The Hurricanes take a 2-0 series lead over the Devils while the Jack Adams Award finalists are announced. Details and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes thumped the New Jersey Devils 6-1 to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven second-round series. Jesperi Kotkaniemi tallied twice as the Hurricanes took a 4-0 lead in the first period while Frederik Andersen picked up the win with a 28-save performance. The series shifts to New Jersey for Game 3 on Sunday.
Carolina Hurricanes center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes are dominating this series, outscoring New Jersey 11-2 in the first two games and outperforming them in every aspect. Following Game 2, Devils captain Nico Hischier said he and his teammates should be “pissed off” over how poorly they’ve played. That sentiment won’t mean much if they don’t find a way to get back into this series.
Devils winger Timo Meier returned to action in this contest after missing Game 1 due to an upper-body injury suffered during Game 7 of his club’s first-round series with the New Jersey Devils.
Dave Hakstol of the Seattle Kraken, Jim Montgomery of the Boston Bruins, and Lindy Ruff of the Devils are the finalists for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year in 2022-23.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers forward Sam Bennett was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL player safety department for a cross-check to the neck of Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting on Thursday.
TORONTO SUN: Bennett went unpunished for a hit that concussed Leafs rookie forward Matthew Knies in the same game. Knies will miss Games 3 and 4 and could be sidelined for the remainder of the series if it goes beyond Game 4. The Panthers lead two games to none.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bennett gets a fine for a dangerous hit to an opponent’s neck and nothing for injuring another by slamming him to the ice. And the league wonders why fans and pundits have so much disdain for its so-called “player safety” department.
SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl left practice early yesterday after being nicked by a puck. Head coach Jay Woodcroft said it was “a little bit of playoff makeup, I think he probably had one or two sutures. He’ll be just fine.”
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning signed forward Mikey Eyssimont to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $800K.
YARDBARKER: Dallas Stars prospect Lian Bichsel underwent surgery to repair a broken ankle. His recovery time is six-to-eight weeks. He was training in preparation to play for Switzerland in the upcoming IIHF World Championship.
OTTAWA SUN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes it would be a plus for the Senators to have a Hollywood celebrity as part of its potential new ownership group. However, he believes the bids must stand on their own merit. Actor Ryan Reynolds and rapper Snoop Dogg are part of two competing groups bidding for ownership of the Senators. The deadline for binding bids is May 15.
The three stars from the final week of the regular season are announced, notable news from locker clean-out day for eliminated clubs, and notable updates involving several playoff teams in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
THREE STARS OF THE FINAL WEEK OF THE REGULAR SEASON
NHL.COM: Dallas Stars winger Jason Robertson, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns and Vegas Golden Knight goaltender Laurent Brossoit are the three stars for the week ending April 14
NOTABLE NEWS FROM LOCKER CLEAN-OUT DAY FOR ELIMINATED TEAMS
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson once again emphasized that he still likes playing for the Sharks but winning remains his priority. He once again shrugged off the trade rumors dogging him throughout this season, adding that he’s focusing on the present. Karlsson intends to take some time to enjoy himself and resume training for next season.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson is handling this diplomatically as he has all season but that won’t make the trade speculation disappear. There were teams interested in him but his hefty contract proved difficult to move during the season. It’s expected trade chatter involving Karlsson will pick up in June when teams have more cap space to work with for next season.
CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau vowed to bounce back next season from his lackluster performance in 2022-23. Following a career-best 115-point performance last season with the Florida Panthers, he managed just 55 points this season with the Flames.
“I didn’t lose my talent in five months. I’m not a different player from what I was last season,” said Huberdeau. He acknowledged that he found it challenging playing under head coach Darryl Sutter’s system and struggled to adjust to playing right wing after spending his career on the left side.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving to Calgary after 10 seasons with the Panthers likely required some adjustment for Huberdeau. Struggling to play up to expectations after signing an eight-year contract extension worth $10.5 million annually was probably another factor that affected his play.
