The Kraken win their first-ever preseason game plus the latest on Mark Stone, Jonathan Drouin, Semyon Varlamov, Jakub Vrana and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: The Seattle Kraken tasted victory in their first-ever preseason game on Sunday, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 in front of 10, 208 raucous fans at Spokane Arena. Morgan Geekie snapped a 3-3 tie early in the third period and added an insurance goal midway through the frame to seal the win.
THE ATHLETIC: Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone and defenseman Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb were injured in a 4-2 preseason loss to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. Stone left the game after being struck by the puck on the right ear. He received stitches but didn’t return. There were no post-game updates on Theodore and McNabb.
Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said the decision to keep Stone out of the game was precautionary. He doesn’t think the injury to his captain is serious.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jonathan Drouin received a warm welcome from Canadiens fans during their annual Red vs White scrimmage yesterday. It marked the first time Drouin played in front of Canadiens fans since 2019-20. He left the team late last season for personal reasons that were later revealed to be anxiety and insomnia issues.
Meanwhile, rookie winger Cole Caufield was scratched after feeling uncomfortable during the warmup. He’s listed as day-to-day but head coach Dominique Ducharme doesn’t feel it’s anything serious.
THE ATHLETIC’s Arthur Staple tweeted New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov still isn’t skating as he remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana will see a specialist today to determine the severity of the shoulder injury suffered on Saturday.
CBS SPORTS: Calgary Flames center Tyler Pitlick left Sunday’s 4-0 preseason loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the first period with a lower-body injury.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar realizes he’s on the hot seat this season. His club failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs in the last three years. Another disappointing finish could spell the end of his job.
Bednar spoke at length over the summer with Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper. Like Bednar, Cooper felt similar pressure after his own Presidents’ Trophy-winning team was swept in 2019 from the opening round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He went on to guide the Lightning to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles.
The Blues sign GM Doug Armstrong to a new contract and make a trade with the Senators, the Wild name Matt Dumba and Marcus Foligno alternate captains, and the latest on Sergei Bobrovsky, Anders Lee and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues signed general manager Doug Armstrong to a five-year contract extension.
St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong (NHL.com).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. In announcing the signing, Blues owner Tom Stillman pointed out the club has made nine postseason appearances during Armstrong’s tenure, including three division titles, a conference title and their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2019.
The Blues also made a trade yesterday, shipping forward Zach Sanford to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for center Logan Brown. They’ll also receive a fourth-round pick in 2022 from the Senators if the 26-year-old Brown doesn’t appear in 30 games this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A St. Louis native, Brown was the Senators’ first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2016 NHL draft but he struggled to crack their rebuilding roster, appearing in just 30 games over the past four seasons. He’ll get a great opportunity to reset his NHL career with his hometown club.
Sanford, 26, developed into a good defensive winger with the Blues. He should be a solid fit on the Senators’ checking lines.
This was also a much-needed cost-cutting move for the Blues. As per Cap Friendly, by exchanging Sanford’s $2 million cap hit for Brown’s $750K, they’re just under the $81.5 million salary cap.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild named defenseman Matt Dumba and winger Marcus Foligno as their new alternate captains. They replace Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who were bought out of their contracts during the offseason.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky hopes to put last season’s disappointing playoff performance behind him. He’ll be sharing the goaltending duties this season with promising Spencer Knight.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bobrovsky’s going to face a real challenge hanging onto the starter’s job. Knight is a highly-touted young netminder seen as Bobrovsky’s eventual replacement.
NYI HOCKEY NOW: The Islanders are likely to keep left winger Anders Lee out of their first few postseason games. Their captain is returning from surgery to repair a torn ACL that ended his 2020-21 season last March.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They want to ensure Lee is fully up to speed before putting him into game action. No sense rushing him in meaningless preseason games and risk a setback.
THE ATHLETIC: Philadelphia Flyers center Kevin Hayes recently expressed his gratitude to the hockey community at large for the support he and his family received following the sudden death of his older brother (and former NHL player) Jimmy Hayes.
