NHL Rumor Mill – March 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 31, 2020

A look at several veterans who could face retirement in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Steven Ellis lists Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu among six pending unrestricted free agents that may have played their final NHL games if the league cancels the remainder of this season and the playoffs. Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis, Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patrick Marleau, and Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams round out his list.

Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry is among several veterans who may have played their final NHL games if the season doesn’t resume (Photo via NHL Images).

Perry’s low production (21 points) makes it hard to imagine another team signing him after this season. Injuries have hampered Koivu, who’s slipped down the Wild’s depth chart. He’s also shown no interest in playing elsewhere. Injuries have also taken a toll on Hamhuis’ play.

Howard’s struggles in recent years leads Ellis to suggest a club would be desperate to take a chance on the veteran netminder. Marleau didn’t manage much offense with the Penguins after being traded to Pittsburgh last month. Williams put up decent numbers following his return from a half-season hiatus, but his two-way play was rusty and his ice time reduced from last season.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently looked at which NHL players may have played their final games if the league doesn’t return to action this season.

He also notes Koivu’s Wild-or-nothing position could make things tricky for the veteran center. He also believes the Stars’ one-year gamble on Perry hasn’t worked out. However, Williams could still be an affordable option if he decides to return next season. For teams with flexibility, a player like Marleau, Toronto’s Jason Spezza or Washington’s Ilya Kovalchuk might be worthwhile signings.

Turning to defensemen, O’Brien suggests injuries could force the end of the careers of Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, Dallas’ Roman Polak, Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley. He also hopes St. Louis Blues rearguard Jay Bouwmeester hangs up his skates following his health scare last month. He feels Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is a “play as long as you want” option, while Hamhuis and Ottawa’s Ron Hainsey could remain good veteran options.

Among the goaltenders, Anaheim’s Ryan Miller could get nudged out the door. O’Brien wondered if Henrik Lundqvist would accept a backup role if the New York Rangers buy him out. He speculates Howard might accept less money and a reduced role to remain in the NHL. Ottawa’s Craig Anderson and Edmonton’s Mike Smith are aging and struggled in recent seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the NHL cancels this season, it will rob those on Ellis’ and O’Brien’s lists the opportunity for a last hurrah.

I think Perry, Koivu, Howard, Hamhuis, Miller, Anderson, Polak, Ericsson, and Daley have probably played their final NHL games. Bouwmeester’s cardiac incident last month will probably bring his playing days to an end.

Lundqvist’s situation will be interesting if he and the Rangers part company. He could move on to a mentor role with another club or call it a career. At this point, it could go either way.

Chara will return with the Bruins next season on another one-year, bonus-laden deal. I can see Marleau doing the same with the Sharks, though that’ll depend upon their cap space. Williams could return with the Hurricanes, but they’ll probably want a full-season commitment this time around.

Seabrook could be placed on long-term injury reserve for next season if he needs more time to recover from his surgeries. Smith’s had his inconsistencies, but he’s played well enough to remain in Edmonton in a backup role for another season.

Spezza could stick with the Leafs for another season on a cheap one-year deal. Speculation out of Montreal claims Kovalchuk is all-but-certain to return to the Canadiens on a bonus-filled one-year deal.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 31, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 31, 2020

The latest on Zdeno Chara, Brady Tkachuk, Kaapo Kakko, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: During a conference call with NHL reporters on Monday, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara claimed goaltender Tuukka Rask’s smelly farts make him the teammate he’d least like to be quarantined with. “The way he farts? The smell is awful,” said Chara. “He likes his chicken wings. And after the chicken wings, I’ve had to sit behind him on the bus. I’ve got to tell you. I’ve got to control myself sometimes.”

Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given how depressing most of the NHL news has been of late because of COVID-19, I thought Chara’s remarks about Rask brought a welcome bit of levity yesterday.

OTTAWA SUN: During the same conference call, Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk said his two teammates who tested positive for COVID-19 are doing well. “We’re a tight group so we’re always in contact with one another but I think all of us are just concerned about them and everybody impacted by it.”

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes Kaapo Kakko’s stubbornness is blocking his potential greatness. The rookie Ranger’s insistence on holding the puck isn’t working as well in the NHL as it did when he dominated in Finland. He’s also struggled with the defensive of his game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks feels Kakko has the tools to become a dominant NHL player. The youngster isn’t the first promising player who’s ever struggled to adjust to the NHL in his rookie season. With maturity and a willingness to learn, he should become the elite winger he was projected to become.

THE SCORE: St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong believes his club is in a good spot to defend their Stanley Cup title if the season is resumed. “With the knowledge of what we did last year, and that we have a mature team, we’re not worried about whether they’re preparing or what they’re doing off the ice, eating correctly and doing whatever workouts they need to be doing; I know they are because they’ve shown that year in and year out,” Armstrong told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said no Capitals players have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the club is preparing for all scenarios, including returning to action at some point in the summer if the league resumes action by then.

