NHL Notes: Predators, Nylander, Blackwood, Lightning

Blackwood Haula Nylander And Volkov NHL

  • The Nashville Predators have finally jumped into the free agent market, signing Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula
  • Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex Nylander will miss four-to-six months after undergoing meniscus surgery on his knee
  • The New Jersey Devils have signed restricted free agent goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-year deal
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed two forwards to one-year deals

As we await the start of the NHL training camps – and the World Juniors – let’s check in on some news and notes from around the NHL.

<h2<Preds Ink Granlund, Haula

It took a while, but the Nashville Predators have finally jumped into the free agent market, signing a pair of forwards in Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula.

Granlund’s deal is for one-year at $3.75M while Haula’s one-year deal is worth $1.75M, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

The 28-year-old Granlund has spent the past season and a half with the Predators, scoring 17 goals and 30 points in 63 games last season. His production has dipped of late, but he also recorded 136 points in 158 games with the Minnesota Wild from 2016 to 2018.

Granlund was the second-best winger left on the free agent market behind Mike Hoffman.

For Haula, he’ll join the Predators after splitting last season between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, tallying 24 points in 48 games in the process. The 29-year-old enjoyed a career-year with the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017-18 season when he notched 55 points in 76 games, although a major knee injury suffered just 15 games into the 2018-19 season set him back.

The Predators were seemingly ripe to add forwards given their bundle of cap space and notable forward departures in the form of Craig Smith, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino and Austin Watson. Prior to Tuesday night, those names had not yet been replaced, but the Predators’ forward group is far deeper now than it was just 24 hours ago.

Nylander To Miss Significant Time

In injury news, Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex Nylander is set to miss four-to-six months after undergoing meniscus surgery on his left knee. According to the team physician, Nylander originally suffered the injury in the 2020 postseason.

“Alex Nylander sustained a knee injury during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He initially rested and trained conservatively; unfortunately, his symptoms came back when he started to skate,” explained team physician Dr. Michael Terry. “Alex had successful surgery on Monday to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He is expected to return to hockey related activities in approximately four to six months.”

Given the expected timeline, a late-April return would be on the short end while Nylander could theoretically be out to late June on the long end. With the NHL season beginning on Jan. 13 and the regular season ending on May 8, it stands to reason that Nylander may not suit up this season given the longshot odds of the Blackhawks qualifying for the postseason.

While not much is expected from the team this year, a lost year of NHL development for Nylander is the worst part of this news. He suited up in 65 games for the Blackhawks last season, notching 10 goals and 26 points in that time. He was held off the scoresheet in eight postseason contests.

A former first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres from 2016, the younger brother to the Maple Leafs’ William Nylander will look to bounce back after plenty of time off in the 2021-22 season, expected to begin on time in October.

Blackwood Gets Three-Year Deal

It was a disastrous 2019-20 season for the New Jersey Devils, but one bright spot was goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood.

The 23-year-old worked to a 2.77 GAA and .915 Sv% in 47 appearances despite playing behind one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL. Through 70 career NHL appearances, Blackwood owns a 2.72 GAA and .916 Sv% with five shutouts to boot.

The 2015 second-round pick was rewarded on Wednesday as he inked a three-year deal worth a total of $8M. The deal will carry a $2.8M annual cap hit.

“Mackenzie is going to be one of the key young, core pieces for this organization for a long time and we are excited and extremely happy to have him under contract,” Devils general manager Tim Fitzgerald said. “He’s obviously shown that he can be a number one goalie, and the sky’s the limit for him.”

A restricted free agent this offseason, Blackwood has set himself up to hit the free-agent mark in the summer of 2023 when he will be just 26 years old.

Lightning Sign Volkov, Joseph

We discussed the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday as they sit in an unfavorable position when it comes to the salary cap while they could also be without superstar Nikita Kucherov to start the season after he received an injection in his hip last week.

That didn’t stop the Lightning from announcing a pair of signings on Wednesday, however.

The team has agreed to one-year contracts with forwards Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov. Joseph gets $737,500 on his deal while Volkov comes in at $700K.

Joseph, 23, has appeared in 107 career NHL games for the Lightning, tallying 17 goals and 33 points in that time. The 2015 fourth-round pick has also notched 74 points across 99 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.

Volkov was the club’s second-round pick in 2017 and has appeared in nine NHL games – all last season – notching one assist in that time. Volkov also suited up for one postseason game with the Lightning, earning him a Stanley Cup ring in the process. Also 23, he has recorded 123 points across 195 games with the Crunch.

Add in the three-year deal with RFA Erik Cernak on Tuesday and the two-year deal with Jan Rutta and the Lightning currently sit $6,154,166 over the cap with fellow RFA Anthony Cirelli still in need of a new deal.

Kucherov’s contract hitting Long-Term Injured Reserve would open up space, but it’s likely the Lightning attempt a trade or another avenue in order to solve their cap crisis.

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