NHL Rumor Mill – April 19, 2019

Are major moves coming for the Lightning? Should the Oilers pursue Nikolaj Ehlers? Will the Canadiens attempt to sign Matt Duchene this summer? Check out the latest speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

LIGHTNING WON’T REPLACE COACH OR CORE PLAYERS

NHL.COM: Two days after the Tampa Bay Lightning was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets from the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Dan Rosen reports Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois is standing by head coach Jon Cooper and his core players. “I have great faith that eventually we’re going to get the job done and we’re going to bring the Cup back to Tampa with this group of players, with these coaches,” BriseBois said.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois hopes to re-sign Brayden Point to a long-term contract (Photo via NHL Images).

The Lightning GM also said he wasn’t going to overreact simply because his club suffered an inopportune four-game slump following their record-tying 62-win regular season. BriseBois admitted salary-cap constraints will result in some roster changes. Defensemen Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn, and Jan Rutta are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. He also anticipates restricted free agent center Brayden Point will sign a long-term contract with the Lightning. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell believes the Lightning’s limited salary-cap space for next season and the need to re-sign Point this summer and starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy next summer leaves BriseBois facing some tough choices. He notes the no-trade clauses in the contracts of Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde make them difficult to move. Campbell wonders if they’ll have to part with some assets to have a team take aging winger Ryan Callahan’s $5.8-million salary-cap hit off their hands, or if they’ll trade Point’s rights or allow another club to offer sheet the center and take the bounty of draft picks they’ll get as compensation. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Lightning have over $73 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20. Assuming the cap reaches the projected $83 million, they’ll have roughly $10 million to work with. Point is coming off a 92-point campaign and is in line for a big raise. He could, however, follow the lead of teammates like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov and accept less than market value to stay in sunny, tax-free Tampa Bay. Still, his raise could eat up around $7 million of their cap room for next season.

BriseBois indicated his intention to re-sign Point, meaning a player or two under contract for next season must be moved. Callahan has one year remaining on his contract and would be an obvious trade candidate but a significant sweetener must be included in the deal to get a rival club to take on his full cap hit for next season.

Johnson has a full no-trade clause and probably won’t waive it. Gourde’s clause, however, doesn’t kick in until July 1, giving BriseBois the leeway he needs to move him before that date. Having re-signed Gourde last November, however, BriseBois could be reluctant to move him.

I believe J.T. Miller could be shopped this summer. He’s a versatile 26-year-old forward carrying a reasonable $5.25-million cap hit whose modified no-trade clause doesn’t go into effect until July 1. 

RECENT OILERS SPECULATION

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers would be a good fit with the Edmonton Oilers. While they have limited cap space and Ehlers makes $6 million annually for the next six season, he’s the type of young, swift-skating offensive forward they need on their scoring lines.

Matheson points out the Jets face a potential salary-cap crunch this summer with Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Jacob Trouba becoming restricted free agents and Tyler Myers eligible for UFA status. He suggests the Oilers bundle their 2019 first-round pick with struggling winger Jesse Puljujarvi for Ehlers. The Jets traded away their 2019 first-rounder acquiring Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers and Puljujarvi would be reunited with Laine, his former teammate from their World Junior days.  

THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis recently examined which Edmonton Oilers players could be on the move this summer once a new general manager is hired. He expects free agents such as Tobia Rieder, Ty Rattie, Alex Petrovic and Anthony Stolarz won’t be back. Those facing uncertain futures in Edmonton include wingers Jesse Puljujarvi and Alex Chiasson, and defensemen Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell, and Matt Benning.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe the Jets would entertain an offer of the eighth overall pick plus Puljujarvi for the chance to dump Ehlers $6-million cap hit and using the savings to re-sign Laine and Connor. That’s assuming, of course, they’re willing to take the chance on Puljujarvi regaining his scoring touch with Laine and that they want to move Ehlers in the first place.

It’s an interesting suggestion by Matheson, but taking on Ehler’s $6 million pushes the Oilers’ cap hit to over $77 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20.  Assuming an $83 million cap for next season, that leaves less than $6 million to fill out the rest of the roster. They’ll have to shed some other salary to give themselves sufficient wiggle room. 

COULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE DUCHENE THIS SUMMER?

TVA SPORTS: cited NHL insider Elliotte Friedman recently telling Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 he can see the Montreal Canadiens pursuing Columbus Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene in this summer’s UFA market. “I still think Montreal will take a run at him, they were around at the trade deadline, I think they take a look at this in the offseason,” said Friedman. He noted the lack of quality centers available in this summer’s UFA market and Duchene’s value is already quite high. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman has previously indicated in the past that the Canadiens had interest in Duchene prior to his trade to the Blue Jackets before February’s trade deadline. Should the cap reach $83 million next season as projected, they’ll have around $18 million in cap space to take on a significant asset like Duchene. That’s if he’s even available and willing to sign with the Habs.

Duchene is playing well for the Jackets, who are likely to lose left winger Artemi Panarin to free agency on July 1. They gave up a lot (conditional first round picks in the 2019 and 2020 NHL Drafts, right winger Vitaly Abramov and right wing Jonathan Davidsson) to get Duchene. With over $51.4 million invested in 15 players next season, they have plenty of room to re-sign him if he wants to stay.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 19, 2019

Steve Yzerman named Red Wings GM, Blues push Jets to the brink of elimination, Hurricanes even their series with the Capitals, Sharks stave off elimination,  Lady Byng Trophy finalists revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

The Detroit Red Wings will hold a press conference today to formally announce the hiring of Steve Yzerman as their new general manager. Ken Holland will remain as senior vice president. 

The Detroit Red Wings have hired Steve Yzerman as their new general manager (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t say I’m surprised by this announcement. Yzerman stepped down last fall as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning to return home to Detroit. Holland is signed through 2019-20 and gave no indication he was stepping aside but I think it’s clear that was the Wings plan all along.

Yzerman returns to the Wings with a stellar reputation for building the Lightning into one of the NHL’s top teams. He takes over a roster stocked with promising young talent. It’ll be interesting to see what moves he’ll have in store to advance the Wings’ rebuild. 

One thing Yzerman won’t be doing is replacing the head coach as Jeff Blashill was re-signed earlier this month to a new contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if Yzerman was consulted on this before Blashill was signed. 

NHL.COM: A three-goal third-period comeback lifted the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets and a 3-2 lead in their opening-round series.  Brayden Schenn’s game-tying goal was a controversial one for Jets’ fans as it appeared the net was dislodged by Schenn’s teammate Oscar Sundqvist as the puck crossed the goal line. Video review determined Sundqvist was checked into the net by Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and allowed the goal to stand. The Blues can close out the series back in St. Louis for Game 6 on Saturday. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A heartbreaking loss for the Jets after it appeared they were cruising to victory entering the third period. It’s the second time in this series they’ve blown a lead in the third. This one could prove the most costly. 

Petr Mrazek’s 30-save performance carried the Carolina Hurricanes to a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of their opening-round series (Photo via NHL Images)

The Carolina Hurricanes squared their opening-round series with the Washington Capitals at two games apiece with a 2-1 victory in Game 4. Teuvo Teravainen’s tiebreaker later in the second period held up as the winning goal. Petr Mrazek made 30 saves for the Hurricanes. It was a costly defeat for the Capitals as winger T.J. Oshie left the game with an upper-body injury in the third period after being checked from behind by Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foegele received a two-minute boarding minor penalty but it remains to be seen if he’ll face supplemental discipline. Further details on Oshie’s status could be released today but the early word is he could be sidelined for some time. The injury overshadowed what was a solid effort by the Hurricanes in neutralizing the Capitals offense for the second straight game. 

The San Jose Sharks staved off elimination with a 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of their opening-round series. Tomas Hertl scored twice, Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson each had two-point performances, and Martin Jones made 30 saves in a bounce-back performance. The series returns to Las Vegas on Saturday for Game 6 with the Golden Knights holding a 3-2 series lead.

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  That was Jones’ best game of the series. He’ll need two more like that for the Sharks to have a shot at winning this series. Their blueline was also improved as this was the first time since Game 1 that they didn’t give up a goal in the first five minutes. 

 

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, and St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly are this year’s finalists for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the player “voted to best combine sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability.”