TSN: The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers yesterday announced temporary staff layoffs during the COVID-19 period. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes re-signed forward Michael Chaput to a one-year, two-way contract.

SPORTSNET: Goaltender Eddie Lack yesterday announced his retirement because of hip injuries. He spent five seasons in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, Calgary Flames, and New Jersey Devils. He compiled a “56-55-18 record, 2.62 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and nine shutouts.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lack in his future endeavours.










Grading the NHL Trade Deadline – Pacific Division Buyers

Grading the NHL Trade Deadline – Pacific Division Buyers

 










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Carolina Hurricanes

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Carolina Hurricanes

 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 30, 2020

The latest speculation on James Neal and Kyle Clifford in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD NEAL BECOME A BUYOUT CANDIDATE?

THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell suggested James Neal as the obvious contract buyout candidate for the Edmonton Oilers, either via a normal buyout or if the NHL and NHLPA agree to compliance buyouts if the salary cap is lower than projected. His age (32), production (19 goals, 31 points in 55 games), and contract length ($5.75 million annually through 2022-23) make him a no-brainer as a compliance buyout candidate.

Could the Edmonton Oilers buy out James Neal in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Mitchell also argued Neal would be worthwhile buying out under normal circumstances. It would cost just over $1.9 million annually against the Oilers’ cap over the next six seasons. Mitchell feels Neal’s contributions can be replaced for that price. The move would also give the Oilers some additional flexibility when other clubs face cap challenges and free agents find few options on the open market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mitchell makes a compelling case for buying out Neal. Whether Oilers general manager Ken Holland shares that view remains to be seen.

LEAFS, CLIFFORD HAVE MUTUAL INTEREST IN NEW CONTRACT

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston recently reported Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan indicated the club has a mutual interest with Kyle Clifford in working out a new contract for the 29-year-old winger. Clifford was acquired last month from the Los Angeles Kings. He’s proven to be a good fit for his new club. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Shanahan praised Clifford’s grit, toughness, and leadership.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With an annual average value of $1.6 million on his current contract, Clifford shouldn’t be an expensive signing for the Leafs. Finding sufficient salary-cap space, however, will be an issue.

The Leafs have nearly $77 million committed to 16 players for next season and will have to replace defensemen Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci when they depart via free agency later this year. If the cap remains at $81.5 million, the Leafs could be forced to make a cost-cutting trade or two to find sufficient room for Clifford and replacements for Barrie and Ceci.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 30, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 30, 2020

Taylor Hall and the Coyotes talking contract, the trade deadline may have been for naught, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: cites a report in The Athletic indicating Arizona Coyotes management have had preliminary discussions with the agent for Taylor Hall regarding a new contract. The 28-year-old winger is eligible for unrestricted free agent status following this season.

The Arizona Coyotes are talking contract with Taylor Hall’s agent (Photo via NHL Images).

“All I would say right now is that both sides are gathering information and having some discussions,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka. “Where that goes I’m not entirely sure today. As we talk, we’ll see where things go.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The biggest sticking point for the Coyotes is salary-cap space. With nearly $80 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, they must shed some salary to re-sign Hall. They are allowed to spend over the cap by 10 percent during the off-season but must be cap compliant by the start of next season.

They’ll get $5.275 million in cap relief with permanently sidelined Marian Hossa on long-term injury reserve, but they’ll still need more to re-sign Hall and fill out the rest of the roster. That could mean attempting to move a veteran like Derek Stepan, Nikas Hjalmarsson or Alex Goligoski.

THE SCORE: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry and his wife Julie set up $2,500.00 tabs at two Montreal restaurants to provide free meals for hospital workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

BOSTON HERALD: If the NHL cancels this season, some teams will have given up assets for nothing at this year’s trade deadline. The Tampa Bay Lightning, for example, sent a first-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for winger Barclay Goodrow. They also shipped another first-round pick and prospect Nolan Foote to the New Jersey Devils for forward Blake Coleman.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks shipped a second-round pick in 2020, a fourth-rounder in 2022, good prospect Tyler Madden from Northeastern and grinder Tim Schaller for Tyler Toffoli, who’s due for UFA status at season’s end.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those teams made moves to bolster their rosters for the playoffs. There’s no word from the NHL if those deals would be overturned if the season and playoffs are canceled, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that issue gets raised at league headquarters.

THE ATHLETIC: Speaking of the Canucks, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and J.T. Miller were among the players receiving high grades for their performances this season.

THE SCORE: While almost all hockey leagues have canceled their seasons, the Belarussian Extraliga is still proceeding. Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s president, recently took part in a hockey game on Saturday despite 94 confirmed cased of COVID-19 in his country. “There are no viruses here,” Lukashenko said, “You haven’t noticed them flying around, have you? This is a fridge. Sports, particularly on the ice, this fridge here. That’s the best actual anti-virus remedy.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I have a feeling he’ll be singing a different tune in the near future.