This week’s set of takes is all about extensions. With training camp beginning, many teams did some last-minute negotiating, signing superstar players and coaches to new deals.
Other than the many extensions, I’ll share my thoughts on an injury that makes me sad and a cool new initiative down in the desert.
1. Vancouver Re-Signs Their Stars
Vancouver’s two most important pieces will be under contract for a little longer. Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes both signed extensions this past week. Pettersson signed a three-year deal with a $7.35 million AAV. He will be an RFA when the deal expires. Hughes went the long-term route, signing a six-year deal with a $7.85 million AAV. Hughes now has the highest AAV on the Canucks.
Pettersson and Hughes have both proved they can be elite players in the NHL. The 22-year-old Pettersson has been close to a point-per-game player in his three NHL seasons, sitting at 0.93 PPG. The 21-year-old Hughes isn’t far behind with a 0.75 PPG, and that’s for a defenseman.
Both these deals are slam dunks for the Canucks. They’re entering their window to win a Stanley Cup and these two will no doubt lead them there along with teammates Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers, and Thatcher Demko. The team is lucky to have locked up Hughes long-term. This deal will look like a steal when the cap goes up again and Hughes is underpaid.
Pettersson will be in line for another payday soon, which could be scary for Vancouver. Thankfully, he will be an RFA and Vancouver will still have a chance to match any offer another team makes. The Canucks continue to look like a sleeping giant in the West.
2. Vrana Out Four Months
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Jakub Vrana injured his shoulder during his first day of training camp with the Detroit Red Wings. The injury will require surgery which will keep Vrana out for the next four months. Vrana played well in Detroit after being traded by the Capitals for Anthony Mantha last season. He scored 11 points in 11 games with the Wings, eight of them goals. Vrana signed a three-year deal to stay with Detroit this summer that carries a $5.25 million AAV.
This is a gut punch for the Red Wings. Vrana was projected to be the best player in Detroit this season. At the end of last season, Detroit’s GM Steve Yzerman looked like an absolute bandit snatching Vrana from Washington. If Yzerman is going to turn it around in Detroit, Vrana is going to be a part of it.
This could actually be a blessing in disguise for the Red Wings. The Wings are still short on elite talent to compete in the near future. Scoring a top draft pick could go a long way in accelerating their rebuild. If the Wings lose a bunch of games without Vrana while developing their young players, maybe they can score a top pick while improving at the same time. That would be the best-case scenario for them. Hey, it worked for the Detroit Pistons.
3. Leafs Extend Keefe
Sheldon Keefe has signed a two-year extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The deal will carry Keefe through the 2023-24 season. Keefe is 62-29-12 in parts of two seasons with Toronto. The Leafs have lost in the first round in both postseasons that Keefe has been behind the bench.
Keefe replaced Mike Babcock when he was fired and subsequently went down in flames during the 2019-20 season. The team seemed to rally under Keefe and finished at the top of their division last year before being upset by the Montreal Canadiens.
A two-year extension does not surprise me. Toronto has arguably the second-most talented roster in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have an embarrassment of riches and it’s becoming more pathetic by the day that they can’t get out of the first round. I don’t think Keefe will get out of this season if the team is underperforming. He certainly won’t make it to next season if the team doesn’t win a playoff series. Toronto is the most insatiable hockey market on planet Earth and it’s been a long time since they’ve had a team with this much talent.
Keefe needs to win and he needs to win now. Hell, he needed to win yesterday.
4. Dahlin Gets New Deal in Buffalo
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Unlike Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin will remain a Buffalo Sabre for another three years. Dahlin and the Sabres agreed to a three-year extension with a $6 million AAV. Dahlin is coming off a rough season where he only scored 23 points in 56 games. He was also a minus 36 last season.
The former first-overall pick has been okay during his tenure in Buffalo. Defensemen typically get better with age, so Dahlin still has some time to prove himself. The Sabres would really like to see Dahlin take a huge step forward this season considering the rest of their roster is a dumper fire. They’re paying Jeff Skinner $9 million a year to do nothing and Eichel could be in another city any day now.
I like Dahlin. I think he has great potential. $6 million a year is probably an overpay but he’ll be an RFA when this deal expires so there is little risk for Buffalo. It’s certainly not the worst decision they’ve made this summer. Far from it.
5. Coyotes Relax Dress Code
The NHL has a strict dress code policy stating that “Players are required to wear jackets, ties and dress pants to all Club games and while traveling to and from such games unless otherwise specified by the Head Coach or General Manager.” That will change this season, at least for Coyotes players who became the first and only team to relax their dress code.
The NHL relaxed their dress code in the COVID-19 bubbles and the players enjoyed it. The NBA has seen great success relaxing their dress code allowing players to wear what they want to the arena. The walk into NBA arenas has become a runway over recent years, with players donning designer clothes and interesting looks. It’s given the NBA a ton of publicity and has allowed players to build their brand.
Hockey culture historically frowns upon originality, so I’m not surprised only one of its 32 teams has strayed from the past. This is a good move for Arizona. They need to scratch and claw to stay relevant and this is a breath of fresh air. It’s also good publicity for a team that needs it badly after the last year plus.
I can’t wait to see the fits players like Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller pull off this year. If only Auston Matthews played for his hometown team because we all know he would be leading the pack with his sense of style. ■