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.

NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2021

Updates on Patrik Laine, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mathew Barzal, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his first “31 Thoughts” column of 2021, Elliotte Friedman weighed in on the future of Patrik Laine with the Winnipeg Jets. The 22-year-old has been the subject of trade speculation for some time.

Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

Friedman said Laine arrived in Winnipeg with the understanding he could be a Jet for the entire season. If Laine wants a trade his best option is to fill the net with pucks.

The Philadelphia Flyers considered acquiring the winger a few months ago but the cost in assets and salary proved too expensive. Friedman feels the Columbus Blue Jackets could be a suitor if Laine were to commit to staying in Columbus, assuming a trade could be worked out.

Speaking of the Blue Jackets, Friedman feels there currently isn’t much optimism in fixing the situation between the organization and Pierre-Luc Dubois. The 22-year-old center reportedly seeks a trade despite signing a two-year contract last week.

Several sources tell Friedman not to lay blame for this situation solely at the feet of Jackets head coach John Tortorella. The feeling is Dubois wants to perform on a bigger stage. In other words, a bigger market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some folks have suggested swapping Laine for Dubois, but getting either player to commit to their new cities could be the big sticking point. Winnipeg wouldn’t fit Dubois’ supposed desire to play in a big market.

As I’ve said before, moving Laine or Dubois seems unlikely during the regular season. Right now, they’re both too important to their respective clubs’ playoff hopes. It could also prove difficult to find suitable returns before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. I’m expecting they’ll get shopped during the offseason.

Friedman feels a long-term deal between the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal doesn’t seem likely because of the team’s salary-cap situation. He expects the Barzal camp prefers contracts comparable to Toronto’s Mitch Marner or Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen but that’s not possible for the Isles at this point. Friedman speculates Barzal could get a two- or three-year deal worth around $6 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in camp though he can’t train with his teammates until he’s under contract. The Isles could go as high as $7 million annually for Barzal but I agree it’ll be a short-term deal with the promise of a long, lucrative contract down the road.

The Isles have also tried to move defenseman Thomas Hickey (with a sweetener). Half his $2.5 million cap hit for this season has been paid out in a signing bonus. He’s got one year left on his contract.

The Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils are among the clubs interested in free-agent defenseman Ben Hutton.

Every time Friedman sees a commercial starring Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, he wonders if they’ll find a way to play together someday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless it’s as teammates with Team Canada in the Olympics or the World Cup of Hockey, don’t expect to see that happen in the NHL anytime soon.

MacKinnon, 25, is the Colorado Avalanche’s franchise player. While his contract expires in 2023, the Avs will open the vault to keep him in Denver. The 33-year-old Crosby’s best seasons may be behind him but he remains the Penguins’ top player and among the league’s elite. He’s also under contract until 2025 with a full no-movement clause.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 5, 2021

Start times for the upcoming season released, former Oilers coach John Muckler passes away and updates on Alex Ovechkin, Brad Marchand, Gabriel Landeskog, Joe Pavelski, Sergei Bobrovsky and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines,

NHL.COM: The league officially announced start times for the upcoming 2020-21 season. The schedule opens on Jan. 13 with five games on the slate. The Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the Philadelphia Flyers at 5: 30 pm ET, the Montreal Canadiens tangle with the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 pm ET, the Chicago Blackhawks meet the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at 8 pm ET, the Vancouver Canucks square off with the Edmonton Oilers at 10 pm ET, followed by the St. Louis Blues meeting the Colorado Avalanche at 10:30 pm ET.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former Oilers coach John Muckler passed away Monday at age 86. Muckler was assistant and associate coach during the Oilers’ first four Stanley Cup runs and was head coach during their fifth and final championship in 1990.

