NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 16, 2020

Recaps of Saturday’s action, plus the latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves backstopping the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Bruins lead the series 2-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci each had two points for the Bruins.

Tuukka Rask left the Boston Bruins to return home for family reasons. (NHL Images)

Halak took over as the Bruins’ starter after Tuukka Rask released a statement before yesterday’s game indicating he was leaving the team and returning home for family reasons. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the club supported Rask’s decision.

It was a costly loss for the Hurricanes as first-line winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an injured leg after jostling in front of the Boston net with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.



SPECTOR’S NOTE: That game had a surreal feeling, starting with the sudden news of Rask’s departure followed by Svechnikov’s injury. The latter prompted a crass, misinformed tweet by NESN’s play-by-play man Jack Edwards chiding the Hurricanes’ winger, in turn sparking an outpouring of criticism toward Edwards, including from several NHL TV analysts and pundits.

While Rask is expected to return to the Bruins next season, there is already speculation he may have played his final NHL game. I’ll have more on that later today in the Rumors section.

The Hurricanes could provide an update on Svechnikov’s status, but head coach Rod Brind’Amour suggested the injury looked “really bad” during his post-game presser. Losing their best winger would leave a big void in the Hurricanes’ lineup.

The Vegas Golden Knights have the Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes as they hung on for a 2-1 win in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start of this series for Vegas, turning in a 26-save performance. William Karlsson and Patrick Brown scored for Vegas while Olli Maatta replied for the Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks had several good scoring chances but failed to cash in. The Golden Knights can complete the sweep later today.

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper tied a career-high 49 saves carrying his club to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Avs lead the series 2-1. Taylor Hall tallied the game-winner late in the third period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have been outshot and outplayed through most of their games in this postseason but Kuemper’s made the difference. He stole this game for the Coyotes, keeping them from falling behind 3-0 to the powerful Avalanche.

Victor Hedman’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series. Lightning center Brayden Point also scored to extend his points streak to six games. Riley Nash had a goal and an assist for the Jackets, who were held to just seven shots in the second and third periods.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has been a low-scoring grinder of a series. Unlike last season’s opening-round series, this year’s rematch shows the Lightning are willing to play that type of game. The Jackets have relied on strong goaltender and defense to get this far, but they need more goal production if they hope to upset the Bolts for the second time.


RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden said Nicklas Backstrom participated in practice yesterday but was reluctant to commit to the center’s status for Game 3 today against the New York Islanders. Backstrom was sidelined following a late hit from Islanders captain Anders Lee in Game 1.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports Oilers defenseman Mike Green has retired.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No official word yet from Green or his representatives. It wouldn’t be surprising if the veteran blueliner has decided to hang up his skates. An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, the 34-year-old Green is coming to the end of his career. He opted out of return-to-play citing family reasons.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports there’s concern some of the top European prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft might not be permitted to play in the NHL in 2020-21 because of COVID-19. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the European prospects were probably going to remain overseas for next season anyway. I don’t think it’ll adversely affect their standing in this year’s draft.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2020

Recaps of Thursday’s playoff games, Canadiens coach Claude Julien hospitalized, Dan Hamhuis retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


Vegas Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith (NHL Images).

  NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on Reilly Smith’s overtime goal in Game 2 of their first-round series, which Vegas now leads 2-0. It was goalie Robin Lehner’s seventh straight win in as many starts with the Golden Knights, who were without winger Max Pacioretty (unfit to play) in Game 2. His replacement, Tomas Nosek, left the game in the second period. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane collected three assists.


    Dougie Hamilton’s third-period goal lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their series, tying it at a game apiece. Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov had a goal and an assist. Brad Marchand and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who were without winger David Pastrnak following an apparent leg injury suffered in Game 1.  



Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, raised eyebrows with his post-game comments comparing the atmosphere in this playoff bubble to playing exhibition games. “To be honest with you, it really doesn’t feel like playoff hockey out there,” said Rask. “There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask probably isn’t the only player feeling that way, which could account in part for why some teams and notable players seem to struggle to regain their intensity in the early going. Those who adjust more quickly could have an advantage through the opening round.

Joonas Korpisalo made 36 savers backstopping the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 2 of their first-round series, which now stands knotted at a game apiece. Oliver Bjorkstrand snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period, Alexander Wennberg put the game away with his third-period tally and Pierre-Luc Dubois picked up two assists. Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the same story with the Blue Jackets. They get outshot by a big margin (37-22 in this game) but weather the storm and break your heart with their timely offense.