Among the notables to reach out with support were Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke and team captain Sidney Crosby, former New York Rangers teammates Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk, as well as New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Pat Maroon.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The past several weeks have been difficult for Hayes. He also recently underwent abdominal surgery that will sideline him for the entirety of training camp.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens winger Mike Hoffman could miss up to four weeks with a lower-body injury suffered during offseason training.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana’s first day in training camp didn’t last long. After being delayed joining his teammates by visa issues, he left practice yesterday with a shoulder injury.
SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Brady Keeper was stretchered from the ice during practice on Saturday with an apparent leg injury. No update was provided on his condition.
TSN: Goaltender Curtis McElhinney took to Instagram yesterday to announce his retirement. During his 13 NHL seasons, the well-traveled McElhinney appeared in 249 career games with the Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning.
McElhinney finished his career on a high note, winning two straight Stanley Cups with the Lightning in 2020 and 2021. He finishes with a record of 94 wins, 95 losses and 20 overtime losses, with a 2.83 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and 12 shutouts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to McElhinney and his family in their future endeavors.
The league will enforce stricter rules for cross-checking, the Olympic schedule is set, plus the latest on Ryan Johansen, Erik Johnson, Joe Thornton and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The NHL intends to crack down on cross-checking this season. The focus will be on three specific areas of the rink: along the boards, in front of the net, and in open ice.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rule changes are drawing a mixed reaction from players. As always, I’m skeptical as to how tightly enforced these changes will be. I fear we’ll see the usual pattern develop whenever such changes regarding on-ice infractions are implemented: closely called early in the season before drifting back to the previous standard over the course of the schedule.
NHL.COM: The men’s hockey schedule for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has been released. It begins on Feb. 9 with Russia (also known as the “Russian Olympic Committee”) versus Switzerland, the Czech Republic facing off against Denmark and Sweden taking on Latvia.
Feb. 10 sees Canada squaring off against Germany, the United States against China, Finland going up against Slovakia, and Denmark taking on the “Russian Olympic Committee”.
The tournament ends on Feb. 19 with the medal games. The gold medal game begins at 11:10 pm ET.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canada vs Germany features Edmonton Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl facing off against each other for the first time in Olympic hockey. That’s an early must-watch for me in this tournament.
The “Russian Olympic Committee” will hereafter be referred to as the “ROC” by me throughout the Olympics. The gold medal game starts after midnight my time, meaning my Keurig will be getting a workout that night.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Joe Thornton and Anton Lundell were absent from Florida Panthers training camp yesterday. Thornton was dealing with a minor sprain while Lundell missed his second straight day with an undisclosed ailment.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen is hoping for a big bounce-back year following two sub-par seasons.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Pavel Francouz are trying to put their lost seasons’ behind them. Injuries limited Johnson to just four games in 2020-21 while Francouz was sidelined the entire season.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider hopes to make his NHL debut this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A highly-touted prospect, Seider could be a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate if he cracks the lineup and plays well in 2021-22.
TSN: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An unfortunate setback for Samberg, who was expected to become a regular on the Jets blueline this season.
Calgary Flames prospect forward Connor Zary is listed as week-to-week with a fractured ankle after blocking a shot in a rookie game earlier this week.
TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Sami Niku to a one-year, two-way contract. Earlier this week, the 24-year-old Niku agreed to a mutual termination of his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
THE ATHLETIC: The New Jersey Devils hope to convince their one unvaccinated player to change his mind and join their other 49 players in camp who are vaccinated against COVID-19.
THE SCORE: The Washington Capitals will be the first NHL club to feature ads on their jerseys starting in 2022-23 after agreeing to a multi-year deal with Caesars Sportsbook.
The Sabres strip Jack Eichel of his captaincy, plus several stars are already sidelined or returning from injuries as training camps open. Check out the details in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams confirmed yesterday the club had stripped Jack Eichel of the captaincy. The 24-year-old center also failed his team physical and will be placed on injured reserve.
