October 11 — Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! 🇨🇦

Days until start of 2021-22 NHL Season: Tomorrow!

Friday’s Forecheck

THE SWISSMAKERS: Team Switzerland named the first three players of its 2022 Olympic roster. Roman Josi, Nico Hischier, and Timo Meier will be packing their bags and heading to Beijing in February in hopes of securing Switzerland’s first medal since 1948. To quote Rafiki from the Lion King, “it is time.”

BARK-ING UP THE RIGHT TREE: On Friday, Aleksander Barkov signed an eight-year contract extension to remain with the Florida Panthers. With the average annual value (AAV) coming in at $10 million, Barkov will join teammate Sergei Bobrovsky as one of the top-20 highest-paid players in the league.

Saturday’s Snipes

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: James the “Real Deal” Neal signed a one-year contract with the St. Louis Blues worth $750,000. The 34-year-old forward signed a professional tryout on Sept. 17, 2021, and led the team with four goals in five preseason games.

Sunday’s Cellys

BACK IN BLACKWOOD: Mackenzie Blackwood was pulled from the New Jersey Devils preseason game on Thursday due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test. It was revealed on Sunday that he cleared testing protocols and was allowed back on the ice with the team. He told the media that he is leaning toward getting the vaccine in the next few weeks.

MIKA THAT DOUGH: The New York Rangers have extended 28-year old forward Mika Zibanejad’s contract for eight years and $68 million. The Rangers have also locked up Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Barclay Goodrow for the next five seasons. Does anyone else feel like the NHL hired Oprah this offseason to hand out eight-year deals like they are cars?

Spotted đź‘€

Grab your hot apple cider and pumpkin pie; we are hours away from regular-season hockey! Families are returning to the rink and players are trying to sneak in proposals before the chaos of the season begins. Let’s check in.

Bear Hugs

Proposal season usually begins around American Thanksgiving and runs through Valentine’s Day. Some hockey players clearly did not get the memo and have been jumping the gun, as the latest player to do so is defenseman Ethan Bear of the Carolina Hurricanes. He popped the question to girlfriend Lenasia Ned in Raleigh over the weekend. Where can we send a round of drinks to the happy couple?

Fry-Day Feeling

Lauren Oshie and her son Campbell were spotted at Capital One Arena cheering on Capitals forward and husband/dad T.J. Campbell was standing on his seat with a fist full of french fries staring at the scoreboard and honestly, I have never seen something so relatable. If Campbell is willing to share his fries, I think I found my new game day companion.

Belle of Ball Arena

Gabriel Landeskog’s daughter stole the spotlight when the Colorado Avalanche played a preseason game in front of the home crowd. Dressed in the Avalanche’s reverse retro jersey, Linnea was the most stylish kid at the rink. Papa Landeskog signed an eight-year extension worth $56 million to remain in Denver this offseason.

Waiving Goodbye đź‘‹

By Tuesday, all NHL teams must operate in adherence to roster and salary cap requirements—cutting down to 23 active players and carrying no more than $81.5 million in cap hits. This has made for some tough decisions heading into the start of the regular season, with general managers having to rely on the waiver wire in hopes of sneaking players through that they’d prefer to keep.

On Sunday, we saw how crazy waivers can be at this time of year. Established vets and intriguing young players found themselves among the waived on a busy—and likely nervous—day for team front offices. Do you want some notables? Yeah, we’ve got ’em for you:

Alex Barré-Boulet – Tampa Bay Lightning

Alex Barre-Boulet of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay already lost its third line this past summer, with Yanni Gourde (Seattle), Barclay Goodrow (NY Rangers), and Blake Coleman (Calgary) bidding farewell to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs. Now, it risks losing 24-year-old Alex Barré-Boulet, who has scored 69 goals in 144 AHL games for the Syracuse Crunch. Surely someone can find room for the speedster, who will make just over $750,000 AAV the next three years.

Kyle Turris – Edmonton Oilers

Kyle Turris, former Nashville Predator (Jess Star/The Hockey Writers)

Kyle Turris’ fall from grace has been a bummer to watch, in all honesty. The former third-overall pick enjoyed a four-year stretch of 90 goals and 207 points while in Ottawa but has been a shell of himself since. It’s hard to believe Nashville gave up Samuel Girard and a second-round pick for the disappointing center.

Malcolm Subban – Chicago Blackhawks

Malcolm Subban, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

Chicago’s trade for reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-André Fleury signaled a massive shake-up to the Blackhawks’ goaltending depth chart, so waiving Malcolm Subban, Fleury’s one-time backup in Vegas, wasn’t a shock. That said, the club would surely prefer to keep the steady, reliable netminder in the event the nearly 37-year-old Fleury needs help and second-year backup Kevin Lankinen falters.

A Canadian Thanksgiving

Here at the Morning Skate, we want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian readers! The leaves changing color and the crisp breeze in the air are nature’s subtle reminders that this is a time to give thanks for all we have. Fans can all agree they are grateful for hockey to be back, but our crew decided to dive a little deeper into what Canadian fans should be thankful for this NHL season.

Good Bye North Division

🎵Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!🎵 I don’t think there was a single fan who liked the North Division. I’ll admit that the realignment served its purpose, but let’s be honest, it was terrible. This season, the divisions are back to normal, which also means multiple Canadian teams have the chance to make it past the third round of the playoffs this season. Can I get a hallelujah?

Adding to Your Hockey Bucket List

It is always exciting for fans to visit different arenas across the NHL, but it is even more exciting when fans can visit during an inaugural season. After being cooped up for what seems to be the past 84 years, fans are champing at the bit to travel, and Seattle sounds like a pretty good destination.

A Healthy John Tavares

I believe the entire Greater Toronto Area exhaled a sigh of relief after seeing Tavares on the ice this preseason. After a horrific hit in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, fans were unsure of his timetable for a return. Thankfully, he bounced back quickly and is ready to put last season behind him, and I’m sure most Maple Leafs fans would agree.

Mental Health Taking Center Stage

For so long, people have tried to hide their mental health struggles. Over the years, fans have seen players begin to have an open dialogue, and Carey Price put the spotlight back on mental health this past week. His decision to voluntarily enter the NHL/NHL Players’ Association player assistance program forces another difficult—but necessary—conversation within the NHL and hockey community. We all support you, Carey.