Blake’s Takes: Wings Extend Mantha

Last week was a pretty calm one in the NHL. Most free agents are signed and trades have been made. There was one rather large signing I want to talk about.

Other than that, like the last few weeks, I’ll revisit some transactions I didn’t have a chance to touch one at the beginning of free agency.

1. Anthony Mantha Inks Extension in Detroit

This was going to be a big offseason for the Detroit Red Wings. Two of their three best players, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha, entered the offseason as RFAs. Bertuzzi and the Wings agreed to a one-year extension last week by way of arbitration. And last week, the Wings and Mantha agreed to a new four-year extension with a $5.7 million AAV.

The 26-year-old is now the second-highest-paid player on the Red Wings, second to Dylan Larkin, whose deal carries a $6.1 million cap hit. Mantha’s deal is now the longest among his teammates, keeping him in Detroit through the 2023-24 season. Detroit has now locked up their three best players, all of whom play on the same line, Detroit’s best, for this coming year.

Mantha has been a lethal goal-scorer during his tenure in Detroit. He’s scored 65 goals and added 69 assists in 190 games over the past three seasons. Last year, he was averaging 0.88 points per game. Sadly, he’s been a victim of fluky injuries. If not for those injuries, his counting stats would look much better.

This is a great deal for both teams. For Mantha, he’ll guarantee he collects almost $23 million over the next four years. He will also become a free agent at 30-years-old, and hopefully after enjoying four great seasons. That will give him another opportunity to cash in.

For the Wings, I’d bet on Mantha overperforming on this contract if he can stay healthy. There’s no doubt the Wings begin to start adding better players to the roster. If they add better players and Mantha continues to develop, it’s likely he averages at least 30 goals a season over the life of this deal. $5.7 million for a 30-goal-scorer is a steal.

As a Wings’ fan, I’m very happy with this contract and can’t wait to keep watching Mantha for the next four years.

2. Stars Bring Back Bowness

The Dallas Stars officially have hired Rick Bowness as their head coach. Bowness was the team’s interim head coach last season after taking the reigns in September. As the interim, the Stars went 20-13-5 in 38 regular-season games. He also led the Stars to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

After Jim Montgomery was fired, it seemed as all hope was lost for the Stars. But, Bowness helped guide them through the regular season and into the playoffs. Bowness clearly overperformed expectations and was deserving of the extension.

It will be interesting to see if Dallas can start next season with the same momentum they finished last season with. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn still never returned to form in the playoffs. It’s now clear the Stars’ most important player is Miro Heiskanen. But, if Bowness wants to win a Stanley Cup with the Stars, he’ll have to unlock Benn and Seguin’s talents and get them playing up to the level we’ve come to expect. If not, I don’t think the Stars will be able to survive a grueling regular season and another four playoff rounds.

3. King Henrik Signs with the Caps

Last month, Henrik Lundqvist signed with the Washington Capitals for a one-year deal with a $1.5 million AAV. King Henrik was bought out by the Rangers earlier this offseason, ending his spectacular 15-year run with the club. Lundqvist will serve as the Caps’ backup goalie behind the young Ilya Samsonov.

This is a nice deal for both parties. For Lundqvist, because he was bought out by New York, they will pay him $1.5 million over the next two seasons. So, he’ll make a nice $3 million this year. That makes it a bit easier to swallow the $1.5 million salary.

For the Caps, this will give them a nice insurance policy to protect the young Samsonov. The 22-year-old Samsonov was the backup to Branden Holtby last season. This will be his first year as a starter. In 26 games last season, he went 16-6-2, with a .913 sv%, 2.55 GAA, and one shutout. Lundqvist on the other hand went 10-12-3, with a .905 sv%, 3.16 GAA, and one shutout in 30 games with the Rangers.

The biggest winner of all is the fans. We’ll get to see Lundqvist for at least one more season before he hangs up his skates for good. And for that, we should be thankful.

4. Sun Devils Drop Flaming Hot Jerseys


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ASU’s new sweaters according to @buccigross…thoughts?

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Arizona State continues to prove they’re the coolest program in college hockey. They’ve quickly risen to prominence because of their smart marketing tactics. The last time they released a new sweater, they partnered with Phoenix-area native Auston Matthews to promote their new jerseys.

This drop was a bit more lowkey, but that doesn’t mean the jerseys aren’t fire.

Like I said before when I talked about the new Flames unis, warm and bright colors pop because of the contrast with the ice. ASU has that advantage. I really like the dark red and alternate logo they’re using here. Denver is the only other school with a similar color scheme that comes to mind.

College sports are all about recruiting. And living in the Phoenix, AZ area, and suiting up in these uniforms are definitely a great recruiting tool. Props to ASU for continuing to keep it interesting and spicing up the college hockey world.

5. Ovechkin to Only Play for Caps in NHL

Alex Ovechkin is entering the last year of his 13-year, $124 million contract with the Capitals. He has long said he would like to finish his career with Dynamo Moscow in the KHL. So, many fans of the Capitals have been biting their nails that he would return to Russia after this season. After his recent comments, Caps fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Ovechkin said this in an interview with Russian Television International,

“It’s not a question of money,” he told Russian Television International this week. “It’s a matter of principle: I played for only two teams, Dynamo [Moscow] and Washington.”

“There are certain goals that I want to achieve after my career,” he said. “But my career is not over yet. I’m still in my prime. I think I will definitely play for a few more years.”

So, even without an extension going into the season, it’s clear Ovechkin will only play for the Capitals and wants to continue his NHL career. I admire Ovechkin for only wanting to play for the team that drafted him and his hometown team.
The 35-year-old still has a fighting chance to break Wayne Gretzky’s career goals record of 894. He currently sits at 706. If Ovechkin does break Gretzky’s record, we know it will be in a Washington Capitals sweater in the NHL. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.


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