NHL Rumor Mill – January 25, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – January 25, 2023

Check out the latest on Bo Horvat, Ryan O’Reilly, Timo Meier and Max Domi plus updates on the Hurricanes, Lightning and Senators in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

UPDATE ON HORVAT, O’REILLY, MEIER AND DOMI

SPORTSNET: During the Jan. 25 episode of “32 Thoughts”, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed potential trade destinations for Bo Horvat. The 27-year-old Vancouver Canucks center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Friedman thinks everyone is wondering if the Boston Bruins could make a pitch for Horvat. He believes the New Jersey Devils would be more interested in San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier because they’ve got Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes at center. The Detroit Red Wings could be an option depending on the state of contract talks with center Dylan Larkin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa believes the Bruins acquiring Horvat is complex but doable. Getting the Canucks to retain part of his $5.5 million cap hit, finding the right player to offer up as part of the return, sending a contract back to Vancouver and parting with a prospect such as Fabian Lysell are among the multiple factors in play.

I don’t rule out the possibility of the Bruins landing Horvat. However, there are other clubs that could have fewer hoops to jump through with better assets to offer up for the Canucks captain.

Friedman also reported that the Canucks haven’t allowed potential suitors to talk to Horvat’s agent about a contract extension. He believes they’re trying to determine which clubs have serious interest and are willing to meet their asking price.

TSN: Darren Dreger said Ryan O’Reilly is “officially in play” in the trade market. This comes while the St. Louis Blues captain is currently sidelined until mid-February but the Blues are willing to gauge his value. Dreger speculates the asking price could involve “draft picks, you’re talking about a prospect, the draft pick could be determined by the quality of the prospect.”

St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Reilly’s solid reputation as a two-way center and leader will make him a player of interest in the trade market despite his injury and offensive struggles in the first half of this season. Nevertheless, clubs will want to see how well he performs once he returns to action before they start making offers before the March 3 trade deadline.

Pierre LeBrun reports the San Jose Sharks have not yet granted permission to Timo Meier’s agent to speak directly to teams interested in a trade where a contract extension could be part of the deal. It’s not out of the question that the Sharks could try to sign the restricted free-agent winger but they haven’t yet put an offer on the table.

LeBrun suggests contenders like the Toronto Maple Leafs would make sense. The Carolina Hurricanes have some interest while the Buffalo Sabres have also reached out to the Sharks about Meier.

SPORTSNET: During his Jan. 23 “32 Thoughts” podcast, Elliotte Friedman told Jeff Marek that he believes the New Jersey Devils are among the teams interested in Meier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes are in a better position cap-wise and prospect-wise than the Leafs for Meier. The Sabres, however, could outbid both clubs. They are loaded with cap space and promising young players to tempt the Sharks.

Given the salary-cap congestion around the league, Chris Johnston believes teams will be looking at a value player such as the Chicago Blackhawks’ Max Domi. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent carrying an affordable $3 million contract who is putting up good numbers this season.

LATEST ON THE LIGHTNING, HURRICANES AND SENATORS

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBrois lacks a first-round pick in 2023 and 2024 or a second-round pick in order to make a big splash at the trade deadline. If he makes a move it’ll likely be a dollar-in, dollar-out swap like his acquisition of Nick Paul at last year’s deadline. BriseBrois said he’s unconcerned over whether rivals like the Boston Bruins or Toronto Maple Leafs make a big splash.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBrois has proven a very savvy dealer at the trade deadline over the past three years. Despite his lack of draft capital to use as trade bait, he could find a creative way to add a good depth player or two by the deadline.

THE ATHLETIC: LeBrun also reported the Carolina Hurricanes could have $10 million to work with at the trade deadline if they placed sidelined winger Max Pacioretty on long-term injured reserve. GM Don Waddell said his team will explore the trade market but they’re not in a rush to get a deal done.