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).
Eichel and Sabres’ management remain in a standoff over which medical procedure he should receive to repair a herniated disc in his neck. He favors disc replacement surgery while the team doctors prefer fusion surgery. Adams also indicated the team is still open to trading Eichel at the right price.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt any NHL fan or pundit is surprised by this news. It’s just another chapter in an impasse with no end in sight. There could be teams willing to let Eichel undergo disc replacement but they’re unwilling to pay the Sabres’ high asking price to acquire him.
Don’t expect to see Eichel on the ice this season unless one side blinks. I also don’t anticipate seeing him traded this season unless the Sabres drop their price. Even then, Eichel’s $10 million annual average value over the next five seasons is difficult for most teams to absorb even when he’s healthy.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin is expected to miss at least the first two months of this season recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee. The Penguins also have one unidentified player not yet fully vaccinated though he’s expected to be within the next few weeks.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said he’s been dealing with a nagging injury since prior to the 2020 NHL playoffs but downplayed the severity. He and GM Stan Bowman didn’t elaborate but said it was a common ailment among hockey players.
Meanwhile, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was back with his teammates in his first formal practice since missing all of last season with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. He’s hoping to be ready to play when the season opens next month.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and winger Mike Hoffman are likely to miss training camp and the start of the season. Price is recovering from offseason knee surgery while Hoffman has been sidetracked by a lower-body injury.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is listed as week-to-week due to ongoing rehabilitation on his hip. Meanwhile, teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov said he’s feeling good mentally and physically and ready to put a difficult 2020-21 season behind him.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck confirmed he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Aug. 20. He was unvaccinated at the time and took about 10 days to recover. He’s since been vaccinated but felt rushed into doing so in order to be ready for training camp so soon after recovering from the coronavirus.
“I’m not anti-vax by any means,” he said. “But I’d like to have that decision for myself. It felt very forced on me.” He added the post-vaccination symptoms made him feel as though he had COVID again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hellebuyck’s situation was unique and probably should’ve allowed him more leeway to become vaccinated so soon after recovering from COVID-19. NHL protocols would allow him to join his teammates under certain restrictions until he received his shots.
The league isn’t forcing its players to be inoculated. However, they face travel restrictions, additional testing, forfeiture of portions of their salaries if they miss playing time and social interaction limitations as a result.
Some might feel the NHL’s protocols are too restrictive. However, the league and the NHLPA don’t want a repeat of 2020-21 when multiple game postponements due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among several teams wreaked havoc on an already compressed schedule.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Center Tyler Seguin, winger Alexander Radulov and goaltender Ben Bishop were on the ice for the Stars’ opening day of training camp. Seguin missed all but three games last season to hip and knee surgeries. Radulov was sidelined most of last season by a core muscle injury requiring offseason surgery. Bishop, meanwhile, is hopeful of playing after missing all of last season to knee surgery.
CALGARY SUN: Flames center Sean Monahan revealed a hip injury bothered him for most of last season. He underwent offseason surgery and was on the ice for the club’s opening day of training camp.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche forward Stefan Matteau and defenseman Roland McKeown had both tested positive for COVID-19 but are nearing the end of their recovery. Meanwhile, head coach Jared Bednar said defenseman Cale Makar underwent an upper-body procedure recently but isn’t expected to miss any practice or preseason time.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins center Charlie Coyle began training camp yesterday wearing a non-contact red jersey. He’s coming off a pair of knee surgeries but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken center Yanni Gourde took part in drills yesterday wearing a non-contact jersey. GM Ron Francis indicates Gourde could return to action sooner than expected from offseason shoulder surgery. He was originally expected to be sidelined until December.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace revealed he was recently hospitalized fighting for his life with a severe case of COVID-19. He spent a week in intensive care before being released. He and his wife must now wait eight weeks before getting vaccinated as per CDC guidelines, something they had put off based on advice from doctors related to medical conditions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Legace and his wife for a speedy and complete recovery.
