NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 23, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 23, 2021

Recaps of Monday’s action, Artemi Panarin takes leave of absence amid assault allegations levied by his former Russian coach, stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: Despite a 49-save effort by goaltender Anton Khubodin the Dallas Stars fell 3-1 to the Florida Panthers. Defensemen Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad provided two of Florida’s goals as the Panthers (26 points) sit in first place in the Discover Central Division. The Stars have dropped six straight games.

The Tampa Bay Lightning remains within three points of the Panthers after doubling up the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2. Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning while Jesper Fast tallied twice for the Hurricanes, who sit one point behind the Panthers and two up on the Lightning.

A third-period power-play goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau lifted the New York Islanders past the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Sabres winger Jeff Skinner was a healthy scratch. The Sabres also announced defenseman Jake McCabe will require season-ending surgery to repair a knee injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich turned in a 34-save shutout as his club blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0. Rittich got the nod as Flames starter Jacob Markstrom was day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Leafs star Auston Matthews was held without a point for the first time in 17 games. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen (upper-body injury, day-to-day), forwards Joe Thornton and Zach Hyman (undisclosed, day-to-day) and defenseman Jake Muzzin (broken facial bone) also missed this game. It’s uncertain when Muzzin will return.

Jonathan Quick picked up his 54th career shutout backstopping the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Dustin Brown scored twice as the Kings picked up their fifth straight win to remain in fourth place in the Honda West Division with 19 points. Blues forward Sammy Blais returned to the lineup following a false positive test for COVID-19.

The Arizona Coyotes overcame a 3-0 deficit to nip the Anaheim Ducks 4-3. Christian Dvorak scored twice and Clayton Keller collected two assists for the Coyotes.

Mats Zuccarello had a goal and three assists as the Minnesota Wild thumped the San Jose Sharks 6-2. Victor Rask had a goal and two assists while Marcus Foligno had a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a goal, an assist and a fight.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin (NHL Images).


NEW YORK POST: Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the Rangers after his former KHL coach alleged the winger beat up an 18-year-old woman in a bar following a 2011 game in Riga, Latvia. Panarin released a statement through his agent denying Andrei Nazarov’s allegation, calling it a fabrication. The Rangers also expressed their support for their winger, indicating he “unequivocally and vehemently” denied the charge.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panarin is an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Post reporter Larry Brooks cites a source indicating this isn’t a direct retaliatory measure by the Putin government toward the Rangers star but rather Nazarov “going rogue”. He suggests Nazarov, a Putin supporter, is attempting to sully Panarin’s reputation to curry favor within the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.

Brooks points out Latvian journalist Aivis Kalnins reported a spokesman for the hotel where the alleged incident took place claims it never happened. None of Panarin’s former KHL teammates support Nazarov’s allegation.

Nazarov claimed Panarin was detained by police and there was a criminal case and trial but the incident was covered up by bribing local officials with 40,000 euros. However, Brooks pointed out Panarin at that time was not a high-profile player and had been passed over in two previous NHL drafts. He suggests there would’ve been little reason to engage in bribery and a cover-up for someone who at that time was a run-of-the-mill player.

NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 21.

New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac played in his 1000th NHL game during Sunday’s contest against the Washington Capitals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A Devils fan contacted me yesterday to point out I missed this during yesterday’s morning coffee headlines. I regret the oversight. Congratulations to Zajac on reaching this noteworthy career milestone.

TSN: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list has shrunk to nine players. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks announced center Dylan Strome has been placed in concussion protocol and defenseman Lucas Carlsson is on injured reserve with a strained groin. Blueline Connor Murphy has been activated from IR after missing six games with a hip injury.

THE ATHLETIC: Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau is interested in becoming the Seattle Kraken’s bench boss.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken aren’t believed to have started interviewing potential coaching candidates yet. Boudreau could be among the contenders given his years of NHL experience.

NHL ProteauType: Leafs’ Collapse Another Sign Andersen May Be On His Way Out

NHL ProteauType: Leafs’ Collapse Another Sign Andersen May Be On His Way Out


Have The Toronto Maple Leafs Turned The Corner At Last?

Have The Toronto Maple Leafs Turned The Corner At Last?


Ovechkin Tops NHL’s 2021 UFA Class

Ovechkin Tops NHL’s 2021 UFA Class


Some Early Odds for the NHL’s Vezina Trophy

Some Early Odds for the NHL’s Vezina Trophy


NHL Rumor Mill – January 8, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 8, 2021

The latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alex Ovechkin, Frederik Andersen and Mathew Barzal in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: During the latest “Insider Trading” segment, Darren Dreger reported the latest regarding Pierre-Luc Dubois’ trade request from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images)

Dubois’ agent, Pat Brisson, remains in constant contact with Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. The young center promises to be a good teammate for his Blue Jackets teammates but there’s a sense the Dubois camp and Jackets management would like to work out a trade sooner rather than later.

Pierre LeBrun reports people around the league believed the Jackets will take their time on this, perhaps waiting until this year’s draft to get a deal done. He suggests the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets as possible trade partners.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun feels the Ducks and Kings have the depth in young assets to interest the Jackets. Unless they’re rebuilding, however, I don’t believe that’s what they’ll want in return for Dubois.

The Jackets are trying to become Stanley Cup contenders. Trading away their best center without getting a quality center in return won’t help unless the plan is to flip assets acquired from a club like the Ducks or Kings to another club in exchange for a scoring center.

The Rangers would probably love to have Dubois in their lineup but, as LeBrun suggests, the Jackets might not be keen to send him to a division rival.

LeBrun mentions the Canadiens’ current depth at center. If Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi blossom as expected this season, pending free agent Phillip Danault could become the odd man out. The Habs and Jackets have a recent trade history. Some Canadiens fans would salivate at the notion of swapping Danault for Dubois but I don’t see that happening. The asking price for Dubois could be Suzuki or Kotkaniemi.

Some observers suggest swapping Dubois for Laine. While the Jets winger wouldn’t address the Jackets’ need to replace Dubois at center, he would bring some much-needed scoring punch.

However, the Jackets would need assurances Laine will make a long-term commitment. The same goes for Dubois with the Jets. It’s believed Dubois wants to play in a bigger market, which would rule out Winnipeg as a destination.

LeBrun noted Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin’s contract expires at the end of this season. He expects an extension will be worked out during the season, but Frank Seravalli said Ovechkin’s initial pre-pandemic ask was $12. 5 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the hit to league revenue this season, it’s unlikely Ovechkin will get that much from the Capitals. It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out. Both sides want to get a deal done but Ovechkin will probably have to drop his asking price.

LeBrun reported the Toronto Maple Leafs have not held contract extension talks with goaltender Frederik Andersen. He thinks both sides are comfortable with letting the season play out before opening discussions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs will want to observe Andersen’s play this season, as well as examine the free-agent and trade markets by season’s end for any suitable replacements if they decide to part way with their starter. Andersen, meanwhile, can improve his value to the Leafs (or another club via this summer’s UFA market) with a strong performance this season.

Dreger reports the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal’s representatives continue working toward a new contract for the restricted free agent center. Barzal is in New York working out and awaiting a new deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m surprised Barzal’s still unsigned. It’s thought the Isles prefer signing him to a short-term bridge deal with the promise of a more lucrative contract afterward.