NHL Rumor Mill – April 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 1, 2020

No April Fool’s here. Check out the latest on Braden Holtby and Tuukka Rask, plus an update on the Buffalo Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE SHARKS PURSUE HOLTBY VIA FREE AGENCY?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks observed this year might not be an opportune time for Braden Holtby to become an unrestricted free agent. The Washington Capitals goaltender has a save percentage of .897 this season.

Would Braden Holtby be a good fit with the San Jose Sharks? (Photo via NHL Images)

Nevertheless, Brooks wondered if the San Jose Sharks might feel differently. He pointed out they’ve been undone by dreadful goaltending over the last two seasons, ranking next-to-last in overall save percentage and last in five-on-five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that the decline in Holtby’s stats will hurt his efforts to land a lucrative long-term contract as a UFA this year. I disagree, however, with the premise that Sharks might feel differently.

Not that they don’t need an upgrade between the pipes. That’s obvious to everyone.

Martin Jones‘ performance has declined over the last two years. However, he’s also signed through 2023-24 with an annual average value of $5.75 million and a three-team trade list. Unless Jones’ salary is shed via a compliance buyout (assuming the league goes that route following this season) or the normal buyout route, the Sharks can’t afford Holtby.

UPDATE ON RASK

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Tuukka Rask sought to clarify his recent comment suggesting he might retire when his contract expires at the end of next season. He claimed he hasn’t made any decisions regarding his future. Given the current situation, it’s not on his mind right now.

“I’m sure we’re going to have good conversations with (Don Sweeney) after this season and go from there,” said Rask during an interview with WEEI’s Greg Hill. “But I’m only 34, so it’s not too old, might play another year or two and go from there. I don’t want to promise anything either way because you never know what’s going to happen.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Rask decides to play beyond next season, he’ll likely be looking at a short-term extension with the Bruins or a short contract with another club. With no immediate replacement for Rask in the pipeline, they could ink him to a two-year deal to buy time to groom his successor or shop for one via trade or free agency..

LATEST SABRES SPECULATION

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski believes Sabres general manager Jason Botterill needs to make a significant trade to add a second-line center or top-six winger. He doesn’t feel the solution can be found via free agency, noting the Sabres’ haven’t had much luck in that department.

The Sabres aren’t in a position where they can trade away draft picks or prospects. Lysowski suggested peddling a defenseman like Rasmus Ristolainen or Brandon Montour for a talent forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Easier said than done. Ristolainen was a fixture in the rumor mill since last summer, but criticism of his play hurt his trade value. Montour could be a better trade option, but there’s no certainty he’ll fetch a scoring forward.

Nevertheless, with over $47 million invested in 10 players, Botterill is well-positioned to target cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary, or those in need of blueline help. Perhaps he’ll have better luck addressing his needs in the off-season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 1, 2020

The NHL extends its self-isolation period, results of the NHLPA poll revealed and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: The NHL extended its self-isolation period for players and staff to April 15 because of the rapidly changing COVID-19 situations.

Darren Dreger believes the league won’t be to return to NHL facilities until local authorities in each market lift the ban on social gatherings. Meanwhile, Pierre LeBrun reports playing a 16-team playoff in four centralized, less-affected locations without fans is among the options under consideration by the league.

SPORTSNET: The city of Toronto yesterday announced a ban on city-led events until June 30. However, it subsequently stated that didn’t prohibit sporting events at private facilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That provides a glimmer of hope for those hoping the NHL returns to action sometime in June. However, that’s going to depend on how long this pandemic lasts. If there’s been little or no change, don’t expect a resumption of pro sports in June.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports over $450 million in signing bonus money was to be paid out to players on July 1, which is the traditional start of a new season. That date could be changed to September 1, deferring the bonus money payout. The Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Dallas Stars lead the league in signing bonuses.