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois is standing by head coach Jon Cooper after his club was swept from the opening round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Lightning re-signed Cooper a month ago to a multi-year contract extension. “If I hadn’t re-signed [Cooper] when I did, I’d be looking to re-sign him now,” BriseBois said. “There’s no point looking for the next [Cooper] when I have the original and I like the original and I have faith in the original.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand why some unhappy Lightning followers were calling for Cooper to be replaced but that wasn’t going to happen. They aren’t going to fire a guy they just re-signed, especially after he coached them to a record-tying 62-win season. By the sound of things, BriseBois isn’t about to make any drastic moves regarding his club. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has declined an invitation to join Team Canada at the upcoming IIHF World Championships, opting to use the extra time to rest and heal from a long season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t say I blame Crosby. He’s played a lot of hockey since his last appearance at the Worlds in 2015.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel will suit up for Team USA at the Worlds.  

SEATTLE TIMES: NHL Seattle president and CEO Tod Leiweke admitted costs to renovate KeyArena are expected to top $900 million and will push back the opening date to June 1, 2021. The delay isn’t expected to affect the debut season of Seattle’s NHL expansion team. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Over $900 million for an arena renovation project? Good thing this is privately funded or city taxpayers would have a fit. 

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens re-signed defenseman Christian Folin to a one-year, one-way contract worth $800K. 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 18, 2019

More fallout from the Penguins’ first-round elimination and the latest Nazem Kadri speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

PENGUINS POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES

THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi wonders if Phil Kessel’s played his final game for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He cites multiple sources claiming the Penguins explored trading the right winger last summer, indicating Kessel was “agreeable” to playing for the Arizona Coyotes. He has a good relationship with Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who was an assistant coach with the Penguins during their championships in 2016 and 2017. 

Rossi also cited a Penguins source claiming Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the club’s only untouchables and it’s very unlikely they’ll part ways with winger Jake Guentzel and goaltender Matt Murray. 

Should the Pittsburgh Penguins consider trading Kris Letang this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Joe Starkey believes significant changes could be coming for the Penguins this summer. He believes they must find a way to move plodding defenseman Jack Johnson, who’s got four years remaining on his contract. Starkey also suggests they consider moving veterans like Kessel, defenseman Kris Letang and forward Patric Hornqvist. He points out the Penguins won a Cup without Letang when he was sidelined for the entire 2017 playoffs. 

Jason Mackey considers Kessel, defenseman Olli Maatta, center Matt Cullen, and left wing Garrett Wilson as the most likely to be on the move this summer. Hornqvist, Nick Bjugstad, and Erik Gudbranson fall into the “potentially on the move” category. Letang’s playoff performance raises questions but his injury history makes a trade difficult. He doubts the Penguins can find a taker for Johnson. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Kevin Gorman considers Letang part of the Penguins untouchables with Crosby and Malkin and doesn’t believe the veteran blueliner should be made the scapegoat for the club’s early playoff exit. He suggests Justin Schultz could be a prime trade candidate because he has only a year remaining on his contract, though he acknowledged Maatta, Johnson or Gudbranson could be shopped in a cost-cutting deal.

While Kessel’s production makes him a valuable trade commodity, Gorman also believes his offense helps the Penguins. He doesn’t think Kessel should be dealt just for the sake of doing so. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $79 million invested in 18 players for 2019-20, the Penguins have little choice but to shed salary this summer if they intend on getting younger and faster for next season. If Kessel is willing to accept a trade to the Coyotes, who have depth in promising and affordable young talent, they should seriously consider it. They’ll miss his offense in the short term but it’ll be worth it if he fetches a return that helps the Penguins now and in the future. 

Letang’s injury history, age (31) and his annual average value ($7.25 million through 2021-22) could be a tough sell. Those factors also apply to Hornqvist, who’s carrying a $5.3 million annual cap hit through 2022-23. Johnson carries an affordable cap hit ($3.25 million) but I doubt the Penguins can find any takers for him at this stage in his career.

If it appears Schultz could be too expensive to re-sign, perhaps he’ll be shopped this summer. He has a 10-team no-trade list. Maatta appears a more likely trade candidate as it seems head coach Mike Sullivan lacks confidence in him.