LeBrun doesn’t believe we should rule out the Hurricanes on pending UFAs like Bo Horvat, Ryan O’Reilly or Vladimir Tarasenko. However, he believes they would want a shot at re-signing that player to get involved. That’s why he thinks they might look at the Sharks’ Timo Meier given his RFA status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun recently said the Hurricanes had spoken with the Canucks about Bo Horvat but the asking price was too high. He also pointed out that Waddell usually doesn’t pursue big-ticket pending UFAs at the deadline, preferring instead players with term remaining on their contracts. Any moves that he makes will depend on the depth of talent available in the trade market and the asking prices for them.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is still looking for a defenseman. While he’d ideally like a blueliner with term remaining on his contract he’s also interested in unrestricted free agents. He could have an opportunity to re-sign that UFA or perhaps flip him at the March 3 trade deadline. Dreger also said Dorion is also exploring all of his own UFAs including goaltender Cam Talbot.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 25, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 25, 2023

The Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to action with a four-point performance, the Bruins reach a league milestone, the Canucks win their first game under new coach Rick Tocchet, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to action after an 11-game absence with an overtime goal in a 7-6 victory over the Florida Panthers. Letang finished with two goals and two assists while Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Danton Heinen each had a goal and two assists for the Penguins (24-15-8) as they moved into the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 56 points.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carter Verhaeghe scored twice and Aaron Ekblad had a goal and two assists as the 23-21-6 Panthers sit four points behind the Washington Capitals for the final Eastern wild-card spot with 52 points. Florida forward Sam Bennett missed this game with a lower-body injury while Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry was a late scratch with an undisclosed injury.

Speaking of the Capitals, they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Avalanche. Alexandar Georgiev stopped 37 shots while Nathan MacKinnon picked up an assist for his 700th career point as the Avalanche (26-17-3) have won six straight games to move into third place in the Central Division with 55 points. Alex Ovechkin returned to action with his 31st goal of the season but his Capitals slipped to 25-19-6.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals and Penguins each have 56 points but the latter holds three games in hand. Ovechkin returned from a lower-body injury but admitted he wasn’t at 100 percent. Capitals winger Tom Wilson left this game with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day while Nicklas Backstrom missed this contest with a non-COVID-related illness.

The league-leading Boston Bruins became the fastest team in NHL history to reach 80 points in a season (47 games) by doubling up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. David Pastrnak had a goal and three assists while Patrice Bergeron snapped a 2-2 tie with the winning goal as the Bruins improved to 38-5-4 to hold a 14-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes in the overall standings. Kirby Dach scored both goals for the Canadiens as they dropped to 20-25-3.

Rick Tocchet picked up his first win as the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks as they downed the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 5-2. Andrei Kuzmenko tallied twice for the Canucks (19-25-4). Petr Mrazek stopped 43 shots for the Blackhawks as they dropped to 14-28-4 to sit second-last in the overall standings with 32 points.

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 250th career win with a 33-save performance in a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild. Corey Perry netted two goals as the Lightning (30-15-1) sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. Joel Eriksson Ek had two points for the 25-17-4 Wild as they tumbled one point behind the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 54 points.

The New Jersey Devils nipped the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2. Dougie Hamilton scored the tying goals and then scored in overtime for the second straight game as the Devils (31-12-4) moved into a tie with the Hurricanes with 66 points. Goalie Logan Thompson kicked out 33 shots for the 29-17-3 Golden Knights as they cling to first place in the Pacific Division with 61 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights activated Brett Howden (lower body) off injured reserve.

An overtime goal by Kevin Fiala lifted the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Anze Kopitar scored two goals as the 27-17-6 Kings move one point behind Vegas in the Pacific Division. Carter Hart stopped 34 shots while James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist for the Flyers, who slipped to 20-21-8.

The Nashville Predators nipped the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 as Tanner Jeannot snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period. Cody Glass also scored for the Predators (23-18-6) as they moved to within three points of a Western Conference wild-card berth with 52 points. Pierre-Luc Dubois replied for the 31-17-1 Jets as they sit one point behind the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars with 63 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Logan Stanley returned to the Jets lineup for the first time since being sidelined by a lower-body injury on Dec. 9.

Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson had a goal and two assists as his club picked up their fourth straight win by holding off the St. Louis Blues 5-3. Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch each had a goal and an assist for the Sabres (25-19-3) to move within three points of the final Eastern wild-card spot with 53 points. The Blues slipped to 23-22-3.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues activated Vladimir Tarasenko, Torey Krug and Logan Brown off injured reserve for this contest. They also placed winger Pavel Buchnevich (ankle) on IR.

