As usual, the NHL season faces off amid a flurry of last-minute activity and this year’s no exception. We have a few of players suspended to start the 2019/20 campaign while several were placed on waivers, many restricted free agents signed during the preseason and one veteran just retired.
In case you haven’t heard, power forward Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks will have to sit out the first three regular-season contests for physically abusing an official. The NHL handed out the punishment on October 1st for an incident that occurred in a preseason game between San Jose and Vegas Golden Knights on September 29th.
Kane had a tussle with the Golden Knights’ Deryk Engelland and his stick struck linesman Kiel Murchison while attempting to slash Engelland. Kane also shoved the official after Murchison grabbed him and tried to diffuse the situation as the two tumbled to the ice. The incident kicked off when Engelland cross-checked Kane and the Sharks’ player was ejected from the game after shoving Murchison.
Are we just going to ignore this referee with the HUGE take down on Evander Kane 🙅🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/RgS4yMOoYm
— Pucky (@puckyonline) October 1, 2019
The two teams go at it when the season begins as San Jose visits Vegas on October 2nd and then host them in a rematch two nights later. Kane will also miss a contest on October 8th when the Sharks visit Nashville and will lose just over $112,000 US in salary while serving the ban.
Joining Kane on the sidelines is Washington Capitals’ Evgeny Kuznetsov as he’s also serving a three-game suspension. The Russian forward learned of the news in mid-September and it stems from an incident earlier in the year during the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. The player was seen on video sitting in front of lines of cocaine in a hotel room and was subsequently suspended four years from all IIHF-related events after testing positive for the drug in May.
The International Ice Hockey Federation ban was a lengthy one since the organization considers cocaine to be a performance-enhancing drug. On the other hand, the NHL considers cocaine to be a recreational/abusive substance but not performance-enhancing. Technically, the NHL suspended Kuznetsov for inappropriate conduct and he’s volunteered for the league’s substance abuse program.
Technically, Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman Dustin Byfuglien is suspended by the club for being under contract and not showing up at training camp. He’s currently been granted a leave of absence and it’s been reported the 34-year-old is thinking of retiring. He missed part of last season due to injury but returned in time for the playoffs. He’s signed until the end of 2020/21 at $7.6 million a year against the salary cap but his salary won’t count against the cap while he’s suspended.
As far as the waiver wires go, the 31 NHL clubs placed numerous players on them to clear up salary cap and finalize their rosters before the season. The majority of players cleared them and were then assigned to American Hockey League affiliates.
A couple of players were claimed though as the Arizona Coyotes took goaltender Eric Comrie from the Winnipeg Jets and the Jets took blue liner Carl Dahlstrom away from the the Chicago Blackhawks. The 24-year-old Comrie entered the summer as a restricted free agent and then inked a two-year contract with Winnipeg with a salary cap hit of $700,000 per season.
Comrie played in just one game with the Jets last season so they likely won’t miss him too much. He was drafted in the second round in 2013 and played most of last season with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. He went 25-20-2 with a goals-against average of 2.69 and a save percentage of 91.7.
The 24-year-old Dahlstrom of Sweden skated in 38 outings with Chicago last season and posted six assists. He was also a second-round draft pick in 2013. Dahlstrom will cost the Jets $850,000 a year against the salary cap this season and next.
Players who were place on waivers but weren’t claimed were:
Daniel Sprong, Anaheim Ducks
Sam Carrick, Anaheim Ducks
Peter Cehlarik, Boston Bruins
Casey Nelson, Buffalo Sabres
Curtis Lazar, Buffalo Sabres
Scott Wilson, Buffalo Sabres
Remi Elie, Buffalo Sabres
Alan Quine, Calgary Flames
Anton Forsberg, Carolina Hurricanes
Gustav Forsling, Carolina Hurricanes
Clark Bishop, Carolina Hurricanes
Marko Dano, Columbus Blue Jackets
Brandon Manning, Edmonton Oilers
Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers
J.T. Brown, Minnesota Wild
Steven Santini, Nashville Predators
Miikka Salomaki, Nashville Predators
Matt Tennyson, New Jersey Devils
Josh Ho-Sang, New York Islanders
Thomas Hickey, New York Islanders
Tanner Fritz, New York Islanders
Cristoval Nieves, New York Rangers
Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins
Luke Schenn, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kevin Gravel, Toronto Maple Leafs
Garrett Wilson, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nicolas Petan, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kenneth Agostino, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nicolay Goldobin, Vancouver Canucks
Alex Biega, Vancouver Canucks
Sven Baertschi, Vancouver Canucks
Nelson Nogier, Winnipeg Jets
JC Lipon, Winnipeg Jets
Christian Djoos, Washington Capitals
Michael Sgarbossa, Washington Capitals
Liam O’Brien, Washington Capitals
Lee Stempniak also made the news just prior to the season as the veteran forward announced on October 1st that he was hanging up his skates after 13 NHL seasons. The 36-year-old played for a total of 10 different clubs during his big league career and racked up 469 points in 911 regular-season encounters on 203 goals and 266 assists with three goals and three assists in his 28 playoff performances.
Stempniak’s last team was the Boston Bruins but he played in just two games last season. His last full season came in 2016/17 when he posted 16 goals and 40 points for the Carolina Hurricanes in 82 games. Stempniak was originally drafted in 2003 when the St. Louis Blues selected him during the fifth round. His career-high in points came in 2006/07 with the Blues when he tallied 52.
His best goalscoring year was 2009/10 when he hit 28 in a season split between the Phoenix Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs. Although he wasn’t a big scorer, Stempniak was consistent and registered at least 40 points on five occasions. He also played with Winnipeg, the New Jersey Devils, Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.
Late Restricted Free Agent Signings
Most big-name NHL restricted free agents were signed before the season faces off with several of them inking deals during the preseason. In case you missed any, here’s a quick recap.
The 22-year-old winger inked a new six-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs with an average salary cap hit of $10.983 million.
The 22-year-old center has signed again with the Tampa Bay Lightning for three more seasons at $6.25 million a year.
The 22-year-old forward came to an agreement with the Colorado Avalanche which will see him paid $55.5 million over six years for an average of $9.25 million a season.
The 21 year old winger agreed to a new two-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets at $6.75 million a season.
The Boston Bruins’ defenseman was signed to a bridge deal of three years which will see the 21-year-old make $4.9 million a season.
The 21-year-old winger re-signed with the Calgary Flames to the tune of $7 million a year over the next three campaigns.
The Vancouver Canucks re-signed the 22-year-old forward to a three-season bridge contract for $5.875 million a year.
The Winnipeg Jets agreed to a deal with the 22-year-old forward at $50 million over seven years for an average of $7.14 million a season.
The 22-year-old rearguard has autographed a new two-year bridge deal for $2.85 million a season with the Boston Bruins.
The 22-year-old winger was rewarded with a new six-year deal from the Philadelphia Flyers for $33 million at an average of $5.5 a season.
The Philadelphia Flyers also came to terms with this 22-year-old blue liner for six years at $6.75 per season.
The 23-year-old forward re-signed with the Minnesota Wild for two years at $3 million a season.