THE PROVINCE: An internal document shared with NHL teams earlier this week reveals the league believes 30 of its 32 teams could start the season with full capacity at their arenas. The exceptions are the Vancouver Canucks (50 percent) and the Montreal Canadiens (33 percent). The memo also revealed the various anticipated vaccine guidelines for all the franchises.
The NHL finds no evidence Evander Kane bet on games, several players remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated as training camps open plus the latest contract signings, injury updates & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NO EVIDENCE KANE BET ON GAMES, SAYS NHL
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The NHL announced Wednesday it found no evidence San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane bet on league games. The accusation was leveled by Kane’s estranged wife Anna several weeks ago, prompting the league’s investigation.
San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane (NHL Images).
However, the NHL is now investigating “additional unrelated allegations involving potential wrongdoing by Mr. Kane” linked to a domestic violence restraining order filed by Anna on Tuesday. The Sharks released a statement yesterday indicating the 30-year-old winger has agreed not to participate in training camp until further notice.
LATEST NHL COVID-19 NEWS
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith will miss the opening week of training camp. He’ll be in quarantine until Oct. 1 after traveling to the United States to get a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination.
Meanwhile, Oilers general manager Ken Holland said winger Josh Archibald is the only unvaccinated player in training camp. If he remains that way for the coming season, he’ll need a 14-day quarantine to participate in road games in the United States. He will be suspended without pay during that period which won’t count against the club’s salary cap. Archibald could miss 30-plus games and forfeit $600k in wages.
Oilers goaltender Alex Stalock is expected to be sidelined for the entire season due to a heart condition (myocarditis) related to his bout with COVID-19 last November. Holland said there are no plans at this time to seek another veteran goalie.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said winger Tyler Bertuzzi is the only player on his team to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. He’ll be unable to travel to Canada under current border restrictions which require a 14-day quarantine for unvaccinated players traveling into the country. He could forfeit $400K of his salary based on those Canadian road games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland and Yzerman indicated they aren’t going to force anyone to get vaccinated. The league’s COVID restrictions and the prospect of lost wages, however, could eventually convince Archibald and Bertuzzi to change their minds. Their stance has the potential to create a rift among teammates who could consider them a risk to their health and safety.
Most NHL players are well-conditioned athletes with good odds of avoiding the worst serious symptoms of COVID-19. Stalock’s situation, however, should serve as a warning that they’re not totally immune.
SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander is not yet fully vaccinated but will be when the season opens next month. “I had a couple of medical things that I had to take care of but I’ll be vaccinated by the beginning of the season.”
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Travis Hamonic was reportedly not in training camp and his absence isn’t injury-related. That led to speculation his absence was related to the league’s COVID protocols but GM Jim Benning said he’ll be in camp.
Benning also acknowledged winger Justin Bailey has tested positive for COVID-19 before crossing the Canada – US border. He’ll have to wait another 10 days before he can join his teammates in Vancouver.
Speaking of the Canucks, they signed winger Alex Chiasson to a professional tryout offer.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens forward Jesse Ylonen has changed his mind and agreed to be vaccinated.
TSN: More than a dozen infectious disease and critical care doctors are calling on the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers to drop plans to stage games in full-capacity arenas this season. The province of Alberta is reeling through an unprecedented medical crisis amid the fourth wave of COVID-19.
The Oilers issued a statement indicating fans will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry to Rogers Place. They will also insist fans wear masks when not eating or drinking.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed defenseman Rasmus Dahlin to a three-year, $18 million contract. The annual average value is $6 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fair signing for both sides. Dahlin gets a significant pay raise coming off his entry-level contract while the Sabres commit to a short-term bridge deal. His signing leaves Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes and Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk as the only remaining notable restricted free agents.
