NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 23, 2023
The Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane enjoys another multi-goal game, the Senators trade Nikita Zaitsev to the Blackhawks and the Vegas Golden Knights ship Shea Weber’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes. Get the details on these and other stories in the NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The Chicago Blackhawks overcame a 3-0 deficit to upset the Dallas Stars 4-3, leaving the latter winless (0-3-2) in their last five games. Patrick Kane and Max Domi each had two goals and an assist as the Blackhawks improved to 20-32-5 on the season. Jamie Benn had a goal and an assist for the Stars (30-16-12) as they remain second overall in the Western Conference with 72 points, one back of the Vegas Golden Knights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was Kane’s third multi-goal game in his last four contests. That could alleviate concerns about his nagging hip injury among clubs that might be interested in acquiring him before the March 3 trade deadline.
A third-period goal by Simon Holmstrom lifted the New York Islanders to a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, leaving the latter with three losses on their four-game road trip. Ilya Sorokin made 25 saves to pick up his second-straight 20-win season as the 30-24-7 Isles (67 points) opened a three-point lead over the Florida Panthers for the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth. Nikolaj Ehlers scored for the Jets (35-22-1) as they remain one point behind the Stars in second place in the Central Division with 71 points.
The Calgary Flames scored five unanswered goals to rally back from a 3-1 deficit and defeat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3. Elias Lindholm had a goal and an assist to reach 500 career points as the Flames (27-20-11) moved to within two points of the Minnesota Wild for the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 65 points. Clayton Keller had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes as they dropped to 20-29-9.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES/OTTAWA SUN: The Blackhawks acquired defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, a second-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-rounder in 2026 from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for future considerations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a straightforward salary dump by the Senators, shedding Zaitsev’s $4.5 million annual salary cap hit through 2023-24. They could use that freed-up cap space to upgrade their defense either at the trade deadline or in the offseason.
The Sun’s Bruce Garrioch noted the Senators have been linked to St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko but it doesn’t sound like they’re anywhere close to a deal. They’ve shown some interest in the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba but Garrioch believes they’d likely want to sign the pending UFA to a short-term contract extension. He also noted the Los Angeles Kings could move a defenseman such as Matt Roy or Sean Walker.
As for the rebuilding Blackhawks, they can afford to take on Zaitsev’s cap hit through next season as this move enables them to add to their growing stock of draft picks. They now have seven picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft, including three second-rounders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move is seen as a precursor for a bigger acquisition by the Golden Knights before the trade deadline, lightening their long-term injury reserve which already contains Mark Stone, Robin Lehner and Nolan Patrick. Shedding the all-but-retired Weber’s contract means they have more flexibility to acquire players signed beyond this season.
For a budget team like the Coyotes, acquiring Weber’s contract enables them to reach next season’s salary-cap floor especially if they trade a player such as Jakob Chychrun who is signed beyond 2023-24. On paper, Weber’s AAV is $7.857 million but in actual salary, Cap Friendly indicates he’s being paid $3 million for this season, after which the actual salary drops to $1 million over the next three seasons.
TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin is officially sidelined for the remainder of the regular season and the 2023 playoffs due to a cervical spine injury. He played just four games before suffering the injury in October.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a career-ending injury for Muzzin, who was already on long-term injury reserve before this announcement. The Leafs have used the salary-cap flexibility to add Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen underwent emergency surgery on Wednesday after being cut on his lower right leg by a skate blade during Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word yet as to how long Johansen will be sidelined but there’s speculation it could be a season-ending injury.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Alex Ovechkin has returned to the Capitals after taking time away dealing with the recent death of his father.
NHL.COM: Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin was fined $5,000.00 for cross-checking Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie during Tuesday’s game between the two clubs. Larkin had been assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for his actions.
SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers winger Evander Kane is expected to miss two more games with an upper-body injury.