THE PROVINCE: Six months after injuring his left hand and several surgeries later, Vancouver Canucks winger Tanner Pearson is trying to get his career and life back on track. He didn’t comment about the quality of care he received from the Canucks but it’s expected he’ll file a grievance against the club with the help of the NHL Players’ Association. “I’m just trying to get my hand back,” he said.
Canucks winger Brock Boeser made it clear that he wants to continue his career in Vancouver. “To be completely honest with you, I don’t want to be traded,” he said. The 26-year-old winger struggled through a difficult first half following the death of his father last year, sparking speculation that he would be traded.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rumors seemed to suggest that the Canucks were listening to offers for Boeser but they weren’t actively shopping him. They could move him for the right price as they’re reportedly looking to garner salary-cap flexibility for next season but they could consider other options before going that route.
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Flyers winger Cam Atkinson is looking forward to 2023-24 after missing all of this season with a herniated disc in his neck that required surgery after a few misdiagnoses and conflicting information from doctors. Despite the confusion at the start of his recovery, Atkinson said he has full confidence in the Flyers’ medical staff and is feeling better now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report noted that head coach John Tortorella said earlier in the season that the club was focused on increasing trust between the players and the medical staff after a new head trainer was brought in.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie revealed he underwent a minor procedure to address lingering back issues. He’s looking forward to a full summer of training, claiming he’s feeling good and is optimistic moving forward.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins forward Jeff Carter said he and his family love living in Pittsburgh and he intends to finish the final season of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bang goes the fantasy of those Penguins fans hoping the club’s new management would convince the 38-year-old Carter to waive his no-movement clause. They could buy him out but because it’s a 35-plus contract they won’t get any cap relief from doing so.
THE ATHLETIC’s Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins won’t be playing for Latvia in next month’s IIHF World Championships. He’s at a career crossroads after struggling this season and is putting his offseason focus on preparing for 2023-24.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators center Josh Norris will be spending the summer preparing for next season after undergoing shoulder surgery in January…Defenseman Thomas Chabot revealed he fractured a bone and tore ligaments in his wrist…Blueliner Travis Hamonic injured the meniscus and medial collateral ligament in his right knee late in the season…Rearguard Jakob Chychrun was sidelined by a hamstring injury.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins center David Krejci returned to practice on Saturday after missing the last six games of the regular season. However, captain Patrice Bergeron skipped practice for precautionary reasons as he’s still feeling the effects of an upper-body injury suffered on Thursday.
Winger Brad Marchand left practice for precautionary reasons after experiencing some soreness. Meanwhile, Nick Foligno and Derek Forbort resumed scrimmaging with their teammates.
TSN: New Jersey Devils winger Timo Meier missed practice on Saturday due to food poisoning.
Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett missed the final 12 games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury but could return at some point in his club’s first-round series with the Bruins.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers said he was merely winded from a heavy hit by Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman, did not suffer a head injury, and is ready to play in Game 1 of his club’s first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.
TWINCITIES.COM: Speaking of the Wild, sidelined center Joel Eriksson Ek is progressing faster than expected after being listed as week-to-week following a lower-body injury suffered on April 6. He’s resumed skating, prompting speculation he might at least travel with the team as they start their first-round series this week against the Dallas Stars.
Reaction to the Penguins firing Ron Hextall and Brian Burke, the Capitals parting ways with head coach Peter Laviolette, the Ducks firing coach Dallas Eakins, and much more from a busy final day of the regular season in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon finished the regular season with a hat trick in a 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators. With the win, the Avalanche clinch the Central Division title and face the Seattle Kraken in the opening round of the 2023 playoffs starting Tuesday in Denver. The Dallas Stars sit second in the Central and will square off against the Minnesota Wild starting Monday in Dallas.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images).
The Buffalo Sabres closed out their season by downing the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2. Jeff Skinner scored a goal and collected two assists while Devon Levi made 29 saves for his fifth win in seven starts. Johnny Gaudreau scored for the Blue Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen raised questions about his future with the club following the game. He said he loved his job despite the challenging year the Jackets faced. However, he indicated there are “a lot of things to sort through and a lot of things to think through in a year like this.”
Portzline also reported Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen texted him saying Larsen had not been informed postgame that he’d been fired. Earlier in the week, Kekalainen said his coaching staff would not be judged on its record because of the injuries that ravaged the roster this season.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins fired general manager Ron Hextall, president of hockey operations Brian Burke and assistant GM Chris Pryor on Friday after little more than two years on the job.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This wasn’t shocking given the Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The status of head coach Mike Sullivan and his staff will be determined by Hextall’s replacement.
Pundits are wasting little time speculating over possible candidates for the Penguins general manager job. Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, former Sabres GM Jason Botterill, and Carolina Hurricanes assistant GM Eric Tulsky are among the notables suggested as potential options.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Washington Capitals and head coach Peter Laviolette have agreed to part ways after three seasons. Laviolette’s contract expires at the end of this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals missed the playoffs this season for the first time since 2014 in part because of their injury-depleted roster. Nevertheless, they failed to show much progress toward returning to Stanley Cup contention over the previous two seasons.
Part of that is because of how the Capitals’ roster is constructed. However, Laviolette seemed unable to develop their promising younger players or get better results from struggling players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducks GM Pat Verbeek inherited Eakins when he took over midway through last season. Verbeek gave him a year but it’s apparent he wants his own man behind the bench as part of the club’s rebuild.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues announced they relieved Mike Van Ryn and Craig MacTavish of their duties as assistant coaches.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As with their roster, the Blues seek to retool rather than overhaul their coaching staff.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Good news for the New York Islanders as they prepare to face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the upcoming playoffs. Mathew Barzal has rejoined his teammates for practice for the first time since being sidelined on Feb. 18 with a lower-body injury.
Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett (lower body) was placed on injured reserve as his club prepares for their approaching first-round series with the Boston Bruins.
TSN: The Minnesota Wild intend to ride Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson as a true goalie tandem during the coming playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury has the experience and more games played (46) this season but Gustavsson has better stats and saw action in 39 contests.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens executive VP of hockey operations Jeff Gorton laughed off a rumor claiming he might be interested in a GM job elsewhere. “Why, are you sick of me already?,” he said, adding “I’m coming back, yes. Those were just rumors.”
Canadiens GM Kent Hughes said his club must do a better job getting its players to be more forthright with the team regarding injuries.
It was revealed that Brendan Gallagher played eight games on a broken ankle before missing 13 games. He played three games following his return before breaking the same ankle and missing 45 games. Meanwhile, Sean Monahan admitted playing on a broken foot for several games led to his season-ending groin injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens led the league in man games lost to injuries for the second straight season. Part of that is due to the longstanding tradition among NHL players to try to play through serious injuries to help their team.
It’s a mindset based on the bad old days of the Original Six era when players had little choice but to play through injuries or risk being replaced and demoted to the minors. That’s no longer the case today. Nevertheless, the tradition continues because of the mythology of the toughness of NHL players that are celebrated throughout the league.
The downside, of course, is that it merely makes things worse for the player as his effectiveness is hampered. The injury eventually worsens forcing them from the lineup for much longer than they would’ve been had they allowed themselves time to properly heal. This also comes with the risk of shortening the player’s career.
The Canadiens aren’t the only team facing this problem. It’s time for teams to do a better job educating their coaches and players on the adverse effect that playing through serious injuries can have on their health and careers.
A new contract for Canadiens winger Cole Caufield doesn’t seem imminent. The 22-year-old sniper said there isn’t a rush on either side right now but claims he’s unconcerned about it. “The deal’s going to get done when it gets done,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The longer Caufield goes unsigned this summer the more media speculation will ramp up about his future. He’s a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract with no arbitration rights. A rival club could swoop in with an offer sheet after June 30 but that’s a long shot at best given how seldom such deals are made.
There’s plenty of time for the Canadiens and the Caufield camp to get a deal done. If he’s still unsigned when training camp opens in September, then it may be time for Habs fans to worry about his future in Montreal.
NHL.COM: The league announced the odds for the participants in the 2023 draft lottery on May 8. The Anaheim Ducks have the best odds at 18.5 percent, followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets at 13.5 percent and Chicago Blackhawks at 11.5 percent. You can see the odds for the remaining 13 teams by clicking the link provided.
CAP FRIENDLY: As part of the conditions of the Timo Meier trade, the San Jose Sharks will receive the New Jersey Devils’ 2023 first-round pick.
The Islanders clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth as the Penguins are eliminated from contention and the Stars’ Jason Robertson reaches another scoring milestone. Details on these and other stories are in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth by doubling up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. Brock Nelson scored twice for the Islanders as they hold the first wild-card berth with 93 points, one up on the Florida Panthers who qualified for the postseason earlier this week. The Islanders’ win eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins from playoff contention.
New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That ends the Penguins’ streak of consecutive playoff appearances at 16 seasons stretching back to 2006-07. Meanwhile, only one opening-round playoff series has been set (Toronto Maple vs Tampa Bay Lightning). The rest should be determined tonight as most of the remaining playoff clubs will be playing their final regular-season games.
Dallas Stars winger Jason Robertson collected three assists in a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. He now has the most points in a single season (109) by a US-born player who is 23 or younger. With the win, the Stars (106 points) vaulted one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche into first place in the Central Division.
The Calgary Flames defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1. Nikita Zadorov netted his first career hat trick while Dustin Wolf made 23 saves to win his NHL debut. The Flames were eliminated from playoff contention earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed this game with a lower-body injury. It’s not considered a long-term injury and won’t require surgery.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman received a one-game suspension by the NHL department of player safety for interference when he leveled Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers with a hard hit during Tuesday’s game between the two clubs.
NHL.COM: Jets defenseman Neal Pionk was fined $5,000.00 for cross-checking Wild forward Marcus Johansson during Tuesday’s game.
CBS SPORTS: Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett (groin) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Anaheim Ducks forward Mason McTavish will miss his club’s final game of the season tonight with an upper-body injury requiring one-to-two weeks of recovery.
Oilers Stars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid reach scoring milestones, Matt Boldy nets his second hat trick of the month, the three stars of the week are revealed, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The Edmonton Oilers nipped the Arizona Coyotes 5-4 as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins snapped a 4-4 tie in the third period. Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard each had a goal and an assist for the 42-23-9 Oilers as they hold third place in the Pacific Division with 93 points. Barrett Hayton and Mattias Macelli each scored two goals while Lawson Crouse collected three assists for the 27-36-13 Coyotes.
Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Draisaitl became the fourth-fastest active player to reach 300 career goals. Teammate Connor McDavid collected his career-best 80th assist of the season and is the first player to reach 140 points in a season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96.
Minnesota Wild winger Matt Boldy collected his second hat trick of the month and his first natural one of his career in a 5-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots as the Wild (43-22-9) hold a one-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Central Division with 95 points. Jaden Schwartz tallied for the Kraken as they hold the first Western Conference wild-card spot with 88 points.
The Colorado Avalanche remained one point back of the Wild by defeating the Anaheim Ducks 5-1. Nathan MacKinnon and Bowen Byram each had a goal and an assist for the 44-23-6 Avalanche. Doug Grant replied for the 23-41-10 Ducks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducks center Trevor Zegras left this game with a lower-body injury in the second period. The Ducks were already playing without Troy Terry as he was out of this contest for personal reasons.
New York Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri tallied twice and collected an assist in a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Ilya Sorokin stopped 30 shots as the Islanders improved to 38-28-9 and hold a three-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 85 points. Erik Haula replied for the Devils (46-20-8) as they remain three points back of the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division with 100 points.
The Ottawa Senators kept their playoff hopes alive while dealing a blow to the Florida Panthers with a 5-2 victory. Brady Tkachuk had a goal and an assist while Mads Sogaard turned aside 32 shots as the Senators (36-33-5) sit five points behind Pittsburgh with 77 points. Gustav Forsling scored both goals for the 36-31-7 Panthers as they remain three points behind the Penguins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers forward Sam Bennett missed his fourth straight game with an undisclosed injury.
