NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2021

by | Sep 6, 2021 | News, NHL | 13 comments

The fallout from the Carolina Hurricanes signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens, an update on Jake Gardiner, player milestones to watch this season and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell spoke to the media yesterday about his club successfully signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell (NHL Images).

Waddell said the Hurricanes weren’t surprised that the Canadiens opted not to match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet. He denied revenge for the Habs’ unsuccessful attempt to sign Sebastian Aho in 2019 was the motivation behind the Kotkaniemi offer. Waddell also dismissed the club’s PR staff trolling the Canadiens over the signing as merely a marketing ploy to keep their fans engaged.

The Hurricanes GM said he initially attempted to acquire Kotkaniemi via trade and decided several days later to tender an offer sheet. Waddell indicated he hasn’t had contract extension discussions with the 21-year-old forward and his agent. The earliest they can re-sign him is in January.

Asked where Kotkaniemi would play this season, Waddell indicated the 21-year-old will probably start at left wing. Although the Hurricanes now sit above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $1.5 million, they intend to place defenseman Jake Gardiner ($4.05 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve. Waddell indicated Gardiner will undergo hip and back surgery and won’t be ready for the start of the season.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Kotkaniemi also talked about his new contract with the Hurricanes. He considers it a great opportunity and felt confident his new club has trust in him. He noted the presence of fellow Finns Aho and Teuvo Teravainen and considers it an honor to play for a potential Stanley Cup contender.

Asked about his time with the Canadiens, Kotkaniemi acknowledged there were “ups and downs” but overall felt he had a good run in Montreal. However, he did say he thought his development with the Habs could’ve gone better.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The revenge angle keeps getting played up in the media but I think that’s just a small factor here. The Hurricanes were seeking a young forward who could play center or wing. They had an interest in Kotkaniemi, tried to trade for him and when that didn’t work not only went the offer-sheet route but gave the Habs a heads-up as to their intentions.

PuckPedia speculates the Hurricanes could maximize their long-term injury reserve space to the full $4.05 million of Gardiner’s cap hit by demoting two players to put them just under the cap ceiling before the start of the season. They’ll then put Gardiner on LTIR. No word yet on how long he’ll be sidelined but the 31-year-old blueliner could be sidelined for the season.

A contract extension for Kotkaniemi will be decided by his performance this season. It would cost them $6.1 million to qualify his rights but the two sides could agree to a long-term deal for a lower annual average value.

Kotkaniemi’s comments about his development in Montreal and his willingness to accept the Hurricanes offer had some observers suggesting the Canadiens must ensure that issue doesn’t recur with their other younger players. Whether the current management shares that view remains to be seen.

SI.COM: Jason Chen looks at several player milestones to watch in 2021-22. Joe Thornton has an opportunity to move into third place overall for games played, Ryan Getzlaf, Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Spezza could reach 1,000 points while Alex Ovechkin is 36 goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr for third place (766) on the all-time goal-scoring list.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Former Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski sold his Muirfield, Ohio home for $3.75 million.


  1. KK gets a fresh start. The Montreal Canadians get a fresh start, putting behind another draft miscue. KK is a nice clean kid, the sort of player that the Canadians tend to like. But selecting KK before Matthew Thatchuk (4), Quinn Hughes (7) or Joel Farabee (14) was a grave error. I’ve watched most of the CH games over the past few years. KK too often looked like a deer hopping elegantly across the field. When he tried to be physical, he looked out of place like he would challenge someone to a pillow fight. It’s hard to predict the development of an 18 year old. KK vs Thatchuk? Bambi vs Terminator. The CH pressed « delete » and start over. I take Dvorak over KK anytime. The future could prove me wrong with this one. It’s ok, I’m focused on the present.

    • If you are looking for physical, Dvo isn’t your guy. He’s good and he won’t take crap from you but he is a quite, solid guy on and off ice. He would rather let others chirp while he quietly goes about his business. That said you will love to watch him play. No mistakes, solid both ways, coach’s dream.

      • Thank you, AZHockeyNut for the insight. I have not seen Dvorak play and have to rely on the Intel provided by you and others. Dvorak seems to fill the gap left by Danault’s departure, with an offensive upside. Danault is an awesome shutdown center. Playing for a few years as center on the Canadians’ top line, he demonstrated that he was not an offensive threat.

    • I believe that Dvorak, hopefully lining up beside Gallagher, will prove to be as good or better than Danault, at $1m. per year less than what Danault would have cost.

      It would seem that Kotkaniemi will be lining up at LW for the foreseeable future. As I’ve said, Bergevin’s mistake with KK was not in what has transpired the past week. Rather, it was possibly taking him #3 overall in the first place and certainly the way they handled his development. Marc Antoine Godin, a Montreal writer, tweeted out that while KK May certainly be moved back to center somewhere down the road, the fact that he’ll be on the wing now shows what a mistake it is to reach for a player to fill a positional need so high in the draft.

      Lyle didn’t mention it, but KK said he’d put his $20 signing bonus toward a gift for his mother. With the contract he just got, I hope he spends a lot more than that. As Lyle says, his extension depends on his game. If he doesn’t pick it up he won’t get a big money long term deal.

