Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 24, 2019

Check out the latest on the Rangers, Leafs, and Oilers in today’s Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE RANGERS?

ESPN.COM: With the New York Rangers officially eliminated from playoff contention, Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters looked at the club’s potential offseason plans. While they have plenty of salary-cap space to pursue a big-name unrestricted free agent like Columbus’ Artemi Panarin, Kaplan and Peters believe they must be disciplined in their spending. Going the quick-fix route could cause more harm than good. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have over $61.9 million invested in 17 players for 2019-20, with Pavel Buchnevich, Neal Pionk, Brendan Lemieux, and Anthony Deangelo as their notable free agents. All will be affordable re-signings, leaving enough room to pursue a quality player via free agency. However, that player must be a good fit within their rebuilding roster. The last thing they need is an aging star coming there solely for the money and the experience of living in New York.

They’ve been linked to Panarin, Erik Karlsson, Jeff Skinner, and Matt Duchene. It’s believed Panarin could be their primary focus, but he could cost over $10 million annually. While he puts up good numbers, I don’t think he’s got the leadership qualities the rebuilding Rangers need. Karlsson might be a better fit in that regard, but his recent injury history could be cause for concern plus he might not be keen to join a team in transition. 

Can the Toronto Maple Leafs find a way to move Patrick Marleau this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

MARLEAU’S CONTRACT COULD HURT THE LEAFS

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox believes Patrick Marleau’s contract will be a problem for the Maple Leafs this summer. While the 39-year-old winger is beloved by his teammates and his declining play hasn’t hurt the Leafs’ overall performance this season, his $6.25-million salary-cap hit will make it difficult for management to find enough cap room to re-sign younger, better players.

Marleau’s on a “35-plus” contract, meaning he was over 35-year-old when he signed the deal, thus his cap hit still counts against the Leafs cap payroll if he retires or is bought out. He also holds a full no-movement clause. If he’s unwilling to waive it, the Leafs could be forced to move another player to free up cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have over $74.2 million tied up in 17 players. They’ll get $5.3 million in cap relief by placing all-but-retired Nathan Horton on long-term injury reserve, but that will quickly evaporate when Mitch Marner signs his new contract. Even if it’s under $10 million per season (and I doubt it will be), it’ll push the Leafs’ payroll to around $78 million, with RFAs like Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson to be re-signed and UFAs like Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey to re-sign or replace. Assuming the cap reaches the projected $83 million, that won’t leave enough for the Leafs to address those needs.

Someone under contract for next season will be moved. That could mean a good player like Nazem Kadri, or GM Kyle Dubas going back on his word and trading Wiliam Nylander or finding a sucker, er, I mean, a taker for Nikita Zaitsev’s contract.

Some have suggested Marleau might accept a trade back to the San Jose Sharks, who have over $57.5 million committed to 14 players. Assuming they don’t re-sign Erik Karlsson, they’ll have plenty of room to re-sign UFAs like Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, as well as perhaps Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi, plus pay the hefty raises for RFAs Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. Beyond that, they probably won’t have enough room for Marleau even if they wanted to bring him back.  And if they do re-sign Karlsson, they certainly won’t have enough room for Marleau. 

CAN THE OILERS SHED SOME BIG CONTRACTS? 

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell recently examined some ways the Edmonton Oilers could trim their salary-cap fat and put the savings toward adding speed, skill, and goaltending depth. Noting how noxious a buyout of Milan Lucic’s contract would be, he suggests packaging a prospect plus picking up part of Lucic’s salary in exchange for a depth draft pick.

Mitchell suggests buying out the final two years of Andrej Sekera’s contract, saving $3 million in each of the next two seasons. He also advocates trading defenseman Kris Russell ($4 million annually through 2020-21). 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those three, the contracts of Sekera and Russell will be easier to shed than Lucic’s. Even by picking up half of his $6-million annual cap hit, his performance has deteriorated so much that I don’t see any takers for the remaining four years of his deal.

