New York Notesheets- Volume 1 (NHL Opening Day)

Check out the latest NHL news as the 2021-22 season kicks off this week!

Carter Bentivenga, Managing Editor

Welcome to the first article of a new series I like to call “New York Notesheets”. I’ll continue to put out weekly individual pieces on sporting events in New York, but these weekly pieces wrap up all things New York sports in a note sheet-style of writing. This article is about all things NHL-related, and with the season starting Tuesday night, this is the perfect time to put it out. So without further delay, sit back and enjoy!


New York Rangers

– On Sunday, the team announced that they have agreed to terms with center Mika Zibanejad on an eight-year deal worth $68-million ($8.5-million annually). In a statement put out later that day, general manager Chris Drury said “Since joining the team in 2016, Mika has emerged as one of the premier players in the NHL. In addition to being a great player on the ice, Mika is an exemplary person off the ice. We are fortunate enough to have him as part of our Rangers organization and are excited that he will continue his career in New York.” Zibanejad, 28, led the Rangers in goals (24) and finished second in scoring (50 points) through 56 games, and has 283 points in 323 career games in the Big Apple. 


– The team also made an interesting announcement on Monday, and a rather disappointing one to some fans. The Rangers haven’t had a captain since defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2018 Trade Deadline. Well, it looks like fans will have to wait at least one more season to see who dons the “C” for the Blueshirts, as the Rangers won’t be naming a captain for 2021-22. Many people have mentioned Zibanejad’s name in that conversation, and after signing an eight-year contract extension, a lot of people assumed the captaincy would come with it. That’s not the only confusing part though. There will also be SIX players donning an “A” this season, signaling their position as an assistant captain. Those players are Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Strome, and newly acquired Barclay Goodrow.


– Another big piece of news coming Tuesday morning, as Vitali Kravtsov has reportedly been given permission to speak with other NHL clubs to help facilitate a trade out of New York. Kravtsov, 21, was the Rangers’ ninth overall pick back in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, and is allegedly disgruntled after failing to make the opening night lineup. Another thing to note is Kravtsov recently switched agents as well, now with Dan Milstein (Gold Star Sports Management). It’s pretty notable when one of your top prospects requests a trade in a matter like this, so it’ll be interesting to see how this story develops. 


New York Islanders

– On Sunday, it was reported that defenseman Erik Gustafsson was released from his professional tryout offer (PTO) with the Islanders, and would later sign with the Chicago Blackhawks on a one-year contract worth $800K. The reasoning behind the release was issues with the salary cap, but Gustafsson, 29, had a solid camp and preseason, putting up four assists in three appearances and oftentimes running the Islanders’ power play (which has infamously struggled in the past). This move likely means Sebastian Aho has won the seventh defenseman slot on the opening night roster, and I can’t say I’m annoyed about that, but Gustafsson could’ve made a big difference for this team. Only time will tell though. 


League-wide news

TOR: The Maple Leafs announced forward Ilya Mikheyev will miss eight weeks after having surgery for a broken thumb. Auston Matthews (wrist) is recovering well from surgery, and has been at Maple Leafs morning skates. It seems likely Matthews won’t be ready for opening night, so at this time the earliest possible date we could see him in the lineup would be Oct. 18, as the Leafs play host to the New York Rangers. On Tuesday morning, forward Mitch Marner was forced to leave morning skate after colliding with forward Wayne Simmonds. As of now, he’s been labeled as a game time decision. The Maple Leafs are set to open their season at home on Oct. 13 against the Montreal Canadiens.


MTL: The Canadiens have signed forward Nick Suzuki to an eight-year contract extension worth $63-million ($7.875-million annually). Suzuki, 22, is currently on the last year of his three-year entry level contract (ELC), so the new deal won’t kick in until next season, Suzuki was acquired by the Canadiens in the deal that sent former Habs captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights, and he’s been amazing ever since he arrived in Canada. Suzuki finished with 41 points in 56 regular season games, but was outstanding in the playoffs. He finished the postseason leading the Canadiens in every big offensive category, including goals (7) and points (16) as Montreal made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.


COL: Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon missed practice Tuesday morning, due to being placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. In a press conference, general manager Joe Sakic later revealed MacKinnon tested positive, and that he’s currently asymptomatic. As of now, he will miss Colorado’s season opener against Chicago, but hasn’t completely been ruled out for Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues. More to come as the situation develops.


Captains: The Seattle Kraken named their first captain in franchise history, in defenseman Mark Giordano. Giordano, 38, served as captain of the Calgary Flames from the 2013-14 season through 2020-21, before being picked by the Kraken in the Expansion Draft. The Kraken also named four assistant captains, with Adam Larsson, Jaden Schwartz, Jordan Eberle and Yanni Gourde wearing “A”s. The Columbus Blue Jackets also named a captain on Tuesday, with forward Boone Jenner getting the “C”. The Jackets traded their most recent captain, Nick Foligno, to the Maple Leafs at the 2021 Trade Deadline. Their three assistants will be Zach Werenski, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Gustav Nyquist.