The Detroit Red Wings defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on an overtime goal by Andrew Copp. Michael Rasmussen had a goal and an assist as the Wings improved to 20-18-8. Erik Karlsson collected two assists for the Sharks as they dropped to 14-25-10 on the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Red Wings activated forward Matt Luff off injured reserve and assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler scored twice in a 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Anthony Stolarz got the win for the Ducks (14-29-5) with a 37-save performance. Barrett Hayton had a goal and an assist for the 15-28-5 Coyotes, who’ve dropped 12 of their last 14 games.

HEADLINES

MONTREAL GAZETTE: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took questions from the media yesterday on a variety of topics prior to the Bruins-Canadiens game.

Bettman dismissed the notion of teams deliberately tanking this season to improve their odds of winning the draft lottery. “Nobody tanks because we have a weighted lottery,” said Bettman. “You’re not going to lose games to increase your odds by a couple of percentage points. That’s silly.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Finishing dead last is no guarantee of winning the lottery but it doesn’t hurt your chances despite what Bettman says.

Bettman also said it is conceivable that next season’s salary cap could rise by more than the projected $1 million if the outstanding escrow still owed to the owners from the players is paid off by the end of this season. However, he cautions that will depend on whether their projected revenues come in higher than anticipated.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We won’t learn for certain what it will be until sometime in June. General managers are preparing for next season expecting a $1 million hike rather than a significant increase.

DAILY FACEOFF: Hall-of-Fame goaltender Roberto Luongo will participate as a “celebrity goaltender” in the breakaway challenge during the skills competition at the 2023 NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 3.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have rallied to support assistant coach Bob Jones after he was diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Devastating news for Jones and the Senators organization. My best wishes to Jones and his family as he battles this disease.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 24, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – January 24, 2023

More speculation linking the Jets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Canadiens, the Canucks haven’t given up on re-signing Bo Horvat, plus the latest on Vladimir Tarasenko and David Pastrnak in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

MORE “DUBOIS TO MONTREAL” SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: During a Jan. 17 appearance on “Tim and Friends”, NHL insider Nick Kypreos expressed his belief that Pierre-Luc Dubois doesn’t have a long-term future with the Winnipeg Jets.

The 24-year-old center is slated to become a restricted free agent on July 1 with arbitration rights and will also be a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. He was repeatedly linked last summer to the Montreal Canadiens before signing a one-year, $6 million deal with the Jets.

Kypreos didn’t rule out the possibility of Dubois joining the Canadiens this summer. “He is not staying in Winnipeg long term,” said Kypreos. “There is nothing that can change his mind from what I’m hearing”.

Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).

According to Kypreos, the Jets’ surprisingly strong performance this season is the only reason Dubois isn’t on insiders lists of candidates to be moved at the trade deadline. He doesn’t believe there’s anything that could change Dubois’ mind even if the Jets were to win the Stanley Cup this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois’ agent raised eyebrows last summer saying his client wouldn’t mind playing for the Canadiens one day. The center downplayed the rumors tying him to the Canadiens last summer and did so again last week when the Jets played the Habs in Montreal.

Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness recently sang Dubois’ praises, adding he’d do everything he could to convince him to sign a long-term contract. There’s no indication thus far that Jets management has engaged in contract extension talks with the Dubois camp.

The Canadiens, of course, haven’t mentioned any interest in Dubois because they’d run afoul of the league’s anti-tampering rules. His addition would accelerate the Habs’ rebuild but they could be leery of investing in a big-ticket player at this early stage of the process. If there were interested, they could balk at the cost of trading for him and then inking him to an expensive new contract.

It’s clear the “Dubois to the Canadiens” speculation isn’t going away as long as uncertainty remains about his future in Winnipeg.

AN UPDATE ON BO HORVAT

CHEK-TV’s Rick Dhaliwal of the “Donnie and Dhali” show reports it is believed the Vancouver Canucks are still looking at ways to keep Bo Horvat “as tough as that may be”.

Horvat is eligible for unrestricted free-agent status on July 1. The 27-year-old center has become a fixture in the rumor mill since rejecting a contract offer from the Canucks weeks ago.

