comfortable situation surrounded by great players, so he’s probably more than happy to save a little money for his teammates.

“I’m very excited to sign this extension with the Lightning today,” Vasilevskiy said in a team release. “I’d like to thank the entire organization, including Mr. Vinik, Julien BriseBois and the great Bolts fans, for making this such a great place to play and live for me and my family.”

On the ice, Vasilevskiy has been terrific. He won the Vezina Trophy this year by posting an incredible 39-10-4 record with a 2.40 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage last season.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

As important as it was for the Lightning to lock him up, there’s no denying that this new deal will make things even tighter for them on the salary cap next season. They Bolts still have to sign restricted free agent Brayden Point, who will command a significant raise from his entry-level contract. General manager Julien BriseBois will have to get creative in order to fill out his roster.

As you can tell from the salary breakdown above, the large bonuses make this deal very lockout proof.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.