It’s that time in the offseason.
You know the time I’m talking about. At very best, your favorite NHL team signs an extension for that prospect you’re super excited about, and you have something to talk about for a day or two. At worst, you’re stuck aggressively flipping through TV channels, trying to decide what’s worth watching during the weeks when few sports are played and nearly every major North American city has absolutely miserable weather.
The Avalanche, sure enough, had one of those days of their own. They inked Spencer Martin, Ryan Graves, and Mason Geertsen to one-year extensions as restricted free agents, and the deals were certainly nothing to write home about.
Martin was given a resounding message by the Avalanche on an almost painfully cost-effective deal for the team, paying him out $650,000 at the NHL level only on a one-year extension. If he stays in the AHL all season, he’ll make just $85,000 total—more than almost 90% of Americans his age, but certainly nothing to write home about. As the team’s longest-standing minor league goaltender, that’s not a ton, especially since it’s $15,000 less than fellow minor leaguer Joe Cannata got on his own free agent deal.
Fellow 23-year-old RFA’s Graves and Geertsen got identical deals to Martin’s, and that’s about all there is to say there. [Mile High Hockey]
The rest of the league was fairly quiet this past week. Devin Shore got a new bridge deal with Dallas, Elias Lindholm signed long-term with Calgary, and Adam Henrique got locked up by Anaheim to a deal that could see him get more responsibility next season.
While there were a few other names on the signings list that fall a little higher than “wait, who’s that?” status, though, perhaps the most intriguing contract signed in the last week was the Marc-Andre Fleury extension in Vegas.
Fleury was, unquestionably, an integral part of the reason the Golden Knights not only saw the postseason in the team’s first year, but battled it out in the Stanley Cup Final. He was unbelievable when healthy during the regular season, and his postseason play was spectacular for long enough that the team rode his success and their own sheer delight straight into that riveting final round against the Washington Capitals. He engaged with fans above and beyond expectations, and made a concerted effort to give a face to the league’s newest franchise.
For his services, he was rewarded with a new three-year deal, worth $7 million until the end of the 2021-22 season. Set to kick in after this upcoming season, the deal locks Fleury in (with a 10-team no trade list clause to boot) for big money until he’s 37-years old.
The deal certainly, ah, raised a few eyebrows. [Sup, Deadspin?]
Speaking of raised eyebrows, the Arizona Coyotes made another quiet move this past week, sending forward Ryan MacInnis to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Jacob Graves.
On the surface, it was just a minor league deal. MacInnis had six goals and 14 points in 59 regular season games for the AHL Tucson Roadrunners last year, while Graves split the year between the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and the ECHL’s now-defunct Quad City Mallards.
With the move, though, the Coyotes continued to send out formerly-promising high-round draft picks that haven’t been getting it done in their system, flipping them for returns before their value truly bottoms out (since, in all likelihood, MacInnis could become a UFA next summer if he keeps playing like he has). The son of former NHLer Al MacInnis, originally considered to be a solid center prospect for Arizona out of their 2014 draft, has quickly been overshadowed by fellow second rounder Christian Dvorak—and Arizona showed a willingness to quickly move on even before his entry-level deal expired.
Will it affect Colorado? Not necessarily. Graves, like MacInnis, is likely a career minor leaguer.
In the long term, though, it shows that Arizona is getting aggressive about building the most effective team they can with what they have to work with. They may not be going “all in” on a Stanley Cup contender, but they’re all in on giving fans the closest thing to a winning product they can. Like the movement of Domi earlier in the summer and Connor Murphy last season, they’re showing that the team will make time for fan favorites once those favorites are actually sitting in playoff contention. For Colorado, that’s important to consider because it means another potential contender in the West sooner rather than later.
Off the ice, Alex Ovechkin just became the first NHL player to win an ESPY for Best Male Athlete, beating Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Henrik Lundqvist, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, Mike Modano, and any number of other popular NHLers to hit the ice since 1993. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
Speaking of popular NHL players, here’s a fun look at which former Avalanche players have made Hockey DB’s ‘Best Players By Position’ list. [Mile High Hockey]
The CWHL also just made a big switch, with commissioner Brenda Andress stepping down and former player Jayna Hefford taking the helm as interim commissioner.
The 41-year-old Trenton, Ontario native is one of the most decorated players in hockey, boasting four Olympic golds and one silver, seven World Championship golds and five silvers, one NWHL championship (she’s the former league’s leading scorer) and one CWHL championship, and now an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as well as her new interim title. [The Ice Garden]
Finally, let’s take a moment to talk about Ray Emery.
For the second time in the last 12 months, Twitter broke the news that a former NHL goaltender had passed away.
The first time, though, this past Boxing Day, the news wasn’t altogether surprising. Although losing Johnny Bower was a gut punch that the Toronto hockey community wasn’t expecting for the holidays, the former Stanley Cup winner and generational talent was believed to be 93-years old.
Ray Emery, on the other hand, was 35. He’d just played in a charity game the day prior, then failed to surface when out swimming with friends early this past Sunday morning. [InGoal Magazine]
His death was a hard one for fans to really come to grips with.
The best words to describe it, ultimately, were jarring and heartbreaking. No matter his trials over the years, Emery was consistently remembered as a personality with a huge smile on his face—even when the media or the fans weren’t being particularly kind to him. His fights may not be praised by everyone (and some of them absolutely shouldn’t be), but his passion was impossible to deny; he wanted to be out there on the ice, and he fought tooth and nail to do so.