Dhaliwal said they want to see how things work between Horvat and new head coach Rick Tocchet. They can only sign Horvat or Andrei Kuzmenko but not both and so far no offer has been made to Kuzmenko.

Can they send one final offer Horvat’s way?” asked Dhaliwal, who nodded and said the two sides did talk over the weekend. He firmly believes the Canucks won’t give the Horvat camp permission to talk with other teams as they don’t want to lose leverage in negotiations.

Dhaliwal suggested keeping an eye on Brandon Carlo if the Boston Bruins came calling about Horvat. “Right-shot D, 25 years old, that’s who I would ask for. Brandon Carlo,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dhaliwal stressed there is no confirmation the Bruins have an interest in Horvat. The Canucks need blueline depth but Carlo’s injury history should be a concern.

Media consensus believes Horvat’s a goner. As always, however, it’s worth remembering that this season was supposed to be J.T. Miller’s last with the Canucks before he was signed to a long-term contract extension.

LATEST ON TARASENKO AND PASTRNAK

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford believes trade-deadline talk involving the St. Louis Blues should pick up once Vladimir Tarasenko returns from a hand injury later this month. The 31-year-old winger is slated to become a UFA on July 1.

Rutherford believes Tarasenko’s return will become a showcase of whether he can prove he’s healthy and can help playoff contenders. He has a full no-trade clause so it remains to be seen if he’ll waive it to go to a contender or ride out the season in St. Louis and hit the open market in July.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford wondered if the Carolina Hurricanes would be interested in Tarasenko after losing Max Pacioretty to injury for the rest of the season. They have nearly identical average annual values with Pacioretty earning $7 million and Tarasenko $7.5 million.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman claiming the Boston Bruins and winger David Pastrnak are getting closer to a contract extension. He believes the two sides are meeting almost every day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins aren’t going to let Pastrnak hit the open market in July. He’s going to stay in Boston on an eight-year contract. It’s just a question of how much the average annual value breaks down.

Pastrnak is a former Richard Trophy winner who is jockeying with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the goal-scoring crown this season. He sits fifth in total goals (251) since 2016-17. I expect he’ll get around $12 million annually. That’s the going rate for goal scorers of his caliber.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 24, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 24, 2023

A four-point second period for the Leafs’ William Nylander, Johnny Gaudreau has his first game in Calgary since leaving the Flames, the three stars of the week are announced, the Senators’ Josh Norris will undergo season-ending surgery and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander scored two goals and collected two assists – all in the second period – in a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders. John Tavares had a goal and an assist and Auston Matthews scored but Mitch Marner’s 20-game home points streak came to an end. The 29-11-8 Leafs are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for second overall in the Eastern Conference with 66 points but the Hurricanes hold two games in hand.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anders Lee scored both goals for the Islanders (23-21-5) as they’ve dropped five in a row and sit three points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 51 points. The Isles also activated Kyle Palmieri and Adam Pelech from injured reserve for this game.

An overtime goal by Dillon Dube lifted the Calgary Flames over the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3, spoiling Johnny Gaudreau’s first game in Calgary since the former Flame signed with the Jackets last summer. The Flames’ Andrew Mangiapane had a goal and an assist as did the Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine. Gaudreau collected two assists. The Flames (23-16-9) regained the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 55 points while the 14-30-3 Jackets sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 31 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaudreau was booed by Flames fans every time he touched the puck. Calgary Hockey Now’s Steve Macfarlane suggested that’s rooted in frustration by Flames fans over what was lost when the playmaking Gaudreau signed with Columbus. It was a costly win for Calgary as defenseman Chris Tanev left the game with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo Sabres nipped the Dallas Stars 3-2 on an overtime goal by Owen Power. Tage Thompson collected two assists while Craig Anderson stopped 29 shots as the Sabres improved to 24-19-3 to sit three points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot with 51 points. Roope Hintz collected an assist as he returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an upper-body injury. The Stars (28-13-8) moved one point up on the Winnipeg Jets for sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with 64 points.

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad scored twice and collected an assist to beat the Florida Panthers 6-2. Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin also had three points each while Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves for the 26-14-7 Rangers as they sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 59 points. Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov scored for the Panthers (23-21-5) as they remain three points out of the final Eastern wild-card berth with 51 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rangers winger Sammy Blais was scratched from this game for the second straight contest and the sixth time in the last 16 games. He’s struggled to regain his form since suffering a serious knee injury 14 months ago. Blais is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes his NHL career could be in jeopardy.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers winger Zach Hyman, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras are the three stars for the week ending Jan. 22, 2023.