Pierre LeBrun suggests the current adversity facing the NHL and NHLPA could have a silver lining if it brings about an improvement in talks toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

LeBrun went into greater detail in his column in The Athletic, pointing out business will suffer for a few years following this pandemic. He believes the league and the PA cannot afford a CBA work stoppage in 2022. He feels the eventual discussions between the two sides over how to transition through the coronavirus pause could lead to long-term CBA stability.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun thinks the two sides will have “transition rules” negotiations on everything from the salary cap to escrow to critical dates like the start of free agency. Out of those could come the framework for working out a new CBA before its expiration in September 2022. As he points out, the league needs stability coming out of this pandemic. Another labor war between the two sides could set the league back for years.

CBA negotiations were already showing progress and a lack of rancor, with the two sides’ mutual agreement not to re-open the CBA last fall as a prime example. If the league and the PA can successfully transition out of this current situation, they should be able to avoid another labor dispute.

LeBrun also reported Seattle is interested in hosting the 2021 NHL Draft in conjunction with the expansion draft.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid was voted the NHL’s best forward in the NHLPA’s player poll (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think that’s a great idea. Montreal was supposed to host this year’s draft, but they stage the 2022 draft.

NHLPA: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid was voted the best forward in the NHLPA Player Poll, with Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman the best defenseman and Montreal’s Carey Price the best goaltender. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was voted the most complete player and the player they’d want on their team in a must-win game. Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand was named the best and worst trash talker.

THE SCORE: St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said teammate Jay Bouwmeester is feeling better and remains in St. Louis during the league’s hiatus. Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac episode during a Feb. 11 game against the Anaheim Ducks.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers star Leon Draisaitl said his family in Germany is doing well during this pandemic. His home country is the fifth hardest-hit, with 64,000 cases and 560 deaths. “It’s obviously concerning,” said Draisaitl. “My family is doing what they’re supposed to, they’re staying in. So far everyone is healthy. I hope that it stays that way back home. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said he hasn’t started contract talks yet with his free agents. The notables include Brian Elliott, Justin Braun, Derek Grant, Oskar Lindblom, and Nolan Patrick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers have over $69 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. Fletcher could be waiting to find out what next season’s cap numbers will be before opening contract discussions.

SPORTSNET: Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen and GM John Chayka are donating 20 percent of their salaries to COVID-19 relief efforts.

NJ.COM: Devils owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer made a six-figure coronavirus donation to RWJBarnabas Health’s Emergency Response Fund to aid the health care company’s response to COVID-19. The Devils also donated “7,000 pairs of gloves, 10,000 hand sanitizer units and an assortment of sanitizing wipes and sprays, to RJWBarnabas.” The team also announced it would extend its support of part-time employees to May 15.

ESPN.COM: San Jose Sharks president Jonathan Becher defended the club’s decision to play three home games in early March following a recommendation by Santa Clara county against large gatherings. He claimed the club made Tthe best decision we could with the information we had at the time.”










NHL Up & Down The Boards – Oilers, Lightning Among Favorites on Early Playoff Series Prices

NHL Up & Down The Boards – Oilers, Lightning Among Favorites on Early Playoff Series Prices

 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 31, 2020

A look at several veterans who could face retirement in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Steven Ellis lists Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu among six pending unrestricted free agents that may have played their final NHL games if the league cancels the remainder of this season and the playoffs. Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis, Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patrick Marleau, and Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams round out his list.

Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry is among several veterans who may have played their final NHL games if the season doesn’t resume (Photo via NHL Images).

Perry’s low production (21 points) makes it hard to imagine another team signing him after this season. Injuries have hampered Koivu, who’s slipped down the Wild’s depth chart. He’s also shown no interest in playing elsewhere. Injuries have also taken a toll on Hamhuis’ play.

Howard’s struggles in recent years leads Ellis to suggest a club would be desperate to take a chance on the veteran netminder. Marleau didn’t manage much offense with the Penguins after being traded to Pittsburgh last month. Williams put up decent numbers following his return from a half-season hiatus, but his two-way play was rusty and his ice time reduced from last season.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently looked at which NHL players may have played their final games if the league doesn’t return to action this season.

He also notes Koivu’s Wild-or-nothing position could make things tricky for the veteran center. He also believes the Stars’ one-year gamble on Perry hasn’t worked out. However, Williams could still be an affordable option if he decides to return next season. For teams with flexibility, a player like Marleau, Toronto’s Jason Spezza or Washington’s Ilya Kovalchuk might be worthwhile signings.

