Alex DeBrincat

PHT Morning Skate: Kane on ref criticism; Rinne on future

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Evander Kane stands by his comments about officials last week and did speak with Stephen Walkom, the NHL’s director of officiating: “There’s been some dialogue, some questions and answers, but like I said, that’s what’s in the CBA, that’s what is in the rulebook. No matter what I guess transpires, the player’s accountable for it. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is what it is.” [Mercury News]

Pekka Rinne on retirement, family, the present and his future plans. [Tennessean]

• Now that Alex DeBrincat has been extended is Dylan Strome next on Stan Bowman’s list? [NBC Chicago]

• New NHL rules forcing coaches to think twice before challenging plays. [Calgary Herald]

Leon Draisaitl vs. Auston Matthews: who ya got? [Edmonton Journal]

• This is fun: the rookie cards for every NHL head coach. [Puck Junk]

• Is this a long goodbye for Taylor Hall and the Devils? [Spector’s Hockey]

• This sounds promising: “The Philadelphia Flyers announced today a new, immersive fan experience at the Wells Fargo Center, the Gritty C.O.M.M.A.N.D. Center, set to debut this Wednesday, October 9 for the Flyers home opener. This new space is the first-ever peek into Gritty’s world and offers fans the opportunity to get ‘grittified’ by professional stylists.” [Flyers]

• It’s all about simplicity as the Senators work their way through a rebuild. [The Score]

• ‘Willie,’ the autobiographical documentary about Wille O’Ree, combines worlds for Capitals part owner Sheila Johnson. [NHL.com]

• Meghan Duggan, captain of the Olympic champion U.S. hockey team, is working out through her pregnancy with a plan to return to the national team. [Olympic Talk]

• A look ahead at the week in fantasy hockey. [RotoWorld]

• Michael Leighton has announced his retirement after 18 professional seasons. [The Athletic (sub. required)]

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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.

What DeBrincat’s new deal means for Blackhawks’ cap outlook

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The Chicago Blackhawks took care of some pretty important business on Thursday when they announced a three-year contract extension for one of their top young players, Alex DeBrincat.

Since he still has one more year remaining on his entry-level contract there wasn’t a huge rush for the Blackhawks to get this deal done now, but doing so helped them get ahead of the game when it comes to constructing next year’s roster.

Let’s take a quick look at what it means for both DeBrincat and the Blackhawks.

It eliminates a headache for the Blackhawks next summer

The storyline that dominated the NHL offseason this past summer was the way the RFA signing process dragged on for months with pretty much every significant player remaining unsigned until well after training camps began. It didn’t result in any meaningful player movement, but it did see a shift in the way RFA contracts are constructed with nearly every player opting for shorter term bridge deals.

Three year deals that increased in salary each year (the biggest salary is in year three, which impacts the qualifying offer on the next contract) became the new normal. Even though everything eventually ended up getting done, it still seemed to be a headache for every team that had to deal with it. Given the new bridge contract trend the Blackhawks probably figured they might as well just get right to it and take care of it now.

[Related: DeBrincat signs three year bridge deal with Blackhawks]

The won’t have to worry about it with their best young player next summer, and that is probably a relief because they still have five restricted free agents to deal with next summer, including Dylan Strome who is entering a massive year in his development.

He may have done the Blackhawks a favor

There was no rush or incentive for DeBrincat to re-sign right now when he still has this season ahead of him. By doing so he may have really helped the Blackhawks’ short-term salary cap outlook because he may have undersold himself a bit financially.

The $6.4 million cap hit is on the lower end of some of the recent RFA deals, and that makes some sense. He has just two years in NHL and while he has been outstanding, especially when it comes to putting the puck in the net, I don’t know that he is as impactful all over the ice defensively and as a possession driver as, say, a Brayden Point or a Mathew Tkachuk.

So to get a deal in their price range is probably a fair one for him.

But again, DeBrincat still has another year on his entry-level contract and if he repeats what he did a year ago (scoring 40 goals) or even improves his overall game (and there is no reason to believe he will not) he could have been looking at a much bigger deal for himself next summer, which could have complicated things for the Blackhawks and their salary cap outlook.