The Dallas Stars tied their series with the Calgary Flames at a game apiece as Jamie Oleksiak’s goal with 40 seconds remaining in regulation gave them a 5-4 victory. Stars blueliner Miro Heiskanen scored twice while teammates Alexander Radulov and Corey Perry each had a goal and an assist. Ben Bishop returned to the Stars net after being unfit to play in Game 1 while Taylor Fedun filled in for the sidelined Stephen Johns. Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk left the game following a third-period collision with Oleksiak and Jamie Benn.


MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens head coach Claude Julien was rushed to hospital after suffering chest pains following his club’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their first-round series. His condition isn’t related to COVID-19. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Julien won’t return for the remainder of the series. Assistant coaches Kirk Muller, Dominque Ducharme, and Luke Richardson will share the coaching duties in Julien’s absence.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin indicated he’d received some good news about Julien’s condition yesterday afternoon but didn’t elaborate. Here’s hoping the Habs bench boss makes a quick and full recovery.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is in concussion protocol and won’t take part in Game 2 against the New York Islanders later today. Backstrom was injured following a late hit by Islanders’ captain Anders Lee. Lars Eller will replace Backstrom after returning to the club following the birth of his son.

AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes hope to have center Nick Schmaltz in the lineup for Game 2 against the Colorado Avalanche later today. He’s been absent since being injured during an exhibition game two weeks ago.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The low-scoring Coyotes could use Schmaltz’s offense against the Avs. He was their leading scorer during the regular season.

THE SCORE: Defenseman Dan Hamhuis announced his retirement after 16 NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, and Dallas Stars. He played in 1,184 games, netting 356 points. Hamhuis played in two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final until a groin injury sidelined him for the rest of the series. He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hamhuis in his future endeavors. He was among the league’s best defensive blueliners during his playing prime.

Capitals Re-sign Nicklas Backstrom

Capitals Re-sign Nicklas Backstrom

The Washington Capitals re-signed Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year, $46-million contract extension. The 32-year-old center was slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The annual average value is $9.2 million.

Washington Capitals re-sign Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year contract extension (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone’s surprised the Capitals decided to keep Backstrom in the fold. Like Alex Ovechkin, he’s a key part of their roster core and leadership group. He’s also the second longest-serving active member of their roster next to Ovechkin. He’s their all-time assist leader (668) and a model of consistency, reaching or exceeding 65 points in 10 of the last 12 seasons. With 35 points in 39 games, he could do it again this season.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the contract breakdown is as follows: “$6 million signing bonus and $6 million salary in 2020-21, $5 million signing bonus and $5 million salary in 2021-22, $3 million signing bonus and $3 million salary in 2022-23, $5 million signing bonus and $5 million salary in 2023-24 and $6 million signing bonus and a $2 million salary in 2024-25. In total, he will be paid $25 million in signing bonuses.”

Backstrom’s getting a nice pay raise over his current $6.7 million annual average value. Some will argue the Capitals are spending too much for too long on an aging asset. There is some risk involved, but with the Capitals still considered a Stanley Cup contender, it’s one management felt willing to take. If he can maintain a reasonably productive pace through most of that period, it could prove worthwhile.

This signing raises questions over how much it’ll cost the Capitals to keep Ovechkin, whose current deal expires at the end of 2020-21. He’s averaged over $9.5 million annually and remains among the league’s elite scorers. If he remains a Richard Trophy contender, It could cost over $10 million annually to keep Ovie in Washington.

With over $71 million invested in 16 players following Backstrom’s signing, the Capitals won’t have much salary-cap room to re-sign long-time starting goaltender Braden Holtby. Assuming the cap rises to $84 million, they’ll have around $13 million left with Holtby and Radko Gudas as their remaining UFAs. Unless Holtby’s willing to accept a hometown discount, this is probably his final season with the Capitals.

Midseason Stock Watch – Top NHL UFAs for 2020

Midseason Stock Watch – Top NHL UFAs for 2020


NHL Rumor Mill – December 23, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – December 23, 2019

The latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Craig Anderson and Lias Andersson in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE WASHINGTON POST: Samantha Pell reports a source claims contract term, not money, is a sticking point in negotiations between Capitals management and Nicklas Backstrom. The center is meeting directly with general manager Brian MacLellan to discuss a new deal.

