September 30 — Crease Battles & Java Drinkers

Last Night’s News 📰

WE’VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU!: Yesterday, the Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to terms with restricted free agent Rasmus Sandin on a two-year, $2.8 million contract, ending the stalemate between the team and the 22-year-old defenseman. Facing a depleted blue line with Timothy Liljegren, Jake Muzzin, Jordie Benn, and Carl Dahlström injured, the Maple Leafs are ready to greet Sandin with open arms.

CAMP CASUALTIES: Speaking of injuries, multiple impact players have suffered setbacks early this preseason. Anaheim Ducks standout, Trevor Zegras, left the Ducks’ 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes early due to an upper-body injury. Meanwhile, New Jersey Devils star Nico Hischier was forced out of Monday’s 2-1 win with cramps and will be reevaluated for his hamstring next weekend.

P-T-OVER: Alex Galchenyuk and Antoine Roussel are back to the drawing board after being released from their respective professional tryout contracts (PTO). Galchenyuk, 28, was sent home from the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday after posting 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 60 games with the Coyotes last season. One day later, the Philadelphia Flyers released the 32-year-old Roussel following eight points (four goals, four assists) in 53 contests, also with the Coyotes. 

PUERTO RICAN PRIDE: On Thursday, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) admitted Puerto Rico as an associate member, becoming the organization’s 83rd representative. Puerto Rico still has “several hurdles to face” before it can gain full IIHF membership status, but the Caribbean nation is determined to grow the game on the island.

Friday Favorites

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

It’s Knight Time in Sunrise

On Tuesday, the Florida Panthers extended 21-year-old goaltender Spencer Knight by signing him to a three-year contract. Knight is entering the final season of his three-year, entry-level contract and would have become a restricted free agent after the 2022-23 campaign. Last season Knight went 19-9-3 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. 

A New Mascot Will Make Its Debut

This weekend, the Seattle Kraken will be debuting a mascot! After teasing the reveal on Twitter, the NHL’s newest franchise is calling in Seattle Mariners mascot Mariner Moose, Storm mascot Doppler, and Sounders mascot Sammy to assist in the hunt. Stay tuned as Morgan Geekie helps introduce the league’s next mascot. 

Fever Pitch

On Tuesday, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews threw out the first pitch at the Blue Jays game. Toronto’s star got to Rogers Centre early and signed autographs for fans. Growing up, Matthews played Little League in Arizona, and his dad Brian was a pitcher at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Who’s Got Net: Eastern Conference

In the 32-team NHL, there simply aren’t enough reliable or legitimate starting goaltenders to go around. It’s why Darcy Kuemper can be essentially cast off by the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche and still land a five-year, $26.25 million contract with another contender in Washington. 

That scarcity means that no less than one-quarter of the league will use training camp to help identify what they have in between the pipes and who might be the best bet to get the lion’s share of the work. Today, we look at the internal, ongoing goaltending battles within the Eastern Conference before venturing out West in Monday’s issue.

Boston Bruins: Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark

Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

On the one hand, Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark are known quantities to the Bruins, having shared the crease a year ago. On the other, however, neither netminder seized the opportunity to replace Tuukka Rask. They each played in exactly 41 games, carrying strikingly similar save percentages (Ullmark had a .917 to .914 edge) and goals against averages (Swayman led 2.41 to 2.45). Additionally, new head coach Jim Montgomery may have different thoughts on his new goalie tandem than predecessor Bruce Cassidy had.

Detroit Red Wings: Ville Husso or Alex Nedeljkovic

Over the past two summers, the Detroit Red Wings sacrificed a third-round draft choice to secure a goalie. Among the young keepers, Ville Husso is still signed for three more years (Alex Nedeljkovic is in a contract year) and was significantly better last season, so he should get every chance to claim the job. However, Nedeljkovic is about a year younger and still possesses plenty of upside in net.

New Jersey Devils: Mackenzie Blackwood or Vitek Vaněček

Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The acquisition of Vitek Vaněček this summer by the New Jersey Devils might have been a message directed at incumbent Mackenzie Blackwood, whose stock has taken a hit after two straight disappointing seasons. Remember when the Canadian Olympic team discussed Blackwood as a possible backstop? Vaněček will undoubtedly push Blackwood—and might even fulfill tandem duties—but don’t expect the new addition to take over the crease.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Murray or Ilya Samsonov

If Toronto Maple Leafs fans thought the duo of Jack Campbell and Petr Mrázek had them on edge last year, they haven’t seen anything yet with Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov taking over. No doubt it’s a massive gamble for GM Kyle Dubas to place his faith in Murray, whose two Cups seem like ancient history given the struggles he’s faced since, and Samsonov, who is unproven but is now in the pressure cooker. Toronto fans don’t care who wins out; they only want to make sure that’s not the only thing that goalie wins this year.

Hockey Players Run On…

Because it’s Fall, people are more likely to start reaching for warm, cozy drinks, and coffee is usually the first drink that comes to mind. As it turns out, coffee amongst NHL players is a popular drink. If you have ever wondered what your favorite player’s coffee routine consists of, now you don’t have to!

Pumpkin Spice Craze

On Instagram, the San Jose Sharks posted a video of Matt Nieto and Mario Ferraro arriving at the arena, with Ferraro stating, “Pumpkin Spice Latte season, baby!” Good luck finding another NHL player who loves pumpkin spice more than Ferraro. 

The Coffee Mixer

In 2019, the Boston Bruins asked their players what liquids they consume during the season, and Jake DeBrusk had a specific routine when it comes to coffee. DeBrusk stated that he is “not a water guy” and that he’s a “little different than everybody else like that. I have Gatorade or sometimes a Coke or Red Bull or coffee. I have a Red Bull and coffee before every game.” DeBrusk has an extremely high caffeine tolerance, that’s for sure!

Coffee Equals Goals

Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho stated that he starts his day drinking half a cup of coffee. Yet, on Jan. 13, 2019, when the Hurricanes were facing the Nashville Predators, Aho was more tired than usual, so he upped his coffee intake to five cups that day. That night he scored the second hat trick of his career and credited the coffee for making it possible. 

Black Coffee, Stat!

Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson said that his coffee addiction began when he was 14 when a trainer told him that caffeine was the best legal performance enhancer you can take. Since then, he has been drinking black coffee in the morning, afternoon, and close to puck drop on game days. He always hoped coffee would give him an extra edge in hockey, and we think it has worked in his favor so far! 

Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Morning Skate will introduce The Hockey Writers team contributors as they share some quick thoughts on what has been happening with their respective clubs this summer.

Wrapping up the week are the Winnipeg Jets team of writers consisting of Declan Schroeder, Keith Forsyth, and Connor Hrabchak, and Luke James of the Washington Capitals, to preview their teams. 

Winnipeg Jets

Washington Capitals

How Would You Rate the Team’s Offseason?



A Prospect Who Could Make His NHL Debut This Season:

An Offseason Move That Will Pay Off This Season:

Most Underrated Player on the Roster:

Which Player Departure Was the Biggest Loss?:

Can the Jets All Stay on the Same Page Under Bowness?:

Is Darcy Kuemper an Upgrade Over the Samsonov/Vaněček Tandem?