NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2023

by | Aug 14, 2023 | News, NHL | 15 comments

Johnny Gaudreau expresses optimism over the Blue Jackets’ upcoming season, the latest on the Rangers, and the NHL Network’s top 50 prospects in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Johnny Gaudreau feels a lot more comfortable entering his second season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He now knows the team and the city better, saying it’s starting to feel more like home.

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

Gaudreau joined the Blue Jackets last summer as a free agent but he and the club went through a difficult season, in part due to injuries to key players like Zach Werenski. His production dropped from a career-best 115 points in 2021-22 with the Calgary Flames to 74 points in 80 games.

Nevertheless, Gaudreau is optimistic about the club’s chances this season. “The amount of skill we have on our team with some of the young guys, it’s pretty fun to watch every day in practice and in games,” he said, adding that he hopes teams continue to underestimate the Jackets.

Gaudreau also believes the club’s hiring of Mike Babcock as head coach will improve their performance. “We need that hard-nosed coach that’s going to push us in practices and in games,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A return to form by Gaudreau will be crucial to the Blue Jackets’ hope for improvement this season. How well they adjust to Babcock’s coaching and the overall health of the roster will also be important.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers are hoping that veteran additions Blake Wheeler and Jonathan Quick will have a positive effect on the roster this season.

Both players signed bargain contracts with the Rangers. Wheeler inked a one-year, $1.1 million deal after being bought out by the Winnipeg Jets. Quick accepted a one-year, $925K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both players are past their prime but their experience and leadership could be helpful to the Rangers in their quest to win the Stanley Cup this season. Wheeler still has effective playmaking skills and might benefit from skating as a right wing on the Blueshirts’ top-two forward lines.

Quick could be useful in a backup role to spell off starter Igor Shesterkin. If he sees around 25-30 games of action it would ensure Shesterkin isn’t overworked before the playoffs begin.

LA PRESSE: Speaking of the Rangers, Alexis Lafreniere shed some light on his contract negotiations. The 21-year-old left winger is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights.

Lafreniere said talks are ongoing between his agent and Rangers management. He’s hopeful that an agreement will be reached within the next several weeks. “You have to be patient, sometimes it takes longer,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lafreniere has been occasionally mentioned in the rumor mill as a potential offer sheet candidate. Based on his comments, however, that appears to be a remote possibility. He’s likely to be signed before training camp opens in late September.

Lafreniere’s lack of arbitration rights gives him little leverage with the Rangers. The threat of an offer sheet would be his most effective weapon. Given the high number of teams with less than $5 million in cap space for the coming season, it’s unlikely he’s going to get one, assuming he’s willing to entertain that option.

NHL NETWORK: Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard sits atop the NHL Network’s recent ranking of the league’s top 50 prospects.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli, Anaheim Ducks forward Leo Carlsson, Philadelphia Flyers winger Matvei Michkov and New Jersey Devils defenseman Luke Hughes round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As expected, this generated plenty of responses from hockey fans. Check out the full list and feel free to respond in the comments below.


  1. The Rangers don’t need Wheeler taking up space in their top 6. Put him on their third line. They need to give Lafreniere and Kakko more ice time and the chance to shine.

    • Disagree there Howard, the rangers pick up a solid nhl player at a cap hit of 800g. Wheeler 16g 55pts in 72gp; 2g 4a and 5pts in 4 playoff games.

      Wheeler brings Hussle and hard play on every shift, this type of energy could potentially rub off on the young players.

      The Rangers would love nothing more then to see Lafreniere and Kakko take the next step and Wheeler just might help them get there.

      • Caper, I agree that Wheeler has always been a solid player. But he’s near the end of his career. Kakko and Laffy are players the Rangers will need to lead their offense for years to come. They need to be given the minutes and opportunity to blossom into stars. Right now.

    • Moonlighting as an RDS writer, Howard?

      This from Lanfrenier in an article posted yesterday:

      “Right off the bat, Laviolette made it clear that he wanted to give Lafrenière more minutes so he and the other talented youngsters could reach the next level in their development.”

      • My French would have to be much better than it is.

  2. While I am cautiously hopeful, I must disagree with Gaudreau. There are just too many questions on the Jackets’ roster. Just one example: The Jackets have exactly one true center with 2 years of NHL experience, Sean Kuraly, their 4th line center.

    • I’m hopeful myself and will go out on a limb and agree with Gaudreau. I would not expect him to say differently. He is on the team he sees them so his words are more meaningful than yours. Are they a playoff team probably not but they will be 20 points better and one hell of a lot more exciting.

      • Really? Okay, name your starting centers for opening night.

      • Isn’t Jenner a C? I thought so, and if he is, I will take an uniformed stab at it.

        1C – Jenner
        2C – Fantilli (yes they start him at 2C after a great camp, and see how flippin’ good he is) They will put up with his learning curve.
        3C – Sillinger
        4C – Kuraly – If Sillinger struggles again, maybe he moves up)

        Is that the top 3 C’s to be a playoff team, not IMO. But could be in a year or 2. I would also give Johnson a shot if someone get’s hurt. But they need to spread some offense around, so likely on the wing.

      • I echo Ray’s comments with regards to the Jackets. They’re gonna be real good in a little while.
        It’ll be exciting watching them grow.
        I like what they’re building, and I think they’ll be playing meaningful games late in the season.

      • Ray
        Jenner is a winger who also plays center. The last couple years, he’s been forced to play as the #1C, when not injured, due to a lack of centers. He’s actually better suited to the #3LW position.
        Fantilli as #2C? Maybe, though the speculation I’ve seen says that the Jackets would prefer to start him on the wing, possibly 3rd line. We’ll see.
        Sillinger as #3C. Well, after the horrendous season he just had, that may be wishful thinking.
        More questions for the Jackets:
        Will Johnson and Marchenko have sophomore slumps? Can Laine have an injury free season? What will Texier’s return mean for Robinson and Danforth? The Jackets have 8 defensemen who would have to clear waivers to go to Cleveland, does Jarmo risk it or will he trade a couple? What does the overload of defensemen mean for Blankenburg and #2 prospect David Jiricek? Is there any hope that Elvis Merzlikins even comes close to how he played three years ago, or are the Jackets stuck was a $5MM/year stone around their neck? Has being forced to play games, last year, been good, or a disaster for Danill Tarasov, projected to be a Vezina level goalie?

        Now, don’t get me wrong. I hope that things go well for the Jackets and they finish 5th or 6th in the Metro. But 55 years of hockey fandom (More than 20 years than Gaudreau’s been alive, Fred) has taught me that a team with so many questions is going to have to have absolutely everything go right to have any hope of getting that much better over one summer. And a lot is going to depend on how everyone responds to Babcock and his bullying. (Not that I expect him to last past Xmas.)

  3. Kind of surprised Looch came back to the Bruins probably knowing PB and DK weren’t coming back while hearing rumors PB played a part in getting Looch to come back, he really has no ties to any other Bruins players except BM …

    • He s a mercenaries like all those players working for close to the veteran minimum!

  4. Well, considering only parts of the list of top prospects showed, hard to make a comment other than I was disappointed not to see all of the names.

  5. There’s 50 listed, Rock. San Jose has Smith at 10 and Eklund at 24.