NHL Rumor Mill – January 21, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – January 21, 2022

Could the Oilers target a Stars goalie? Will the Blackhawks shop Marc-Andre Fleury? How many teams could have an interest in Jakob Chychrun and John Klingberg? Could the Canucks shop J.T. Miller soon? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WILL THE OILERS GO SHOPPING FOR A GOALTENDER?

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Edmonton Oilers are looking at all options around the NHL to address their goaltending issues. They’ve kicked tires on Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo, who’s an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Oilers also internally discussed the Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin but the extra year on this contract at $3.33 million makes him less appealing. Stars goalie Braden Holtby could be more interesting as he’s a UFA at the season’s end. However, the real question is whether any of these options are better than Mikko Koskinen for the Oilers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No. No, they’re not. That doesn’t mean the Oilers might not acquire one of them in the hope they’ll provide some sort of upgrade. Khudobin did carry the Stars to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final but really struggled this season and wound up demoted to the minors. Holtby’s play has improved this season but his best days remain well behind him. Korpisalo failed to seize the starter’s job after Sergei Bobrovsky left town which is why the Jackets signed Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year extension.

Darren Dreger noted Chicago Blackhawks netminder Marc-Andre Fleury has also come up in the rumor mill but he’s not a fit in Edmonton for salary-cap reasons. When asked about trade possibilities, Fleury said he’s not thinking about that now as he’s trying to help the Blackhawks reach the playoffs.

Dreger expects there will be contract extension talks between the two sides. He also points out there’s an agreement with the Hawks that Fleury isn’t going anywhere unless he asks for a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury might consider a trade if the Blackhawks fail to gain ground in the standings over the next six weeks. His $7 million cap hit and 10-team no-trade clause probably keep him away from Edmonton. Some have linked him to the Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals. There’s even talk of a reunion with the Pittsburgh Penguins despite Tristan Jarry’s solid play this season. Whether he ends up with one of those clubs or heads elsewhere remains to be determined.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun (NHL Images).

THE LATEST ON CHYCHRUN AND KLINGBERG

SPORTSNET: Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman discussed potential landing spots for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. They suggested the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues as possibilities.

Both of them felt the Florida Panthers could be in on Chychrun, citing management’s ongoing efforts to build up their blueline. They felt the Panthers need one more big piece on their defense corps. Marek believes the Coyotes would want Spencer Knight, Anton Lundell and a first-round pick in return but Friedman felt that’s the price to be paid if they’re going all-in this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers GM Bill Zito has to consider if it’s worthwhile giving up that much of his club’s future to pursue the Stanley Cup this season. Granted, this move wouldn’t be for a rental player. The 23-year-old Chychrun is under contract for three more seasons who led all defensemen in goals last season.

The first-round pick is easy to part with given the Panthers’ depth and position in the standings. Giving up Knight would be tough but perhaps necessary with Sergei Bobrovsky carrying an almost untradable contract for four more seasons. Moving Lundell, who’s enjoying a solid rookie campaign, could be a bridge too far for Zito.

THE ATHLETIC: Shayna Goldman and Saad Yousef recently examined potential trade destinations for Dallas Stars pending UFA defenseman John Klingberg. Their three contenders are the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Carolina Hurricanes, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs as dark horses.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks, Kings and Predators have the cap space and depth in promising young players to dangle for Klingberg if they wish to go that route. The Hurricanes showed a willingness to make big deadline deals, acquiring Vincent Trocheck and Brady Skjei two years ago. Their lack of cap space, however, would require some creativity to make the dollars fit.

The Penguins and Leafs are pressed for cap space. Both could stand pat or opt for more cost-effective options by the deadline. I’m not ruling out the possibility one of them swings a three-team deal to land someone like Klingberg. However, there’s no certainty they or the Hurricanes can find a third club to broker the deal given how many clubs have limited cap space this season.

WILL THE CANUCKS TRADE J.T. MILLER?

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance cited Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli saying he could see a scenario where the Vancouver Canucks trade J.T. Miller soon, perhaps before they officially hire a new general manager.

