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Hlinka Gretzky Cup, World Juniors will spice up this August for hockey fans

July 28, 2022, 2:38 PM ET [228 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
More than two weeks after the beginning of free agency, we're seeing a few lower-level signings around the league, while top targets Nazem Kadri and John Klingberg remain surprisingly unattached.

There are plenty of whispers that Kadri has verbally agreed to a deal, and is now waiting for his chosen team to clear enough cap space to sign him.

That does not appear to be the case for Klingberg, who reportedly fired his agent on Wednesday. On NHL Network, Mike Rupp reported that Klingberg is looking for a deal in the neighbourhood of $6 million a year over seven years. Klingberg may just be getting serious about locking down a deal now, after having gotten married last week.

Last summer, defensemen got paid — especially righties, led by Dougie Hamilton's $63 million deal with the New Jersey Devils. But the market, overall, is tighter this year, especially without the infusion of extra salary-cap space that the Seattle Kraken created last summer when 23 new roster spots were added to the league total.

Klingberg turns 30 in August. He's nearly two years older than Hamilton was when he signed. And unlike Kadri, he didn't do himself any favours with his playoff performance this spring: just one assist in seven games against Calgary and fourth among the Stars' defensemen in ice time at 19:00 per game, well behind Miro Heiskanen, Ryan Suter and Esa Lindell.

This summer, the only defensemen who have signed deals with term of five years or more have all been contract extensions: Jonas Siegenthaler for five years with New Jersey, Kris Letang at six years with Pittsburgh, and Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak for eight years with Tampa Bay. Letang ($6.1 million) and Sergachev ($8.5 million) are also the only blueliners to crack that $6 million plateau.

The biggest UFA contracts signed by defensemen in their 30s this summer were four-year deals for Ben Chiarot with Detroit ($4.75 million) and John Manson returning to Colorado ($4.5 million). Nick Leddy, now 31, also got four years at $4 million to re-sign in St. Louis.

I would say that Klingberg is a cut above those three, especially in terms of his offensive production. But even with a new agent, I'm guessing that he'll have to compromise on his demands. He might even need to take a Taylor Hall-style one-year 'prove it' deal but if he does that, he'll be another year older next summer, the salary cap will still be relatively flat, and a new crop of defensemen will have the opportunity to hit the market.

Blueliners scheduled to become UFAs in 2023 include Matt Dumba, Dmitry Orlov, Damon Severson, Brian Dumoulin and MacKenzie Weegar. Vancouver will see Luke Schenn and Kyle Burroughs headed toward unrestricted status, with Travis Dermott set to become an RFA with arbitration rights.

A former Canuck got a new job on Wednesday. After failing to catch on in Florida or Detroit last season, Olli Juolevi signed a two-way deal with the Anaheim Ducks. The contract carries a minimum value of $200,000 and will pay him the league minimum of $750,000 at the NHL level and $175,000 in the minors.

Last season, Juolevi was on a one-way contract at the league minimum. As I mentioned in my review of the Ducks in my last blog, Anaheim is quite thin on left defense, with Cam Fowler as the only established veteran on that side. Juolevi should get a chance to challenge players like Colton White and Simon Benoit for a third-pairing job — unless Olen Zellweger tears it up at training camp.

The same market forces that are making life difficult for Klingberg are also part of what's impeding J.T. Miller's situation. The Canucks need to be mindful of their cap situation, while Miller's camp is likely looking at Mika Zibanejad as a comparable player. He signed his eight-year extension last October — while the market was still relatively flush with that Kraken cap space. And he's one month younger than Miller, so he's starting his new deal this fall at age 29, while Miller will be 30 when his next contract begins in the fall of 2023.

Canucks president Jim Rutherford made an appearance on Bob McCown's podcast on Wednesday.

I haven't listened to it, but the quotes floating around on Twitter suggest no real change in the status of negotiations between Miller and the Canucks, or any hint of a trade.

Finally — as we roll into the long weekend and the traditional dog days of the hockey season, there's quite a bit of international action to carry us through August until the captains' skates begin, with Young Stars in Penticton set to follow quickly afteward.

First up: the first look at next year's draft-eligible players at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Red Deer.

After four pre-tournament games on Friday, the tournament will start this Sunday and run through Saturday, August 6.

Rosters are now posted at the tournament website.

Several of the top prospects for the 2023 draft are not suiting up for the tournament, including Canada's Conor Bedard, the consensus No. 1. He did captain team Canada at the World U18 tournament in Germany back in April.

Also, since Russia is not invited to participate, there's no Matvei Michkov.

Canadian forward Adam Fantilli is currently ranked No. 2 for 2023 by The Hockey News, in between Bedard and Michkov. He's currently at Team Canada's World Junior Summer Camp, which is focused on choosing the roster for the 2023 tournament that's scheduled for Halifax and Moncton this Christmas.

Ryan Kennedy has Slovakia's Dalibor Dvorsky ranked fourth — and the next Slovak prodigy has also outgrown the Hlinka Gretzky Cup after finishing second in scoring behind Michkov at last year's event. He's a centre, and there's some talk that he's even better than 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky, so Slovakia remains a nation to watch.

Three members of Kennedy's Top 10 are on Canada's Hlinka Gretkzy roster – forwards Brayden Yager, Calum Ritchie and Colby Barlow.

Click here for TSN's broadcast schedule for both the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which starts Sunday, and for World Juniors, which runs from Aug. 9-20.

Not all World Juniors rosters have been finalized yet, but the Canucks do have a couple of European prospects in the mix. After missing out on making the cut last December, 2020 third-rounder Joni Jurmo is on the roster for Team Finland. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, the first-rounder from 2022 who turned 18 on July 24, is also on the roster for Sweden for the Edmonton tournament, while his countrymen Elias Pettersson (the second), Lucas Forsell and Jonathan Myrenberg are in the mix for the 2023 event.
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