Turning to defensemen, O’Brien suggests injuries could force the end of the careers of Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, Dallas’ Roman Polak, Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley. He also hopes St. Louis Blues rearguard Jay Bouwmeester hangs up his skates following his health scare last month. He feels Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is a “play as long as you want” option, while Hamhuis and Ottawa’s Ron Hainsey could remain good veteran options.

Among the goaltenders, Anaheim’s Ryan Miller could get nudged out the door. O’Brien wondered if Henrik Lundqvist would accept a backup role if the New York Rangers buy him out. He speculates Howard might accept less money and a reduced role to remain in the NHL. Ottawa’s Craig Anderson and Edmonton’s Mike Smith are aging and struggled in recent seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the NHL cancels this season, it will rob those on Ellis’ and O’Brien’s lists the opportunity for a last hurrah.

I think Perry, Koivu, Howard, Hamhuis, Miller, Anderson, Polak, Ericsson, and Daley have probably played their final NHL games. Bouwmeester’s cardiac incident last month will probably bring his playing days to an end.

Lundqvist’s situation will be interesting if he and the Rangers part company. He could move on to a mentor role with another club or call it a career. At this point, it could go either way.

Chara will return with the Bruins next season on another one-year, bonus-laden deal. I can see Marleau doing the same with the Sharks, though that’ll depend upon their cap space. Williams could return with the Hurricanes, but they’ll probably want a full-season commitment this time around.

Seabrook could be placed on long-term injury reserve for next season if he needs more time to recover from his surgeries. Smith’s had his inconsistencies, but he’s played well enough to remain in Edmonton in a backup role for another season.

Spezza could stick with the Leafs for another season on a cheap one-year deal. Speculation out of Montreal claims Kovalchuk is all-but-certain to return to the Canadiens on a bonus-filled one-year deal.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 31, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 31, 2020

The latest on Zdeno Chara, Brady Tkachuk, Kaapo Kakko, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: During a conference call with NHL reporters on Monday, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara claimed goaltender Tuukka Rask’s smelly farts make him the teammate he’d least like to be quarantined with. “The way he farts? The smell is awful,” said Chara. “He likes his chicken wings. And after the chicken wings, I’ve had to sit behind him on the bus. I’ve got to tell you. I’ve got to control myself sometimes.”

Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given how depressing most of the NHL news has been of late because of COVID-19, I thought Chara’s remarks about Rask brought a welcome bit of levity yesterday.

OTTAWA SUN: During the same conference call, Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk said his two teammates who tested positive for COVID-19 are doing well. “We’re a tight group so we’re always in contact with one another but I think all of us are just concerned about them and everybody impacted by it.”

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes Kaapo Kakko’s stubbornness is blocking his potential greatness. The rookie Ranger’s insistence on holding the puck isn’t working as well in the NHL as it did when he dominated in Finland. He’s also struggled with the defensive of his game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks feels Kakko has the tools to become a dominant NHL player. The youngster isn’t the first promising player who’s ever struggled to adjust to the NHL in his rookie season. With maturity and a willingness to learn, he should become the elite winger he was projected to become.

THE SCORE: St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong believes his club is in a good spot to defend their Stanley Cup title if the season is resumed. “With the knowledge of what we did last year, and that we have a mature team, we’re not worried about whether they’re preparing or what they’re doing off the ice, eating correctly and doing whatever workouts they need to be doing; I know they are because they’ve shown that year in and year out,” Armstrong told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said no Capitals players have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the club is preparing for all scenarios, including returning to action at some point in the summer if the league resumes action by then.

TSN: The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers yesterday announced temporary staff layoffs during the COVID-19 period. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes re-signed forward Michael Chaput to a one-year, two-way contract.

SPORTSNET: Goaltender Eddie Lack yesterday announced his retirement because of hip injuries. He spent five seasons in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, Calgary Flames, and New Jersey Devils. He compiled a “56-55-18 record, 2.62 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and nine shutouts.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lack in his future endeavours.










Grading the NHL Trade Deadline – Pacific Division Buyers

Grading the NHL Trade Deadline – Pacific Division Buyers