Summer Of Change Could Be Coming For the Calgary Flames
Alex Ovechkin continues his march up the goal-scoring leaderboard, the Leafs rebound from an embarrassing defeat on Saturday, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied his 43rd goal of the season and the game-winner in a 4-3 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets. Ovechkin now has 701 career goals, sitting seven behind Mark Gartner for seventh place among the all-time goal-scoring leaders. The Capitals (84 points) opened a two-point lead over the Penguins for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Jets (70 points) are tied with the Nashville Predators, but the Preds hold the final Western Conference wild-card spot with three games in hand.
The Predators, meanwhile got third-period goals by Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson to down the Ottawa Senators 3-2.
After an embarrassing loss to an emergency backup goalie on Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leafs captain John Tavares scored twice while Lightning captain Steven Stamkos left the game in the second period with an undisclosed injury. The Lightning (85 points) failed to gain ground on the Bruins, while the Leafs (74 points) hold third place in the Atlantic Division.
Mike Hoffman’s third-period goal proved the game-winner as the Florida Panthers squeaked past the Arizona Coyotes 2-1. The Panthers sit two points behind the Leafs in the Atlantic, while the Coyotes (70 points) sit just outside the Western playoff picture.
Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund each scored two goals to lead the Calgary Flames over the Boston Bruins 5-2. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask saw his personal points streak end at 20 games. The Bruins remain atop the league’s overall standings with 90 points, while the Flames (72 points) hold the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
The Vancouver Canucks edged the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on an overtime goal by Tyler Toffoli. With 74 points, the Canucks move into second place in the Pacific Division, two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights.
An overtime goal by Mika Zibanejad lifted the New York Rangers over the New York Islanders 4-3. The Isles hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 77 points. The surging Rangers (72 points) have won four straight and eight of their last 10 games, sitting four behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern wild-card berth.
Speaking of the Blue Jackets, they dropped a 5-4 decision to the Minnesota Wild. Mikko Koivu tallied twice for the Wild, who sit three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth. The slumping Jackets have just one victory in their last 10 contests.
The Philadephia Flyers picked up their fourth straight victory and their seventh in his last 10, doubling up the San Jose Sharks 4-2. Kevin Hayes had a three-point performance, including two goals. The Flyers (79 points) hold third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The St. Louis Blues picked up their fifth straight victory with a four-goal third period to nip the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5. Zach Sanford tallied twice for the Blues (84 points), who sit atop the Central Division and Western Conference standings.
Dallas Stars winger Roope Hintz had a goal and two assists in a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. With the win, the Stars (80 points) move one ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the Central Division. The Hurricanes (74 points) sit two points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot.
Sonny Milano scored twice (including the game-winner) in his debut with the Anaheim Ducks in a 4-3 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers. New Oilers Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis each had a goal and an assist. The Oilers (74 points) sit third in the Pacific Division. Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm left the game in the second period after suffering an upper-body injury crashing into the corner boards. Before the game, the Oilers announced winger Kailer Yamamoto would miss two-to-three weeks with a sprained ankle.
Cory Schneider made 27 saves for his first win of the season as the New Jersey Devils defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1. Devils center Pavel Zacha collected two assists.
Game recaps, Corey Crawford sidelined by a concussion, Marc-Andre Fleury reaches another milestone, and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brent Burns collected three assists as the San Jose Sharks downed the Chicago Blackhawks 7-3. Sharks goalie Aaron Dell made 16 saves in relief of Martin Jones, who was pulled after giving up three goals on four shots. It was a costly loss for the Blackhawks as goalie Corey Crawford left the game in the first period after suffering a concussion following a collision in the crease. There’s no timetable yet for his return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As if things couldn’t get any worse for the floundering Blackhawks, they lose their starting goaltender to another head injury. Crawford missed half of 2017-18 to a suspected concussion. Another lengthy absence could seal the Blackhawks’ fate this season.
Alex Tuch scored in overtime as the Vegas Golden Knights edged the New York Rangers 4-3. Golden Knight goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 423rd career victory to move into a tie with Tony Esposito for ninth on the all-time wins list. Kevin Hayes collected there assists for the Rangers, who have dropped three straight games. Earlier in the day, the Rangers announced winger Jesper Fast will miss two-to-four weeks with a suspected shoulder injury.
Mark Scheifele’s overtime goal lifted the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning to extend their winning streak to five games while snapping the Lightning’s win streak at eight games. Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers (two goals) each had a three-point night.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the best game of the night, as two of the league’s top teams went back and forth in an entertaining contest. This could be a preview of a potential 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
A four-goal first period powered the Calgary Flames to a 7-2 thumping of the St. Louis Blues. Johnny Gaudreau and Alan Quine each scored twice for the Flames, who chased Blues goalie Jake Allen from the game after he gave up four goals on 16 shots. Earlier in the day, the Flames activated Mikael Backlund off injured reserve and recalled forward Kerby Rychel.
Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel had a hand in all of his club’s goals in a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Eichel scored twice and added two assists while linemate Jeff Skinner also scored twice, including the game-winner.
Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser scored and set up two others as his club doubled up the Edmonton Oilers 4-2.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek kicked out 23 shots to shut out the Arizona Coyotes 3-0. Calvin de Haan had two assists.
Game recaps, Flames re-sign Mikael Backlund plus updates on Phil Kessel, Roberto Luongo and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Blake Wheeler scored twice, Mark Scheifele collected three assists and Connor Hellebuyck got his 30th win of the season as the Winnipeg Jets crushed the Colorado Avalanche 6-1. The Jets (77 points) are tied with the Nashville Predators for first place in the Central Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After missing over a month to injury, Scheifele’s been on fire since his return. He has seven points in just four games, with three in each of his last two games.
The Philadelphia Flyers picked up their first win in Columbus since 2005 by edging the Blue Jackets 2-1 in overtime. Flyers forward Sean Couturier tallied the game winner while goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 35 saves.
Thomas Greiss kicked out 45 shots as the New York Islanders blanked the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. It was the Isles second straight shutout win. Johnny Boychuk, Anthony Beauvillier and John Tavares were the goal scorers, with the latter potting his 30th of the season.
The Dallas Stars got goals from Mattias Janmark and Stephen Johns as they held off the St. Louis Blues 2-1. Ben Bishop turned aside 28 shots for the Stars.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames yesterday announced the re-signing of two-way center Mikael Backlund to a six-year, $32.1-million contract extension. The annual salary-cap hit is $5.35 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a nice pay raise from the $3.575-million per season the 28-year-old Backlund is earning on his current deal. It’s a good deal for both sides. Backlund is a solid two-way puck-possession player who is a key part of the Flames lineup, centering their “3M” line with left wing Matthew Tkachuk and right wing Michael Frolik. He finished fourth in voting for the Selke Trophy last season, had a career-best 53 points in 2016-17 and could reach 50 points this season.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel sits tied for fourth in the NHL scoring but he’s not concerned about the possibility of winning the scoring title. “I got two Cups. It doesn’t really matter,” Kessel said Friday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like Kessel has his priorities in order. Nothing beats winning the Stanley Cup.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: After being sidelined for two months by injury, Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo will get the start tonight against the Flames in Calgary.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is taking over the duties of the club’s CEO. Speaking of the Senators, their attendance woes continue, sitting 24th overall among the 31 NHL franchises this season.
BOSTON HERALD: Long-time Bruins beat writer Steve Harris passed away Thursday due to complications from heart surgery. He was 66.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Harris’ family and friends. I followed and enjoyed his work for years. He earned a reputation for fairness in his coverage of the Bruins and will be missed.
Latest on the top-12 unrestricted free agents plus updates on the Rangers and more in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox took an early look at 2018’s top-12 NHL unrestricted free agents and the rumors surrounding them. Atop the list, of course, is New York Islanders center John Tavares, who said back on Jan. 15 he’d like to stay on Long Island. While the Isles are likely to offer Tavares an eight-year deal worth over $10 million annually, Fox believes Tavares needs to believe the Islanders can win a Stanley Cup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I still expect the Isles to re-sign Tavares. Don’t see him hitting the trade block on Feb. 26.
Fox wonders if Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson can pass up the opportunity to become the top blueliner in the 2018 UFA market. For now, Carlson claims he hasn’t given much thought toward his contract status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Capitals very much want to re-sign Carlson and he probably wants to stay put. Cap space, however, will be an issue. Washington has over $58 million of cap space tied up in just 13 players for 2018-19. It could cost them $7 million annually to re-sign Carlson. They also have to re-sign or replace pending UFAs such as Lars Eller and Jay Beagle, as well as restricted free agents Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly and Philipp Grubauer.
Contract extension talks are quiet for Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk. Fox wonders if the Leafs will peddle him at the trade deadline or retain him for the playoffs and attempt to sort out the contract situation after that. He notes they offered JvR in a package at last year’s draft to the Islanders in a failed attempt to land defenseman Travis Hamonic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs could surprise us by swapping van Riemsdyk for a skilled top-four defenseman at the trade deadline, but I think they’ll hang onto him for the playoffs. He’s rumored seeking a six-year deal worth $6 million annually, but the Leafs could be reluctant to invest that much for that long in JvR when youngsters Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner will soon be in line for big raises.
Tavares’ linemate Josh Bailey prefers to finish his career as an Islander.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could prove expensive for the Isles to re-sign Bailey. Given his stats over the past two seasons, he could seek to double his current $3.3 million annual cap hit. If Tavares departs, however, they’ll have a lot more cap space to invest in Bailey.
Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund is the type of two-way player rival clubs covet, but Fox believes he’ll re-sign with the Flames.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis reports Backlund was hoping to put off contract talks until after the season, but of late discussions between his agent and Flames management are heating up. While there was speculation Backlund could seek a six-year deal worth $6 million annually, Francis claims a source close to the situation said the center’s asking price is closer to $5 million over five-six years, which is more in line with what the Flames prefer.
Fox doesn’t see the St. Louis Blues parting ways with center Paul Stastny at the trade deadline. He also thinks there’s a chance Stastny could re-up with the Blues if the two sides can work out a deal. There’s no way he’ll get $7 million per season on his next contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stastny stays put for the remainder of the season. He’ll have to accept a significant pay cut to re-sign with the Blues.
