Brian Costello joined The Hockey News in 1990 when the likes of Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Joel Quenneville were players, not coaches. Costello covered major junior hockey for five seasons before getting called up to THN. He likes to focus his attention on pre- and post-NHL careers, following closely the progress of the draft, up-and-coming prospects and fancying himself a Hall of Fame expert.
If Kevin Hayes doesn’t sign with Chicago by Aug. 15, he’ll be this summer’s version of Justin Schultz and become a UFA.
A first-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2010, Hayes is a playmaking power forward who had a terrific senior season at Boston College with 27 goals and 65 points in 40 games. He’s not keen to sign with Chicago because the Blackhawks are so deep on the right wing, both at the NHL level and in terms of prospects. He’ll surely get a rookie max deal regardless.
Hayes, 22, probably has a short list of three teams:
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but there were more and more contract announcements this summer that resulted in the free agent signing for less money than he made last season.
Almost 50 players by my count, but probably a few more if you move into the fringe zone of NHL rosters. In most cases, these bargain contracts went to veterans hanging on for another season in the best league in the world, or to players coming off poor years having to agree to redemption contracts.
While most free agents signing new deals this summer received substantial raises, the number of players on squeeze contracts is anecdotally higher as well.
For every few players getting a P.K. Subban-like 313 percent pay hike (from $2.875 million to $9 million), there was a player like Brad Richards seeing his stipend whacked 70 percent (from $6.67 million to $2 million.) Even the astronomical – and absurd – 512 percent pay increases like the one fringe defenseman Deryk Engelland got from Calgary (from $566,667 to $2.9 million) were offset by the 86.67 percent drops like the one Dany Heatley got in Anaheim (from $7.5 million to $1 million).
Machismo and bravado being what they are, there’s no way you’d see this headline in today’s NHL, no matter how poorly the Buffalo Sabres or Edmonton Oilers started a season.
Washington Begs For Player Help
That was the main headline in The Hockey News 40 years ago, early in the 1974-75 season. The expansion Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts were both struggling. With just one win in Washington’s first 18 games, Capitals GM Milt Schmidt went to the league and media with hat in hand.
First things first, in the interests of full disclosure, I want to mention a little bet I have regarding Roberto Luongo.
Early in Luongo’s tenure with the Vancouver Canucks, I wagered with THN managing editor Edward Fraser that Luongo would at some point in his career win a Stanley Cup. Fraser didn’t like the cut of Luongo’s jib and took the career disappointment side.
When Luongo was among the top two or three goalies in the game and the Canucks were a powerhouse, the bet was looking good in my favor. But now…forget it. He ain’t winning the Cup. No biggie. The bet was for ice cream and Fraser is now a vegan so it’s a painless loss.
But is Luongo’s career on a trajectory that will lead him to the Hall of Fame? That’s a tricky one.
For those NHL players who don’t step willingly into retirement, there eventually comes a day when UFA stands for unwanted free agent rather than unrestricted free agent.
As July ends and August begins, we’re now closer to the start of NHL training camps than we are the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. For unsigned UFAs, that’s an added layer of anxiety. What if nobody wants me and I’ve played my last NHL game?
Take a browse through capgeek.com and you’ll see half the NHL teams are already at the 23-man NHL roster limit. Another nine teams are at 22 players. And that doesn’t even include the several dozen or so non-roster rookie prospects who will surely make big-league rosters in October.
So not a lot of roster openings remain.
The ink is still drying on James Reimer’s new two-year contract with Toronto, but the betting is Reimer won’t be a Maple Leaf in two years.
The two sides avoided an arbitration hearing Friday by agreeing to a two-year deal that will pay Reimer $2.3 million annually. That’s probably fair market value for the 26-year-old native of Winnipeg who had a cap hit of $1.8 million each of the past three seasons. The question remains, however, $2.3 million is a steep price tag for a position expected to be backup for Jonathan Bernier. It’s not a bad salary, however, for any team out there who partway through 2014-15 decides it’s not happy with its goaltending. Did we mention Reimer is a native of Winnipeg?
It’s just a matter of time before the first Australian drafted by an NHL team gets a chance to play in the big league. Nathan Walker was selected 89th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2014 draft and Friday signed a three-year entry-level contract.
“He’s probably still a couple of years away, but he’s on the right track,” said Capitals director, amateur scouting Ross Mahoney. “He’s one determined guy, I’ll tell you that. He’s had an incredible journey so far.”
Walker, 20, was born in Cardiff, Wales, and was two when his family moved to Sydney, Australia. Though hockey is a bottom rung sport in Australia, Walker became fascinated with the game at the age of six watching Hollywood movies Mystery, Alaska and The Mighty Ducks.
The summer of 1981 was a particularly busy time in the hockey world because of the building anticipation for the Canada Cup. After wins by Canada at the 1972 Summit Series and the 1976 Canada Cup, interest was high north of the border and fans were hanging on every word and declaration made by then-renowned tournament organizer Alan Eagleson.
Oh, how innocent we were.
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, let’s look at some of the things we featured in the August edition of The Hockey News. Our cover featured six hockey gloves – one for each nation participating – reaching out to take ahold of the Canada Cup. Inside was a 24-page special section.