Cullen is 42 and will likely retire. Having acquired Bjugstad in February, I don’t think GM Jim Rutherford intends to move him. Gudbranson’s physical play could ensure he gets another season in Pittsburgh. 

LATEST KADRI SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently reported questions about Nazem Kadri’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs were being asked before his series-long suspension for cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk. With the Leafs facing a salary-cap crunch this summer and with Mitch Marner to receive a significant raise, LeBrun said the possibility of moving Kadri as a cost-cutting measure was a possibility before his recent act of recklessness.

Kadri’s second playoff suspension in as many years could force Leafs management to ask themselves if they can trust having him in the lineup beyond this season. He has three years remaining on his contract with an affordable $4.5-million cap hit and a 10-team no-trade list.

LeBrun believes there would be a market for a two-way center like Kadri with a cap-friendly contract. While his suspension history might scare off some GMs, others could consider the edge he brings to his game to be a valuable component. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: If the Leafs can win their current series with the Bruins without Kadri in the lineup, Matt Larkin suggests they consider trading him this summer for a defenseman. He notes the Leafs still need a “right-shot, two-way, top-four presence”, suggesting they’d have to send salary out to bring in a “Brett Pesce-type” blueliner. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have over $75 million invested in 19 players for 2019-20. Forwards Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson are restricted free agents while defensemen Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey are unrestricted free agents.

Assuming the salary cap reaches $83 million as projected and all-but-retired winger Nathan Horton ($5.3 million) is placed on long-term injury reserve at the start of next season, the Leafs will only have around $13 million to re-sign those forwards and re-sign or replace those blueliners. The cost of re-signing Marner alone could exceed $10 million. 

The Leafs have no choice but to shed salary. Kadri’s latest antics could grease the skids for his departure this summer, especially if the Leafs play well without him. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 18, 2019

Avalanche push Flames to the brink of elimination, Bruins and Stars tie their respective series, Selke Trophy finalists revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche pushed the Calgary Flames to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4 of their opening-round series. Mikko Rantanen scored the tying and winning goals for the Avalanche, who hold a commanding 3-1 series lead. Game 5 goes Friday in Calgary. 

Mikko Rantanen’s two goals lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of their opening-round series (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames took a 2-0 lead into their third but sloppy defensive play killed them. You can’t pin this loss on goaltender Mike Smith, who faced over 50 shots (52) for the second straight game. Smith faced the onslaught well but his teammates let him down.

The Flames leading scorers – Johnny Gaudreau (one point), Sean Monahan (two points) and Matthew Tkachuk (three points) – have been disappointing thus far. If they don’t start finding the back of the net soon, the Flames will be golfing after Friday. 

David Pastrnak scored twice and Brad Marchand had a three-point night as the Boston Bruins held off the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 to square their opening-round series at two games apiece. Auston Matthews scored twice for the Leafs, who made it interesting in the third period with two goals to narrow the score to 5-4 before Joakim Nordstrom’s empty netter in the dying seconds. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy shook up his forward lines a bit in this one, shifting Pastrnak down to the second line for a while with David Krejci and moving Danton Heinen to the top line. The Bruins also put on a master class of how to play smart defensive hockey when an opponent pulls their goalie for an extra attacker late in the game. They didn’t panic by icing the puck or make “Hail Mary” attempts to score an empty netter, but smartly chipped the puck along the boards and into the neutral zone or skated it past center whenever they could and dumped it into the Leafs zone. 

A four-goal first period powered the Dallas Stars to a 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators to tie their series at two games apiece. Stars goalie Ben Bishop kicked out 34 shots, Roope Hintz tallied his first two playoff goals of his career and John Klingberg collected three assists. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a strong bounce-back effort by Bishop, who struggled a bit in Game 3 by giving up a couple of soft goals. He was outstanding in this contest. Credit also the Stars’ offensive pressure as they chased Predators starter Pekka Rinne after he gave up four goals on eight shots.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly, and Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone are the finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which honors the NHL’s top defensive forward. 

 SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t say I disagree with those choices. I’m happy to see Stone finally getting recognition for his two-way play. 

