NHL Rumor Mill – May 4, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 4, 2021

Flyers chairman Dave Scott weighs in on his club’s performance plus the latest on the Blackhawks and Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Sam Carchidi reports Flyers chairman Dave Scott shares the frustrations of his club’s fans over the course of this season but doesn’t believe radical change is necessary. “We’re closer than our record shows,” said Scott, pointing out this year’s core group is the same that played well under difficult circumstances during the 2020 playoffs.

Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk (NHL Images)

Scott feels the Flyers need another scorer and a top-pairing defenseman. He also hinted a backup goaltender could be on their wish list. The chairman believes general manager Chuck Fletcher will have sufficient salary-cap space to add some key pieces even if he doesn’t trade a high-salaried player like Jakub Voracek or James van Riemsdyk or lose one of them in the expansion draft.

Head coach Alain Vigneault and his staff have Scott’s support though the chairman wasn’t thrilled by the job they did this season. He also suggested February’s COVID-19 outbreak among several players could account for the club’s difficulties once they returned to action.

Scott said he hasn’t lost faith in Fletcher and looks forward to playing a full 82-game schedule.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stick tap to “CraddyShack” for the link. Landing a scorer, a top-pairing defenseman and a backup goaltender will be costly. Cap Friendly shows the Flyers with $70.2 million invested in 18 players under a flattened salary cap for 2021-22. Goalie Carter Hart, defenseman Travis Sanheim and forward Nolan Patrick are restricted free agents.

I don’t see how the Flyers can bring in some key pieces without shedding salary unless it’s a dollar-for-dollar swap or shopping Hart, Sanheim and Patrick. Feel free to weigh in with your proposals in the comments section below.

THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers considers center Dylan Strome likely to return with the Chicago Blackhawks next season despite his struggles this season and uncertain future. His trade value could be low coming off a down year. There’s a chance he could be selected in the expansion draft if the Blackhawks expose him.

The Blackhawks would like to keep center Pius Suter but Powers is uncertain if they can afford to re-sign him. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. If a contract cannot be worked out the Blackhawks could trade him or let him walk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have $74.3 million tied up in 20 players next season. They can get over $10 million in cap relief by placing the permanently sidelined Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw on long-term injury reserve. That would provide plenty of space for Suter but the Hawks will prefer keeping him on an affordable short-term deal.

THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka listed a lack of scoring punch among five reasons the San Jose Sharks will miss the playoffs this season. He feels management’s priority is to address this issue in the offseason or the club will head down the same path next season.

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz recently reported the Sharks have some decisions to make regarding restricted free agent forwards like Rudolfs Balcers, Ryan Donato, Noah Gregor, Alex True, Joachim Blichfeld, Jeffrey Viel and Dylan Gambrell.

Balcers is the only one probably assured of returning in the opening lineup next season because of his solid play among their top-six this season. Donato is the most expensive of the group ($1.9 million) but he’s tumbled down the depth chart this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Addressing that scoring depth issue won’t be easy with the Sharks carrying $68.5 million committed to 13 players for 2021-22. Maybe a couple of those RFAs get packaged into a deal for a scorer but it’ll take something else of significance in that package to get it done. They also have a number of veterans carrying expensive contracts that could be difficult to move this summer.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 4, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 4, 2021

The Oilers and Bruins clinch playoff berths, Connor McDavid gets closer to 100 points, the players of the week are announced, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid scored twice and set up two others as the Edmonton Oilers (64 points) clinched a playoff spot in the Scotia Central Division by defeating the Vancouver Canucks 5-3. McDavid has 31 goals and a league-leading 91 points on the season. The Oilers are eight points behind the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re the only two Canadian clubs to secure postseason berths thus far. Canucks forwards Brandon Sutter and Marc Michaelis missed the game with upper-body injuries.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has six games remaining to reach 100 points for the season.

Montreal Canadiens rookie Cole Caufield tallied his second straight overtime goal in a 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs. Nick Suzuki and Jeff Petry each collected three assists as the Canadiens (57 points) moved into a tie with the third-place Winnipeg Jets. Leafs center Auston Matthews netted his league-leading 39th goal of the season while teammate Nick Foligno left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are getting closer to clinching a playoff spot. They’ve opened a 10-point lead over the fifth-place Calgary Flames.

The Jets, meanwhile, suffered their seventh straight defeat by dropping a 2-1 decision to the Ottawa Senators. Nikita Zaitsev tallied the game-winner for the Sens late in the third period. The Jets still hold third place with three more wins than the Canadiens. Ottawa defenseman Thomas Chabot left the game with an upper-body injury.

