Botterill Joins Several Former Assistant General Managers Who Failed As NHL GMs
In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the latest Oilers speculation and some suggested backup goaltender options for the Ducks.
SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked if the Edmonton Oilers would be able to trade Kris Russell, and if Matt Benning would be retained and traded or let go.
Russell’s annual average value is $4 million through 2020-21. The 33-year-old defenseman is seeing third-pairing minutes on the Oilers’ blueline. Benning, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
Spector feels general manager Ken Holland’s ability to move Russell will impinge on what he’ll offer Benning. He doesn’t see much sense in cutting Benning loose but expects he or Russell is likely to be moved to make way for a younger rearguard like Caleb Jones or Evan Bouchard.
Asked if the Oilers could buy out Russell or winger James Neal, Spector doesn’t expect that to happen unless the NHL offers up compliance buyouts in the off-season.
(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Russell’s play and his cap hit will make him difficult enough to move. It gets tougher when his 10-team no-trade list climbs to 15 teams for 2020-21. They also can’t bury him in the minors because he has no-movement protection. Maybe they find a taker in the off-season, but I doubt it. I also agree with “Cousin Mark” about the buyout option.
Benning, meanwhile, could end up on the trade block if his contract talks become contentious. With Cap Friendly indicating the Oilers carry over $71 million invested in 16 players for next season, Holland can only offer Benning at best a modest raise over his current $1.9 million salary-cap hit.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports the New York Rangers would potentially part with a high draft pick to facilitate a swap of Lias Andersson to Edmonton for Jesse Puljujarvi. However, he’s been told the Rangers have more interest in Puljujarvi than the Oilers have in the slow-footed Andersson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Andersson-for-Puljujarvi rumor has floated around for a while, but I’m not convinced this is going to take place. Stranger things have happened but I don’t see the Rangers giving up a high draft pick to make this happen.
DUCKS BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens recently examined several possible backup goalie options for the Anaheim Ducks if Ryan Miller isn’t re-signed or retires. Among them are Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Edmonton’s Mike Smith, the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stephens does a good job breaking down the pros and cons of each netminder. Khudobin and Greiss could prove too expensive as both will be in demand. Smith and Anderson are coming to the end of their respective careers. Talbot could seek a starter’s job after regaining his form this season with the Flames.
The Ducks could be forced to consider more affordable short-term options to spell off John Gibson, but that might not be suitable to ease his heavy workload.
Reaction to the league’s proposal to stage the 2020 Draft before resuming the season and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports this week will be a big one for the NHL. A board of governors’ conference call will be held today to discuss stage the 2020 draft next month, perhaps on June 5 and 6.
The league will review bids on Tuesday for potential hub cities to host games should the season resume this summer. Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Las Vegas are believed among those expressing interest. The league must also address concerns raised by players regarding potentially lengthy separations from their families.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan raised questions about staging the draft before the season resumes. He wants to know how the draft lottery will work, what happens with conditional picks, if teams will be allowed to trade players, and what happens with the investigation into claims the Arizona Coyote violated draft rules by fitness-testing at least 20 draft-eligible prospects before the league’s annual draft combine.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regan pointed out deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested using points percentage as a way of determining the draft order, as well as reverting to the previous draft lottery system where one winner is picked and can only move up four spots. However, he noted that it raises the possibility of a team winning the draft lottery and going on to win the Stanley Cup if the season resumes this summer.
Regan cited Daly’s suggestions that teams involved in previous deals involving conditional picks in this year’s draft could sort them out between themselves or the league would do it for them. I agree with his take that it’s a simplistic solution for a complicated issue. It doesn’t sound like the league will allow players to be traded.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes appear to have inside information on 20 prospects, giving them an unfair advantage in this draft. I’ll be very surprised if that isn’t raised during that conference call today.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson cites an NHL team executive expressing doubt that staging an early draft will be a TV rating bonanza. “I know we’re gung-ho to get on the airwaves but our draft isn’t like the NFL draft. Nobody knows our players. I don’t think we’ll have massive ratings. There’s no intrigue leading up to the draft if you can’t trade real players, either, it’s just picking at a draft.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Comparing the NFL and NHL drafts, Matheson notes that few Canadians follow junior hockey here or in Europe with the same intensity that Americans follow U.S. college football. As he also points out, this year’s draft will lack spice because of the inability to trade established NHL players. I agree with him that the league must aggressively market this year’s prospects to NHL fans if they intend to hold the draft a month from now.
