NHL News: Gabe Vilardi, Ilya Samsonov, and 2026 Winter Olympics

Today’s NHL news follows up on the latest regarding Gabe Vilardi’s recent signing, Ilya Samsonov’s arbitration filing, and the possibility of the NHL returning to the Winter Olympics in 2026.

Whether you are into the latest trade buzz, signing news, and more, stick with The Daily Goal Horn.

Winnipeg Jets avoid arbitration with Gabe Vilardi, sign forward to a two-year contract

After a three-year stint with the Winnipeg Jets, the team traded Pierre-Luc Dubois on June 27, 2023. Besides gaining a second-round pick in 2024, the Jets acquired Alex Iaffallo, Rasmus Kupari, and Gabriel Vilardi. Interestingly, Iaffallo was the only player under contract, with Kupari and Vilardi coming to town as restricted free agents. 

As one of the key players in the deal, Vilardi scored 23 goals last year to set a new career-high with 41 points. Ultimately, coming to Winnipeg provides him an excellent opportunity to see his role expand and a chance to take his game to the next level. However, many wondered why the Jets had yet to sign him to a new deal, opting for arbitration instead. 

Then, a week before his hearing, the Jets announced that Vilardi agreed to a two-year contract valued at $6.785 million. Financially, this is a significant pay increase for the forward, who is coming off a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings for just $825,000. 

Toronto Maple Leafs can’t escape financial turmoil after the Ilya Samsonov arbitration filing

NHL rumors
Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If anyone asked Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans if the sky is falling, the diehards might say no, this is just business, and it will work itself out. Meanwhile, others may think the team’s demise is on the horizon. Besides the soap opera that has turned into the Auston Matthews and William Nylander contract saga, there’s a new problem in town with an even more unpredicted outcome.

On Wednesday, news broke that the Maple Leafs offered Ilya Samsonov a salary of $2.4 million, while the netminder countered with a request of $4.9 million. Despite being $2.5 million apart in negotiations, there’s no simple solution to this problem. Considering the team is currently $8.8 million over the NHL salary cap, no figure, in this case, would help get the team back into financial compliance. 

Of course, there are a lot of questions regarding the health of some players like Matt Murray and Jake Muzzin, who could end up on LTIR and free up cap space. However, the distance between the club and their potential number-one netminder is concerning, despite what the media says. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the two sides meet in the middle or if these figures are just negotiation tactics; they have drastically different opinions of the same situation. 

Realistically, it won’t matter how this case plays out since two other players (Matthews and Nylander) are now stealing the spotlight. But, coming to terms with Samsonov will have a ripple effect throughout the budget and impact the team’s ability to keep the core together. 

NHL Player’s Association executive director Marty Walsh is working on players attending the 2026 Winter Olympics

The first Winter Olympics Games occurred in 1924 (Chamonix, France), with Canada skating away with the gold medal. Then, for the next seven decades, amateurs continued to chase history and give fans special moments like the “Miracle on Ice.” However, in 1998, the NHL entered the games and gave fans the first glimpse into what a best-on-best tournament would look like. 

During their brief foray into the Olympics in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014, the NHL pulled out of the games after 2014, and superstar players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Matthew Tkachuk have yet to have the honor to represent their home countries. Since the games occur in the middle of the NHL season, the league has opted not to shut down their business to let the players go across the globe to risk injury while chasing an Olympic Medal. 

Ultimately, this is a sore subject amongst fans, players, and owners, who all bring a unique perspective to the conversation. But now, the new NHL Player’s Association executive director Marty Walsh is ready to initiate the problematic discussions to get the players back to the Olympic Games as early as 2026. Despite the scheduling logistics, there will be concerns about player safety and insurance, major talking points in why the NHL skipped the previous two competitions

Of course, fans want to see the best play each other, and the players want to represent their home countries. However, as employees of a business that doesn’t want to shut down operations for three weeks, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Realistically, the news that Walsh is initiating the conversation is a step in the right direction since he wants to grow the game and give his players the best opportunities. But these discussions are never easy, and there are many moving parts to make these dreams become reality. Although this news is hopeful, no one should get excited and remember this is only the beginning.