Second-round playoff opening dates confirmed, Messier Leadership Award nominees revealed, Francois Beauchemin to retire. Details and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The dates for the opening games of the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs have been revealed.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will face the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their series in Washington at 7 pm ET on Thursday, April 26, while Game 1 of the San Jose Sharks-Vegas Golden Knights series begins at 10 pm ET in Las Vegas.
Game 1 of the Nashville Predators- Winnipeg Jets series opens at 8 pm ET on Friday, April 27 in Nashville.
The Tampa Bay Lightning await tonight’s winner of Game 7 between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. If the Bruins win, the opening game will take place at 3 pm ET on Saturday, April 28 in Tampa Bay. If the Leafs advance, they’ll face the Lightning in Tampa Bay at 8 pm ET on Saturday.
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds and Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler are this year’s nominees for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
TSN: Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov is cleared to play in Game 7 tonight against the Bruins, but it remains to be seen he’ll be dressed for that contest. Komarov hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury in Game 2.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin is listed as day-to-day heading into his club’s upcoming series with the Washington Capitals (Photo via NHL Images).
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury) and Patric Hornqvist (upper-body) are listed as day-to-day heading into their series with the Capitals.
NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski played through an undisclosed injury suffered during a game against the Bruins on Oct. 30. Werenski wouldn’t say if the injury requires surgery.
NJ.COM: New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen admitted he suffered a concussion following a hit from Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov in Game 4 of their opening-round series. He missed Game 5 of that series and will continue working out and rehabbing in New Jersey until fully recovered.
CBS SPORTS: Minnesota Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek suffered an undisclosed minor injury during his club’s opening-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. He’s not expected to undergo surgery.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Former Coyotes captain Shane Doan is auctioning a signed jersey in an effort to support the families affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 16 people.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow this link if you want to bid for Doan’s jersey. As of 6 am ET today, the largest bid was $2,000.00. The auction concludes Friday.
98.5 FM SPORTS MONTREAL: After 14 seasons, long-time NHL defenseman Francois Beauchemin has announced his retirement. Beauchemin tallied 76 goals and 212 assists for 288 points in 903 regular-season games, adding 10 goals and 39 points in 101 playoff contests. He spent the bulk of his career with the Anaheim Ducks, winning a Stanley Cup with them in 2007.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Beauchemin and his family in his future endeavors.
Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg could retire in two years time.
Latest on Henrik Zetterberg, Roberto Luongo, Tyler Seguin, Francois Beauchemin & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg recently told a Swedish radio station he might only play two more seasons, though his contract runs through 2020-21.
Zetterberg admitted the only reason his contract ran 12 years was for a more favorable salary-cap hit. If he retires in two years time, the Wings will be slapped with a $5.5 million salary-cap recapture penalty for each of the final two seasons of his deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s wishful thinking to assume Zetterberg, who’ll soon turn 37, will play until 2020-21. This was a risk Wings management understood when this current CBA was signed. They could face a couple of years with a sizable chunk of dead cap space when he retires.
MIAMI HERALD: Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo has successfully rehabbed from his season-ending injuries and has been back on the ice in recent weeks getting ready for the upcoming season. The 38-year-old acknowledged he’ll have to accept a lighter workload, which means more games for James Reimer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s why the Panthers inked Reimer to a five-year contract last summer. At this stage in his career, Luongo cannot handle a heavy workload anymore.
TORONTO SUN: Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin expects a better performance from his club this season after management revamped the roster in the offseason. Among the club’s notable additions are goaltender Ben Bishop, defenseman Marc Methot and forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Defenseman Francois Beauchemin returns to the Anaheim Ducks for the third time, inking a one-year, bonus-laden contract. He’ll earned a base salary of $1 million with an additional $500K in bonuses.
TSN: KHL veteran defenseman Nikolai Belov will attend Florida Panthers training camp on a tryout basis.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed center Jean-Sebastien Dea to a one-year, two-way contract. worth $650K at the NHL level.
Buffalo Sabres bring back Phil Housley as their new head coach.
Sabres hire Phil Housley as head coach, latest contract signings and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Buffalo Sabres announced yesterday their hiring of Phil Housley as their new head coach. A Hall of Fame defenseman who began his NHL career with the Sabres (playing eight seasons in Buffalo), Housley was an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators from 2013 to 2017.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Housley faces the daunting challenge of succeeding with a rebuilding team that frustrated established, respected coaches such as Dan Bylsma and Ted Nolan. His first big task could be establishing a good rapport with rising young star Jack Eichel, who’s now perceived as a “coach killer” by his critics. Eichel reportedly claimed he wouldn’t sign a contract extension if Bylsma remained as head coach. He subsequently denied the report.