Before joining the Oilers, Muckler did stints in various positions with the Minnesota North Stars, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers. After leaving the Oilers in 1991, he served as head of hockey operations and head coach with the Buffalo Sabres, went on to become head coach of the Rangers, followed by becoming general manager of the Ottawa Senators.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Muckler had a long, distinguished career in the NHL. My condolences to his family, friends, former associates and players, and the Oilers organization.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Contract talks between the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin have yet to begin but the superstar winger isn’t concerned. He pointed out there’s no rush and plenty of time to get a deal done. The Capitals captain is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. “Whatever is done is done. If it’s not done, we’re gonna talk and we’ll see,” said Ovechkin, who is acting as his own agent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin wants to stay in Washington and the Capitals want to keep him. Unless his salary demands become exorbitant, I expect they’ll reach an agreement that keeps both sides happy.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Brad Marchand is hoping to be ready in time for the club’s season-opener on Jan. 14. He underwent sports hernia surgery on Sept. 14 and the recovery period was expected to be four months.

Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting one of their two sidelined top-line forwards back for the start of the season (or soon afterward) will provide a big boost to the Bruins’ offense. David Pastrnak is also on the shelf (hip surgery) and isn’t expected to return until sometime in February.

NHL.COM: Gabriel Landeskog is among several members of the Colorado Avalanche to miss the first day of on-ice activities. Winger Brandon Saad, defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Philipp Grubauer joined the Avs captain on the sidelines. All were listed as “unfit to play” with no timetable as to when they’re return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under league guidelines, teams are not allowed to comment if players are sidelined during training camp due to COVID-19 testing or contract tracing. However, the league will announce if players test positive during the regular season.

This could be a testing issue in which they received false positives and have to be re-tested again. This was commonplace among several NHL teams during the 2020 playoffs. We’ll learn more about their status as the week progresses.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars center Joe Pavelski is listed as day-to-day pending further results from medicals. Meanwhile, immigration issues has delayed goaltender Anton Khudobin’s efforts to report to training camp. He’s fulfilling his mandatory seven-day quarantine and it’s expected he’ll be on the ice at some point during training camp.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Sergei Bobrovsky and Patric Hornqvist were among several Florida Panthers declared “unfit to play” yesterday.

TSN: Mathew Barzal is at New York Islanders training camp and underwent his team physical. However, the young center remains without a contract and cannot practice with his teammates until he’s signed.

TWINCITIES.COM: Winger Kevin Fiala missed on-ice practice yesterday for precautionary reasons. He returned to the ice after practice to skate with assistant coaches Brett McLean and Darby Hendrickson.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: James Neal and Dominik Kahun are among four Oilers declared unfit to play yesterday.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators defenseman Erik Brannstrom is in quarantine for seven days after coming in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

CBS SPORTS: The Chicago Blackhawks placed forward Zack Smith on waivers.

SPORTSNET: The Winnipeg Jets placed forward Marko Dano on waivers.

TSN: The province of Quebec is the third province to approve NHL games this season in Canada. Manitoba and Ontario have yet to make a final announcement, though Manitoba is showing support for the league’s plan.

THE AHL: 28 teams will participate in the AHL’s 2020-21 schedule.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2021

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos hits the ice for training camp, the Wild name Jared Spurgeon captain, an update on Joe Thornton, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: After missing all but one game of the 2020 playoffs to a core muscle injury, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he’ll be a full participant in training camp. He also expects to be ready for the start of the season on Jan 13.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthy Stamkos should help the defending Stanley Cup champions offset the absence of winger Nikita Kucherov, who’s expected to miss the regular season recovering from hip surgery.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild named Jared Spurgeon as their second full-time captain in franchise history. He replaces Mikko Koivu, who was their first full-time captain for 11 seasons until his departure via free agency in October.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spurgeon gets the nod over long-time Wild stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The 31-year-old defenseman has spent his entire NHL career with the Wild, becoming an underrated but invaluable part of their roster core.

TSN: Joe Thornton will begin Toronto Maple Leafs training camp playing left wing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how long that line stays together. There will be concerns over whether the 41-year-old Thornton can keep pace with his younger, faster linemates.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed Dylan Strome to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $3 million. The 23-year-old center is expected to take on a larger role this season with centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach sidelined by illness and injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks couldn’t afford to let Strome’s contract negotiations keep him out of training camp. With Toews and Dach on the shelf, they need all the help they can get at the center position.