A shootout goal by Michael Pezzetta lifted the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-3 upset of the Buffalo Sabres. Brendan Gallagher’s game-tying goal was also the 200th goal of his career for the 30-38-6 Canadiens. Rookie Lukas Rousek scored his first goal and collected his first assist in his first NHL game for the 35-31-7 Sabres, who set five points behind the Penguins for that final Eastern wild-card spot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pezzetta delighted Canadiens fans by riding his stick “Tiger Williams style” to celebrate his game-winner. The Sabres played without Tage Thompson as he’s listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Ilya Lybushkin was the only Sabre who declined to take part in the club’s Pride Night warmups.
NHL.COM: The New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t play on Monday night but both clubs clinched playoff berths. The Rangers secured their spot due to Monday’s losses by the Panthers and Sabres while the Leafs are in due to the Panthers’ loss.
Los Angeles Kings winger Viktor Arvidsson, Montreal Canadiens center Nick Suzuki, and Minnesota Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending March 26.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: The Golden Knights set an NHL record following their win against the Edmonton Oilers by becoming the first team to win four straight games with four different goaltenders. Jiri Patera, Jonathan Quick, Logan Thompson and Laurent Brossoit gained those respective wins.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings goaltender Ville Husso and forward Robby Fabbri are sidelined by injuries for the rest of the season.
TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets defensemen Nick Blankenburg and Erik Gudbranson and forward Mathieu Olivier are also done for the season due to injuries.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: The front office changes continue for the Flyers as Dave Scott is stepping down as chairman of the club’s parent company (Comcast Spectacor) and governor of the franchise. Dan Hilferty will take over as Scott’s successor.
OTTAWA SUN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he’ll leave it up to the Senators’ new owner where, and if, they’ll build a new arena for the franchise. He stressed that the club won’t be leaving Ottawa. “If this team is going to move, the only move that will be permitted is to downtown,” he said. Bettman doesn’t want to back the new owner into a corner regarding a new arena.
The Senators signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Capital Commission to build a new arena at LeBreton Flats which is as close to the downtown core. However, Ottawa mayor Mark Sutcliffe last week said it wasn’t the only possible site for an arena.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman also said there are six ownership groups bidding for the Senators. The new owner could be announced by late April at the earliest.
SPORTSNET: Hockey Hall of Famer Igor Larionov suggests Russia should withdraw from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in order to negotiate directly with the NHL for the release of its players to represent their country in international tournaments. The IIHF has suspended Russia over its ongoing war with Ukraine.
TSN: Speaking of international competition, Hockey Canada has deemed all players from Canada’s 2018 World Junior Team will be ineligible to participate in the 2023 World Hockey Championship until an investigation into an alleged group sexual assault is completed.
Have the Sharks set an asking price for Erik Karlsson? Are teams calling about Timo Meier? Will the Wild trade Matt Dumba? What’s the latest on the Panthers and Penguins? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
LATEST SHARKS RUMORS
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sheng Peng cited Edmonton Oilers color commentator Bob Stauffer saying he’s heard the Sharks seek three first-round picks for Erik Karlsson. Stauffer also said they would retain 18 percent of the 32-year-old defenseman’s $11.5 million cap hit through 2026-27.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).
Peng believes the Sharks asking for three first-rounder seemed wild. He checked with his sources and they’ve heard nothing about this. “That doesn’t seem like a serious request if you want to trade Karlsson,” writes Peng. “Even getting a single first-rounder seems questionable, unless the Sharks retain a lot more than 18 percent, all things considered.”
THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka reports Sharks general manager Mike Grier declined to get into his asking price for Karlsson. He didn’t consider Stauffer’s report to be totally accurate.
Whatever his price would be, Grier said it would have to be a return that makes the Sharks stronger in the future and gives them the ability to turn things around quickly. He also said he’s not in any hurry to move a defenseman who’s currently on pace for 100 points this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: To be fair to Stauffer, what he heard may have been Grier’s initial ask or perhaps it was speculation from a Sharks source. Three first-rounders for a defenseman at Karlsson’s stage of his career is pretty steep despite his performance this season. Retaining only 18 percent of his cap hit means that an interested club has to pick up around $9.5 million annually for the next four seasons.