Drance, however, is skeptical of that scenario becoming reality. While sources told him there are teams interested in Miller, the Canucks can afford to wait because he’s under contract through next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drance also acknowledged the Canucks will have to make a decision about Miller’s future in Vancouver. Unless a rival club is willing to make an offer too good to refuse by the trade deadline, Canucks management could wait until the offseason to move Miller when teams have more cap room and willingness to pursue players of his caliber.

That should also be a decision that should involve the new general manager. Otherwise, team president Jim Rutherford shouldn’t waste everyone’s time hiring a GM if he’s going to make all the decisions himself.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 21, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 21, 2022

The Panthers hand the fading Oilers another loss, the surging Avalanche extend their points streak to 11 games, Roman Josi reaches a franchise record and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Sergei Bobrovsky turned in a 40-save shutout and Aleksander Barkov scored twice as the Florida Panthers thumped the Edmonton Oilers 6-0. Sam Reinhart collected three assists for the Panthers, who sit in first place in the overall standings with 59 points. The Oilers, who were in first place in the Western Conference standings on Dec. 1, now sit six points out of a wild-card spot with 38 points.

Florida Panther goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers are 0-5-2 in their last seven games and seem at a loss to figure out how to reverse their fortunes. They obviously need better goaltending but head coach Dave Tippett seems to have lost the room. Perhaps a coaching change might provide a spark of improvement while management tries to find an upgrade between the pipes. I’ll have more about that in the rumors sections.

The Colorado Avalanche extended its points streak to 11 games with a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Darcy Kuemper kicked out 40 shots while Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each collected two points. The Avs hold first overall in the Western Conference with 57 points while the Kings have dropped three straight and cling to second place in the Pacific Division with 45 points.

Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi collected two assists to set a franchise record with 358 as his club downed the Winnipeg Jets 5-2. Ryan Johansen and Mikael Granlund each had two points for the Predators, who snapped a four-game losing skid to sit four points behind the Avalanche. With 40 points, the Jets sit four points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Earlier in the day, the Jets placed winger Nikolaj Ehlers on injured reserve with an MCL sprain. He’s listed as week-to-week.

An overtime goal by Shea Theodore lifted the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Theodore finished the night with a goal and two assists as his club sit in first place in the Pacific Division with 50 points. Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembault made 49 saves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montembault will see plenty of action in the coming weeks. The Canadiens announced goalie Jake Allen will be sidelined for up to eight weeks with a lower-body injury.

The Pittsburgh Penguins took a 5-1 lead and held off a third-period surge for a 6-4 win over the Ottawa Senators. Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson scored twice and collected an assist while Senators center Josh Norris tallied twice. The Penguins sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 53 points, winning eight of their last 10 games. Earlier in the day, they placed Jason Zucker and Louis Domingue on injured reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zucker could be out week-to-week as he’s been sidelined by the same injury that recently kept him out of the lineup for seven games.

A late goal by Charlie McAvoy lifted the Boston Bruins to a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals. David Pastrnak scored twice for the Bruins, who hold the final Eastern wild-card berth with 48 points. Winger Brad Marchand left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury following a hit from Garnet Hathaway and forward Anton Blidh in the first period from a big hit by winger Tom Wilson. The Capitals sit five points ahead of the Bruins with 53 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (56 points) collected an assist to open a two-point lead over Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl for the lead in the NHL scoring race.

Tyler Seguin and Jason Robertson each scored twice and collected an assist to lead the Dallas Stars over the Buffalo Sabres 5-4. John Klingberg picked up four assists for the Stars (40 points) who sit four back of the San Jose Sharks for the final Western Conference wild-card berth. Rasmus Dahlin had a goal and two assists for the Sabres.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres announced goalie Malcolm Subban underwent season-ending lower-body surgery while defenseman Colin Miller is out six weeks following surgery for an undisclosed ailment.

Speaking of the Sharks (44 points), they fell 3-2 to the Seattle Kraken. Carson Soucy scored twice and Philipp Grubauer made 22 saves for the Kraken. Sharks forward Timo Meier scored his 21st goal of the season and sits ninth among the league’s leading scorers with 46 points.