Contract term is a sticking point in negotiations between NIcklas Backstrom nd the Washington Capitals (Photo via NHL Images).

Backstrom would prefer a five-year contract to avoid another negotiation soon. The Capitals prefer a three-year deal, extending Backstrom through the season when he turns 35.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Backstrom is 32 and in the final season of a 10-year, $67-million contract. With 27 points in 29 games, he’s on pace for 68 points in 74 games this season.

While still productive, Backstrom’s at a point in his career when his performance will eventually decline. Perhaps the two sides agree to a four-year deal if Backstrom accepts an annual cap hit of $6 million per season.


OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren speculates the Florida Panthers could become a trade destination for Senators goaltender Craig Anderson. The netminder’s Florida home is just 15 minutes from the Panthers arena. He also spent parts of three seasons with them earlier in his career.

Warren indicates the Panthers are using prospect Chris Driedger is serving as a backup for Sergei Bobrovsky. He acknowledges their limited salary-cap space could be a stumbling block. They have around 900K available while Anderson carries a $4.5-million cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers could be in the market for an experienced, reliable backup for Bobrovsky. Unless they shed significant salary, they’ll probably prefer a more affordable, younger option than Anderson.


NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks chastised Lias Andersson for his recent trade request and departure from the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford. The 21-year-old winger has been suspended by the Rangers. Brooks believes Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton has been trying to trade Andersson since the winger’s demotion in November. He points out the youngster’s trade value wasn’t helped by his poor performance in Hartford.

Brooks doubts there’s much of a market for a forward who lacks speed, explosiveness and isn’t creative with the puck. He wondered if the Nashville Predators would be willing to discussion swapping Andersson for Eeli Tolvanen, a once highly touted Preds prospect who’s also struggling to crack the NHL.

THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell doubts the Edmonton Oilers will take a chance on Andersson. He feels the Oilers are looking to increase their speed and pace, especially at the center position. The Rangers could seek a draft pick in return, but Mitchell thinks the Oilers will want to keep the rest of their 2020 draft stock.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumors were suggesting the Oilers swap Jesse Puljujarvi for Andersson before Puljujarvi’s Dec. 1 signing deadline. The issues raised by Brooks and Mitchell could explain why that didn’t come to pass. As for an Andersson-for-Tolvanen swap with the Predators, that’s probably not high on Nashville GM David Poile’s priority list. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2019

A milestone game for Nicklas Backstrom, another big night for Jonathan Huberdeau and Noel Acciari, plus updates on Jack Eichel, Jason Zucker, Darcy Kuemper, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom reached 900 points with two goals and two assists in a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. He and Alex Ovechkin were playing in their 900th game together. Ovechkin scored and set up another. Devils defenseman Andy Greene played in his 900th career NHL contest.

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom reached his 900th career point in a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils (Photo via NHL Images).

A five-goal second period powered the Florida Panthers over the Dallas Stars 7-4. For the second straight game, Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau collected four points (one goal, three assists) while teammate Noel Acciari tallied his second straight hat trick. Tyler Seguin scored twice for the Stars while teammate Joe Pavelski played his 1,000th career NHL game. Stars winger Alexander Radulov missed the game with a lower-body injury.

Mitch Marner and William Nylander each scored twice as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the New York Rangers 6-3. Auston Matthews collected two assists for the Leafs.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry made 26 saves in a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Zach Aston-Reese and Marcus Pettersson each picked up two assists for the Penguins. Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were held scoreless. Edmonton has won only three of their last 12 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers (42 points) have slipped to third place in the Pacific Division. They’re one point ahead of the Calgary Flames, who hold the final Western Conference wild-card berth.


WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel returned to practice yesterday but is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. It’s uncertain if he’ll be in the lineup for today’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Center Johan Larsson (upper body) is expected to miss the next two games.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker will miss the next four-to-six weeks following surgery to repair a fractured right fibula.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes will turn to Antti Raanta with Adin Hill as his backup.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson will miss at least the next two games with a lower-body injury. The club also placed defenseman Ryan Murray (lower body) on injured reserve.

The Ottawa Senators placed goaltender Anders Nilsson on injured reserve after he suffered a concussion. Veteran goalie Craig Anderson has returned from injury and is ready to go. The Senators also announced defenseman Ron Hainsey will miss a week to 10 days with a lower-body injury.