OTTAWA SUN: Bad news for the struggling Senators as Josh Norris will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. It was the same shoulder that sidelined him for 38 games and was reinjured during a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Norris’ absence was a contributing factor hampering the Senators’ anticipated improvement this season. Speaking of the Senators, they activated defenseman Nikita Zaitsev off injured reserve.

TSN: New Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet will earn $2.75 million per season through 2024-25. He replaced Bruce Boudreau, who was fired on Sunday. The Canucks will be paying Boudreau the remainder of his $2 million salary for this season as well as the $2.75 million owed to Boudreau’s predecessor Travis Green.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks placed forward Tyler Johnson (left ankle) on injured reserve.

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: A tight roster, limited salary-cap space and being close to their contract limit for this season explain why the Canadiens only plucked one player (Johnathan Kovacevic) off waivers this season.










A Bump In The NHL’s Road Toward Inclusivity

A Bump In The NHL’s Road Toward Inclusivity

It’s been a week since Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to wear a rainbow jersey in a pregame skate against the Anaheim Ducks as part of his team’s Pride Night in support of the LGBTQ+ community. The fallout continues to resonate around the NHL.

Provorov, who is Russian Orthodox, cited his religious beliefs for his decision during a post-game press scrum. “I respect everybody and respect everybody’s choices,” he said following the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

Flyers coach John Tortorella supported his blueliner. “Provy did nothing wrong,” he said days later. “Just because you disagree with his decision doesn’t mean he did anything wrong.”

The Flyers and the NHL released statements expressing support for the LGBTQ+ community but also for their players’ right to make their own decisions. That didn’t sit well with a number of pundits and fans as they publicly condemned Provorov, Tortorella, the Flyers and the NHL.

This is what happens when human rights bump against freedom of religion and the right to one’s opinion. It is a complex issue that evokes strong words that too often are based on tribalism rather than serious discussion or debate.

It was a no-win situation for the Flyers and the NHL. Condemn and suspend Provorov, and they make him a martyr to those who oppose “cancel culture” and fear the trampling of individual rights. Support his right to his opinion and beliefs and they would be seen as shielding him while harming their relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

For the record, I don’t support Provorov’s position. I believe in equality for LGBTQ+ people and feel they’re as worthy of the same rights and freedoms that I enjoy as a white heterosexual man. I don’t have any problem with special events or campaigns that support them. Some of you will agree with me, others won’t. So be it.

Provorov has the right to his opinion and to his religious beliefs in North American society. However, they don’t shield him from the consequences of his decision.

His critics have the right to question his opinion and religious beliefs, particularly because the latter casts LGBTQ+ issues as sinful and immoral. The same belief, by the way, still runs through most Christian denominations.

LGBTQ+ people have suffered for centuries, forced to hide their true selves or face humiliation, condemnation, beatings or death. They’re still facing those fates in many parts of the world.

It’s only been in recent years that they’ve received a growing measure of acceptance in North American society. Nevertheless, many of them are still striving for the same rights, freedoms and acceptance that others take for granted.

A number of Provorov’s critics called him a homophobe, accused him of hiding behind his religion, demanding his suspension or the termination of his contract, with some even suggesting he leave the country.

Citing religious beliefs could be construed as Provorov’s tacit support for his church’s position regarding the LGBTQ+ community. However, he didn’t excoriate LGBTQ+ people or engage in hate speech toward them. He stressed that he respects other opinions but had to be true to himself and his faith. Those remarks didn’t seem to justify the volume of criticism he received.

Provorov’s supporters, meanwhile, question the need for “Pride Nights” or any sort of support for the LGBTQ+ community. There are also hockey fans with no opinion on the subject who decry political or social issues intruding into the sports world which is their solace from the daily strife of the real world.

Keeping such issues out of sports is impossible. Athletes and fans are human beings from all walks of life. Their emotions, beliefs and causes inevitably seep into the sports world whether we want them to or not. That means we have to face them even if they make us uncomfortable or emotional.