The Philadelphia Flyers have lost 10 straight games for the second time this season as they dropped a 2-1 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Oliver Bjorkstrand and Patrik Laine scored for the Jackets as Elvis Merzlikins made 33 saves for the win.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 20, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – January 20, 2022

Will the Blackhawks shop Marc-Andre Fleury? Are the Panthers interested in Jakob Chychrun? Will the Golden Knights trade Reilly Smith? Could the Bruins entertain offers for Urho Vaakanainen? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

UPDATES ON FLEURY AND CHYCHRUN

THE ATHLETIC: Scott Power reports there’s an assumption around the league that Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will be finishing the season elsewhere. Two league sources suggest Fleury’s play of late could fetch the Blackhawks a first-round pick, something they could be without in this year’s draft because of last summer’s Seth Jones trade.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images)

Powers also cited a Blackhawks source claiming the club hasn’t discussed a contract extension with Fleury. The 37-year-old netminder becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. He carries a $7 million cap hit and a 10-team no-trade no-trade clause. The defending Vezina Trophy winner also has three Stanley Cup rings on his resume.

Teams that fancy themselves contenders but have middling-to-poor goaltending (Edmonton, Washington) could come calling. Powers wondered if a reunion with the Pittsburgh Penguins might be possible regardless of how well Tristan Jarry plays this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals, Oilers and Penguins also have little projected salary-cap space. Any deal involving Fleury and those clubs would have to be dollar-in, dollar-out or involve some salary retention in the Blackhawks part. The Hawks might be willing to do that for a 2022 first-round pick.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland recently said he didn’t want to part with his first-rounder for a short-term fix. Unless he changes his mind, we can probably rule out the Oilers as a destination if Fleury is willing to go to Edmonton.

The Penguins are playing very well right now. If that continues over the next couple of months they could stick with Jarry and hope his playoff meltdown last year was a one-off. The Capitals could kick tires but that’ll depend on the play of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek in the coming weeks.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Colby Guy cites Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman confirming the Panthers are interested in Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. George Richards last week reported the Panthers would take a look at the Boca Rotan native, who has three seasons remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $4.6 million.

Guy said the Panthers seek a left-handed defenseman who can bring some consistency to the blue line. Marek speculated the asking price for Chychrun could be goaltender Spencer Knight, rookie center Anton Lundell, and a first-round pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chychrun would be a terrific fit on the Panthers blueline. His contract would give them an asset that helps them now and over the next three years. However, I doubt GM Bill Zito will give up that much to get him. He could part with his first-rounder but Knight and Lundell are also going to be vital components in the Panthers’ long-term future. I’ll be shocked if he parts with them.

LATEST ON REILLY SMITH AND URHO VAAKANAINEN

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Owen Krepps recently examined the pros and cons of the Golden Knights potentially shopping Reilly Smith at the trade deadline. The 30-year-old winger is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Shipping out Smith and his $5 million cap hit for this season would help the Golden Knights free up sufficient cap space when Jack Eichel is ready to make his debut in the coming weeks. He could also fetch them a solid return. However, doing so would hurt the club’s identity and take away a skilled player who could help them win the Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krepps argues there are other options the Golden Knights could take to free up that cap space for Eichel. GM Kelly McCrimmon could very well prefer those options (trading Evgenii Dadonov?) over moving Smith. However, shopping the veteran winger remains the easiest option given his value in the trade market and his lack of no-trade protection.

THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa suggests a trade might be the best bet for Boston Bruins defenseman Urho Vaakanainen to become a full-time NHLer. He believes clubs like Arizona or Seattle could have their eye on a 23-year-old former first-rounder who isn’t playing a major role, suggesting such players could improve skating with rebuilding teams.

Shinzawa said the Bruins aren’t in a rush to trade Vaakanainen. However, he speculates they could listen to any offer that could improve their odds of winning this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vaakanainen on his own probably won’t draw that type of offer. Packaged with Jake DeBrusk? Maybe, but I wouldn’t hold my breath given the apparent lack of interest DeBrusk is drawing thus far in the trade market.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 20, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 20, 2022

Recaps of Wednesday’s action, the league announces updates to its 2021-22 schedule, the Canadiens introduce Kent Hughes as their new GM, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz turned in a 34-save shutout to blank the Anaheim Ducks 2-0. Samuel Girard and Nazem Kadri were the goal scorers as the Avalanche picked up their fourth straight win and their ninth in the last 10 games. They also opened a four-point lead over the St. Louis Blues atop the Western Conference with 55 points.