A 20-save shutout by Tukka Rask carried the Boston Bruins to a 3-0 shutout of the New Jersey Devils to clinch a playoff spot in the MassMutual East Division. Patrice Bergeron had a goal and an assist as the Bruins moved into third place with 68 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins join the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders in clinching the four playoff berths in the East.

The Capitals (71 points) regained first place in the division by dropping the New York Rangers 6-3 to end the latter’s playoffs hopes. A nagging lower-body injury forced Washington captain Alex Ovechkin from the game within the first minute. The Capitals are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins but hold a game in hand.

Capitals winger Tom Wilson could once again face supplemental discipline for punching Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich in the back of the head while Buchnevich was face down on the ice. When Blueshirts winger Artemi Panarin jumped on Wilson’s back to restrain him, the Capitals forward pulled Panarin to the ice by the hair, punched him and slammed him to the ice again. Wilson received a double minor and 10-minute misconduct while Panarin suffered a lower-body injury that could sideline him from his club’s remaining three games.

Speaking of the Penguins, they were upset 7-2 by the Philadelphia Flyers. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Joel Farabee each collected three points for the Flyers. Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin collected an assist in his first game since suffering a lower-body injury on March 18. Earlier in the day, the Penguins announced defenseman Mike Matheson is week-to-week with a suspected facial injury.

The Buffalo Sabres upset the New York Islanders 4-2. Michael Houser made 34 saves for the win in his NHL debut while teammate Sam Reinhart scored two goals. Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov’s shutout streak ended at 248 minutes as his club slipped to fourth place with 67 points.

A hat trick by Sebastian Aho carried the Carolina Hurricanes over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2, eliminating the latter from playoff contention in the Discover Central Division. The Hurricanes extended their points streak to 11 games and sit atop the division with a league-leading 77 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes have a good shot at winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history.

Aleksander Barkov’s overtime goal gave the Florida Panthers a 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars. The Stars overcame a 4-2 deficit to force the extra frame with Tyler Segun tallying the game-tying goal in his season debut following offseason hip surgery. The Panthers sit two points behind the Hurricanes with 75 points. The Stars playoff hopes took a hit as they sit four points behind the fourth-place Nashville Predators.

As for the Predators (60 points), Roman Josi’s overtime goal lifted them past the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3. The Jackets forced the extra frame on a third-period hat trick by Emil Bernstrom.

Two goals within 26 seconds by Kirill Kaprizov and Jonas Brodin late in the third period powered the Minnesota Wild over the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 6-5. Nick Bonino scored twice and set up another for the Wild (70 points), who remain two points behind the Avalanche in the Honda West Division.

An overtime goal by Andre Burakovsky gave the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, eliminating the latter from playoff contention. Burakovsky, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen each had two points while Evander Kane scored twice for the Sharks. The Avalanche (72 points) are two behind the Golden Knights. Avs goalie Devan Dubnyk missed the game after testing positive for COVID-19 and is expected to miss the next two weeks.

Third-period goals by Robert Bortuzzo and Ryan O’Reilly gave the St. Louis Blues a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. St. Louis winger David Perron collected an assist for his 600th career point. The Blues (55 points) opened a five-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes for fourth place in the division.

The Coyotes’ playoff hopes grew dimmer as the Los Angeles Kings beat them 3-2. Kings captain Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist to reach 999 career points. Teammate Jonathan Quick left the game after allowing two goals on 19 shots through two periods with an undisclosed injury.

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Thomas Greiss, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending May 2.










2021 NHL Playoff Races Worth Watching

2021 NHL Playoff Races Worth Watching

 










NHL Rumor Mill – May 3, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 3, 2021

Check out the recent rumblings about the Canucks, Flyers and Kraken in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston wondered if a rival club will attempt to sign Elias Pettersson to an offer sheet. The 22-year-old Vancouver Canucks center becomes a restricted free agent this summer.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Petterssen (NHL Images).

Johnston acknowledged the unlikelihood of that happening. Nevertheless, he pondered the possibility of the Seattle Kraken or Montreal Canadiens taking advantage of the Canucks’ limited cap space to make an offer that might be difficult to match.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston brought up the Canadiens in part because they signed Sebastian Aho to a deal two years ago that was easily matched by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Canadiens could try again but I doubt they’ll go that route. Cap Friendly shows them with $67.7 million invested in 15 players. Attempting to sign Petterssen will likely cost at least $8 million annually, leaving little room to re-sign or replace free agents such as Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Joel Armia.