While trading Sekera would be a better option, buying him out makes sense. Trading Russell might require retaining some of his salary, but there could be some interest in him as a third-pairing shot-blocking rearguard. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 24, 2019

Game recaps, Bruins and Jets clinch playoff berths, Bruins re-sign Zdeno Chara, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins clinched a postseason spot by thumping the Florida Panthers 7-3. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had a big day, becoming the 22nd defenseman in NHL history to reach 200 career goals and re-signing a one-year contract extension. The new deal is worth $2 million in base salary plus $1.75 million in performance bonuses. Meanwhile, the Bruins got some bad news earlier in the day when it was revealed Sean Kuraly will be sidelined a month with a fracture in his right hand.

Boston Bruins re-sign captain Zdeno Chara to a one-year extension (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara’s new contract is a reasonable one for both sides. The Bruins keep their captain in the fold for another season to maintain stability and leadership on their blueline. Chara gets a fair deal for a player of his declining (but still effective) skills.

The move also provides the Bruins with salary-cap flexibility. With over $68.6 million invested in 19 players, that should provide sufficient room to re-sign restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen, who are all coming off entry-level contracts. 

The Winnipeg Jets (94 points) secured a playoff berth by blanking the Nashville Predators 5-0. Kyle Connor netted a hat trick while Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 33 shots for the shutout. The Jets also hold a four-point lead over the Predators for the top spot in the Central Division.

Mark Giordano had a goal and two assists to give the Calgary Flames a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Giordano now has points in seven straight games. The Flames (101 points) have a six-point lead over the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division and the overall Western Conference standings.

The Colorado Avalanche (80 points) moved ahead of the Arizona Coyotes into the final Western Conference wild-card berth by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2. Colin Wilson had a goal and an assist for the Avs, while the Blackhawks (74 points) slip six points behind Colorado. The Avs played without winger Mikko Rantanen, who sat out the game with an undisclosed injury and will miss today’s contest against the Hawks.

The Arizona Coyotes (79 points) dropped one point out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference by falling 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils in a shootout. Pavel Zacha tallied the winner for the Devils. The Coyotes are winless in their last four contests.

Josh Bailey scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, as the New York Islanders doubled up the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. The Islanders (93 points) move within one of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division while the Flyers (80 points) are seven points out of a playoff berth in the East.

The Carolina Hurricanes (89 points) remain two ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for the first wild-card spot in the East by defeating the Minnesota Wild 5-1. Teuvo Teravainen had a goal and two assists for the Hurricanes, while the Wild (79 points) slip one behind the Avalanche in the Western Conference wild-card chase. Wild winger Zach Parise missed the game with a lower-body injury.

Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi, and Tomas Tatar each had three-point performances as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Buffalo Sabres 7-4. With the win, the Canadiens (87 points) hold a three-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern wild-card spot. Gallagher tallied his career-high 33rd goal of the season. The Sabres are now officially eliminated from postseason contention.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn each had a goal and an assist as the St. Louis Blues held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. With 88 points, the Blues sit two back of the Predators for second in the Central Division. Lightning center Brayden Point scored his 40th of the season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins (93 points) remain tied with the Islanders for second in the Metro Division after nipping the Dallas Stars 3-2. Jared McCann scored twice for the Penguins, including the game-winner in the third period. The Stars (82 points) sit two points above the Avalanche in the first wild-card spot in the West. Stars center Jason Spezza was a healthy scratch for the second time in a week.

The New York Rangers upset the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on an overtime goal by Ryan Strome. Despite the victory, the Rangers are officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Leafs (94 points) have won just four of their last 10 games.

Anthony Mantha scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Detroit Red Wings surprised the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2, snapping the latter’s four-game winning streak. Vegas sits five points behind the Sharks in the Pacific Division. Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson missed the game with a lower-body injury.

Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 26 saves to pick up his first victory since Dec. 17 by edging the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Brady Tkachuk tallied two goals, including the winner in overtime. The Oilers (74 points) are six points behind the Avalanche for the final Western playoff spot. A lingering back injury prevented Senators forward Zack Smith from playing in this game.

Speaking of the Oilers and Senators, Ken Hitchcock is receptive to the idea of returning behind the Edmonton bench next season. Meanwhile, the Senators confirm their intention to hire a president of hockey operations to provide assistance to general manager Pierre Dorion, who continues to have the full support of team owner Eugene Melnyk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Remains to be seen if the eventual new Oilers general manager wants Hitchcock back. He might prefer bringing in his own bench boss. As for a new hockey ops president for the Senators, that move will take some of the burdens off Dorion, allowing him to focus on rebuilding the roster.

The Los Angeles Kings downed the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 on a shootout goal by Anze Kopitar.

NBC SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been dealing with an upper-body injury that’s been bothering him for a while. His status for today’s game against the Vancouver Canucks remains unclear.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bad enough for the Blue Jackets to be slumping when they’re trying to secure a wild-card spot. Having their starting goalie hampered by an injury makes matters potentially worse. 

DENVER POST: NHL referee and Colorado native Brad Watson has retired after 23 seasons. He worked 214 playoff games and eight Stanley Cup Finals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Watson in his retirement. 

 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2019

Updates on Ilya Kovalchuk and Duncan Keith plus the latest on the Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

KOVALCHUK WANTS TO REMAIN A KING

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Curtis Zupke reports Kings left wing Ilya Kovalchuk feels he didn’t have a chance after Willie Desjardins took over last November as head coach. Kovalchuk began the season on the top line but he’s gradually seen his ice time reduced. He’s fallen down their depth chart and was a healthy scratch in two recent games.

Los Angeles Kings winger Ilya Kovalchuk feels he’s not getting a chance playing for interim coach Willie Desjardins (Photo via NHL Images)

Kovalchuk has two more years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6.25 million. He dismissed the notion that he might prefer a change of scenery, pointing out his family is now established in Los Angeles. He’s determined to see his way through this. 

For his part, Desjardins acknowledged the difficulty Kovalchuk feels. He said he respects the winger and his love for the game, but the club is currently at a point where they need to look at some younger players. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk is also aware that Desjardins is an interim coach. I daresay he’s looking forward to playing under a new bench boss next season. He’s got a full no-movement clause for next season and obviously doesn’t have any intention of waiving it. 

KEITH WANTS TO BE PART OF BLACKHAWKS FUTURE

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun recently reported the midseason upturn in the Chicago Blackhawks fortunes has long-time Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith keen to remain part of the club’s future. It’s expected general manager Stan Bowman will meet in the offseason with Keith and the club’s other “legacy players” to discuss their roles within the club’s plans.

Keith has spent his entire NHL career with the Blackhawks and carries a full no-movement clause in his contract. While he knows the roster has to be better, he also pointed out their improvement since late-January and how they’re still in the playoff chase. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the Blackhawks turned things around in late-January there was growing speculation Keith and Brent Seabrook (another legacy player, along with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Corey Crawford) might be asked to waive their movement clauses. It’s possible Bowman could approach Keith about moving on this summer but the Hawks GM probably intends to use his veterans to complement the younger talent being brought into the lineup. Keith won’t be going anywhere this summer. 

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS

SPORTSNET: Earlier this week, Elliotte Friedman reported there have been no contract extension talks yet between the Vancouver Canucks and goaltender Jacob Markstrom. He has one year remaining with a salary-cap hit of $3.6 million. With Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen earning $4.5 million annually, Friedman wondered how much Markstrom could make. The two sides can’t officially sign a new deal until July 1 but they can talk. 

