All posts by Sean O'Leary

Panthers sign Bennett to 4-year deal with reported $4.4M AAV

The Florida Panthers have signed restricted free-agent forward Sam Bennett to a four-year contract, the team announced Monday.

Bennett's new deal carries an average annual value of $4.4 million, reports TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

Florida acquired Bennett last season from the Calgary Flames for a second-round pick and forward prospect Emil Heineman. Bennett took off with the Panthers, registering 15 points in 10 regular-season games after posting only 12 across 38 contests with the Flames.

"Sam's impact on our club this past season was seen immediately, injecting physicality, skill, and energy into our lineup," said Florida general manager Bill Zito. "We are thrilled to have him in our Panthers lineup and look forward to what he can bring to our offense in the upcoming 2021-22 season."

The Panthers have approximately $7 million in cap space after signing Bennett, according to CapFriendly. Florida also needs to sign newly acquired restricted free-agent forward Sam Reinhart before the season begins.

Bennett's previous pact paid him $2.55 million per season. He signed a pair of bridge deals with the Flames after his entry-level contract, struggling to carve out a role with the franchise that drafted him fourth overall in 2014.

The 25-year-old has 155 points in 412 NHL games.

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Eichel’s agents expect him to be traded in ‘near future’

Jack Eichel's representatives believe the Buffalo Sabres will trade their captain soon.

"Our expectation is that Jack is going to be traded in the near future, and all of our discussions have been centered around that issue," agents Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli told Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Eichel's status was a hot topic at last weekend's draft, but a trade never materialized. The Sabres instead dealt two other core pieces, sending Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers and Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers. They also drafted top prospect Owen Power with the first overall pick.

Fish and Donatelli confirmed that Eichel is skating but wouldn't clarify if the 24-year-old needs neck surgery. Eichel reportedly wants a disc replacement, but the Sabres won't sign off on the procedure - a clear point of contention during the player's end-of-year press conference.

Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams hasn't shut the door on Eichel returning to Buffalo for the 2021-22 season.

"I would have no problem at all if Jack Eichel is on our team when we start training camp," Adams said after the draft, according to The Buffalo News.

Eichel missed the final two months of the season because of his neck issue. He finished the year with an underwhelming two goals and 16 assists in 21 games but is still bound to attract plenty of suitors on the trade market.

Since being drafted second overall in 2015, Eichel's recorded 355 points in 375 games. He has five years remaining on his contract at $10 million per season, and his no-movement clause kicks in after the upcoming campaign.

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Bruins bring back Hall on 4-year deal with $6M AAV

The Boston Bruins have re-signed pending unrestricted free-agent forward Taylor Hall to a four-year contract carrying an annual cap hit of $6 million, the team announced Friday.

The pact includes no-trade coverage, reports TSN's Darren Dreger.

Boston acquired Hall from the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round pick and forward Anders Bjork before last year's trade deadline. Hall was an excellent fit on the Bruins' second line, and he immediately upped his production upon arrival with 14 points in 16 regular-season games.

Hall's new contract will make him the fourth-highest paid forward on Boston's team-friendly payroll. The winger trails captain Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million), David Pastrnak ($6.66 million), and Brad Marchand ($6.125 million).

The Bruins have roughly $20 million in cap space after re-signing Hall, according to CapFriendly. Veteran David Krejci and goaltender Tuukka Rask are among the key players on Boston's books headed to free agency.

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Report: Hyman expected to sign with Oilers

Zach Hyman is expected to leave the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent and sign with the Edmonton Oilers, reports The Athletic's James Mirtle.

Hyman's new deal is either seven or eight years in length and will pay him $5 million to $5.5 million per season, Mirtle adds.

The Maple Leafs and Oilers can still conduct a sign-and-trade, which would allow Edmonton to add an eighth year to his contract. Toronto granted Hyman permission to negotiate with other teams earlier this offseason in an effort to get back an asset for trading his rights.

The Florida Panthers drafted Hyman in 2010, but he's played all his NHL games with the Leafs dating back to 2015. He's been a staple in Toronto's top six in recent years and had a career-best 0.77 points per game in 2021.

The 29-year-old has spent the majority of his ice time in recent seasons alongside Auston Matthews or John Tavares and should remain an effective producer on the wing of Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton.

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Amended lawsuit: Blackhawks coach threatened player with bat before sexual assault

Warning: Story contains graphic content about sexual assault.