Strome played well during his first season with the Blackhawks (51 points in 58 games during 2018-19) but his numbers tumbled to 38 points in the same number of games in 2019-20. This will be a golden opportunity for Strome to prove his worth to the Hawks and earn himself a more lucrative long-term deal in two years’ time.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman John Marino to a six-year contract extension beginning in 2021-22. The annual average value is $4.4 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marino, 23, enjoyed a promising NHL debut with the Penguins, netting 26 points in 56 games while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. This contract could be a bargain for the Pens if he blossoms into a full-time first-pairing defenseman.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders are downplaying Mathew Barzal’s absence from training camp as contract negotiations continue with the restricted free agent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in New York and it’s expected a new contract could be announced sometime this week.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland won’t be in training camp and his playing career could be in jeopardy as he continues to deal with post-concussion symptoms. He saw action in just 14 regular-season games last season. GM Jim Benning said Ferland is expected to miss the start of the upcoming season.

SPORTSNET: Benning also said the club intends to sign head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. Green has one year remaining on his current deal.

CBS SPORTS: The Calgary Flames signed defenseman Michael Stone to a professional tryout offer. Stone spent the last four seasons playing with the Flames

SPORTSNET: The province of British Columbia has become the second Canadian province to officially approve NHL games this season. Alberta last week also issued its approval for its NHL teams to stage games in Calgary and Edmonton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected the other three provinces with NHL franchises (Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) will follow suit this week.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

The Blue Jackets sign Dubois, the Blues ink Vince Dunn, plus the latest on Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Nico Hischier, Micheal Ferland and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of 2021.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10 million contract. A restricted free agent before the signing, the 22-year-old center will earn $3.35 million this season and $6.65 million in 2021-22. The annual average value is $5 million.

Pierre-Luc Dubois yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A skilled two-way player, Dubois enters this season as the Jackets’ No. 1 center. Coming off his entry-level contract, Dubois had little leverage other than to stage a contract holdout or demand a trade. It’s an affordable short-term deal for the Blue Jackets and a reasonable raise for the young center, but he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he has arbitration rights.

Before the signing, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported there were “rumblings” from a few clubs around the league that Dubois wanted a “change of scenery.” I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday signed restricted free agent Vince Dunn to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. Like Dubois, the 24-year-old defenseman was coming off an entry-level deal and lacked sufficient leverage to seek a better deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn deserves more than that but the Blues are pressed for cap space this year. While they’ll place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR for this season, they need to ensure sufficient space for the latter’s anticipated return in March.

The Blues also have winger Mike Hoffman in training camp on a tryout offer and must ensure sufficient cap room to sign him to a one-year deal. I daresay Dunn can expect a much better deal next year when he has arbitration rights and the Blues have more cap room.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders had yet to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal but general manager Lou Lamoriello said the RFA center is in New York and contract discussions are ongoing. Lamoriello also revealed the Isles have signed winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening for last season’s 24 playoff clubs on Sunday, Jan. 3, don’t be surprised if Barzal and the Isles reach an agreement on a new contract as soon as today. No details yet on the new deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider but they’re probably affordable one-year contracts.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revealed the club wanted him back for this season but in a reduced role as they transitioned toward younger defensemen. He also said the Bruins made him a contract offer months ago. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals earlier this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the Bruins envisioned Chara filling the role of a seventh defenseman, meaning he wouldn’t see anywhere near as much playing time as he’s used to. He admitted he’s got no guarantees with the Capitals but he’ll have the opportunity to compete.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns spent part of the offseason making a guest appearance in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series “Vikings”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns does look like a modern-day Viking so he’d be a natural for a bit part in that series. His most recent acting gig was a commercial during the 2020 playoffs for Kit Kat Chunky.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is listed as week-to-week with an injured foot. While it’s not considered serious and doesn’t require surgery, the injury could sideline the 21-year-old center for the start of the season on Jan. 13.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland won’t be in Vancouver on Sunday for his training camp physical and is expected to undergo testing remotely with team doctors. Ferland’s agent revealed his client is still attempting to recover from post-concussion symptoms suffered last season. If the winger fails his physical, the Canucks are expected to place him on long-term injury reserve for this season.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are attempting to turn oft-injured defenseman Samuel Morin into a left winger for the coming season. Morin, who said he’s “fighting for his career”, approves of the move. He could become part of the Flyers’ taxi squad for the upcoming season.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly hired former NHL defenseman Dan Girardi in a player development role.

