What Next For The Buffalo Sabres?
Recaps of Friday’s games, Brent Seabrook retires, Sabres GM speaks about his club’s poor performance and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brad Marchand scored twice and set up another to lead the Boston Bruins over the Washington Capitals 5-1. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom collected an assist to give him 700 for his career. Capitals winger Tom Wilson could face supplemental discipline after he drilled Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo in the head during the first period. Wilson was unpenalized on the play while Carlo left the game and was taken to hospital for his injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a history of questionable hits stretching back to 2015. His previous antics earned him four fines and three suspensions totaling 23 games.
A shootout goal by Philipp Kurashev lifted the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alex DeBrincat scored twice, Patrick Kane collected two helpers and Malcolm Subban made 39 saves for the win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have proven to be a handful for the Lightning in this series compared to their previous one earlier in the season. It’s indicative of how much the Hawks have improved since the opening weeks of the schedule.
David Perron’s game-tying goal late in the third period set the stage for Mike Hoffman’s overtime winner as the St. Louis Blues edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Perron scored twice while Ryan O’Reilly assisted on every Blues goal. The Kings have dropped four straight.
The Colorado Avalanche got an overtime goal by Valeri Nichushkin to nip the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. Avs center Nathan MacKinnon remained sidelined by an apparent head injury suffered during Wednesday’s game against San Jose. He received clearance to play but was a late scratch to avoid further injury. Head coach Jared Bednar believes MacKinnon could miss a couple of more games.
A three-goal first period powered the Minnesota Wild to a 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Jordan Greenway and Mats Zuccarello each had a goal and an assist while Kirill Kaprizov and Marcus Foligno both collected two assists.
Max Pacioretty scored in overtime as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the San Jose Sharks 5-4. Pacioretty scored twice and added an assist. Vegas goalie Oscar Dansk made 24 saves to pick up his first win since 2017.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook announced his playing career is over due to injuries. The 35-year-old blueliner’s last game was Dec. 15, 2019, after which he underwent surgery on both of his hips and right shoulder. He then suffered a back injury during the opening day of training camp in January. Seabrook finishes his career with three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, 2015), an Olympic Gold Medal (2010) and 464 points in 1,114 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seabrook spent his entire 15-year NHL career with the Blackhawks and played a crucial role in their rise from league laughingstock to three-time Stanley Cup champion. He hasn’t officially retired, however, as he has three years and $15 million in actual salary remaining on his contract. He’ll remain on long-term injury reserve, which will provide the Blackhawks with a measure of salary-cap relief.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams expressed his unhappiness yesterday over his club’s poor performance. He called where the team was at this time “unacceptable”, criticized what he called a lack of competitiveness by the players, emphasized he has “full authority on hockey decisions,” indicated “everything is being evaluated” when asked about head coach Ralph Krueger’s status and claimed team captain Jack Eichel has not requested a trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Adams’ statement seemed to be the club’s attempt to mollify Sabres fans upset with the club’s lack of progress. Talk is one thing, action is another. The fans are more interested in what, if anything, the current management intends to do to end this team’s decade of mediocrity.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Former Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite said the club expected starting goalie Carey Price would struggle in January and February as he adjusted to sharing his workload this season with backup Jake Allen. Price was expected to improve as the season wore on and saw more starts.
Waite also said the long-time Habs netminder isn’t at 100 percent physically but he can still play. “He’s not hurt but he has some stiffness. He has to learn to play with the pain and that’s why we need a very good backup and that’s what we have in Montreal right now.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will further stoke debate among Canadiens fans over whether Price will ever regain his once-dominant form on a consistent basis.
THE SCORE: Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning said he’s not looking to make a coaching change. Bench boss Travis Green is in the final season of his contract but Benning believes Green and his staff “have done a good job with our group”. As for trades, the Canucks GM said his struggling team has to figure this out from within as new players would have to quarantine for two weeks and regain their conditioning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So, no Jake Virtanen to the Anaheim Ducks for Danton Heinen as rumored a week ago?
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers are breathing a sigh of relief as they learned goaltender Igor Shesterkin suffered a mild groin strain during Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils. He had to be helped off the ice at the end of the third period when he was unable to put weight on his right leg. He’s listed as day-to-day.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Former 1980 Team USA forward Mark Pavelich, 63, was found dead in a Minnesota treatment facility. Pavelich helped Team USA upset the powerful Soviet Union squad on route to winning Olympic gold in 1980. He went on to spend six seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks, tallying 329 points in 355 games.
Pavelich was arrested in 2019 and charged with a violent assault on his neighbor but was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. Family and friends believe his condition was linked to head trauma suffered during his playing career. He was receiving treatment for his condition and was believed to be making progress at the time of his death.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Pavelich’s family, friends and former teammates.
The latest on Kyle Palmieri, a busy off-season faces Sabres new GM Kevyn Adams and a brief note on Chris Tanev in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PALMIERI HOPES TO REMAIN A DEVIL
NORTHJERSEY.COM/NJ.COM: Nick Gantaifis and Randy Miller report Kyle Palmieri hopes to remain part of the New Jersey Devils’ rebuilding plans. The 29-year-old winger is a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
“Without a doubt,” Palmieri said Tuesday in a media conference call. “I do love being in New Jersey. I love being close to home. And I have a ton of belief in this organization moving forward as to what we’re building, and I hope to be a part of it.”
Gantaifis notes Palmieri and the Devils might ordinarily open contract extension talks on July 1. Given the uncharacteristic and premature start to the off-season, that target date remains uncertain.
“It’s a big unknown,” Palmieri said. “Obviously, the calendar and important dates haven’t really been set yet. There’s so much up in the air and so much to figure out as far as the return to play and figuring all that stuff out.”
Miller suggests Chris Kreider would be a good comparable for Palmieri. The New York Rangers winger signed a seven-year, $45.5 million extension in February. Both are the same age and have roughly similar stats. Kreider’s averaged 23 goals and 46 points over the past five seasons, while Palmieri’s averaged 26 goals and 50 points since 2015-16.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kreider is a fair comparison for Palmieri. With over $36 million invested in eight players for 2021-22, the Devils can easily afford to pay Palmieri over $7 million annually.
Of course, that figure will rise this year because of their anticipated re-signings of key free agents such as Mackenzie Blackwood and Jesper Bratt. It could go significantly higher if they bring in talent via trades or free agency in the off-season A flat salary-cap for 2021-22 could also affect the Devils cap room.
Palmieri’s contract talks also remain in limbo because ownership hasn’t decided if interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald will stay in that role on a full-time basis. A new GM could have a different opinion of Palmieri’s value. If so, we could hear his name mentioned a lot as the 2021 trade deadline rolls around.
NEW SABRES GM FACES A BUSY OFF-SEASON
THE SCORE: John Matisz examined a lengthy to-do list for Kevyn Adams, who was named earlier this week as the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres.
Re-signing winger Sam Reinhart and goaltender Linus Ullmark to fair deals, being cautious with pending UFAs like Wayne Simmonds and Michael Frolik, and sorting out the future of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen are among the key issues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart and Ullmark are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. As one of the Sabres’ leading scorers, Reinhart will likely seek a multi-year deal worth around $6 million annually. Ullmark has less of an established body of NHL work on his resume, giving Adams more leverage in negotiations.
Matisz pointed out Adams has no previous ties to Simmonds and Frolik. He could opt to cut them loose and pursue better UFA options.
Sabres coach Ralph Krueger recently expressed his wish to coach Ristolainen again next season. We’ll find out soon enough how much sway he has with his new boss.
.@DhaliwalSports suggests Nikita Truamkin would be looking for a one-year deal, in the range of $2-3m.
Rick says uncertainty over the cap is holding it up
Rick also says reports of Chris Tanev being willing to take a one-year deal are incorrect. “Misquoted”
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) June 9, 2020
The Buffalo Sabres shake up their management and scouting departments, the Canadian government is open to a hub city, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SABRES SHAKE UP THEIR FRONT OFFICE
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres yesterday fired general manager Jason Botterill and replaced him with Senior VP of Business Administration Kevyn Adams. The move came three weeks after Botterill received a vote of confidence from team owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
The club relieved assistant GMs Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley of their duties and fired the entire coaching staff of AHL affiliate Rochester Americans.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This front-office bloodletting is seen as cost-cutting by a club that will be sitting idle until perhaps January. Kim Pegula claimed the change of heart with Botterill was due to the 2020 NHL Draft being pushed to this fall, giving Adams time to familiarize himself with his new role. Putting Adams, who has no management experience, into that role is also being seen as the Pegulas injecting themselves directly into management decisions affecting the on-ice product.
Botterill leaves with more misses than hits during his tenure. He got very little back from trading Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis and Evander Kane to San Jose. While he didn’t give up much to acquire Jeff Skinner from Carolina, he was criticized for re-signing the winger to an eight-year extension worth $9 million annually. On the plus side, he drafted Rasmus Dahlin and acquired blueliner Brandon Montour.
Yesterday’s moves left many observers pondering the fate of head coach Ralph Krueger. So far, it appears his job is safe, but the same was said of Botterill three weeks ago.
Considering the Sabres’ lousy record since the Pegulas took over in 2011 – a nine-year playoff drought, three management changes, and six different head coaches – their fans can be forgiven any skepticism over yesterday’s moves.
The patience of team captain and franchise players Jack Eichel will be tested if the Sabres fail to improve. Yesterday could become the beginning of the end of Eichel’s tenure in Buffalo.
LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
TSN: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said his government is comfortable with the NHL having a host city for its playoff tournament in Canada, provided the league follows local health protocols. Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the 10 teams in the running.
“Obviously the decision has to be made by the NHL and the cities and the provinces in the jurisdiction, but Canada is open to it as long as it is okayed by the local health authorities”, said Trudeau.”
Bob McKenzie reports there was some talk of Toronto as a front-runner but all three Canadian cities are very much in the mix. He feels Trudeau’s announcement opens the door for one of them to become a hub for the playoff tournament.
Pierre LeBrun believes we’ll get more clarity on the two hub cities next week. Las Vegas remains a lock. If the three Canadian cities don’t work out there are some people who favor Chicago.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Toronto Maple Leafs player rep Zach Hyman said he doesn’t have much clarity yet about how restrictive the NHL’s return-to-play protocol will be. He believes there could be some leniencies in place allowing players some access to their families during the tournament.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league and the NHLPA are in ongoing negotiations regarding those return-to-play restrictions. It’s expected more will be revealed when the league moves to Phase 3 as training camps open on July 10.
AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes center Brad Richardson said he was in contact with the team staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Richardson said he subsequently tested negative for the virus.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will difficult for teams to protect their players from the coronavirus as they prepare for training camp, especially in areas like Arizona where reported cases are on the rise. The Phase 3 training-camp period will determine if Phase 4 – the playoff tournament – goes off.
NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy isn’t ruling out resting some of his regulars during the round-robin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You’re probably thinking, “They’ve had months to rest and recover from any nagging injuries so why rest them in a three-game round-robin before the playoffs?” I doubt Cassidy’s going to do that for all of his stars. They’re going to need those games to get into game shape. This could be done on a game-by-game basis depending on the player’s needs.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has resumed skating with several teammates at Pepsi Center in Denver.
IN OTHER NEWS…
BLOOMBERG NEWS: The Nassau Coliseum will be shuttered indefinitely as its owner seeks new investors to take over operations and the remaining debt on the building. The New York Islanders were supposed to return to the Coliseum next season to play all of their home games there before moving into their new Belmont Park arena for 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The New York Post’s Larry Brooks wonders if Rangers owner James Dolan might swoop in and keep the Coliseum open next season to enable the Islanders to play there. If that doesn’t happen, the Isles might have to play one more season at Barclays Center before moving to their new arena.
TSN: The reopening of Seattle’s KeyArena has been pushed back by two months. However, it’s not expected to affect the city’s NHL expansion team from starting their inaugural season in 2021-22.