2021 NHL year in review: March
2021 has certainly been another eventful year, both on and off the ice. Over the coming days, PHR will take a look back at the top stories from around the game on a month-by-month basis. Next up is a look at March.
New TV Partner: After a lengthy run with NBC that dated back to 2004, the primary television rights holder in the United States changed following the announcement of a seven-year rights agreement with ESPN. The deal is believed to be worth around $400M per year which is double what they were receiving on their last contract (and that’s not even factoring in the secondary rights which were announced later on). The increased revenue is subject to HRR calculations (which set the salary cap) and will go a long way towards stabilizing league-wide revenues which have been reduced during the pandemic.
Seabrook Hangs Them Up: Then-Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook had attempted to come back at the beginning of the 2020-21 season from hip and shoulder injuries but was unable to do so. After consulting with doctors, he announced the end of his playing career, a way of retiring without formally filing the paperwork as he’s under contract through the 2023-24 season with a $6.875M AAV. Seabrook’s career ended with 1,114 career games (all with Chicago) with 464 points and three Stanley Cup championships. He was traded to Tampa Bay in the offseason and will sit on LTIR with them for the duration of his contract.
Binnington Extension: The Blues didn’t let their starting goalie test unrestricted free agency in the summer as they agreed to a six-year, $36MM contract extension with Jordan Binnington. The $6M AAV is a small raise on the $4.4M AAV he had on his bridge deal and ties him for the eighth-highest cap hit in the league among goaltenders. Binnington was a significant part of St. Louis’ Stanley Cup run in 2019. The deal gives them some certainty on the cap front and ensures that an important position is locked up for years to come.
Coaching Changes: With March representing close to the midway point of the abbreviated regular season, a pair of teams opted to shake up their coaching staffs.
First, Calgary fired Geoff Ward, a move that had been speculated for a while so it may not have come as a big surprise. On the other hand, his replacement was a big surprise as Darryl Sutter was brought on as their new bench boss. It’s Sutter’s second stint in Calgary after coaching there from 2002-06. He had last worked in the NHL in 2017 with Los Angeles, so his name wasn’t really on the radar as a potential coaching candidate.
Meanwhile, not even two weeks later, Buffalo shook things up as well, dismissing Ralph Krueger with the team mired in a 12-game losing streak. Assistant coach Don Granato took over on an interim basis for the rest of the season. While that losing streak lasted another six games, the Sabres were much more competitive with Granato running things, with the team hovering close to a .500 points percentage after that streak came to an end.
Peel Out: Following a ‘hot-mic’ incident that had referee Tim Peel caught indicating he had wanted to assess a make-up penalty to Nashville, the league announced that he “no longer will be working NHL games now or in the future”. Peel worked over 1,400 games between the regular season and the playoffs in a career that spanned more than 20 years and was in his final season before retirement. However, this incident meant that his career came to an end a little sooner than he planned.