TSN: Players on Canada’s seven NHL teams will be exempt from the country’s 14-day quarantine rule. The Canadian government has approved of the teams’ training-camp plans to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 but all teams must operate within provincial guidelines for regular-season play. Alberta is the first province to approve NHL regular-season games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams are able to stage training camps in their respective cities. If the other provinces don’t approve regular-season games, the Canadian clubs could start the season playing their games in a hub city like Edmonton. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently reiterated the league believes it has clearance to play in all seven Canadian cities.

NHL Rumor Mill – December 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 8, 2020

With the NHL and NHLPA aiming at a Jan. 13 start date for this season, here’s a look at some unresolved free-agent business in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently examined several unresolved storylines that will rise to the surface once the NHL and NHLPA reach a resolution for the 2020-21 season. Among them was the status of unsigned free agents.

Mike Hoffman remains the top player available in the 2020 NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

A number of decent players remain available in the unrestricted free-agent market because of the flattened salary cap and a limited number of teams with cap room. They include winger Mike Hoffman, defensemen Travis Hamonic and Sami Vatanen, forwards Mikael Granlund and Anthony Duclair, and blueliner Zdeno Chara.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman is reportedly willing to accept a one-year contract worth between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. He’s been linked to several clubs but the Nashville Predators could be the front-runners for his services. They have the cap space (nearly $13 million, according to Cap Friendly) and a pressing need for experienced second-line scoring depth.

Some have suggested Hamonic might return to the Calgary Flames but the Winnipeg Jets appear to be a better fit for the Manitoba native. They need more blueline depth and would have the cap space once sidelined center Bryan Little and his $5.291 million cap hit are placed on long-term injury.

Granlund and Duclair have been mentioned as options for the Columbus Blue Jackets to provide a boost to a popgun offense further weakened by losing winger Gustav Nyquist to shoulder surgery. Granlund could be a better fit there. Given Duclair’s brief unsuccessful tenure with the Jackets in 2018-19, I don’t see either side being keen for a reunion.

Chara is reportedly waiting to see what the format of this season looks like before making a decision. The long-time Bruins captain could return to Boston for one more season but there’s talk other clubs expressed interest in the 43-year-old defenseman.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are above the $81.5 million salary cap and must shed salary to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. The New York Islanders have only $3.9 million in cap space with first-line center Mathew Barzal to sign. Boylen suggests both clubs could face losing trades in order to free up sufficient cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning definitely faces that situation, with Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn considered the likely trade candidates. The Isles, however, will benefit from placing Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) on LTIR because of his career-ending eye injury. They could still make a cost-cutting trade but don’t face the same pressure as the Lightning.

Other notable restricted free agents include Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois, St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn, New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and Edmonton Oilers blueliner Ethan Bear.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets have over $9.2 million in cap space, more than enough to sign Dubois. The Blues are above the cap by $1.175 million but will get cap relief to sign Dunn by placing Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 million) on LTIR. The Devils have $17.1 million in cap room so re-signing Blackwood isn’t an issue. The Oilers are just above the cap but are expected to place Oscar Klefbom and his $4.167 million cap hit on LTIR, giving them the necessary wiggle room for Bear.

Given the high number of NHL teams (16) with less than $2 million in cap space, Boylen anticipates seeing “at least a few one-sided deals” as cap-strapped clubs attempt to shed salary once clarity is reached on the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: 10 of those teams – Arizona, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, St. Louis, Toronto, Washington, Vegas, Anaheim, Winnipeg, and Edmonton – will get cap relief by placing some sidelined players on LTIR. Nevertheless, some of those clubs could attempt to shed a salary or two before the projected puck drop of Jan. 13.