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• On one hand, Auston Matthews didn’t make the call about being “outed” as having COVID-19. Even so, by openly discussing his experiences as training camps began, he broke the larger NHL pattern of silence on the matter. Chris Johnston explains why this is another example of Matthews marching to the beat of his own drum. [Sportsnet]
• Emily Kaplan conducted an in-depth interview with top NHLPA exec Donald Fehr on the CBA extension. Some interesting stuff here, including Fehr noting that the extension covers four years in large part to make sure that NHL players can participate in the 2026 Winter Olympics. [ESPN]
• Another one from Kaplan, this time on Brandon Hagel‘s path to the NHL, and how the pandemic also made it a more convoluted path to his second NHL game. Hagel played his first NHL contest with the Blackhawks on March 11, right before the pandemic shut things down. [ESPN]
• Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt weighs the pros and cons of Las Vegas falling short of hub city status. Personally, I’m tickled by the line that you can’t go to “the grocery store where you know you could go and they have your favorite piece of fish or whatever.” [TSN]
• Jets coach Paul Maurice thinks it’s a good idea to come back, even amid COVID-19. “It’s a good idea because I’m a hockey fan and I’m going nuts,” Maurice said. [Winnipeg Sun]
Pondering the future for NHL prospects, Seattle expansion team, and CBA
• Canucks GM Jim Benning shot down rumors about the team pursuing trade options for Brock Boeser. While the rumors (via TSN 1040’s Matt Sekeres) seemed oddly timed, the Canucks’ cap crunch makes such talk at least understandable. We’ve seen GMs deny trade rumors and then eventually move said players, so we’ll see. But even if the Canucks trade Boeser when they can, they won’t have that ability for a while.
The NHL opened a window for teams to sign certain prospects from Monday to Wednesday (at 5 p.m. ET), and some teams wasted little time in making signings official. The Wild finally signing Kirill Kaprizov ranks as the biggest headliner, while the Canadiens also finalizing terms with defenseman Alexander Romanov is big, too. Those aren’t the only signings, though, and other news should trickle in early in the week.
It’s crucial to note that Kaprizov and Romanov won’t be able to appear in games for the Wild or Canadiens respectively in 2019-20. The same goes for other prospects signing in similar situations.
It does, however, appear that Kaprizov can participate in Wild training camp, and the Canadiens confirmed that Romanov will be doing the same.
Some details on contracts for Kaprizov (Wild) and Romanov (Canadiens)
As a reminder, these signings burn the 2019-20 season off of these prospects’ contracts, even though they aren’t suiting up during actual 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
In the case of Perunovich and Kaprizov, two-year contracts are really one-year auditions before second, presumably much richer contracts. Romanov’s is a three-year deal, thus covering him through 2021-22 (instead of just 2020-21 for Kaprizov).
The Athletic’s Michael Russo went into quite a bit of detail on the structure of Kaprizov’s contract (sub required). CBA quirks limit Kaprizov’s ability to earn typical signing bonuses; ultimately, Kaprizov’s cap hit is expected to be $925K. Russo reports that Kaprizov would not be able to receive offer sheets during the 2021 NHL Free Agency summer, either.
For Kaprizov, the upside is clear. He can race through one season at a low rate, then cash in on his second contract. Even with less leverage than other potential RFAs, the 23-year-old could still rake it in if he lives up to the hype. Russo notes that Kaprizov is eligible to become a UFA as early as the summer of 2024, so while the Wild earn short-term gains, Kaprizov could set himself up for a lucrative stretch in the not-too-distant future.
(Maybe most importantly for the Wild, they lock down Kaprizov, rather than risking him staying in the KHL for 2020-21, and possibly even beyond that.)
The Canadiens spelled out the contract for Romanov, 20, in their release. His cap hit will be just under $900K through 2021-22, with an AAV of $1.17M. You can bet he won’t want to fall to the AHL, as his salary plummets to $70K at that level.
A quick look at what Kaprizov, Romanov may bring to their teams
The glowing reports on Kaprizov can flirt with hyperbole — or maybe he’s just that good. Scouts raved to The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy that Kaprizov has Artemi Panarin‘s “mind” and the sturdy body of a Vladimir Tarasenko.
“Patrick Kane says this all the time: ‘Yes, the game is faster, but you still have to be able to slow it down,’” TSN’s Craig Buttontold Kennedy. “The only way you can slow it down is by having a fast brain. It sounds counterintuitive, but that’s what Kaprizov does. He’s got a magnificent, magnificent hockey mind.”
While Romanov produces more mixed reviews about his true potential — some see him as top pairing, others in more of a supporting role — teams like the Wild and Canadiens would love to have these prospects in the lineup now, not later. It made sense for the NHL to worry about a bumpy process regarding getting these players overseas (or north of the border), but with Kaprizov allowed to practice with the Wild and Romanov the same with the Canadiens, it seems a bit baffling that they can’t take that extra step. But oh well.
To reiterate, there are likely to be other signings, both on Monday and through Wednesday. Sorokin could very well have a big impact on the Islanders once he’s actually allowed to play, for example.
Even so, these are already big steps. The Wild and their fans have been waiting for this moment for years. Sure, it would be better if Kaprizov could jump right in — as he would during normal years — but it’s better than wondering if things would fall apart.
Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award on Saturday night as college hockey’s top player, becoming the Bulldogs’ record sixth recipient.
Perunovich, a junior from Hibbing, Minnesota, who recently signed with the St. Louis Blues, edged North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman for the award announced on ESPN.
“I’m extremely honored and humbled,” Perunovich said. “Five other Bulldogs have won this prestigious award, so it is just a privilege to join them.”
Perunovich joined Tom Kurvers (1984). Bill Watson (1985), Chris Marinucci (1994), Junior Lessard (2004) and Jack Connolly (2012) in the Bulldogs’ Hobey Baker club.
Perunovich was second in the nation with 34 assists and had six goals in 34 games, becoming the first defenseman to lead the National Collegiate Hockey Association in scoring. He was drafted by the Blues in the second round in 2018.
“He is a difference-maker, that’s for sure,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “He’s the type of impact player who can take control of a game. He’s had a tremendous season —- and a tremendous three-year career here — and is certainly deserving of this award.”
The season was canceled March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The award announcement was originally set for Friday night on the eve of the NCAA championship game in Detroit, where Perunovich and the Bulldogs hoped to play for a third straight title.
The undrafted Kawaguchi had 15 goals and 30 assists in 33 games. He’s returning to North Dakota for his senior season
Swayman was 18-11-5 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. He recently signed with the Boston Bruins.
The award is named in honor of Baker, the former Princeton hockey and football star who was World War I fighter pilot. He was killed in a plane crash in France after he was scheduled to return home.