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The Vegas Golden Knights fired head coach Gerard Gallant, replacing him with former San Jose Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer. Assistant coach Mike Kelly was also relieved of his duties.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move comes as a big surprise. Gallant becomes the seventh head coach to lose his job this season. That includes DeBoer, who was fired a month ago by the Sharks. Considering the Golden Knights already had Gallant’s replacement already lined up, management obviously had this move planned for a while.
The official statement from the Golden Knights claims this decision was necessary for the club to achieve its full potential. They’ve have struggled of late, mired in a four-game losing streak and slumping just outside the last wild-card berth in the Western Conference. Nevertheless, they’re only three points behind the Arizona Coyotes (57 points) for first place in the tight Pacific standings.
Gallant was selected to coach the Pacific Division at the upcoming 2020 NHL All-Star Game. He won the Jack Adams Award guiding then-expansion Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, and a third-place finish in the Pacific Division last season. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports the Golden Knights and Gallant were talking contract extension earlier in the season.
Recent reaction on social media suggests this move was made as a shot across the bow at the Golden Knights players. Given how much they’ve invested in the roster, ownership and the front office expect this team to be a Cup contender. Perhaps Gallant lost the room, or maybe he’s paying the price for some recent shaky goaltending and a defense lacking a true blueline stud.
Given Gallant’s solid coaching credentials, he shouldn’t remain unemployed for long. Detroit and Montreal are already being mentioned as possible destinations by some on the Twittersphere, though his inability to speak French could make the latter an unlikely destination as a head coach.
DeBoer guided the Sharks to the 2016 Cup Final and the New Jersey Devils to the 2012 Final. He guided the Sharks to two seven-game series victories over the Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche before falling to the St. Louis Blues in last spring’s playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get his new club back among the Cup contenders.
Sidney Crosby picks up four points in his return to action, Connor Hellebuyck sets a Jets record, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Sidney Crosby scored and set up three others to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Minnesota Wild 7-3. It was Crosby’s first game since undergoing core muscle surgery two months ago. Evgeni Malkin tallied twice for the Penguins. Wild winger Zach Parise potted two goals as his club dropped its fourth straight game.
After being blown out 8-4 in their previous game, the Toronto Maple Leafs thumped the New Jersey Devils 7-4. Austin Matthews tallied a hat trick, John Tavares had three points, and call-up defenseman Rasmus Sandin had two assists. Blake Coleman netted a hat trick for the Devils.
Connor Hellebuyck set a franchise record for shutouts as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0. Hellebuyck made 41 saves for his 18th career shutout, setting the club record. Kyle Connor scored twice and picked up an assist.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made 34 saves for his second straight shutout in a 3-0 blanking of the Boston Bruins. The Jackets are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers (47 points) but the latter holds the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with a game in hand. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask left the game in the first period with a concussion after getting elbowed in the head by Columbus forward Emil Bemstrom. There was no penalty on the play.
The Dallas Stars overcame a 2-0 deficit to nip the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on an overtime goal by Esa Lindell. Nathan MacKinnon had two assists for the Avalanche, who’ve dropped nine of their last 12 contests.
A lacrosse-style goal by Filip Forsberg couldn’t prevent his Nashville Predators from dropping a 4-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisailt each had three points for the Oilers, as the duo remain atop the NHL scoring race.
Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall each scored twice to lead the Arizona Coyotes over the San Jose Sharks 6-3. Derek Stepan and Conor Garland each collected three points for the Coyotes.
The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to edge the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 on a shootout goal by Steven Stamkos. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 38 saves to pick up his ninth consecutive victory. Jeff Carter had two points for the Kings.
A four-goal first period carried the New York Islanders to an 8-2 drubbing of the Detroit Red Wings. Brock Nelson scored twice and Jordan Eberle netted his 500th career NHL point. The Isles snapped a three-game losing skid.
Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel scored the game-winner as his club doubled up the Vegas Golden Kights 4-2. Sabres winger Sam Reinhart also scored and picked up two assists. Vegas winger Jonathan Marchessault returned to action following a four-game absence with a lower-body injury. The Golden Knights have dropped four in a row.
Jonathan Toews’ overtime goal gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 win over the slumping Ottawa Senators. Dominik Kubalik tallied twice for the Blackhawks, who rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force the extra frame. The Senators are winless in their last eight games (0-4-4).
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Devils center Nico Hischier will replace sidelined teammate Kyle Palmieri in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis on Jan. 25.
THE ATHLETIC: A lower-body injury will prevent Arizona Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper from participating in the upcoming All-Star Game.
SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers winger Zack Kassian vows to repay Matthew Tkachuk in kind after taking what he considered to be two blindside hits from the Calgary Flames winger in a recent game. Kassian is serving a two-game suspension from the league following an altercation with Tkachuk after the second hit. The league determined Tkachuk’s hit didn’t break the rules. Kassian’s first game following his suspension will be against the Flames on Jan. 29.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I have a feeling league officials will let both players know they’ll be closely watched in their upcoming games against each other.
CBS SPORTS: Buffalo Sabres forward Tage Thompson will be sidelined five-to-six months following shoulder surgery yesterday.
KSDK.COM: The St. Louis Blues placed defenseman Colton Parayko (upper-body) on injured reserve and activated blueliner Carl Gunnarsson.
The Washington Capitals re-signed Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year, $46-million contract extension. The 32-year-old center was slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The annual average value is $9.2 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone’s surprised the Capitals decided to keep Backstrom in the fold. Like Alex Ovechkin, he’s a key part of their roster core and leadership group. He’s also the second longest-serving active member of their roster next to Ovechkin. He’s their all-time assist leader (668) and a model of consistency, reaching or exceeding 65 points in 10 of the last 12 seasons. With 35 points in 39 games, he could do it again this season.
According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the contract breakdown is as follows: “$6 million signing bonus and $6 million salary in 2020-21, $5 million signing bonus and $5 million salary in 2021-22, $3 million signing bonus and $3 million salary in 2022-23, $5 million signing bonus and $5 million salary in 2023-24 and $6 million signing bonus and a $2 million salary in 2024-25. In total, he will be paid $25 million in signing bonuses.”
Backstrom’s getting a nice pay raise over his current $6.7 million annual average value. Some will argue the Capitals are spending too much for too long on an aging asset. There is some risk involved, but with the Capitals still considered a Stanley Cup contender, it’s one management felt willing to take. If he can maintain a reasonably productive pace through most of that period, it could prove worthwhile.
This signing raises questions over how much it’ll cost the Capitals to keep Ovechkin, whose current deal expires at the end of 2020-21. He’s averaged over $9.5 million annually and remains among the league’s elite scorers. If he remains a Richard Trophy contender, It could cost over $10 million annually to keep Ovie in Washington.
With over $71 million invested in 16 players following Backstrom’s signing, the Capitals won’t have much salary-cap room to re-sign long-time starting goaltender Braden Holtby. Assuming the cap rises to $84 million, they’ll have around $13 million left with Holtby and Radko Gudas as their remaining UFAs. Unless Holtby’s willing to accept a hometown discount, this is probably his final season with the Capitals.
Milestone nights for Alex Ovechkin, Zdeno Chara and Carey Price, Artemi Panarin has a five-point performance, Leafs’ Morgan Rielly sidelined, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice to surpass Teemu Selanne for 11th place (686 goals) on the all-time NHL goal list in a 2-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Ilya Samsonov made 23 saves for the shutout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin needs just five goals to surpass Mario Lemieux and move into the top-10. With nine more goals, he’ll pass Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier to move into eighth place.
The Philadelphia Flyers rallied from a 5-2 deficit to upset the Boston Bruins 6-5 on Travis Konecny’s shootout goal. The game ended when Bruins winger Brad Marchand grazed the puck at center ice as he overskated it, resulting in a failed shootout attempt and sealing the Flyers’ victory. Travis Sanheim scored twice for the Flyers and Sean Couturier had a three-point game. David Krejci scored twice for the Bruins. Zdeno Chara became just the sixth player to play 1,000 games with the Bruins.
New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin matched his career-high of five points in a single game to lead his club over the New York Islanders 6-2. Panarin scored twice and set up three others while teammate Jesper Fast had a three-point game.
Carey Price picked up his 46th career shutout as the Montreal Canadiens blanked the Calgary Flames 2-0. Jordan Weal and Ryan Poehling were the goal scorers. Price tied Ken Dryden for the third-most shutouts in franchise history.
The St. Louis Blues picked up their fourth straight win and their ninth consecutive home victory by downing the Anaheim Ducks 4-1. Brayden Schenn collected two assists. The Blues hold a nine-point lead over the Dallas Stars for first place in the Western Conference.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo, and Calgary Flames goaltender Cam Talbot are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Jan. 12.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Speaking of Vasilevskiy, he will replace Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. Rask has opted to skip the All-Star Game to spend time with his family and rest up for the second half of the season. He’ll serve a one-game suspension following the All-Star break.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was named captain of the Metropolitan Division in the upcoming All-Star Game.
USA TODAY: This year’s All-Star Game will also feature a three-on-three game between Canadian and American members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rielly is the Leafs best defenseman. This is a big loss to their blueline corps.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers winger Zack Kassian received a two-game suspension for his altercation on Saturday with the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier will be sidelined at least five games with an undisclosed injury.
WGR 550: Buffalo will continue hosting the NHL Draft Combine through 2022.