The Sabres also received good news yesterday regarding winger Kyle Okposo, who missed the end of the season due to a medical scare. He’s expected to be ready for training camp in September.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray revealed a torn hamstring kept him out of the first two rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. Winger Carl Hagelin said the broken fibula he suffered in early March took longer to heal than expected.
Brian Dumoulin suffered a hand injury in the opening round, Justin Schultz was sidelined by a broken rib for four games of the Eastern Conference Final and Ian Cole played with a broken hand and broken ribs.
THE TENNESSEAN: After 17 NHL seasons, Nashville Predators captain Mike Fisher is considering retirement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators general manager David Poile reportedly hopes to re-sign Fisher, who’s an unrestricted free agent on July 1. We’ll find out soon enough if he can tempt Fisher into one more season.
BSN DENVER: The Colorado Avalanche announced they’ve bought out the final season of defenseman Francois Beauchemin’s contract. The Avs won’t get cap relief as Beauchemin was on an over-35 contract.
VANCOUVER SUN: The Canucks re-signed defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gudbranson struggled through an injury-shortened season in 2016-17, his first in Vancouver. If he bounces back next season, he’ll likely earn a long-term deal with the Canucks.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed forward Teuvo Teravainen to a two-year deal with an average annual salary of $2.86 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable bridge deal for Teravainen, who had 42 points last season with the Hurricanes and could be poised for a breakout performance in 2016-17.
SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens re-signed forward Charles Hudon to a two-year deal worth $650K per season.
STLTODAY.COM: Craig Berube and Daniel Tkaczuk have joined the St. Louis Blues coaching staff.
CSNPHILLY.COM: Former NHL star Daniel Briere will run the Flyers ECHL affiliate in Portland, Maine.
Predators fans turned out in force to support their club in Game 3 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
Updates on the Predators, Penguins & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE TENNESSEAN: Over 50,000 people turned out on Nashville’s Lower Broadway to show their support for the Predators prior to the club’s 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Young Nashville Predators forwards such as Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau aren’t intimidated by the star power of the Penguins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite being down 2-1 in the series, the Predators have controlled much of the play. In their 5-1 victory in Game 3, they prevented Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from generating any shots on goal.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Penguins center Nick Bonino (lower-body injury) returned to practice yesterday but remains day-to-day.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Hockey Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli is rooting for Penguins winger Jake Guentzel to break his record for most goals by a rookie in one playoff year. Ciccarelli has 14 goals while Guentzel has 13.
BSN DENVER: Adrian Dater reports hearing the Colorado Avalanche don’t intend to buy out the contract of defenseman Francois Beauchemin. That could change but Dater doubts it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Beauchemin has a year remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $4.5 million and a no-movement clause. Because it’s a 35-plus contract, the Avs wouldn’t get any cap relief by buying him out.
AZCENTRAL.COM: Sarah McLellan analyzes the evolving role of fighting in the NHL.
TWINCITIES.COM: Tom Powers believes bigger nets and giving defensemen the leeway to clear traffic in front of a goaltender would improve scoring.
Trade rumors continue to dog the core players of the Colorado Avalanche.
A roundup of NHL trade & free-agent rumors from the last three days.
FANRAG.com: On Dec. 23, Chris Nichols cited an appearance by TSN’s Darren Dreger on Buffalo’s WGR 550 discussing the plight of the floundering Colorado Avalanche. While speculating over the future of Joe Sakic as the Avs’ general manager, Dreger also thinks Sakic might have to make a move following the holiday trade freeze, perhaps involving a young core player such as center Matt Duchene or left wing Gabriel Landeskog.
Dreger’s colleague Bob McKenzie, appearing the same day on Toronto’s TSN 1050, also weighed in on the Avalanche. He thought their offseason coaching change and efforts to address their blueline would improve the club this season, but so far that’s not the case. If the Avs are to move out a core player such as Duchene, Landeskog or Nathan MacKinnon, McKenzie said they better ensure they get a good return. He also thinks there’s a sense of urgency for the Avs to change something. He doubts they want to move MacKinnon, adding he hasn’t heard of anything brewing over Duchene or Landeskog.