New York Rangers forward Ryan Reaves (NHL Images).

The New York Rangers overcame a 3-1 deficit and rolled to a 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Adam Fox and Ryan Reaves each scored two goals as the Rangers moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division with 56 points. Mitch Marner had a goal and an assist for the Leafs, who remain in third place with 51 points in the Atlantic Division.

Arizona Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka kicked out 35 shots in a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Lawson Crouse and Loui Eriksson each had two points. Coyote defenseman Jakob Chychrun picked up an assist in his return to action after being sidelined for 11 games by an upper-body injury and COVID protocols.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: The league will play 95 games from Feb. 7 – 22 as part of its comprehensive update to its 2021-22 schedule. That three-week window was originally scheduled for the 2022 Winter Olympic break. With the NHL withdrawing from the Beijing Games, this period will be used to make up a number of games postponed by COVID protocols.

THE SCORE: Newly appointed Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes held his introductory press conference yesterday at the Bell Centre. His plans for the club include building an offensive-minded club with a focus on speed and puck possession.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hughes will have two months to determine which players he could shop before the March 21 trade deadline. Pending UFAs such as Ben Chiarot are the most likely to be moved. There are also questions over the futures of veterans such as Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin over whether they’ll want to be part of a full rebuild if that’s the direction the Habs take under Hughes. Those will likely be addressed in the offseason given their expensive contracts.

NHL.COM: Jack Eichel will be traveling with the Vegas Golden Knights on its four-game road trip next week. However, head coach Peter DeBoer said the 25-year-old center is at least a month or two away from making his debut with the club. The Golden Knights acquire Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres in November and he underwent artificial disk replacement surgery on Nov. 12. He started skating with the club earlier this month in a non-contact jersey.

SPORTSNET’s Nick Kypreos reports he’s heard the NHL will need until the end of this week to complete its investigation into whether Evander Kane violated COVID protocols during his tenure with the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate. No decision is expected until next week at the earliest.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation Kane could soon sign a new NHL contract if the league rules in his favor, perhaps with the Edmonton Oilers.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov received a two-game suspension by the NHL’s department of player safety for a knee-on-knee hit on Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers on Tuesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ehlers is expected to be sidelined for at least three games.

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin was fined $5,000.00 for cross-checking Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Kings center Phillip Danault received a $5,000.00 fine for a dangerous trip of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point.

MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings claimed center Gemel Smith off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’s the older brother of Red Wings winger Givani Smith.

NBC SPORTS: One day after the Boston Bruins retired Willie O’Ree’s No. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to award the 86-year-old the Congressional Gold Medal. He was a hockey pioneer by becoming the first black man to play in the NHL.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to O’Ree for this recognition of his work as a hockey trailblazer during and after his playing days.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 19, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – January 19, 2022

With a new general manager in place, what roster changes could be coming for the Canadiens? What’s the latest on Claude Giroux, Jakob Chychrun and John Klingberg? Will the Rangers and Leafs make moves at the deadline? Read on to find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE CANADIENS?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman wondered what other changes are coming for the Montreal Canadiens now that they’ve hired Kent Hughes as their new general manager. He’s like to know how Hughes’ hiring will affect their amateur scouting department, which current roster players are untouchable and if there have been any conversations with the core players over who wants to stay or go?

DAILY FACEOFF: Mike McKenna and Tyler Yaremchuk discussed the Canadiens options for some of their free agents. They agree pending UFA defenseman Ben Chiarot could fetch a nice return. Yaremchuk felt restricted free agent forward Artturi Lehkonen could also get something decent at the trade deadline while UFAs Cedric Paquette and Brent Kulak could get a lower pick.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot (NHL Images).

If the Canadiens want to kickstart their rebuild they will have to do more than just trade pending free agents. Yaremchuk suggested trading someone like Jake Allen or perhaps a bigger piece. McKenna wondered if they could make a hockey trade involving Carey Price or Jonathan Drouin to bring in some much-needed defense.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the March 21 trade deadline just over two months away there’s still plenty of time for Hughes and Hockey Ops VP Jeff Gorton to start fielding trade offers or shopping players who don’t fit into their long-term plans or those who want to leave. Moving the pending free agents is the easy part, trying to move those with expensive contracts like Price and Drouin might have to wait until the offseason when teams usually have more cap space and a willingness to take on players with term remaining on their deals.