His contract expires the same time as the Blackhawks’ veteran core

DeBrincat’s deal will expire in the summer of 2023 when he will still be a restricted free agent. Because his base salary in the final year of the contract is $9 million, he will be looking at a huge qualifying offer from the Blackhawks and, as long as he continues to be a productive goal-scorer, a huge contract. That same summer the Blackhawks will have a ton of salary coming off the books as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith will all have their contracts expiring at the same time. Brent Seabrook‘s deal comes off the books one year later. It is pretty much a given that Keith and Seabrook won’t be re-signed beyond these current contracts given their ages, so the Blackhawks should have plenty of salary cap room to get a new deal for DeBrincat. In the short-term, the Blackhawks’ at least know what they have to work with regarding DeBrincat’s deal within their core as they try to squeeze another championship window out of the Kane, Toews, and Keith era.

MORE:
• 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.

DeBrincat signs three-year bridge deal with Blackhawks

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The Chicago Blackhawks won’t have to worry about any Alex DeBrincat contract extension drama as the 21-year-old forward inked a three-year, $19.2 million extension on Thursday. The deal carries a $6.4 million average annual value.

“From the beginning, it was apparent they wanted to get the deal done and I think it was a deal that works both for us and for him and rewards him for his performance and it sets us up well for where we’re headed,” said Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.

According to Pierre LeBrun, the contract pays DeBrincat $5.1 million in the first two years and then jumps to $9 million in the third year. He’ll still be a restricted free agent when the deal expires following the 2022-23 NHL season (the same summer that the contracts of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith expire), so $9 million would be his qualifying offer if another extension isn’t hammered out by then.

DeBrincat had a breakout sophomore season in 2018-19, scoring 42 times and recording 76 points. He clicked playing alongside his former junior teammate Dylan Strome and learned a lot alongside Kane.

“Those are two good players,” DeBrincat told NBC Sports last month. “For me, I’m just trying to find open space when I’m with them. All three of us are pretty creative in the offensive zone. You’ve got one of the best players in Patrick Kane on your line and he’s going to get you the puck and he’s going to control play. That’s definitely a fun line to play with; a lot of offense there.”

His second NHL season built off of a strong rookie campaign that saw him net 28 goals and reach 52 points.

“Experience helps a lot,” he said. “For me, it was just coming in feeling more comfortable with everything. It’s hard to be on a new team and meet a bunch of new guys so, first year is a little bit different and coming back it was a lot easier.”

DeBrincat is a huge piece of the Blackhawks’ future and while the team was encouraged by their second half under Jeremy Colliton last season, they’re in a tough Central Division where points will be tough to come by. There’s still some roster reshaping for Bowman to do over the next several years to navigate the salary cap in order to get younger, but this is a good start and the young star is a great building block to move forward with.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks
• 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.

PHT Morning Skate: Laine betting on himself; NHL milestones

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Patrik Laine on the future: “I know I’ll be good for the next two years; I know I’m going to score a lot of goals for sure. I’ve always trusted myself and this is no exception.” [Jets]

• What are the chances of the St. Louis Blues repeating as Stanley Cup champions? [FiveThirtyEight]

• Here are 10 players who are ready for breakout seasons. [TSN]

P.K. Subban on playing in the New York market, embracing the spotlight, the Devils, and more. [NY Post]

Alex Ovechkin, Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, and Henrik Lundqvist are a few of the players who could hit various career milestones this season. [NHL.com]

• What could Alex DeBrincat’s second contract look like? [NBC Chicago]

• A preview of all of the various NHL jersey tweaks and changes this season. [Sports Illustrated]

• Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning talks about the team’s window to win and their offseason additions. [Sportsnet]

• Why the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third line is once again an issue. [Pensburgh]

• Put Sam Bennett on the list of Calgary Flames due for a big offensive jump this season. [Flames Nation]

• As fantasy hockey season arrives, a look ahead at what to watch for during the first week. [Rotoworld]

• A Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League player who was serving a suspension for rough play on a goaltender won’t be playing for the rest of the season after appearing in a profanity-laced video. [CP via Canoe]

• The AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins have a ton of talent on their roster. Now it’s their job to develop it for the Detroit Red Wings. [MLive]

• What would a Nicklas Backstrom or Braden Holtby extension look like? [Japers’ Rink]

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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.

NBC Sports NHL Player Survey: Most underrated player

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NHL players love Aleksander Barkov.

That’s what we learned during the NHL Player Media Tour in Chicago earlier this month. When we asked a number of the attendees who, in their eyes, is a player who deserves more love and attention, the Florida Panthers star was a popular choice. (Does this no longer make him underrated?)

We tried to push the players to give us an underrated choice away from their own teams, but a few broke the rules, and that’s OK. 

Here’s who we were told is most underrated around the league when we asked, “Who’s an NHL player who deserves more recognition?”

Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes: “He’s starting to come into that light but Aleksander Barkov — a lot of guys would probably say him. His skill is unbelievable. I remember last year he battled one out of the air against us on his backhand, puck was probably going three, four feet wide but somehow he came across and tipped it in. He’s just an all-around solid player.”

Derek Stepan, Arizona Coyotes: “There’s more and more undercover guys that are starting to get recognition. I think a guy like Blake Wheeler in Winnipeg, Barkov. These guys are getting more but I believe that they should be getting more than that. On the other side of it, a guy on my own team that I’m a little biased with that doesn’t get as much is Nik Hjalmarsson. He’s a very underrated defensive defenseman that maybe doesn’t as much credit because his stats don’t really show up on a gamesheet afterwards other than blocked shots.”

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks: “I like Barkov. He had a great season, doesn’t really get talked about that much. I don’t know if it’s the Florida market or whatever, but he was one of the best players in the league last year and you don’t really hear about him too much.”

Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche: “My answer to this is usually Mark Giordano, but now he’s won the Norris so he’s not underrated anymore.”

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: “Jordan Staal is a pretty underrated player in the league. Playing against him in the playoffs and playing against him in the Metro, I don’t think I’ve beat him on a faceoff in two years. He’s tough to play against and has got a great skillset for a big guy. He’s a really good player.”

Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames: “A player that jumps out at me is Josh Anderson on Columbus. He’s a guy that battles hard, plays hard, is tough, but can score goals as well.”

Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens: “Barkov in Florida. He’s very, very good.”

Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers: “Brayden Point. He’s a really good player and he deserves to be talked about.”

John Klingberg, Dallas Stars: “Probably this guy [pointing to Jonathan Marchessault]. He’s kind of a sick player, eh? I would say him or Nick Backstrom.”

Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights: “Obviously Barkov, Huberdeau, I think you don’t hear [about] them enough. They’re super good in Florida.”

Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers: “Probably Kyle Connor. I was with him in Winnipeg and he’s an elite player. He’s really good.”

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs: “I think Roman Josi. We only play against them twice a year so we don’t see much of them. I was able to skate with him a couple weeks ago for four or five days in Florida. He’s a guy that probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves even being the captain for Nashville. Just being on the ice against him, being on the ice with him, he’s a really special player and he does it all out there.”

Matt Duchene, Nashville Predators: “One guy I’ll talk about and I think he’s going to get there is Thomas Chabot. I think he’s got a Norris Trophy in his future. Because of the way things finished in Ottawa last he kind of flew under the radar. Start of the season he was top-two in scoring for defenseman for the first third of the year. I think he’s a guy we’re going to hear a lot about coming up.”

Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators: “Mark Stone. People know he’s good but I think people don’t realize how good he is because maybe he’s not as silky as Matthews and those guys. When you look at everything he does out there it’s special. The takeaways he does. The way he plays in his own zone, the way he plays in the offensive zone. Those are the special things that not many players have in this league.”

Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets: “He’s got it now, but a guy that I thought was a good player but I didn’t know he was this good was Ryan O’Reilly. He’s put up numbers, for sure. This year he took himself and the team to a whole new level and he’s a big part of what they did last season. He’s doing well.”

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild: “Probably my boy Mikael Granlund. I definitely know his skill and how talented he is. Obviously you have to earn that and earn that ability to play more and have that new trust with a new team. I think they’ll see, they’ll understand in Nashville what they got this year. This guy’s got vision. It’s fun to talk hockey with him.”

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars: “I’ll stay in-house and look at a guy like Miro [Heiskanen]. I think playing in a small market he didn’t get the respect that he deserved. He’s going to be a tremendous player.”

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks: “It’s Barkov from Florida. He’s always underrated and I love how he plays.”

P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils: “Now he’s getting more, but Nathan MacKinnon is a very, very good hockey player. In my opinion, he’s been in the top five forwards in the league for a little while. I’d like to see him get a little bit more. I just appreciate his work ethic, how he plays the game, and the way he impacts the game. It’s very difficult to do it the way he does it, with the speed, the skill, his power, [the way] he protects the puck, his ability to make guys around him better. There’s only a few players in the league like that that have that big of an impact. We know about [Connor] McDavid, we know about [Sidney] Crosby, but MacKinnon makes everybody on the ice better. I’d like to see him get some more love.”

MORE NHL PLAYER SURVEYS:
Commissioner for the day
2019-20 sleeper team
Change or keep current playoff format?

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