August 5 — Keeping Tabs on Kadri & the Missing Letter

Last Night’s News 📰

FOUR-ARO: San Jose solidified a significant piece of its back end on Thursday, signing Mario Ferraro to a four-year contract extension. Ferraro, a 23-year-old defenseman, tallied two goals and 14 points in 63 games last season with the Sharks, his third in the NHL.

JONATHAN GETS THE HUBER-DOUGH: After acquiring him in the Matthew Tkachuk trade, the Calgary Flames signed Jonathan Huberdeau to an eight-year, $84 million contract extension on Thursday night. Huberdeau’s contract is the largest in Flames history and will keep him in Calgary through 2030-31, as the 29-year-old forward had a career-high 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) in 80 games last season for the Florida Panthers.

MAKAR-ING THE ROUNDS: It has been a long time since Cale Makar was called an amateur, but that’s what he is this weekend. Makar is participating in the Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary, playing with professional golfer Paul Goydos during the weekend’s pro-am PGA Tour Champions event. 

DEALS WITH THE DEVIL(S): New Jersey avoided arbitration with Jesper Bratt and Miles Wood this week, coming to terms with the restricted free agents before their respectively scheduled hearings on Wednesday and Saturday. While both are one-year deals, the Devils signed Bratt for $5.45 million on Wednesday before offering Wood $3.2 million on Thursday. 

CASH FOR KAILER: On Wednesday, the Edmonton Oilers agreed to a two-year, $6.2 million extension with Kailer Yamamoto, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 7. Yamamoto, a 23-year-old forward, recorded career-highs in goals (20), assists (21), and points (41) in 81 games last season. 

Friday Favorites

Let’s look back at our favorite moments of the week.

Bratt Avoids Arbitration

New Jersey Devils fans were sweating bullets on Tuesday night as all signs pointed to winger Jesper Bratt heading to arbitration. The 24-year-old became a household name after his breakout season of 73 points in 76 games. With a hearing scheduled for Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., fans became anxious when the team went radio silent ahead of the deadline. Thankfully, everything ended well as the team announced that they re-signed Bratt to a one-year deal almost an hour after the time limit. Crisis averted—for now—Devils fans! 

Kaprizov Is Back in the States

Kirill Kaprizov, the young Minnesota Wild forward, is safely back in Minnesota. Rumors swirled that the 25-year-old allegedly purchased a fake military ID card in 2017. Wild staff and fans were anxious that he might not make it back in time, especially when he was denied entry to the United States last month in Dubai and opted to return to Russia. Luckily, he made it to the U.S. and will continue his training on and off the ice in the state of hockey. 

Cake Cake Cake

It’s Evgeni Malkin’s party, and we can be jealous if we want to. His wife shared a family photo with a hilarious over-the-top cake shaped as Simba and Nala from “The Lion King.” At first glance, you’d believe it was his son’s birthday, but it was, in fact, a celebration for the 36-year-old center. He has plenty to be happy about as he recently signed a four-year, $24.4 million extension. 

Let’s ‘C’ Who’s Next

There are currently eight franchises without an officially recognized captain. That means one-quarter of the 32-team league remains rudderless, lacking the leadership necessary to succeed in the NHL. Okay, that’s pretty overdramatic—especially considering leadership structures are different in every locker room, and players’ words can carry weight with their teammates regardless of whether there’s a letter on their sweater.

Still, there’s some insight to be gleaned from these eight situations. Why haven’t these clubs named a captain? And who might one day sport the “C” for their team? Let’s offer some quick-hit observations:

Anaheim Ducks

You can’t blame the Anaheim Ducks for not rushing to name a new captain with Ryan Getzlaf retiring. Troy Terry, Jamie Drysdale, and Trevor Zegras could all be prime captaincy candidates—one day, anyway.

Arizona Coyotes

Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Yotes haven’t had a captain since Arizona dealt Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver, and the organization’s carryover alternates don’t look promising. Jakob Chychrun? A walking trade rumor. Andrew Ladd? He will turn 37 in December. Perhaps it’s Clayton Keller’s time?