THE SCORE: The Los Angeles Kings signed goaltender Cal Petersen to a three-year contract extension with an annual average value of $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Petersen is the heir apparent to long-time Kings starting goalie Jonathan Quick. He took over the starter’s role last season, appearing in 35 games to Quick’s 22. The latter is signed through 2022-23 with an annual cap hit of $5.8 million.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche signed right wing Logan O’Connor to a three-year, $3.15 million contract extension.
GOPHNX.com’s Craig Morgan reports Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel is sidelined two-three weeks with a foot injury suffered during offseason training.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews will miss the first part of the upcoming season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning defenseman Cal Foote will be sidelined by a hand injury for the entire training camp and preseason as well as the first two-to-four weeks of the regular season.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TSN: The St. Louis Blues announced they’ve named Peter Chiarelli as their vice-president of hockey operations while Ken Hitchcock rejoins the club as a coaching consultant.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers confirmed their arena will be called the FLA Live Arena for this season. The club is looking for a new naming rights partner for 2022.
The Wild sign Kirill Kaprizov, the Blues Jackets re-up Elvis Merzlikins and the Blues ink Robert Thomas. Check out the details of these signings plus the latest PTO contracts and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed winger Kirill Kaprizov to a five-year, $45 million contract on Tuesday night. The annual average value of the deal is $9 million. This comes on the eve of the Wild opening training camp today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report adds Kaprizov is in North America, will travel to Minnesota today and will be in training camp tomorrow. The 24-year-old winger’s one NHL season has raised questions over whether he’s worth that type of contract.
The Wild, however, had no choice. Kaprizov may have a short body of work but he won the Calder Memorial Trophy last season, becoming the most exciting offensive star they’ve had since Marian Gaborik was in his heyday 15 years ago. Cap Friendly indicates they’re also facing a short-term cap crunch over the next three seasons. They needed certainty over how much he’ll cost them per season, especially when the salary cap begins rising again.
Kaprizov now faces the pressure of justifying that hefty raise and building on his promising NHL debut. If he does, the Wild should remain a legitimate playoff contender despite their upcoming salary-cap issues. If not, things could get ugly very quickly for him and for general manager Bill Guerin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing cements Merzlikins as the Blue Jackets’ starting goaltender. It also means Joonas Korpisalo could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent unless he’s moved before the March trade deadline if the Jackets are out of playoff contention.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues inked center Robert Thomas to a two-year, $5.6 million contract with an annual average value of $2.8 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s the same deal teammate Jordan Kyrou recently signed but there was speculation Thomas would get less than that because of his struggles last season. The signing pushes the Blues above the cap by around $1.3 million but it’s expected they’ll offset that by placing sidelined forward Oskar Sundqvist (knee injury) and his $2.75 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve to start the season.
The Blues must become cap compliant when Sundqvist returns to action. That could come about via demoting or trading a lower-salaried player or perhaps they’ll find a trade partner for Vladimir Tarasenko by then.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed Bobby Ryan to a professional tryout offer. The 34-year-old winger played for the Wings last season.
TSN: Alexander Galchenyuk signed a PTO with the Arizona Coyotes. The 27-year-old forward last played for the Coyotes in 2018-19.
TSN: The Philadelphia Flyers announced center Kevin Hayes underwent abdominal surgery and will be sidelined four to six weeks and defenseman Samuel Morin will be out six to eight weeks recovering from knee surgery. Forward Wade Allison is out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ll feel Hayes’ absence for the opening weeks of this season. His spot as second-line center could be filled by Morgan Frost.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have barred forward Zac Rinaldo from attending training camp due to his unvaccinated status. He’s on a one-year, two-way contract and has been vocal in his stance against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. He’ll instead attend the training camp of their AHL affiliate in Cleveland later this month.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinaldo can forget about getting called up by the Jackets. The club is taking a firm stance on ensuring all its players are fully vaccinated, operating under the NHL’s COVID protocols for this season.
SPORTSNET: After 42 years in broadcasting, Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Jim Hughson has retired. He called his first game on radio in 1979 and become the main play-by-play for the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and national broadcasts on HniC.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hughson and his family for a happy retirement.