Blake’s Takes: NHL Releases Vaccination Requirements

As the offseason continues to roll on, it gives the NHL time to get their affairs in order, too. Last week, the NHL released its vaccination requirements for all league and team personnel. I’ll start with my thoughts on those requirements this week. As promised, the remainder of my takes will examine some major offseason transactions over the last week or two.

Happy Monday!

1. NHL Announces Vaccination Requirements

Perhaps the biggest news of the week was that Elliotte Friedman reported on the NHL’s vaccination policy for the upcoming season. According to Friedman’s tweet, the league will require pretty much everyone that may come in contact with a player must be vaccinated. It’s unclear if the league is mandating all players be vaccinated.

The NHL is the first league of the five major North American leagues to require any sort of vaccination. Many NFL players have taken heat recently due to their refusal to get the vaccine. The NHL is not a league that can risk missed games due to COVID-19 outbreaks, especially not with their new massive TV deal beginning with ESPN this season.

I’m happy to see the NHL as the first league to require vaccinations. I’m hopeful this includes players, too. I’m sure this decision is motivated by money, as they all are. However, that doesn’t change the fact this is a progressive decision by the league and earns them a bit of goodwill, seeing as they’re the first league to do so. Good on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the rest of the league office for stepping up, helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, and setting a positive example for other professional sports leagues.

2. Joe Thornton Moves to Sunrise


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by NHL (@nhl)

Joe Thornton and the Florida Panthers have agreed to a one-year deal with a $750k AAV. Thornton played for his hometown Maple Leafs last year scoring five goals and adding 15 assists in 44 games. The 42-year-old will likely finish his career in the sunshine state.

This doesn’t feel right. Prior to last season with Toronto, Thornton had spent his entire career with the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks. I liked that he went back to Toronto to try and win a ring in his hometown, but this just seems odd. First of all, Thornton has never worn red in his career, and that’s not something I want to see. Second of all, the Panthers may be good, but they’re not winning a Stanley Cup. I don’t think there is a single person who doesn’t want to see Jumbo lift Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of this season.

I would have LOVED to see him rejoin the Boston Bruins and ride off into the sunset at the end of the season. Who wouldn’t love that reunion? Can you imagine the headline? “Joe Thornton joins the Boston Bruins, the team that drafted him. Wins Stanley Cup.” That would be a real storybook ending.

We’ll just have to hope Jumbo makes an impact in Florida and the Panthers stay somewhat relevant into April.

3. Stars Add Pieces


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dallas Stars (@dallasstars)

It didn’t take Ryan Suter very long to find a new home. After being bought out by the Minnesota Wild, Suter agreed to a four-year deal with the Stars with a $3.65 million AAV. Suter scored 19 points in 56 games for the Wild last season.

While I said that Suter had actually played okay during his tenure with the Wild, his performance last season should not instill confidence in Stars’ fans. Suter is 36-years-old and is now signed for another four years. The deal isn’t for very much money, and defensemen traditionally age better than forwards. However, the Stars have a small window left with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and they surely don’t want to be struggling to get any value out of Suter. This deal won’t break them, but I find it unnecessary.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dallas Stars (@dallasstars)

The Stars also signed Braden Holtby to a one-year deal worth $2 million. I like this deal much better for the Stars. Holtby did not have a great season last year, going 7-11-3, with a 3.67 GAA, and a .899 sv%. However, Holtby is only 31-years-old and has a track record where I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounced back.

The Stars will put a great defense in front of Holtby where I’m more convinced this is a smart deal. It’s also only for one year and he will be the third-string goalie behind Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. Holtby will act as a great insurance policy for the Stars. I’d argue he’s the best third-string goalie in the NHL.

4. Nurse Signs Big Extension in Edmonton


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Edmonton Oilers (@edmontonoilers)

Darnell Nurse has signed an eight-year extension with the Edmonton Oilers with an AAV of $9.25 million. The contract will kick in next season. The 26-year-old has spent the first seven years of his career in Edmonton. When this contract kicks in, Nurse will be the fifth-highest paid defenseman by AAV, behind Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Zachary Werenski, and Seth Jones.

Nurse is coming off a career-best season in terms of PPG, scoring 0.64 PPG last season. His counting stats looked great too, having scored 16 goals and adding 20 assists in 56 regular-season games.

I’m timidly pessimistic about this deal. I discovered it when I wrote about Seth Jones’ new contract last week. I was shocked to see Nurse had signed such a big-ticket. I haven’t watched him play too many times, so I don’t feel comfortable ragging on him too much. I just don’t feel like he’s worthy of being one of the top five highest-paid defensemen in the league. His youth is encouraging. At only 26-years-old  (and two months older than me), he’ll play this entire contract out in his prime, unlike Karlsson and Doughty who have already steeply declined. I think Nurse will play well throughout the deal and if he continues to improve, the contract will look much smarter in eight years when he will be like the 20th highest-paid defensemen.

At the end of the day, it feels that Edmonton didn’t have to make this deal. I think they could have signed Nurse at a lower AAV and saved room for other players. Regardless of if he plays up to the contract or not, Edmonton probably could have saved money.

5. Tony Esposito Passes Away


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Chicago Blackhawks (@nhlblackhawks)

Hall of Famer player Tony Esposito passed away last week at the age of 78-years-old. Esposito enjoyed a 16-year NHL career, breaking in with the Montreal Canadiens, of whom he spent one season. Esposito spent the next 15 years of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was in Chicago he became a household name.

Related: Goodbye and Thank You, Tony Esposito

Esposito is one of the best goalies of all time. He won the Calder Trophy, was named to six All-Star Teams, was selected to the first All-Star team three times, and second-team twice. He also won three Vezina Trophies. If you look at his profile on Hockey Reference, his greatness will jump out at you. Esposito led all goalies in games played four times, wins twice, sv% twice, GAA once, shutouts three times, and minutes played six times. The boldness jumps off of the page.

Esposito is survived by his younger brother Phil, also a Hall of Famer. He will be surely missed. ■

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *