Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, T.J. Oshie, Owen Power and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
WGR 550: During a recent interview with a Boston TV station, Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel was asked if he could ever see himself playing in Boston.
“Yeah, I mean, I think every kid grows up dreaming of playing for their hometown teams,” Eichel said. “Whether that happens now, later in my career … whenever, who knows, if it ever happens. It would be pretty cool, but who knows what’s gonna happen here in the next little bit.”
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s hometown is Chelmsford, Massachusetts, so it’s not surprising he would say he’d welcome an opportunity to play for the Bruins one day. His remarks, however, will only provide more fodder to the trade speculation swirling around him this summer.
The Bruins have the cap space to absorb Eichel’s $10 million annual cap hit, but their focus is on finding a top-four, left-side defenseman and re-signing pending free agents like Taylor Hall and Brandon Carlo. They could also bring back long-time Bruins Tuukka Rask and David Krejci on short-term deals.
Eichel might one day suit up for the Bruins, but it seems unlikely he’ll do so this year.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: T.J. Oshie hasn’t spoken with Capitals management about the possibility of being exposed in the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft. Oshie was born in Washington State and Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol coached him at the University of North Dakota. However, the 34-year-old winger wants to finish his career with the Capitals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: During an interview last month, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he was unlikely to expose Oshie in the draft. We’ll find out for certain when the expansion draft protection lists are made public by the NHL on July 18.
RDS: Speaking of the expansion draft, the league will be holding a virtual conference with the general managers on Monday to review the rules and procedures. Teams must submit their protections lists by 5 pm ET on July 17.
NHL.COM: Top prospect Owen Power would have no problem being selected by the Buffalo Sabres, who hold the first-overall selection in this year’s upcoming NHL Draft. The University of Michigan defenseman said it would be “nice and close” to his home in Mississauga, Ontario. He also praised the Sabres’ rich history. “I would love to be a part of it,” he said. The first round of the draft is Friday, July 23.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whoever selects Power might have to wait at least a year before he joins their lineup. The 18-year-old blueliner has indicated he’s leaning toward returning to college for another season.
THE SCORE: The lawyer for former Chicago Blackhawks player who alleged former video coach Brad Alrich sexually assaulted him said her client won’t participate in the team’s investigation into the incident.
Lawyer Susan Loggans said they have no faith in any investigation paid for by the Blackhawks, pointing out they’ve denied any sexual misconduct ever took place. She also said there’s no assurance from the team or anyone else that the results of the team’s investigation would be made public.
The Lightning thump the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, expansion and NHL draft TV info announced, information on special events for 2021-22 revealed, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with a convincing 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. The Bolts broke the game open in the third period as Nikita Kucherov scored twice and set up Steven Stamkos for the fifth goal. Brayden Point had three assists on the night.
Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).
It was a rough game for Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher. He skated away with a bloodied head after tangling with Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
Canadiens winger Joel Armia took a private jet from Montreal to Tampa Bay to rejoin his teammates after emerging from COVID protocol on Monday. He had been held out of the lineup after entering the protocol on Sunday. His spot in the lineup for Game 1 was taken by Jake Evans, playing his first game since being sidelined by a concussion in Game 1 of the Habs second-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a dominating performance by Tampa Bay from start to finish. Despite the score being 2-1 after two periods, there was a sense that it was a matter of time before they blew the game open.
The Canadiens seemed tentative through much of this contest as they struggled to adjust to the Lightning’s game plan. This series will be over quickly if the Habs fail to find a solution.
Poor puck management proved costly for the Canadiens. The Lightning’s first three goals came from offensive-zone turnovers. Lightning coach Jon Cooper also used his home-ice advantage of having the last line change to good effect in keeping the Point line away from the Canadiens shutdown line.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman defended the performance of the league’s officiating during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. “It seems every season, it’s a playoff ritual for me to address some aspect of the officiating,” said Bettman. “Let’s be clear. Our officials are not only the best hockey officials in the world, they’re the best officials in any sport.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s an annual playoff ritual because there’s an obvious difference over how games are called during the regular season and how they’re called in the playoffs. The commissioner, however, seems unconcerned that this is a growing issue for fans and pundits.
ESPN2, NHL Network and Sportsnet will broadcast the NHL expansion draft on Wednesday, July 21 at 8 pm ET. The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will be televised on ESPN 2, Sportsnet and SN NOW on Friday, July 23 at 8 pm ET.
The Vegas Golden Knights will host the 2022 NHL All-Star Game with the date to be determined. The 2022 NHL Winter Classic will be held on Jan. 1, 2022, at Target Field in Minneapolis between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. The 2022 Stadium Series game will be held Feb. 26 , 2022, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville between the Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. The league also plans to stage a Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic game in March 2022.
SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens will host the 2022 NHL Draft.
THE SCORE: The NHL’s participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing remains “a work in progress,” according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly. He suggested the continued uncertainty over COVID-19 and the games being held halfway around the world doesn’t make it necessarily an ideal Games to elect to go to. NHL participation remains contingent on negotiations with the International Olympic Committee as per the CBA extension agreement with the NHLPA.
YARDBARKER: The NHL confirmed the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division as part of its realignment with the addition of the Seattle Kraken. The decision to move the Coyotes was made by the league board of governors in December 2018.
CBS BOSTON: Bruins star David Pastrnak and his family are mourning the heartbreaking death of their infant son on June 23. He was five days old.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My sincere condolences to Pastrnak and his family on their loss.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks have hired the law firm Jenner & Block to lead an “independent review” of sexual assault allegations against former video coach Bradley Aldrich and the Blackhawks’ internal handling of those allegations.
SPORTSNET: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league only recently learned of the allegations, adding it will await the results of the independent investigation before deciding how to proceed.
WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara was honored at a ceremony celebrating his home country of Slovakia’s 28th anniversary “for extraordinary merits in the field of sports and for extraordinary dissemination of the good name of the Slovak Republic abroad.”
NEW YORK POST: ESPN has hired Chris Chelios to join fellow Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier as part of the network’s top hockey studio team.
NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken announced the Charlotte Checkers will be their AHL affiliate starting in 2021-22.
TSN: The Hockey Hall of Fame announced it is moving forward with its induction ceremony for 2020-2021 on Nov. 15.
The Lightning thump the Islanders to take a 3-2 lead in their semifinal series, updates on the Golden Knights and Canadiens, 18 players exempt from the expansion draft, the latest notable contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning are one game away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final after crushing the New York Islanders 8-0 in Game 5 of their semifinal series. Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn each scored twice, Nikita Kucherov collected three assists, Brayden Point scored to extend his goals streak to eight games, and Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 21-save shutout.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).
Islanders center Mathew Barzal could face supplemental discipline from the NHL department of player safety after receiving a five-minute major and game misconduct for cross-checking Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta, who was shaken up and played just one shift in the third period.
The Lightning holds a 3-2 series lead and can wrap up the series in Game 6 Wednesday on Long Island.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was the Lightning’s most dominating performance of these playoffs. It was also the Islanders’ worst effort of the postseason. The Bolts jumped from the gate early with three first-period goals, chasing Isles starter Semyon Varlamov from the net. Backup Ilya Sorokin didn’t fare any better, allowing five goals on 26 shots.
This loss isn’t all on the Isles goaltenders. Their teammates seemed caught off guard by the Lightning’s strong start and never really mounted much of a response.
Barzal’s frustration boiled over when he crosschecked Rutta. It could prove more costly to the Isles in Game 6 if his actions result in suspension.
LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights’ top forwards are struggling to score in their semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens. Nicolas Roy has two goals, Mattias Janmark one, and that’s it for their scoring forwards. Their defensemen have accounted for the bulk of their offense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have done a good job thus far bottling up Vegas’ top scorers. They’ll have another opportunity to find a way to thwart the Habs’ tight-checking system in Game 5 tonight in Las Vegas.
TSN: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher believes the longer this series goes the more pressure falls on the heavily favored Golden Knights. “As this series goes on, we get more and more comfortable in these situations and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve shortened this series to a best-of-three,” said Gallagher.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tonight’s game could determine the direction of this series. The winner will have a chance to close it out in Game 6 on Thursday in Montreal.
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector weighs in on the poor quality of officiating in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mark (no relation) isn’t the only pundit raising questions about the questionable calls and missed penalties in every series thus far. We can expect this issue to be raised by reporters during NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual postseason press conference prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma expressed concern over the recent positive COVID-19 tests of Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme and Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon. He suspects they contracted the coronavirus in Las Vegas, where transmission rates are six times higher than in Quebec as health guidelines in Vegas have gone from relaxed to non-existent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regardless of where Ducharme and McCrimmon were infected with COVID-19, the league and the two clubs must ensure their health protocols for this series remain strictly enforced. An outbreak among the players could put their health at risk and derail their series.
CAP FRIENDLY: 18 NHL players are exempt from next month’s expansion draft due to injury or career-ending illness. They include Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler, Arizona’s Marian Hossa, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, Tampa Bay’s Marian Gaborik and Washington’s Henrik Lundqvist.
ESPN.COM: J.T. Brown has retired from professional hockey to join the expansion Seattle Kraken as a television analyst. He played seven NHL seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild from 2011-12 to 2018-19, finishing with 72 points in 365 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Brown in his broadcasting career.
NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild assistant general manager Tom Kurvers passed away Monday from lung cancer at age 58. He was diagnosed in 2019 despite being a non-smoker.
