NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 15, 2022
Milestone nights for the Leafs Mitch Marner, the Wild’s Matt Boldy and the Oilers’ Stuart Skinner, Jack Eichel to make his Golden Knights’ debut on Wednesday, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner reached 400 career points with a goal and two assists in his club’s 6-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken. He joins the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid as the second player from the 2015 NHL Draft to achieve that milestone. With 65 points, the Leafs are three points behind the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division.
Minnesota Wild rookie winger Matt Boldy tallied his first career NHL hat trick in a 7-4 romp over the Detroit Red Wings. Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov scored twice and collected an assist as his club opened a three-point lead over the Nashville Predators (60 points) for second place in the Central Division. The Wings (50 points) remain seven points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba missed this game and could be sidelined for several weeks with a lower-body injury.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner kicked out 20 shots for his first career NHL shutout to blank the San Jose Sharks 3-0. Oilers forward Evander Kane was held scoreless in his first game against his former club since the recent termination of his contract. The Oilers (53 points) moved within two points of the Anaheim Ducks for the final Western Conference while the Sharks (48 points) remain seven points back.
Marc-Andre Fleury turned in a 31-save performance to backstop his Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Alex DeBrincat snapped a 1-1 tie in the third and Brandon Hagel got the insurance marker. The loss leaves the Jets (48 points) seven points away from a Western wild-card berth. Jets defenseman Neal Pionk missed this game due to border restrictions as he’s ineligible for one more day to cross the border despite emerging from COVID protocol last Thursday.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Jack Eichel will make his long-awaited debut with the Golden Knights when the club faces the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. The Golden Knights also placed winger Mark Stone (lower-back injury) on long-term injury reserve, clearing sufficient cap space for Eichel to return to action. Acquired from the Buffalo Sabres last November, the 25-year-old center had been recovering from neck surgery.
The Golden Knights also announced defenseman Alec Martinez remains sidelined by a facial injury that’s taken longer than expected to recover from. He’s been out since Nov.11 after suffering a facial laceration during a game against the Minnesota Wild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With defenseman Jake Bischoff (716K) already on LTIR for the season, the addition of Stone’s $9.5 million cap hit ensures sufficient cap room for the Golden Knights to activate Eichel ($10 million AAV). It’s uncertain how long Stone will remain sidelined but it will stoke complaints from some fans and pundits if he’s out for the regular season but returns for the playoffs when the salary cap doesn’t count.
Yes, it’s a legalized form of salary-cap circumvention which we saw in 2015 with the Chicago Blackhawks (Patrick Kane) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (Nikita Kucherov) in 2021. Once again, it’s worth remembering that the league closely monitors players on LTIR with uncertain recovery timelines to ensure a fully healthy player isn’t being held out of the lineup solely for cap purposes.
The NHL had an opportunity to address that loophole during the 2020 extension to the collective bargaining agreement. The issue either didn’t come up during negotiations with the NHL Players Association or else sufficient numbers of team owners had no problem with it. Just remember, folks, it could one day benefit your team.
NHL.COM: Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine, and New Jersey Devils captain Nico Hischier are the league’s three starts for the week ending Feb. 13.
SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators could return to full capacity in their respective arenas on March 1 as the province of Ontario eases restrictions on large indoor gatherings provided public health and health system indicators continue to improve.