I don’t doubt that Grier’s getting calls about Karlsson. However, I don’t think this is a trade that happens this season given the limited cap space among potential suitors that Karlsson would consider acceptable trade destinations. It seems like it would have to be a three-team deal to spread the dollars around. That might be easier to pull off during the offseason.
Grier also told Pashelka that he’s had some preliminary discussions with Timo Meier’s agent regarding a new contract, although there’s been nothing substantial yet regarding offers and counteroffers.
Meier, 26, is a restricted free agent this summer. He carries an annual cap hit of $6 million but is earning $10 million this season in actual salary. That’s what it’ll cost the Sharks to qualify his rights unless he agrees to accept a new contract with a lower average annual value.
Grier indicated Meier is another player that other GMs have inquired about this season. However, he’s indicated he’s had some good talks with the winger regarding his situation and the team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier’s unique situation could also make him a rental player for playoff contenders if they’re unable or unwilling to re-sign him to an AAV of $10 million.
With Meier and Karlsson, Grier isn’t facing pressure to move one or both by the trade deadline. Given their respective contract statuses, he can wait until the offseason to see how things shake out.
ARE THE WILD SHOPPING DUMBA?
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports sources claimed that the Ottawa Senators have an interest in Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. The Wild aren’t sure they want to risk losing the pending unrestricted free agent for nothing this summer. Minnesota GM Bill Guerin is said to be open to a deal even though his club is in a playoff position.
Garrioch also reports the Wild are among the teams that have contacted the Arizona Coyotes about blueliner Jakob Chychrun. He speculates that might be the reason why Guerin is open to trading Dumba. If he can get a quality asset for Dumba, he could include it in an offer for Chychrun or another defenseman on the market.
SPORTSNET (Stick tap to NHL Watcher): On his latest “32 Thoughts” podcast, Elliotte Friedman said Guerin isn’t going to move Dumba just to get something for the pending UFA defenseman.
Friedman said the Wild believe they can win the Stanley Cup this season. Guerin won’t do anything that will weaken the team. The Senators and Vancouver Canucks have called about Dumba but there’s nothing close.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t fully dismiss the notion of Guerin trading Dumba based on the scenario envisioned by Garrioch. Still, it won’t be an easy move to make, especially if he’s planning on going after Chychrun.
Dumba’s 10-team no-trade clause can also be a sticking point. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still with the Wild following the March 3 trade deadline.
UPDATES ON THE PANTHERS AND PENGUINS
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards believes the Panthers could become sellers by this season’s trade deadline if they’re not in playoff position by that point.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported Panthers GM Bill Zito has a “deal in his pocket” to trade Sam Reinhart and/or Sam Bennett. However, Richards writes that there’s nothing in the works regarding either forward. He also indicated management doesn’t have a firm plan yet regarding the trade deadline.
If the Panthers become sellers, Richards anticipates pending UFAs like Eric and Marc Staal and Patric Hornqvist could be shopped. He wondered if they would trade or attempt to re-sign pending UFA defenseman Radko Gudas.
There’s been whispers the Panthers could trade Anthony Duclair once he’s ready to return to action from an offseason Achilles injury. However, Richards said Duclair enjoys playing for the Panthers and they want to keep him. With a year remaining on his contract worth $3 million, it would be surprising if the winger got traded.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers will be worth monitoring over the next four-to-six weeks. They could become sellers and perhaps they would shed Reinhart or Bennett to free up some much-needed cap space and restock their prospect pipeline.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski believes the Penguins’ primary concern approaching the trade deadline is adding a third-line center.
Potential trade targets could include Anaheim’s Adam Henrique, San Jose’s Nick Bonino, Arizona’s Travis Boyd, and perhaps Florida’s Eric Staal and Chicago’s Jason Dickinson. The Penguins’ limited cap space, however, will be a factor in determining how they choose to address that issue.