O’Reilly is also among the 31 nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player “who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” Other nominees include Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, Edmonton Oilers winger Leon Draisaitl, Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

SPORTSNET: The Florida Panthers declined captain Aleksander Barkov’s invitation to play for Finland at the upcoming IIHF World Championships citing a need for Barkov to recover from the effects of a long NHL season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Odd to see a team decline a player’s invitation to participate in the Worlds. Barkov played for Finland in previous tournaments. It’s understandable if he needs to recuperate from injuries that he played through this season but usually it’s the player who declines the invite. 

NBC SPORTS: The Washington Capitals will shake up their forward lines for Game 4 of their series tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. “T.J. Oshie moves up to the top line to play with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom while Tom Wilson drops to the second line to play with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana.”

The San Jose Sharks are sticking with struggling starting goalie Martin Jones in Game 5 tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has no confidence in backup Aaron Dell. 

NEW YORK POST: Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello isn’t troubled by the league’s decision that his club will play the remainder of their playoff games at Barclays Center. He dismissed the notion that the change of venue from Nassau Coliseum will adversely affect his club’s performance. The Islanders are awaiting the winner of the Capitals-Hurricanes series. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes forward Brad Richardson is the inaugural winner of the Shane Doan Good Guy Award, voted on and present by the Arizona chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. 

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild hired Chris O’Hearn as their new director of hockey operations. 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 17, 2019

What next for the Penguins and Lightning after getting swept from the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

PENGUINS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters speculate the Pittsburgh Penguins could shop a defenseman or two, suggesting this could be Olli Maatta’s last season in Pittsburgh. They could try to move aging agitator Patric Hornqvist but the 32-year-old has a $5.3-million annual average value through 2022-23 (with a full no-trade clause through 2021). They also suggest the trade rumors that swirled around winger Phil Kessel over the last two years could ramp up again. With the Penguins core aging, they recommend the club restock for the future. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey expects the Penguins could attempt a rebuild on the fly by moving some high-salaried players to free up salary cap space while attempting to get younger. He believes general manager Jim Rutherford will listen to offers for Kessel. It’s conceivable they could move on from Maatta and they’ll have to figure out what to do with Hornqvist. 

Will the Pittsburgh Penguins entertain trade offers for Phil Kessel this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

Mackey reported Kessel expects there will be roster changes this summer but doesn’t know if he’ll be part of them. Rutherford entertained offers for the veteran winger last summer but felt no urgency to move him then. Trading Kessel would be strictly a business move, as he’s beloved by his teammates and Penguins fans. 

THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe also expects Kessel’s name to resurface in the rumor mill. He doesn’t know if the Penguins will trade him but believes he’s the most likely to go if they decide to trade a prominent forward. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel still has an eight-team trade list. He carries an $8 million annual cap hit through 2021-22, although the Toronto Maple Leafs are picking up $1.2 million of it. The 31-year-old’s goal-scoring declined over the second half of the season but he still finished with 82 points and had a good playoff series against the Islanders. If the Penguins shop Kessel this summer there will be a market for his services.

The same can’t be said for Hornqvist. His contract is difficult to move, especially with that full no-trade clause, plus he’s got a concussion history and his production was down this season. Maatta looks like he could use a fresh start somewhere else. He’s only 24 and have good puck-moving abilities and carries a reasonable salary-cap hit of $4.083 million through 2021-22. 

LIGHTNING

THE ATHLETIC: In the wake of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s stunning first-round exit from the 2019 playoffs, Joe Smith expects GM Julien BriseBois will closely examine his club this summer. Smith doesn’t anticipate a major shakeup but believes there will be a change in the blueline with Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn, and Anton Stralman due to become unrestricted free agents. 

Winger Ryan Callahan has a year remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $5.8 million, making him a trade or buyout candidate. He expects restricted free agent Brayden Point will be re-signed to a big raise and rules out moving Tyler Johnson by pointing to his full no-trade clause. Still, they could look at moving a forward to bring in a younger one. 

