Last Night’s News 📰
WHO DRESSED YOU?: For the NHL following the 2023-24 season, it won’t be Adidas, as the German company will not renew its contract with the league to continue as the NHL’s official uniform and apparel supplier. In addition, Adidas will allow its sponsorships with players to run their course, signaling an end to its association with professional hockey.
KLING-ON TO ANOTHER TEAM: Defenseman John Klingberg signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. Thought by many to be the top defenseman in the free agent class, the 29-year-old had 47 points (six goals, 41 assists) in 74 games for the Dallas Stars last season.
TWO FOR TIPPETT: Owen Tippett will be sticking around Philadelphia for a little longer after a 21-game trial following his acquisition in the Claude Giroux trade last season. Tippett signed a two-year, $3 million contract with the Flyers, as the 23-year-old project will be a significant part of Philadelphia’s forward corps next season.
NORTH AMERICAN DOMINANCE: Yesterday, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup under-18 tournament kicked off, with six of the eight teams hitting the ice. Team Canada and the United States dominated on opening day, scoring a combined 22 goals. Canada beat Switzerland 14-0, while the Americans defeated Germany 8-1.
From Across the Pond
In the salary cap era, teams with any hope of success need to find value in some unexpected and, more importantly, inexpensive acquisitions. Often, this means hitting on a bargain bin veteran signing or getting fortuitous production out of a young player on his entry-level contract. Other times, enterprising GMs can find other creative outlets to pursue some bang for their buck, like taking a flyer on imports from overseas.
With so many clubs tight against the cap this offseason, it’s not surprising to see front offices take low-cost gambles on established European players new to the North American game. Before the results determine whether these players will be the next Artemi Panarin or Vadim Shipachyov, let’s get to know this year’s class of European imports.
Andrei Kuzmenko – Vancouver Canucks
There was enough intrigue over Andrei Kuzmenko, a 26-year-old speedy, playmaking forward fresh off scoring 53 points in 45 KHL games with SKA St. Petersburg, to warrant a sweepstake. Congratulations to Vancouver for securing his services and besting the likes of Vegas and Edmonton. Canucks GM Patrik Allvin could already have a dynamic find on his hands.
Ville Petman – Seattle Kraken
Finnish youngster Ville Petman is probably AHL-bound to start his foray into North American hockey, but there’s plenty of hope that the Seattle Kraken have found themselves a future asset on the rise in the 22-year-old. Petman broke out in Finland’s top league last season, notching 15 goals and 39 points in 59 games, and now joins a growing foundation of young talent in Seattle.
Sakari Manninen – Vegas Golden Knights
If the Vegas Golden Knights can return to postseason play this year, they’ll have a big game performer along for the ride. Sakari Manninen represented Finland across two World Championship victories and an Olympic gold medal earlier this year. In the Kontinental Hockey League, Manninen scored 19 goals each of the past two seasons with Salavat Yulaev Ufa. This season, the 30-year-old has a unique opportunity to earn a regular role with a talented Vegas team.
Peetro Seppälä – Seattle Kraken
Seattle must have a significant scouting base in Finland, as the Kraken added 21-year-old blueliner Peetro Seppälä to join Petman, his 2020 World Junior Championships teammate. Like Petman, Seppälä may not be Seattle-bound this season, likely coming over to play for the start-up Coachella Valley Firebirds of the AHL. However, GM Ron Francis lauded the defenseman’s offensive upside following a season in which he recorded 29 points in 57 games in Finland.
Filling the Gaps
John Klingberg, thought by many to be the top free agent defenseman, finally came off the board last week when the 29-year-old inked a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, filling a team need. As the free agency pool continues to dwindle, here is a look at a few teams that still have big holes to fill.
Dallas Stars: Offensive Defenseman
Even though it looked like Klingberg wasn’t returning to Dallas, the Stars failed to acquire a top-six offensive defenseman to fill that hole. While they signed Will Butcher and Colin Miller in free agency, the 27-year-old Butcher tallied just eight points (two goals, six assists) in 37 games, and the 29-year-old Miller had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 38 games for the Buffalo Sabres last season. In contrast, Klingberg scored 47 points (six goals, 41 assists) in 74 games for the Stars.
New York Islanders: Scoring Winger
New York was reportedly interested in Johnny Gaudreau before he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets and was brought up as a possible destination for Matthew Tkachuk before he went to the Florida Panthers. GM Lou Lamoriello would like to support center Mathew Barzal and the struggling Islanders offense with a scoring winger, but to this point, he has yet to pull the trigger. So far this offseason, New York has been the team rumored to be interested in multiple big names but hasn’t acquired any.
Vancouver Canucks: Top-Four Defenseman
Vancouver has been looking to strengthen its blue line for a while but hasn’t done much to improve it this offseason, as the two defensemen signed (Wyatt Kalynuk and Christian Wolanin) are not top-four talents. With Klingberg off the market, the Canucks may think the top free agents remaining are not worth their asking price, so Vancouver may need to look to the trade market if it wants to upgrade on defense.
Player Spotlight – Pierre-Luc Dubois
Pierre-Luc Dubois inked a new one-year, $6-million contract with the Winnipeg Jets on July 22 as rumors swirled he requested a trade. The 24-year-old is coming off a 60-point season and a career-high 28 goals. Fans know plenty about what he has brought to the ice, but what about his life outside of hockey? Let’s check-in.
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