Friedman also believes the Canucks will be in the market for a young defenseman in his early- to mid-twenties. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay the Canucks and Markstrom will wait until their season is over before opening those contract discussions. As for a possible trade target in that early- to mid-twenties range, would Benning have interest in the Ottawa Senators’ Cody Ceci? He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer who might not fit into that rebuilding club’s plans. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 23, 2019

Game recaps, plus the latest on Braden Holtby, Ryan Kesler, Chris Kreider and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Minnesota Wild regained hold of the final Western Conference wild-card berth by edging the Washington Capitals 2-1. Luke Kunin broke a 1-1 tie with the winning goal in the third period for the Wild (79 points), who hold a one-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes. The Capitals played without defenseman Michal Kempny, who is sidelined indefinitely with a leg injury.

Speaking of the Capitals, goaltender Braden Holtby said he will respectfully decline the invitation to the White House on Monday to celebrate the club’s Stanley Cup championship. “It’s one of those things that we have to think about, but with me, I’ve got to stay true to my values, and I’m going respectfully decline the offer,” Holtby said. Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly have also declined the invitation.

Jakob Silfverberg’s overtime goal gave the Anaheim Ducks a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks (Photo via NHL Images)

Jakob Silfverberg’s overtime goal gave the Anaheim Ducks a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Rickard Rakell scored twice for the Ducks, as he and Silfverberg each collected three points. The Sharks (95 points) sit four behind the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific Division and the overall Western Conference standings. Earlier in the day, Ducks general manager Bob Murray gave updates on forwards Ryan Kesler (hip) and Patrick Eaves (post-viral syndrome), indicating both players could be done for the season. 

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The NHL’s department of player safety suspected Lightning forward Yanni Gourde two games for a hit to the head of Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Turns out Oilers winger Tobias Rieder wasn’t okay with being singled out by team CEO Bob Nicholson for the club’s woes this season, despite Nicholson subsequently saying he and Rieder later laughed it off. “I think it’s kind of disappointing and I’m offended by it,” said Rieder, who added Nicholson spoke with him again and he’s accepted the CEO’s apology. Rieder said he wants to put this behind him and move on. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Rieder will be moving on all right. He’s a restricted free agent but Nicholson said the club won’t re-sign him. Rieder has the support of his teammates, who credit him for his hard work despite his offensive struggles this season. 

NEW YORK POST: Rangers winger Chris Kreider is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. 

STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington has crossed the 28-game threshold, meaning he’ll become a restricted free agent this summer instead of a Group 6 UFA. “Binnington is 25 and in his sixth full season of pro hockey. But since he was under contract during the 2012-13 season, a lockout year in the NHL in which only 48 games were played, the number of games played to determine his free agency status was pro-rated down to 26.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, there’s no risk of Binnington hitting the UFA market if he and the Blues fail to agree to a new contract by July 1. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. While he could sign an offer sheet from a rival club, there’s a low probability of that happening. If he or the Blues file for arbitration he’d be ineligible to receive an offer sheet. 

TSN: Friday was another busy media day for Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. He called out his management for doing “a terrible job” in explaining the club’s rebuild plan to the fans, criticized Ottawa mayor Jim Watson for suggesting Melnyk was difficult to work with after negotiations for a new arena at LeBreton Flats fell through, and trolled the Toronto Maple Leafs rebuild by claiming they forgot about defense.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Senators did a “terrible job” explaining their rebuilding plan, the responsibility lies at the top with Melnyk. He claimed he kept his mouth shut regarding Watson and in the same breath claimed Watson was lucky he did so while saying the mayor’s comments were counterproductive. That’s hardly going to win Melnyk any support among Senators fans or local voters.

Melnyk didn’t call out the Leafs by name but everyone knew who he was referring to with his remarks about a team that’s been patching up its roster “for 53 years.” While he has a point about the Leafs defense, he’s not in the best position to criticize a provincial rival that’s sitting 37 points ahead of his club in the standings. 

What appears to be fake Twitter accounts claiming to be Senators fans supporting Melnyk also popped up on Friday. So yeah, kind of a weird day for the Senators. 