Further details have emerged in the civil lawsuit against the Chicago Blackhawks brought by a former player.

The amended lawsuit details an incident in May 2010 and states video coach Brad Aldrich turned on pornography at his apartment and began to masturbate in front of the plaintiff, according to Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times, who provided screenshots of the updated lawsuit.

The player attempted to leave, but Aldrich blocked the exit and threatened him with a small baseball bat, the lawsuit states. Additionally, Aldrich verbally threatened the player, saying he'd never play in the NHL again if he didn't engage in nonconsensual sexual activity.

Pope also provides a screenshot from the lawsuit that states that for years after the abuse, the player was subject to homophobic and "humiliating trash talking by his teammates during scrimmages where coaches were present."

The assault allegedly occurred while the Blackhawks were in the 2010 Western Conference Final. Former Chicago assistant coach John Torchetti told TSN in June that team management met to discuss the situation but never brought it to police.

Brent Sopel, a defenseman on the team at the time, said "pretty much every" player knew about it.

The Blackhawks hired a former federal prosecutor in June to conduct an independent, team-financed review of the allegations, which have yet to be tested in court.

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Kraken’s Gourde out 4 months after shoulder surgery

Seattle Kraken forward Yanni Gourde will be sidelined for four months after undergoing shoulder surgery Monday, his agent, Paul Corbeil, confirmed to The Athletic's Joe Smith.

Gourde was Seattle's selection from the Tampa Bay Lightning in Wednesday's expansion draft. He established himself as a key contributor in winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Lightning and was among the more prominent names the Kraken selected.

The 29-year-old center had 36 points in 56 games this past season and performed a key checking role throughout the playoffs. Gourde played 310 games with the Lightning from 2015-21 before joining the NHL's 32nd franchise.

The Kraken will open their inaugural season Oct. 13. Gourde's recovery timeline projects that he'll be available in mid-November.

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Kraken to host Canucks in home opener on Oct. 23

Hockey fans will get an early look at the NHL's new Pacific Northwest rivalry.

The Seattle Kraken will host the Vancouver Canucks in their first home opener on Oct. 23, the Kraken announced during Wednesday's expansion draft.

Seattle will play its inaugural regular-season contest on Oct. 12 on the road against the Vegas Golden Knights, according to's Danny Webster.

The NHL will release its entire 2021-22 schedule Thursday.

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Report: Oilers meeting with Hyman on Wednesday

The Edmonton Oilers are meeting with pending unrestricted free agent Zach Hyman on Wednesday, reports TSN's Jason Gregor.

The Toronto Maple Leafs granted Hyman permission to meet with other teams earlier this offseason to explore trading his rights. A sign-and-trade is possible until free agency opens July 28, so the Oilers could potentially add the winger on a maximum eight-year deal, notes Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

The Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks are among the other teams reportedly pursuing Hyman, who produced at a 63-point pace this past season as a staple in Toronto's top six.

Hyman is coming off a four-year contract that paid him $2.25 million per season; the 29-year-old is expected to land a significant raise.

Edmonton has $11 million in projected cap space, according to CapFriendly. The club is reportedly on the verge of re-signing goaltender Mike Smith to a two-year with an average annual value of around $2 million. The Oilers also lost defenseman Adam Larsson to the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday.

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Report: Kaprizov has contract offer from KHL’s CSKA Moscow

Minnesota Wild sensation and restricted free agent Kirill Kaprizov has received a contract offer from CSKA Moscow of the KHL, sources told The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

The Wild are aware of the situation and still believe they will retain the reigning rookie of the year with two months until NHL training camps open, LeBrun notes.

Minnesota general manager Bill Guerin refuted speculation earlier in July that talks between the club and Kaprizov had stalled.

Kaprisov and the Wild reportedly disagree on the length of a potential deal. Minnesota offered Kaprizov an eight-year contract, but he prefers a three-year pact, according to LeBrun.

The Wild drafted Kaprizov 135th overall in 2015. He spent five seasons in the KHL - including three with CSKA Moscow - before venturing to North America. He notched 51 points in 55 games during his electric NHL debut to help Minnesota secure a playoff spot.

The Wild have over $26 million in offseason cap space to lock in a new deal for Kaprizov, according to CapFriendly. But Minnesota's financial situation gets tighter after next season: The recent buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise will count for over $12.7 million in dead cap space in 2022-23 and more than $14.7 million from 2023-25.

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