BSN DENVER: Stick tap to “Justin”, who sends in this link with the following: “AJ Haefele reports on his podcast that he spoke with an Avalanche exec and that Montreal has expressed interest in Avs D Francois Beauchemin, as are two other teams. They go on to say Avs are interested is some of Montreal’s young guys (no names mentioned) and discuss how that doesn’t seem possible with Montreal’s limited cap space but apparently it came from inside the Avs organization.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs are top of the trade-rumor charts right now. They’re in free fall and there’s anticipation a big move could be coming involving Duchene or Landeskog. The problem, as always, is pulling off a good hockey trade in-season when most NHL clubs have limited salary-cap space. The swap would have to be dollar-for-dollar to make it work. That could force the Avs to wait until the offseason to find a suitable deal.
Only four teams – Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes – have over $6 million in cap space to absorb Duchene’s $6 million annual cap hit or Landeskog’s $5.57 million this season. The Avs would obviously want a top-quality defenseman in return. The Sens, Panthers and Devils lack the suitable available blueline assets. The Hurricanes need scoring and have plenty of good young blueliners, but unless they’re willing to part with Justin Faulk, I don’t see a fit there.
I’ve heard it suggested the Avs dangle Duchene to the Blues to bring back Kevin Shattenkirk, but unless the latter’s willing to sign a long-term extension, moving Duchene for a pending UFA is a foolish move. A swap of Landeskog to the Anaheim Ducks for Cam Fowler might work, provided Sakic is willing to retain some salary. Of course, that’s just spitballing on my part.
As for the Habs interest in Beauchemin, that also depends upon his willingness to waive his no-movement clause to return to the team where he began his NHL career. Even then, I don’t see how this is a good fit. The Habs have to move considerable salary, plus they lack significant available blueline assets that help the Avs now and in the future.
THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle makes the case for the Toronto Maple Leafs to trade left wing James van Riemsdyk. Among the factors cited by Mirtle include the high cost of re-signing the 27-year-old van Riemsdyk ( who’s eligible for UFA status in 2018) and how it could affect the Leafs efforts to re-sign rising young stars Auston Matthew, William Nylander and Mitch Marner within the next couple of years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs need a skilled top-four defenseman and van Riemsdyk is their best trade chip to land that return. Such a move, however, is likely to happen in late-June or early-July, when most trades involving notable players take place.
ESPN.COM: Responding to recent questions from his readers, Craig Custance doesn’t see the Winnipeg Jets entertaining the notion of shipping defenseman Jacob Trouba to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury plus a pick or prospect. He thinks the Jets still believe in promising Connor Hellebuyck as a starter. While he think the Jets will trade Trouba before his bridge contract expires in 2018, Custance said the Jets still have plenty of time to find the perfect deal, which doesn’t include an aging goalie such as Fleury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve recently suggested, the best option (provided Fleury waives his no-trade clause) is shipping him to the Dallas Stars for Antti Niemi (who would also have to waive his no-trade). The move frees up some additional cap space for the Penguins and gives them a backup with Stanley Cup experience, while the Stars get an experienced upgrade in goal. While some scoff at the latter point by bringing up Fleury’s inconsistent play this season, he was outstanding throughout most of last season before his concussion and had a good start to this season until Matt Murray returned from injury. I think Fleury will be fine once he’s playing for a club where he’s the undisputed starter. The Stars could give him that opportunity.
As for how the Chicago Blackhawks free up salary-cap room next summer to re-sign winger Artemi Panarin, Custance suggests moving either defenseman Brent Seabrook or goaltender Corey Crawford. He proposes shopping Crawford to the Dallas Stars and sticking with the more affordable Scott Darling as their starter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving Crawford makes the most sense, but would the Blackhawks really want to ship him to a division rival, where he could come back to haunt them four or five times a season? It’ll have to be a healthy return, such as one or two of the Stars’ promising young defensemen, to tempt the Hawks management. Crawford must also agree to waive his no-trade clause.
Regarding the possibility of Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray pursuing a top-six forward, Custance doesn’t rule it out, but cites a source claiming the Ducks intend to sit tight for now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cam Fowler to the Avalanche for Gabe Landeskog, anyone?
Custance believes the St. Louis Blues will trade defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk at the March 1 trade deadline. He’d love to see them add a center such as the Arizona Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal, but doubts they’ll have interest in a short-term acquisition like Shattenkirk, who’s a UFA next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues GM Doug Armstrong rarely trades away pending UFAs before the trade deadline. Like Custance, I doubt the Coyotes will part with Hanzal for a player who will skate away come July 1.