2018 was quite a busy year in the hockey world. There were several big trades and free agent signings, plenty of changes behind the bench, and much more. Over the coming days, PHR will continue its look back at the top stories from around the game on a month-by-month basis. Next up is a look back at October.
Seven Years For Tuch: Although he had barely a full year of regular season experience under his belt, the Golden Knights decided that they’d seen enough from Alex Tuch to hand him a seven-year, $33.25MM contract extension. The winger was coming off a solid rookie season and showed signs that he will be a quality top-six forward. While it raised some eyebrows at the time, it looks like a strong decision by GM George McPhee now as the 22-year-old is already up to 32 points in 36 games in the first half of the season. A pace like that in the second half would put him over 60 which would have given him a lot of leverage if he was still unsigned for 2019-20.
Schultz Out Long-Term: The Penguins were dealt a significant blow early on as defenseman Justin Schultz sustained a broken leg in the fourth game of the season. He underwent successful surgery that carried a recovery timeline of four months. He’s only two years removed from a 51-point season and is a big part of Pittsburgh’s back end, especially since he’s one of only two regular right-shot rearguards. Since he’s expected to return sometime next month, he’ll likely wind up being their significant ‘acquisition’ between now and the trade deadline since they will have to get back into salary cap compliance before he can be activated off LTIR.
Wilson Gets 20: An illegal check by Capitals winger Tom Wilson on St. Louis center Oscar Sundqvist resulted in one of the longest suspensions for an on-ice incident in quite some time as the league handed him a 20-game suspension. It was his fourth suspension in his last 105 games played and the league came down heavy given that he’s a repeat offender. Wilson appealed to Gary Bettman who upheld the initial ruling, causing him to appeal to a neutral arbitrator, the same one that reduced Auston Watson’s suspension earlier in the month. Also worth noting here is that the league granted him non-roster status, something that allowed Washington to call up a replacement. That’s not something that typically occurs when a player is suspended so it will be worth watching to see if this winds up setting a precedent.
Boyle’s Cancer In Remission: Devils forward Brian Boyle revealed that his cancer is in full remission. He was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last season, missing the first month as a result but the news this time around was much better. The 2018 Bill Masterton Award winner has been fairly productive early on this season with 11 goals in 35 games. If the Devils decide to become sellers in the coming weeks, Boyle (a pending UFA) will undoubtedly draw the interest of several contenders.
Schmidt Gets Six: It turns out that Tuch wasn’t the only player Vegas locked up in October. They inked defenseman Nate Schmidt to a six-year, $35.7MM extension that will kick in next season and did so while he was serving a 20-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance back in the summer. The 27-year-old has made a significant impact since returning to the lineup as the Golden Knights have lost just seven of 24 games in that span while he leads the team in ice time at over 22 minutes a night. Two years ago, Schmidt was a depth blueliner in Washington but with Vegas, he has emerged as a legitimate top pairing player.
21 Blue Dodgers Cool Greinke Base Zack Jersey Stitched Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.