Provorov’s critics believe he’s set back the NHL’s direction toward inclusivity. I disagree. Yes, there remains a long way to go regarding the acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in hockey. But let’s not overlook how much progress has been made up to this point.

Twenty years ago, the notion of Pride Nights and “You Can Play” campaigns to support LGBTQ+ players and fans was unthinkable. Homophobia was very much a part of hockey with sexual and gender-based slurs regularly tossed around in dressing-room banter and hurled as insults at opponents on the ice.

Things have improved since then for LGBTQ+ hockey fans and players. Amid the fallout over Provorov’s decision, two of his teammates, Scott Laughton and James van Riemsdyk, gathered with 50 LGBTQ+ fans in a pre-arranged meeting following the game.

Both players actively support LGBTQ+ causes. Laughton believed that, overall, it was a “great, great night that brings a lot of awareness.”

Perhaps it did. Maybe Provorov’s stance ends up doing more good than harm if it generates more support for LGBTQ+ people in hockey.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he wanted fans to focus on the 700 players who support the LGBTQ+ community rather than one or two that may have issues for their own personal reasons.

Provorov’s stance can’t be ignored nor should it. However, he’s in a tiny minority if Bettman’s numbers are correct. That means the NHL’s efforts to embrace and support the LGBTQ+ community appear to be working throughout the league.

This situation could be merely a small bump on the road of progress. It shakes things up a little and creates some tension but doesn’t stop the journey.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 23, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – January 23, 2023

Would Anthony Duclair or Vladimir Tarasenko be worthwhile trade targets for the Flames? Could the Kraken become trade deadline buyers? What’s the latest on the Senators? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

SHOULD THE FLAMES LOOK AT DUCLAIR OR TARASENKO?

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek noted the Calgary Flames still haven’t found a suitable replacement for Johnny Gaudreau after the winger signed last summer with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He wondered if the Florida Panthers’ Anthony Duclair or the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko would fit for the Flames.

Duclair is expected to soon return to action from a torn Achilles tendon while the Panthers are trying to stay in the Eastern playoff race. Duhatschek believes that discussion should wait until it’s determined Duclair hasn’t suffered any lingering effect from his injury as well as where the Panthers are in the standings.

St, Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images)

Duhatschek wondered how well Tarasenko would respond to playing under Flames coach Darryl Sutter’s demanding system. He noted, however, that Marian Gaborik thrived under Sutter with the Los Angeles Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames have been rumored to be in the market for a top-six winger for some time. There was speculation linking them to Montreal’s Josh Anderson but the Canadiens appear unwilling to part with him.

Tarasenko seems a more likely option for the Flames than Duclair as the Panthers reportedly wish to keep him. Tarasenko is an unrestricted free agent this summer who reportedly never rescinded his 2021 trade request. Whether the Flames can find a way to take on the remainder of his $7.5 million cap hit and meet the Blues’ asking price remains to be seen.

WILL THE KRAKEN BECOME DEADLINE BUYERS?

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Geoff Baker recently reported that Kraken general manager Ron Francis is keeping an eye on this season’s March 3 trade deadline. Carrying three second-round picks in his year’s draft, Francis could use one or two of them to add a talented player.

The Kraken’s blue-line depth remains thin and they’ve been lucky to be relatively healthy over the course of this season. He pointed out they went 3-3-1 over the seven games Jamie Oleksiak was sidelined by a November injury and a December suspension.

Baker noted that Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg has been linked to the Kraken in the trade rumor mill. He’s under a one-year, $7 million contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken jockeying with the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Francis goes shopping to shore up his blueline depth before March 3.

Klingberg might be an option for Francis. He could also make a pitch for Jakob Chychrun but I doubt he’d meet the Arizona Coyotes’ asking price of two first-rounders and a high-end prospect. Perhaps Chychrun’s teammate Shayne Gostisbehere could be a trade target.

SENATORS SCOUTING KINGS

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO’s Charlie Roumeliotis reported Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion was in attendance for yesterday’s game between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. Dorion also attended the Kings’ game against the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings are loaded with right-shot defensemen. Apart from Drew Doughty and Sean Durzi, they could be willing to part with one of them. Perhaps Sean Walker or Matt Roy might be available.