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo’s young emerging core looks to have plenty of character, which means leadership may be on its way. The question for the Sabres is when, as chief candidates to eventually wear the letter include Dylan Cozens and Owen Power, who are 21 and 19, respectively. If Buffalo wants to name a captain sooner, Alex Tuch would be the logical choice.

Calgary Flames

With such dramatic roster churn at the top of their lineup this summer, naming a captain is probably the least of the Calgary Flames’ worries. But for a win-now, veteran-laden group, the “C” can loom large. If it’s too early for Jonathan Huberdeau to don the captain’s gear, it could look good on Blake Coleman.

Montreal Canadiens

Long-time alternate Brendan Gallagher could follow a long line of iconic Montreal Canadiens captains. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the trade of injured former captain Shea Weber offering an opportunity to anoint the next in a storied line of Canadiens skippers, Montreal reportedly expects to have someone in place by the start of the season. Whether it’s Brendan Gallagher, Nick Suzuki, or Cole Caufield, there are options here.

New York Rangers

A fresh “C” hasn’t graced a New York Rangers jersey since trading Ryan McDonagh in Feb. 2018. Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Jacob Trouba, and Adam Fox could each make a case for the Blueshirts’ captaincy.

Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux has left a hole in the Philadelphia Flyers’ leadership hierarchy, and it’s possible that new head coach John Tortorella, seeking to establish a clear structure, may try to fill it. Good thing for Torts that Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson are prime candidates.

Seattle Kraken

Jordan Eberle (far left) and Mark Giordano (far right) were among a character-heavy group of Seattle originals. (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

It might seem weird for a franchise to have two captains over its first two seasons, but we always knew Mark Giordano wasn’t likely long for Seattle. If Kraken GM Ron Francis, head coach Dave Hakstol, and the Seattle brass are so inclined, Jordan Eberle feels like a no-brainer to take the role.

Courting Kadri

As we end the first week of Morning Skate in August, many of the biggest names in NHL free agency have found homes. However, multiple talents remain unsigned, headlined by Stanley Cup champion Nazem Kadri.

The 32-year-old Kadri had a career year in Colorado in 2021-22, scoring 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 71 regular-season games and 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 16 playoff games. Here are a few likely destinations for the unrestricted free agent, should he decide not to return to the Avs.

Nazem Kadri, one of the top players in this year’s free agent class, remains unsigned with the calendar now turned to August (Getty Images)

New York Islanders

Rumors linking Kadri to the Islanders have grown quite loud recently—and it makes sense. GM Lou Lamoriello is looking for more offense, and New York was linked to both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk before they went elsewhere. Although the Islanders have more of a need at wing than center, Kadri would still strengthen an offense that was below average last season. Mark Seidel, a former scout and current director of player personnel for the Barrie Colts, tweeted on Sunday that Kadri is essentially heading to the Islanders, but New York needs to clear cap space first. Time will tell whether that report is accurate or not.

Calgary Flames

The Flames have seen plenty of change in their forward group this offseason, as they’ve said goodbye to Gaudreau and Tkachuk and hello to Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. They still plan to be a playoff contender this season and could use some help at the center position behind Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund. Kadri would be a great addition to the Calgary offense and help make up at least a bit of what was lost. It’s just about whether Calgary can make it work financially and whether the 32-year-old Stanley Cup winner wants to join a team that wasn’t able to keep their two best players from last season.

Boston Bruins

Kadri would bolster this strong veteran team, but plenty of things are up in the air involving the Bruins. Boston would like to bring back 37-year-old Patrice Bergeron, who will likely either play another year for Boston or retire, and 36-year-old David Krejčí, who played in Czechia last season. If the Bruins bring back Bergeron and Krejčí, it’s unlikely they’ll have room for Kadri, as the Bruins would need to create cap space to afford anything more than a team-friendly deal.