ESPN.COM:  Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters don’t see BriseBois making any panic moves this summer. They point out core players such as Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn are all under 30 and signed through 2022, with Point soon to join them. They also expect there will be changes coming to the Lightning defense corps. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t expect the Bolts to trade away one of their core players. Head coach Jon Cooper recently signed a contract extension. He won’t be going anywhere but will be under pressure to address his club’s opening-round collapse and his apparent inability to counter the Blue Jackets aggressive forechecking.

The Lightning has over $73 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20. Point will command a big raise that could reach $7 million per season, though the Bolts have had success in convincing their core players to accept less than market value to stay in Tampa Bay. Even if they can convince him to accept, say, $5 million per season, they still won’t have sufficient cap room to suitably fill those blueline spots if Girardi, Coburn, and Stralman depart via free agency.

Moving Callahan via trade or buyout will free up some cap space. They could try to trade Yanni Gourde before his new contract (with a no-trade clause) kicks in on July 1. Having signed Gourde to that deal last November, however, they obviously want him to be part of their long-term future. They’ll be hard-pressed to sufficiently replace those departing blueliners, forcing them to find younger, cheaper options within their system, via trade or free agency. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 17, 2019

Lightning and Penguins swept from the opening round, Jets tied their series with the Blues, and Golden Knights take 3-1 series lead over the Sharks. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets won their first playoff series in franchise history by sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 7-3 victory in Game 4 of their opening-round series. The Lightning became the first team in league history to win the Presidents’ Trophy and get swept from the first round of the playoffs. Jackets rookie Alexandre Texier scored twice, Pierre-Luc Dubois had a goal and two assists, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves. 

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky backstopped his club to a four-game opening-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets dominated the Lightning at both ends of the rink in this series. They got clutch goaltending from Bobrovsky, played a solid overall defensive game while their forecheck forced the Bolts defenders into costly turnovers. The Lightning were also their own worst enemies, struggling to deal with adversity for the first time this season. Changes could be coming for the Bolts this summer. I’ll have more on that later today in the Rumors section.

Robin Lehner kicked out 32 shots and Jordan Eberle scored in his fourth straight playoff game as the New York Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 to sweep the latter from the opening round in four games. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Lehner’s goaltending and the Isles stifling defensive play frustrated the Penguins time and again. When the Pens would score a goal, the Isles would quickly counter and regain the momentum. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was held to just one point in this series. Like the Lightning, the Penguins could be facing some offseason changes. Check ’em out later today in the Rumors section. 

The Vegas Golden Knights took a commanding 3-1 lead in their series with the San Jose Sharks by blanking the latter 5-0 in Game 4. Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a 28-save shutout while Max Pacioretty scored twice and set up two others. The series returns to San Jose for Game 5 on Thursday. Sharks winger Evander Kane received a game misconduct after cross-checking Golden Knights center Paul Stastny and sucker-punching Colin Miller in the face. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaky goaltending, a porous defense and a growing lack of composure have caused the Sharks to unravel following their convincing 5-2 victory in Game 1. Left unaddressed, they’ll be hitting the golf course after Game 5.

Kyle Connor’s overtime goal gave the Winnipeg Jets a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues, tying their opening-round series at two games apiece. Connor also assisted Mark Scheifele’s game-tying goal after St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko opened the scoring early in the third period. The series returns to Winnipeg for Game 5 on Thursday. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have been the better team in this series since Game 2. Goalie Connor Hellebucyk looks like he’s returned to form in the last two games while their defensive play has also improved over that time. 

TSN: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov has been placed in concussion protocol after being knocked out in a fight with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin in Game 3 of their opening-round series on Monday. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Svechnikov was evaluated at a hospital and looks normal and feels great, but the club won’t be rushing him back into the lineup. Svechnikov isn’t expected to play in Game 4 on Thursday.  

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings yesterday announced the hiring of Todd McLellan as their new head coach. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise there as the Kings had courted McLellan for some time. He guided the Edmonton Oilers to their first playoff appearance in 11 years in 2017. He also coached the San Jose Sharks to two Western Conference finals and three Pacific Division titles. McLellan is expected to help this rebuilding team improve an offense that was 30th overall this season while also improving their defensive game. 

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild reached a 10-year extension agreement with the city of St. Paul to continue playing at the Xcel Energy Center through 2035. That will include upgrades to the arena and parking areas.