August 27 — Top Dogs & Eight’s Great

Days until start of 2021-22 NHL Season: 46 days

Wednesday’s Wheelhouse

BLUE WAVE: Adam Fantilli, currently projected to be one of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft’s top selections, announced he will play for the University of Michigan following one more season in the USHL with the Chicago Steel.

WHEELZ UP: Justin Rayner, a competitive gamer known as Wheelz, skated for the first time since suffering a serious neck injury as a Bantam in Saskatchewan almost 17 years ago. Truly inspiring!

Thursday’s Tap-in

ANDREI THE GIANT — CONTRACT: Andrei Svechnikov and the Hurricanes agreed on an eight-year, $62 million deal, which carries an AAV of $7.75 million.

NOT SEEING DOUBLE: Not to be outdone, the Flyers and Sean Couturier agreed to—you guessed it—an eight-year, $62 million deal as well. Must be the going rate.

RE-HAB-BING: Both Carey Price and Jonathan Drouin are expected to report on time for training camp, which is great news for Montreal heading into the 2021-22 season. Price had knee surgery on July 23, while Drouin has not played since April after taking a leave of absence.

CANADA DOMINATES: Canada finally solved US goaltender Alex Cavallini en route to handing the Americans a 5-1 loss in Calgary at the 2021 Women’s World Championships. The win vaults Canada to the top of Group A with a perfect 4-0 record in pool play.

Top Shelf Thursday — NHL’s Top Dogs

Yesterday was the best on the internet—National Dog Day. In 2004, a wonderful woman and animal rescue advocate by the name of Colleen Paige created National Dog Day to celebrate the pups in our life. Several NHL teams have brought in team dogs that will eventually move on to help veterans, people with disabilities, and emergency responders. In honor of National Dog Day (and the adoptaversary of my own rescue dog), let’s meet some of the most well-behaved boys in the league.

Ranger – New York Rangers

A pioneer pup, Ranger the Yellow Lab was introduced by the New York Rangers in 2018. He spent his time with the team training to become a professional autism service dog. Since his training, Ranger has been placed with his forever companion, a 16-year-old boy named Danny Zarro.

Finn – San Jose Sharks

The Sharks did not have a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, but they did introduce their newest team member. Finn, also a Yellow Lab, joined the Sharks at 1-foot-4 and weighing a mere 8 pounds. Throughout his time with the team, he not only learned the commands needed to one day assist someone in need, but he also gained 23.3k followers on Instagram. In February, it was announced on his social media page that he is moving on from the SAP Center to continue his training.

Flambo – Montreal Canadiens

I have said it once, and I’ll say it again, I would stand in the way of a Shea Weber slapshot for this dog. Flambo is a Saint-Pierre Labernese puppy who was adopted by the Canadiens in 2018. His future of becoming a service dog was derailed when an x-ray revealed he suffered from elbow dysplasia, a hereditary degenerative disorder that develops in growing dogs. He is currently acting as a Mira Foundation ambassador within the Canadiens organization. Once you see this picture of Max Domi with a young Flambo, you will agree he is MVP—Most Valuable Pup.

Wait — Eight Years??

By any measure, eight years is a long time. That’s two Olympic cycles, a full two-term presidency, 2,920 days, or 1/3rd of Connor McDavid’s life.

This summer, it’s also apparently the benchmark term for extending young hockey talent. Six players have inked extensions of eight years, the maximum term a team can offer their own players under the current CBA. All of these deals look like reasonable bets for now, but let’s take a closer look at each one, ranging from least likely to wind up being regrettable to the greatest potential for disaster.

Brayden Point (TBL) – $76 million

There’s always the possibility that a 34-year-old Point with a $9.5 million cap hit could eventually make for a bad hit as he is aging out of this contract, but it’s still about as low of a risk as an eight-year pact can be. A bona fide No. 1 center, Point has already been the goals leader on two Stanley Cup-winning teams and topped 40 goals in the last full NHL season.

Miro Heiskanen (DAL) – $67.6 million

Heiskanen will jump from a cap hit below $900,000 this season to a nearly $8.5 million hit. Beyond that, there’s little reason to believe the young Dallas Stars blueliner, who will still somehow be shy of 30 when the deal ends, won’t bring major value. A steady blue line presence to date, Heiskanen enjoyed a record-setting playoff run in 2020 and just keeps getting better.

Darnell Nurse (EDM) – $74 million

What does $74 million get you these days? If you’re the Edmonton Oilers, you get a perfectly solid 26-year-old, but one that has never finished higher than seventh in the Norris Trophy voting and hasn’t been able to help McDavid or the Oilers slay their playoff demons.

Andrei Svechnikov (CAR) – $62 million

If Svechnikov breaks out as a top-line scoring star, then a $7.75 million annual cap hit won’t seem onerous. However, the 21-year-old simply doesn’t have a strong enough body of work to justify such a big commitment. Being drafted second overall makes for a strong starting point, but a career-high of 24 goals isn’t enough to go on for an eight-year contract.

Seth Jones (CHI) – $76 million

We’ve been hearing for years how Seth Jones will be a perennial Norris winner and a foundational staple on a team’s blue line, but he’s never quite elevated himself to star-caliber. And, if $76 million isn’t enough of a gamble by Chicago in acquiring the 26-year-old, there’s also the cost of Adam Boqvist, two firsts, and a second-rounder to have the rights to Jones in the first place.

Sean Couturier (PHI) – $62 million

There’s a lot to like about Philly’s shutdown forward and 2019-20 Selke Trophy winner, just not at eight years and nearly $8 million per. Not only will Couturier be 37 at the end of the deal, but his sterling defensive reputation took a hit last year, finishing a meager 15th in Selke voting during the shortened season.

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