As for their amateur scouting department, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gorton has already begun laying the groundwork for changes there. He’ll work in tandem with Hughes to bring in the people they need before the draft in July.

UPDATES ON GIROUX, CHYCHRUN, KLINGBERG , LAINE AND MORE

TSN: Pierre LeBrun observed Claude Giroux’s name has floated around the rumor mill but the Philadelphia Flyers have not spoken to rival clubs about moving their captain. Management hasn’t spoken to the 34-year-old center about waiving his no-movement clause nor has he approached them about getting traded.

LeBrun points out the March 21 trade deadline is nine weeks away and there’s still plenty of time for the slumping Flyers to improve their fortunes. However, he acknowledged that trade discussion between management and Giroux could take place if they remain out of playoff contention. With his no-movement clause, he’ll control his fate as the deadline approaches.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. There’s no rush to move Giroux on the Flyers’ part right now. Let’s see where they’re at once the calendar flips to March.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports there are teams that believe the Florida Panthers are interested in Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. It’s an “all-in” year for the Panthers.

GOPHNX.COM: Craig Morgan addressed a recent comment by Friedman suggesting if the Coyotes trade Chychrun it’ll be to an Eastern Conference team. He doesn’t think that’s accurate, doubting the Coyotes would limit their trade options when trying to secure the best deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could prefer trading Chychrun to an Eastern team so his club would only have to face the blueliner once or twice per season. Nevertheless, I concur with Morgan that Armstrong likely won’t spurn a pitch from a western club that meets his asking price of a good young NHL player, a high draft pick and a top prospect.

The Dallas Stars have stepped up efforts to trade defenseman John Klingberg.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several playoff contenders could pursue him as a rental player. The Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Los Angeles Kings have been speculated as potential suitors.

Friedman wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets will consider it worthy of their resources for now and down the road to sign winger Patrik Laine to a hefty contract extension. The 23-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a decision that might have to wait until the offseason for an answer.

Rasmus Ristolainen could be worth watching. Friedman wondered if the Flyers pending UFA defenseman will consider testing the market this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Depending on the outcome of this season, the Flyers could make that decision for him. Perhaps there will be a change in management if they miss the postseason.

The New York Rangers could be stealthy near the trade deadline. He also said the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t against clearing cap space to prepare for a deadline addition.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rangers GM Chris Drury has plenty of salary-cap space and lots of promising young assets within their system to dangle as trade bait if he wishes. I wouldn’t be shocked if he made one or two significant moves to load up for the playoffs.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 19, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 19, 2022

The Bruins retire the number of hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree, the Canadiens hire Kent Hughes as their new general manager, updated COVID protocols are announced and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins retired hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 in a pregame ceremony last night. It was the 64th anniversary of O’Ree’s debut as the first black player in NHL history with the Bruins, becoming the 12th player in franchise history to have his number retired.

The Boston Bruins raise Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 banner (NHL.com).

Following the ceremony, the Bruins were thumped by the Carolina Hurricanes 7-1. Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored two of the Hurricanes’ five goals in the first period while Jaccob Slavin and Tony DeAngelo each finished the night with three points. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was pulled after giving up five goals on 12 shots. The Hurricanes are tied with the New York Rangers atop the Metropolitan Division with 54 points but hold three games in hand while the Bruins hold the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference with 46 points.

Johnny Gaudreau collected four assists as the Calgary Flames snapped a four-game losing skid to drop the Florida Panthers 5-1, ending the latter’s nine-game points streak. Sean Monahan scored twice and Matthew Tkachuk collected three points. Sam Bennett scored for the Panthers in his first game in Calgary since being traded to Florida last season. The Flames (42 points) move within two points of the San Jose Sharks for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Panthers (57 points) slip to second in the overall standings.

Victor Hedman scored twice and chipped in an assist to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Despite playing with 12 forwards and four defensemen, the shorthanded Lightning picked up their fourth straight win to regain first place in the overall standings with 59 points. The Kings (45 points) remain in second place in the Pacific Division.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied his league-leading 27th goal in a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Tom Wilson netted the game-winner in overtime as the Capitals (53 points) sit one point behind the second-place Rangers in the Metropolitan Division. Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers could be sidelined for more than one game after leaving in the third period following a knee-on-knee collision with Capitals defenseman Dmitri Orlov. With 40 points, the Jets are two back of the Flames.