TORONTO SUN: Speaking of the Leafs, head coach Mike Babcock dismissed rumors of a rift between himself and GM Kyle Dubas following Babcock’s recent complaints about the roster depth. “If there was any slap at anyone, it sure wasn’t intended and that’s not what I meant to say.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The club’s recent struggles and the absence of several injured players probably have folks looking too closely at Babcock’s remarks for signs of dissatisfaction with management. 

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Craig Custance with the story of how The Internet Hockey Database aka HockeyDB.com came into being and how it’s become the most reliable source for statistical information among fans and pundits. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I discovered HockeyDB 20 years ago and it remains among my most invaluable research tools. I highly recommend it. 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 22, 2019

Latest on Erik Karlsson, Matthew Tkachuk, and Tobias Rieder in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

COULD THE RANGERS TARGET KARLSSON?

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wondered if the New York Rangers might target San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson via free agency in July. Despite Karlsson’s injuries this season, he’s played well when healthy. He thinks the two-time Norris Trophy winner would love playing in New York. 

Could the New York Rangers pursue Erik Karlsson via free agency this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Friedman is simply speculating here. There’s no indication Karlsson intends to test this summer’s UFA market or that the Rangers will pursue him if he does.

Since he joined the Sharks last September, reports out of San Jose have consistently indicated the Sharks willingness to re-sign Karlsson and his interest in staying there. Nevertheless, re-signing him will be expensive for the Sharks, who have over $57.5 million invested in 14 players with Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi also due to become UFAs while restricted free agent forward Timo Meier is due for a significant raise.

If the Sharks can’t re-sign Karlsson, maybe the Rangers will consider pursuing him. With over $61 million committed to 17 players and all their core players under contract for 2019-20, the Blueshirts can afford to sign Karlsson to a big contract. However, they’re also a rebuilding team. Management will have to sell Karlsson on what they’re doing and how quickly they believe they can become a Cup contender. 

FLAMES’ TKACHUK IN LINE FOR BIG RAISE

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Appearing on Ottawa’s TSN 1200, Darren Dreger speculates Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk could become the Flames’ highest-paid player this summer. He’s a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract but Dreger notes his performance and impact upon a deep Flames roster entitles him to his share of the pie. He points out the rising salary cap since the Flames re-signed Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan means there’s more money in the system and to spend. Dreger suggests Tkachuk’s new salary could be between $8.5-million to $9-million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can already hear some of you saying Tkachuk doesn’t deserve to be paid more than Gaudreau and Monahan. And if the salary cap was the same as it was in 2016-17 when those two signed their current contracts ($73 million), he wouldn’t get more than those two.

But Dreger’s right, the rising cap changes the market value each year. In three short years, Tkachuk has emerged as a top-tier power forward, averaging just over a point-per-game this season. At 21, he’s yet to reach his full potential. And potential is what teams pay for when they sign their young players. Some of you might not agree with it, but that’s the reality. 

OILERS CEO SCAPEGOATS RIEDER

THE SCORE: During a breakfast in Edmonton yesterday for Oilers season-ticket holder, team CEO Bob Nicholson singled out winger Tobias Rieder for the club’s woes this season. He said the team wouldn’t be re-signing Rieder, noting he hasn’t scored this season and missed “so many breakaways”, then said if Rieder had scored 10-12 goals, the Oilers would be in the playoffs. Nicholson later apologized to Rieder, saying his remarks were out of bounds and claiming the two laughed about it.  Rieder’s agent Darren Ferris called Nicholson’s remarks about his client “unacceptable”. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s understandable why the Oilers will part ways with Rieder, who’s due to become a restricted free agent this summer. Perhaps his performance this season spells the end of his NHL career.

