Seattle Kraken, Fleury and Beniers, Leafs Auston Matthews

Simmer’s Sunday 9: Kraken Wedding Bells, Big $$, Trivia

More and more hockey media types are coming back on line as the Kraken and the rest of the NHL get closer to the start of training camp. We’re less than three weeks away from the rookies taking the ice for their look-see and less than a month away to the Kraken’s first preseason split squad games on September 25th.

Great time to take a twirl.

Start With Kraken

1) With just 12 games played for the Kraken last season, 24-year-old, right-shot D-man Cale Fleury hasn’t garnered a “Seattle Kraken Roll Call” review in these pages just yet, but he did pop up in a big way on social media this past week.

He got hitched, and posted a handful of pic’s on instagram. Congratulations and all the best.

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2) I guess I shouldn’t have since he won a Stanley Cup as the back-up goalie to Jonathan Quick with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 — he was the Martin Jones in LA before Martin Jones — but I always felt bad for Jonathan Bernier once he finally had the opportunity to take over a number-one job.

He was much better than his numbers indicated behind a increasingly miserable Toronto Maple Leafs team as it entered the abyss during the middle of the last decade. The season that went from head coach Randy Carlyle to Pete Horachek, 2014-’15, was particularly painful to watch. I know it well because that happened to be my home press box and rink at the time. It wasn’t pretty and Bernier was hung out to dry.

The only person in a worse situation was Horachek. Mike Babcock signed his whopper deal and took over the next season which was followed by the Leafs picking Auston Matthews 1st-overall in the NHL Draft in the summer of 2016.

Anyway, Bernier retired this week from the NHL at the age of 35 after 10 full seasons and parts of a few more. The Laval, Quebec native finished his regular season career 165-163-and-40. It couldn’t have been much better, but sometimes goalies are simply thrown into tough spots.

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3) Speaking of Matthews and the “Blue and White”: ching ching!!

The 2017 Calder Trophy winner as rookie-of-the-year, two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s leading goal scorer, and soon-to-be 26-year-old center signed a four-year contract extension on Wednesday for an average salary cap hit of $13.25-million. He and agent Judd Moldaver got it done with new Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving a full season before his current contract expires.

Matthews also won league MVP honors in 2022 and is already just one regular season goal away from 300 for his career. The California native grew up in Arizona.

The Kraken visit Matthews and the Maple Leafs on November 30th while Toronto comes to Seattle on January 21st.

@MapleLeafs account on Friday.

4) While Matthews was the 1st-overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft, that honor went to Alexis Lafreniere of the New York Rangers in 2020. It’s taken the Quebec native a little longer to find the magic touch but he’s getting there gradually. Lafreniere is coming off his highest point total in three seasons, 39. He had 16 goals, three less than the season before.

Keep in mind, comparing Matthews to Lafreniere isn’t fair for a lot of reasons. The previous was considered a generational talent, not quite to Connor McDavid’s level from the 2015 Draft, but pretty close and definitely higher ranked than the latter. Plus, Matthews is a center who walked into a situation with a floundering team dying for help up the middle. Lafreniere stepped on to a Rangers roster that was loaded in the top-6 with well established chemistry.

More often than not, results stem from the level of opportunity.

All that said, the left winger for the Broadway Blueshirts, who turns 22 in late-October, signed a two-year contract extension worth an average of $2.25-million per year on Wednesday.

The Kraken welcome the Rangers on October 21st for Seattle’s 3rd home game of the regular season. The Kraken play at Madison Square Garden on January 16th.

5) While Matthews signed a full 11 months prior to his current deal expiring, it definitely does not appear to be the case for the Canucks best player just up the road in Vancouver. Fans and media for the Kraken’s closest division rival will have it on their minds all season long, the fact that 1st-line center Elias Pettersson decided he wants to wait and see before agreeing to a new contract.

In interviews this week, both “Petey” and his agent Pat Brisson of C.A.A. stated that they want to see how the season plays out and they definitely want the Canucks to get off to a hot start. Pettersson, the 2019 Calder Trophy winner, is coming off a scintillating season in which he tallied 102 points. The problem: he’s only been to the playoffs once in five seasons in Vancouver and the Canucks have only been to the postseason twice in the last ten years.

The Kraken will have a say in those results relatively early in the schedule. The two teams play one another six days apart in mid-November, first at Rogers Arena on the 18th and then at Climate Pledge Arena on the 24th.

It took the Kraken a season-and-a-half to finally beat the Canucks, which they did on January 25th last season. Seattle has won the last two meetings.

6) Always love to throw a bit of trivia in here around this spot … I’ve already mentioned two Calder Trophy winners and we know Kraken center Matty Beniers won the award in 2023. Who won it in 2022?

How’s that short to mid-range memory working? Answer down below. Hint: he’s a large European.

7) Non hockey item. Bob Barker died at age 99. An American game show icon. For the ancient folks out there: I can still hum the open to “Truth or Consequences”

8) If you pop on to any NHL salary cap related website and check out the available unrestricted free agents (UFA’s), you’ll see former Kraken forward Joonas Donskoi on the list as the 7th most expensive option. That’s based on previous salaries. Although it’s not official, Donskoi’s career is likely over due to multiple concussions, the last one suffered in the 2022-’23 preseason as a member of the Kraken,

Former Blackhawks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the latter finished last season with the New York Rangers, lead the way with previous annual salaries of $10.5-million.

9) All the Original Six franchises had famous number-9’s and more often than not, that player was the best one on the team. It became a bit of a tradition. We’ve of course talked about the author’s hero “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe with the Red Wings, Bobby Hull with the Blackhawks, Maurice “Rocket” Richard with the Habs, and maybe even Johnny Bucyk of the Bruins.

We haven’t talked about the New York Rangers. When I think of number-9 in New York I think of Andy Bathgate.

Who’s that, you say? Well, the Rangers didn’t win a Stanley Cup between 1940 and 1994 and to be quite honest they were essentially the Original 6’s doormat team along with the Blackhawks more often than not. Despite being in the “Big Apple”, in those days the Rangers’ efforts didn’t really translate to fame and fortune in the hockey world. Detroit, Montreal and Toronto dominated for decades.

Plenty of other Rangers wore the number-9 after Bathgate did, including Adam Graves, who donned it with distinction while helping to win the Stanley Cup in 1994. In fact, the number is retired for both gentlemen, once the Rangers got around to doing it in 2009.

Bathgate wore number-14 the season before he switched to 9, his fourth year of twelve in New York. He tried his darndest, he led the team in scoring for eight consecutive seasons ending in 1963, but the Blueshirts never got over the hump against the powerhouses. He did win a Stanley Cup, but that came in 1964 after he was traded to the Maple Leafs late that season.

Bathgate was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978. He passed away in 2016, seven years after his and Graves’s names went to the rafters at MSG.

— Trivia Answer: German defenseman Moritz Seider of the Detroit Red Wings won the 2022 Calder Trophy after playing in all 82 games that season and putting up 50 points. The righty is 6-foot-4, 200-pounds, and growing.

Check out his ‘doo in this early Red Wings pic’.

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Recent Simmer Volleys and A Fun, Informative Kraken Video From Last Week:

— Kraken Saturday: Camp Nears, McCann’s Lively Skate

— Seattle Kraken Roll Call: Adam Larsson

— Seattle Kraken Roll Call: Vince Dunn

Prospect expert Sam Cosentino talking Kraken’s Shane Wright and Eduard Sale with Simmer.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.