The Vancouver Canucks got a 31-save performance from Thatcher Demko to down the Nashville Predators 3-1, handing the latter their fourth straight defeat. Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson each scored for the Canucks, who sit one point behind the Jets. The Predators, meanwhile are third in the Central Division with 51 points.

New York Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom scored in the ninth round of a shootout to give his club a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, who’ve lost nine straight games. Semyon Varlamov turned aside 31 shots to give the Isles their sixth win in their last eight games. Earlier in the day, the Flyers announced center Kevin Hayes will miss the next three to four weeks following a procedure to drain fluid from his adductor region.

Buffalo Sabres goalie Michael Hauser kicked out 43 shots in his season debut to backstop his club over the Ottawa Senators 3-1. Alex Tuch and Dylan Cozens each had a goal and an assist for the Sabres.

Montreal Canadiens netminder Sam Montembault turned aside a career-high 48 shots in a 5-3 victory over the slumping Dallas Stars. Christian Dvorak scored twice while Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist in his first game back with the Canadiens since Nov. 20. The Stars have dropped three straight and slip one point behind the Canucks.

HEADLINES

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Prior to yesterday’s game against the Stars, the Canadiens announced they’ve hired Kent Hughes as their new general manager. A bilingual Montreal native, Hughes was a player agent with a client list that included such notables as Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse and New York Islanders winger Anthony Beauvillier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hughes hiring received widespread acclaim among NHL pundits. He built up an excellent reputation during his years as an agent. He understands the business of hockey, especially dealing with players and negotiating contracts.

Canadiens Executive VP of Hockey Ops Jeff Gorton is good friends with Hughes and reportedly wanted him for the job from the start. However, the latter apparently needed some convincing before agreeing to a five-year deal with the Canadiens.

This hiring should allay concerns among some Canadiens followers that Gorton was seeking a frontman while he pulled the management strings. Hughes wouldn’t have left his lucrative gig to be a puppet GM even for a friend.

Hughes and Gorton now face the daunting challenge of rebuilding a Canadiens roster seriously depleted by injuries to superstars Carey Price and Shea Weber, the departures of leaders such as Phillip Danault and Corey Perry to free agency, and significant talent gaps in the roster. They must decide the fate of embattled head coach Dominique Ducharme, who has two years remaining on his contract.

NHL.COM: The NHL and NHLPA announced it will stop testing asymptomatic players, coaches and staff who are fully vaccinated following the All-Star Break in early February, saying COVID-19 cases are declining around the league. The current testing policy will remain in place until Feb. 3.

Testing of asymptomatic individuals will continue when it is needed for crossing the Canada-US border. One negative test result will be required for players to return to team facilities following the All-Star break. The 90-day testing “holiday” for those who have recovered from COVID-19 will remain in place. Both sides also agreed to maintain the five-day isolation period for those who test positive.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL and NHLPA want to avoid any further game postponements that could jeopardize their intent of ending the regular season on April 29. It also appears they don’t want rosters to become significantly depleted as teams jockey for playoff positioning over the final half of the schedule.

SPORTSNET: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, Arizona Coyotes forward Antoine Roussel, Montreal Canadiens wingers Cole Caufield and Joel Armia and Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat are the latest notable players to enter the NHL COVID protocol.

NHL.COM: Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri, Anaheim Ducks winger Troy Terry and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel have been named the Last Men In for the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Game.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin (concussion) will miss their upcoming games against the New York Rangers and New York Islanders.

AWFUL ANNOUNCING: Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl got into a testy exchange yesterday with Edmonton Journal reporter Jim Matheson during a press conference yesterday. At one point, Matheson asked Draisail, “Why are you being so pissy?” after the forward declined to give much of an answer to one of his questions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers’ poor play of late now seems to have ratcheted up tensions between the players and some of the reporters covering the club. Maybe Draisaitl should’ve been more forthcoming but most hockey players talk in cliches when addressing the media so I don’t know what answer Matheson thought he was going to get out of him with that catty remark.