It’s believed the Buffalo Sabres seek as many as four assets for left wing Evander Kane in the trade market. The Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins are among the clubs who’ve reportedly expressed interest.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Buffalo News’ John Vogl recently reported the Vancouver Canucks could be a destination for Kane as they’re searching for talent as the Sedin era winds down. If the twins don’t re-sign with the Canucks this summer, they’ll have sufficient room to sign Kane this summer. While Kane’s a Vancouver native and might welcome an opportunity to play in his hometown, there’s no guarantee the Canucks will pursue him, especially if the Sedins return and Tomas Vanek opts to stick around.
Fox cited colleague Nick Kypreos recently suggesting Vegas Golden Knights winger James Neal could seek between $6.5-$7 million per season on a long-term deal. Vegas could be hesitant to invest lengthy deals in players who are 30 or older. Fox wonders if they’ll shop Neal at the trade deadline or retain him for a Cinderella playoff run, even at the risk of losing him for nothing to free agency. Teams have also called the Golden Knights about forward David Perron. So far, Perron’s kept quiet about his plans for free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported Neal is enjoying his time with the Golden Knights and is currently focusing on this season. His agent declined to publicly discuss his client’s contract status. Neal is in line for a big payday and the Golden Knights have the cap space to re-sign him. Given Neal’s age (31),I think term will be the sticking point here. However, I don’t expect they’ll shop Neal or Perron at the trade deadline.
Contract extension talks have already begun between the Boston Bruins and defenseman Zdeno Chara.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara will be staying in Boston. Expect him to get a one-year, bonus-laden contract.
The New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs are among teams that could seek a defenseman. Detroit Red Wings blueliner Mike Green could be an option for one of them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: MLive.com’s Ansar Khan speculates the Wings could get either two second-round picks or a second and a third for Green.
The New York Rangers and winger Michael Grabner aren’t looking at the trade deadline as a contract extension deadline. His agent believes there’s plenty of time for the two sides to discuss a new deal between the end of the playoffs and July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to the New York Post and New York Daily News, Rangers management could be ready to blow up their current roster at the trade deadline and pursue younger talent. Grabner and fellow UFA Rick Nash could be on the move by deadline day, as well as players with term remaining on their contracts such as Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello.
The Post’s Larry Brooks thinks Nash, who submitted his trade list last summer, could fetch “a legit youngster plus a first rounder.” from contenders such as Dallas, San Jose, St. Louis and possibly Tampa Bay. Grabner could bring back “a first-rounder or a young roster player.” He also wonders what McDonagh’s worth would be to “asset-rich contenders” such as Toronto, Boston and Tampa Bay.
Rangers fans should keep their expectations realistic for Nash and Grabner. While there should be interest in both players by the deadline, the notion of either guy fetching a young roster player or a first-round pick could be wishful thinking.
The Leafs could use a blueliner like McDonagh but I think they’d prefer an asset who’s got more than a year on his contract. Recent reports indicate the Bruins have no interest in parting with any of their young assets. The Rangers and Lightning have a trade history but there’s no certainty they’ll chase McDonagh or Nash at the deadline.
Several players in their contract years worth watching in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.
TVA SPORTS: New York Islanders center John Tavares, New York Rangers winger Rick Nash and Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane are among 10 notable players whose contract negotiations will be worth watching this season.
The list also includes Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund, Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson, St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny, Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk, Vegas Golden Knights winger James Neal and Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The list also included center Bryan Little but he recently re-signed with the Winnipeg Jets. With all the media focus on Tavares, Kane and van Riemsdyk, the others on this list haven’t received much attention.
I believe Backlund, Atkinson and Carlson will sign with their current teams. If Nash has a good season I can see the Rangers offering a short-term (two or three years) for perhaps $6 million per season. Stastny’s injuries hampered his effectiveness with the Blues and it wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t re-sign him. It’s assumed Neal will hit the open market but that could depend upon how much he enjoys playing in Vegas and the expansion club’s potential.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman’s Friday appearance on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 discussing several players he’s watching as they enter their contract years. He notes James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak have expressed interest in re-signing with the Maple Leafs. Friedman notes winger T.J. Oshie accepted less money this summer to stay with the Washington Capitals and suggests van Riemsdyk might have to do the same to stay in Toronto.
Friedman’s also curious to see what the future holds for Evander Kane and Rick Nash. He notes the Rangers looked at potentially moving Nash two years ago but he played pretty well last season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oshie inked an eight-year deal worth $5.75 million annually with the Capitals. He basically accepted less money for a longer term. It’ll be interesting to see if van Riemsdyk, 28, is willing to accept a similar deal. Bozak, 31, could be offered a four- or five-year contract but the Leafs could try to keep his annual salary closer to his current $4.2 million cap hit.
Kane’s situation could be very interesting this season. If he’s flirting with 30 goals again the Sabres could try to re-sign him, but he’s earning $6 million in actual salary ($5.25 million cap hit) and could seek that much as his annual average value on his next deal. The Sabres could balk at that, especially on a long-term deal.