      I have read elsewhere that Gardiner is likely out for the year. If so, he’s probably done. Will spend the rest of his contract on LTIR and then retire. Good thing the Habs missed out on him.

      • It goes without saying that Habs management must do a better job of guiding young players. Though it didn’t help Kotkaniemi much, I think they’ve somewhat improved on it lately. For example, bringing in Joël Bouchard and Luke Richardson to replace Sylvain Lefebvre and JJ Daigneault a few years ago was long overdue. Bouchard is gone now, but thankfully they hired someone with head coaching experience to replace him.

        Suzuki is obviously the top center now and Dvorak #2. Evans is well suited to the 4th line. The Habs coaching staff must do with Poehling what they didn’t with KK. Put him in at #3 Center and give him a proper chance to succeed. With the depth at wing, he’d be playing with good line mates. He needs a proper chance to see if he’s up to it.

        And a Happy New Year to all my Jewish brethren.

      • Howard, late last night Habfan30 detailed the percentages of players making the NHL by round, as a rebuttal to the narrative that the Habs have both drafted and developed their picks poorly.

        I agree with him that this is a myth that has gained traction, particularly with the “stellar” analysis of writers like Stu Cowan.

        Here are three players from the 2018 entry level draft taken in the top 10, the same draft KK was taken in:

        Barrett Hayton: 34 NHL games, 3 goals, 4 assists.
        Filip Zadina, 86 games, 15 goals, 22 assists.
        Adam Boqvist, 76 games, 6 goals, 23 assists.

        KK: 171 games, 22 goals, 40 points.

        I have not included the consensus, can’t miss # 1 pick Dahlin as he is a defenceman, but how has he done?

        Virtually everyone projected Svechnikov and Tkachuk as better goal scorers but the Habs drafted for position, center.

        So KK has at acquitted himself very well against his peers in the 2018 draft (and has been to date the best center); and he been inconsistent.

        Is his inconsistency the Habs fault? Are other NHL teams equally poor at player development? Or could it be that even most first round draft picks take time to round into stars, if they become stars at all? Have a look at the rest of the 2018 draft picks and their progress as you contemplate this.

    • Perfectly said

      • LJ,
        I haven’t yet seen HabFans posting. I’ll go back and take a look at it.
        Obviously, draft picks can take a while to develop. It’s just expected that top 3 picks will be able to play almost immediately.
        As far as the Habs success at drafting or lack thereof, sometimes a theme takes off, true or not, and everyone runs with it as if it’s gospel truth. The problem is, Bergevin has had to #3 picks. Picks that high should get a team top line players. Yet, neither has panned out. It’s obviously too soon to see how recent draft picks, Poehling, Caufield, Guhle and Mailloux, will turn out. But look at the 3 picks between Galchenyuk and Sergachev. McCarron, Scherbak and Juulsen. All were taken in the mid 20s. All were busts. I agree that you can’t expect every player drafted at that point to be regulars. But 0 for 3?

        Zadina was the guy I would have picked. And he’s been disappointing. As to Boqvist, remember, he’s a D-man. 29 points in 76 games over 2 years by the age of 21 is quite good actually.

      • Well, we could go back and forth all day on this until we fainted, Howard. But I looked at just one team, Carolina, and their draft picks since 2015.

        Only Aho and Svetchnikov remain with the Canes. Hanifin is with the Flames. Bean is with Columbus. The rest are either not playing in the NHL or if they are they have such low impact I, at least, don’t recognize any of them.

        Whether that makes my point or not, I raise the flag on this issue. Thanks for engaging.

      • I agree… This “Habs draft poorly” has become an easy, lazy media narrative. As has the “Habs are bad at development”. At some point, the player himself has to take some responsibility. Could KK be responsible for his own inconsistency? Wow… what a thought…

        KK sits some games in the finals or gets played on the wing and its all “Habs don’t know what they are doing.” Canes announce they just paid 6.1 for a C they will play at 2nd or 3rd line wing and nobody is saying squat about how terrible they are at developing their young players.

  2. The “revenge factor” isn’t being played up by the media, it’s being driven by Carolina.

    Carolina has 3 centres whom KK is unable to replace so they will be playing him on the wing, just like another young centre, Necas.

    If they needed a forward, a left winger, there were established UFAs they could have signed, for less money, like Tatar.

    You’d think they would have spent the money to re-sign their 25 y/o goalie Nedeljkovic.

    Carolina continues to spin trying to justify an ego driven emotional decision that may or may not work out.

  3. By denying that revenge motivated him, Waddell may be trying to appear blameless for being a party to forever nullifying what has been a tacit agreement among GMs to not offer-sheet one another’s players. Nevertheless, there had to be an eye-for-an-eye element involved in the KK signing. Why else would the one-year, $6,100,015 KK contract include an extra $20 signing bonus that is undoubtedly a nod to Aho’s sweater number, along with an extra $15 on the end of the base of the deal, representing Kotkaniemi’s number in Montreal?

  4. Now that this has all washed out it appears that this was all a publicity stunt to pump up the Carolina fan base. Fair enough , as a Canadian we are always pleased to see our game promoted and loved.
    MB has created a silk purse.
    Could someone now please find a princess to kiss Drouin.