I don’t see Kraken GM Ron Francis giving it a try. He didn’t make such a bold move during his tenure as the Hurricanes general manager so it seems doubtful he’ll use the offer sheet gambit to build his club.

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Sam Carchidi speculates the Flyers’ bad season could show GM Chuck Fletcher he must make major changes to his roster. Promising goaltender Carter Hart was among the league’s worst, the special teams were a disaster and poor starts were the norm.

The most mystifying was how much the Flyers collapsed following the offseason retirement of defenseman Matt Niskanen. Fletcher failed to replace him with a more defensive-minded option. Erik Gustafsson and Philippe Myers both flopped with Gustafsson traded away for next to nothing.

Carchidi felt the club had too many passers and not enough shooters. He wondered if the Flyers who contracted COVID-19 earlier this season suffered any lingering side-effects. He also pondered if the constant line changes prevented the players from building on-ice chemistry or if the players began tuning out head coach Alain Vigneault.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fletcher has little choice but to make changes this summer via trades and free agency. He can’t return with the same roster next season and expect improvement. Backup Brian Elliott should be replaced with a younger goaltender to help Hart share the workload while the struggling starter regains his form. They must add an experienced shutdown defenseman and scoring forward.

With over $70 million invested in 18 players, however, those changes could prove easier said than done. Fletcher tried and failed to find anyone to take struggling blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere off his hand.

Some observers suggest trading Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and/or James van Riemsdyk but it won’t be easy moving those high-salaried players with the cap remaining at $81.5 million. Giroux has a year left on his contract with an annual cap hit of $8.275 million ($5 million in actual salary) and a no-movement clause.

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle recently reported sources claiming the Seattle Kraken could target Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger as one of their netminders for next season. Driedger becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Driedger’s played well this season for the Panthers but they’re likely to promote promising Spencer Knight as Sergei Bobrovsky’s full-time backup. The Kraken have a three-day window before the expansion draft (July 18-21) to interview free agents. Perhaps they can convince Driedger to join them.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 3, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 3, 2021

The Lightning edged the Red Wings, Connor McDavid closes in on 100 points, three former Blue Jackets talk about their time with the club, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Sunday’s only game. Blake Coleman had a goal and an assist while goaltender Christopher Gibson picked up his first NHL win since 2017-18. The Lightning are tied with the Florida Panthers with 73 points but hold second place in the Discover Central Division with a game in hand.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images)

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is just 13 points away from reaching 100 points with seven games left in the club’s regular-season schedule. McDavid, however, isn’t concerned about whether he’ll reach that number by season’s end.

Personally, it’s a number,” said McDavid. “Obviously, it’d be kind of different to be able to do it in a shortened season, but I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to keep playing my game, and if I get there, I get there. And if not, whatever.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given McDavid’s low-key personality, we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s downplaying this. It’s a milestone for this season that he’d probably like to reach but he’s not going to lose sleep over it if he doesn’t. Nevertheless, it would put a nice exclamation point on this NHL season if he can do it.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline interviewed three former members of the Columbus Blue Jackets over their experiences. The city and the club are getting a worrying reputation as a place no one wants to play for after several high-profile players departed via free agency and trades.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An interesting piece about the team and of the city as a hockey town. The players were mostly positive about their time with the Jackets. However, they felt the club’s hardball approach to contract negotiations with restricted free agents contributed to the recent departures of several former teammates.

Speaking of the Jackets, they signed 2020 first-round pick Yegor Chinakhov to a three-year entry-level contract.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars face some questions as their playoff math for this season becomes more difficult. They must decide if it’s worthwhile for Tyler Seguin to return to the lineup after missing the entire season thus far recovering from offseason hip surgery. Meanwhile, Roope Hintz is battling a lower-body injury that could require surgery when this season is over.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl will miss tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens after taking a puck to the mouth during Saturday’s win over the Vancouver Canucks.

NEW YORK POST: It appears the Rangers and Islanders played their final game at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles will be moving to their new arena at Belmont Park next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be the final game unless the Rangers somehow manage to overtake the fourth-place Boston Bruins in the MassMutual East Division. With the Bruins (66 points) sitting eight points ahead with two games in hand, I don’t like the Blueshirts’ chances.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators’ 3-2 loss to the Canadiens on Saturday officially eliminated them from playoff contention.










NHL Odds Look Ahead: The Extended Regular Season

NHL Odds Look Ahead: The Extended Regular Season