Still, he didn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus like that. The Oilers woes run deeper than an underachieving depth forward. Nicholson understands this but if he doesn’t, he has no business being team CEO.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 22, 2019

Game recaps, Timo Meier fined, Jean-Gabriel Pageau suspended and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov had his second consecutive two-goal game leading his club to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. With the loss, the Coyotes slide into a tie with the Colorado Avalanche (78 points) for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Panthers sit seven points out of a playoff berth in the East. 

Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand had three assists in a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils (Photo via NHL Images)

Patrice Bergeron scored twice and Brad Marchand collected three assists as the Boston Bruins downed the New Jersey Devils 5-1. The Bruins (96 points) hold a six-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division. Speaking of Marchand, the well-known trash talker lobbed some good-natured verbal bombs at NBC Sports’ Joe Haggerty before last night’s contest over a recent column in which Haggerty wondered if the Bruins are a better team without defenseman Torey Krug. 

Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman each had three points to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 6-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Lightning forward Yanni Gourde could face a suspension after receiving a match penalty for a hit to the head of Hurricanes center Jordan Staal, who left the game briefly as a result. The Lightning now has a league-leading 58 wins and 120 points, while the Hurricanes (87 points) hold a two-point lead for the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot. 

The Montreal Canadiens (85 points) regained the second Eastern wild-card berth by blanking the New York Islanders 4-0. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price kicked out 28 shots for the shutout while the Isles (91 points) are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division. 

Ivan Barbashev tallied his first career NHL hat trick as the St. Louis Blues clipped the Detroit Red Wings 5-2. Thomas Vanek scored both goals for the Wings. The Blues have points in their last four games and hold third place in the Central Division with 86 points. 

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s shootout goal lifted his club to a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators. The Penguins are now tied with the Islanders (91 points) for second place in the Metro Division. 

Carter Hart made 40 saves to backstop the Philadelphia Flyers to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Sean Couturier had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (80 points), who sit five points out of a playoff spot in the East. The Blackhawks (74 points), meanwhile, remain four points out of a wild-card position in the West. 

The Colorado Avalanche moved into a tie with the Coyotes by beating the Dallas Stars 3-1. Philipp Grubauer turned aside 40 shots while Tyson Barrie collected his 300th career point for the Avs. The Stars (82 points) still hold the first Western wild-card spot. 

Matthew Tkachuk and Garnet Hathaway each had a goal and an assist in the Calgary Flames 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. With 99 points, the Flames hold a five-point lead over the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference standings. Flames forwards Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett both returned to action after being sidelined by injuries. The Senators played without center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who received a one-game suspension for boarding Vancouver Canucks defenseman Ashton Sautner. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets (84 points) fell behind the Canadiens in the Eastern wild-card race by dropping a 4-1 decision to the Edmonton Oilers. Leon Draisaitl collected three assists for the Oilers (73 points), who sit five points out of a Western playoff spot. 

Malcolm Subban made 20 saves for his first career NHL shutout as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the Winnipeg Jets 5-0. William Karlsson and Reilly Smith each scored twice for the Golden Knights (89 points), who sit third in the Pacific Division.

The San Jose Sharks dropped their fourth straight game by falling 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings. With 94 points, the Sharks sit five behind the Flames. Earlier in the day, Sharks forward Timo Meier was fined $2,000.00 for diving by the Department of Player Safety.

OTTAWA SUN: During an appearance yesterday on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said the key for his club is to identify who his club’s true fans are. “For our fans, our real fans, we’re doing the best we can and all you can do is just keep doing what you’ve been doing,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So Melnyk is asking Senators fans to stay away and keep up their #MelnykOut campaign? Because that’s what the real fans are doing. They’re fed up watching promising rosters being torn apart because of the constant parade of their best players out of Ottawa. 

NEW YORK POST: Rangers forward Jesper Fast may have played his final game this season. He’s been nursing a shoulder injury for the past three months. 

SPORTSNET: The Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks will open next season with a game in Prague on Oct. 4. The Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning, meanwhile, will face off in two November contests in Stockholm.