Kurvers spent 11 NHL seasons as a defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks from 1984-85 to 1994-95, finishing with 421 points in 659 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Kurvers’ family, friends, former teammates and associates, and the Wild organization.
Another look at how this summer expansion draft could affect several teams in the NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently looked at several teams that could be faced with a tough loss or an interesting decision to make in this summer’s expansion draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Ryan S. Clark previously did a feature examining six clubs that could make side deals with the Seattle Kraken to protect key players. Boylen is examining nine teams.
The Colorado Avalanche needs Erik Johnson to waive his no-movement clause. If he does, they’ll have to decide if they’ll protect eight skaters or seven forwards and three defensemen. Under the former, they could lose a forward like Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Tyson Jost or Valeri Nichushkin. Under the latter, Ryan Graves could be left unprotected. If Johnson doesn’t waive his clause, they’ll have to go the eight skaters option, leaving the Seattle Kraken the choice of Graves or one of those forwards.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Ryan S.Clark reported Johnson is expected to waive his NMC. The Kraken will likely pass on him given his age (33), injury history and his $6 million annual average value through 2022-23. He also reported the Avs are willing to trade one of their forwards for something decent in return and are open to discussing their needs with the Kraken
The status of sidelined defenseman Oscar Klefbom and how general manager Ken Holland handles pending unrestricted free agents like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie could affect the Edmonton Oilers’ plans. If Klefbom is healthy and Larsson or Barrie is re-signed before the draft, the Oilers could lose a defenseman like Ethan Bear. Caleb Jones could be protected only if the UFA blueliners aren’t re-signed and Klefbom is exposed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klefbom’s status remains uncertain. Holland could wait until after the expansion draft to re-sign Larsson and/or Barrie. That depends, of course, on whether the Kraken have interest in either blueliner during their exclusive free-agent interview window from July 18-21.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (NHL Images)
Five members of the Minnesota Wild (Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin) have no-movement clauses. If none of them waive their clauses, the Wild could be forced to make a side deal with the Kraken or risk losing defenseman Matt Dumba if they protect just three defensemen or risk losing a forward by protecting eight skaters. If they’re faced with leaving Dumba unprotected they could attempt to trade him before the protected lists are due.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Clark reported Wild management could have discussions with those five players about waiving their NMCs. Having Parise, Suter and Zuccarello waive would be the best scenario. They’re aging players carrying hefty salary-cap hits for at least three more seasons who likely won’t be enticing to the Kraken.
If Dumba becomes the odd man out, I expect they’ll try to trade him rather than lose him for nothing in the expansion draft. Boylen also suggested they could make a side deal with the Kraken by sending them a player to ensure they take someone other than Dumba in the draft.
The Kraken could make a push for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton if he’s left unsigned and unprotected. If he’s re-signed, he’ll have to be protected and that would leave blueliner Jake Bean available. The Kraken could also have a shot at goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic if pending UFA Petr Mrazek is re-signed before the draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculated the Hurricanes could hold off on signing Hamilton in order to protect Bean, leaving Brady Skjei exposed. They could do the same with Mrazek to protect Nedeljkovic. There’s a chance Hamilton or Mrazek could sign with the Kraken but their priority could be staying in Carolina.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll take quite an offer to convince Kraken GM Ron Francis to take on Johansen or Duchene. Both are underachieving forwards carrying $8 million cap hits for several more years.
Travis Dermott is expected to be the odd man out for the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, contract negotiations with pending UFA winger Zach Hyman could affect which players they end up protecting. If Hyman is re-signed, they’ll have to protect seven forwards, leaving an extra defenseman exposed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under that scenario they’ll protect Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie, leaving Justin Holl exposed. They could take the chance on Hyman re-signing after the expansion draft to protect four blueliners and leave Dermott exposed. If they sign Hyman, they could try to work out a deal with the Kraken to ensure Holl isn’t taken.
Boylen expects Calgary Flames winger Milan Lucic will waive his no-movement clause to allow the club to protect a younger forward like Dillon Dube or Glenn Gawdin. He also wondered if the Kraken would take defenseman Mark Giordano if left exposed. The 38-year-old Flames captain has a year remaining on his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boylen observed that big changes could be coming to the Flames roster following this season. Those, however, could occur following the expansion draft. As for Giordano, the Kraken could prefer players who fit into their long-term plans.
The Dallas Stars could go the eight-skater option to protect four defensemen if Jamie Oleksiak is re-signed. That could leave a forward such as Radek Faksa, Denis Gurianov or Joe Pavelski exposed. Boylen feels it could be easier for the Stars if Oleksiak isn’t protected or a side deal is worked out.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wait until after the draft to re-sign Oleksiak and take the chance that the Kraken will pass on him or else talk trade to ensure he’s not taken in the draft if they opt to protect seven forwards and three blueliners.