TSN: NHL teams are preparing for an early draft despite incomplete information on this year’s prospects. Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said it would be nice to see how those players perform in playoff situations. Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said they’re having to rely more on videotape, while Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff added they’ll have to count on the work put in by their scouts from September to early-March. Flames GM Brad Treliving said losing the draft combine means they can’t physically test the prospects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every club will be in the same boat, except for the Coyotes because of their early physical testing of several prospects. Nevertheless, the inability to scout those youngsters in late-season and playoff action and evaluate their physical conditioning could make this year’s draft more of a guessing game, especially in the later rounds.
THE SCORE: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said NHL players flying into Canada from other countries while the border remains closed must follow quarantine procedures. “Certainly, at a strict minimum, anyone who arrives from another country will have to follow all the rules of quarantine in an extremely strict manner, but we’re not there yet in our discussions with the NHL.”
TORONTO SUN: Ryan Wolstat includes the Boston Bruins on his list of North American sports teams that would be hurt the most if their seasons are canceled because of the pandemic. With the NHL’s best record, the Bruins are considered this season’s Stanley Cup favorites.
Wolstat also thinks a cancellation of the season would spare the Toronto Maple Leafs the disappointment of another early playoff exit, while the last-place Detroit Red Wings wouldn’t have to complete the remainder of a meaningless schedule.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Being the best team in the NHL during the regular season is no guarantee of a Stanley Cup championship. Since the NHL awarded the Presidents’ Trophy in 1986 to the team with the best regular-season record, only eight of those teams went on to win the Cup.
As for the Leafs, they could also exceed Wolstat’s expectations. Should the season resume following a long layoff, teams won’t be in the same state as they were when the schedule was paused.
NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton shaved off his iconic beard.
Patrick Kane reaches 1,000 points, Justin Williams tallies the game-winner in his return to the Hurricanes, the latest on Gerard Gallant, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane collected an assist for his 1,000th career point in a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Alex Nylander, Erik Gustafsson, and Connor Murphy led the way with two points apiece while Robin Lehner made 36 saves. Jets forward Adam Lowry left the game in the first period with an injured arm. The surging Blackhawks are tied with the Jets (54), sitting just three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks and Jets are moving in opposite directions approaching the All-Star break. The Hawks have won five in a row and seven of their last 10, while the slumping Jets dropped two in a row and six of their last 10.
Justin Williams scored the deciding goal during a shootout in his first game of the season as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the New York Islanders 2-1. Andrei Svechnikov also scored for the Canes while Anders Lee countered for the Isles. The Hurricanes snap a three-game losing skid and hold a one-point lead (59) over the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
The Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from a 3-0 deficit to nip the Boston Bruins 4-3. Sidney Crosby picked up two assists while Bryan Rust tallied the winning goal.
Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks picked up a win in his NHL debut backstopping his club to a 2-1 over the New York Rangers. Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied both Jackets goals.
JOURNAL-PIONEER: Former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant said he was surprised and disappointed by his firing last week. Gallant has returned to his hometown of Summerside, PEI, and is hoping to quickly return to coaching. He said if the right opportunity came up for himself and long-time assistant coach Mike Kelly, he’d definitely consider it. Kelly was also relieved of his duties by the Golden Knights.
Gallant was slated to coach the Pacific Division in the upcoming NHL All-Star Game. “I talked to the NHL about it and they sort of left it up to me, but I didn’t really feel comfortable (going),” said Gallant. “I just said I’d sooner pass.” Arizona Coyotes bench boss Rick Tocchet will replace Gallant.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given his credentials, the 2018 Jack Adams Award winner won’t be unemployed for long. I expect he’ll be back behind an NHL bench before the end of 2020.
NJ.COM: Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood suffered a concussion and lost four teeth when struck in the mask by a shot during Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers. He was symptom-free by Friday and briefly played in Saturday’s loss to Columbus.
TSN: The Edmonton Oilers assigned defenseman Matt Benning to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield on a conditioning stint.
Mikko Koivu plays the hero in a milestone game, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl reach 50 points, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu celebrated his 1,000th career NHL game by scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars. He also collected an assist for his 700th career point. The Wild are 6-0-3 in their last 10 games.
Edmonton Oilers stars Connor McDavid (two assists) and Leon Draisaitl (two goals) became the first players to reach 50 points this season in a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. McDavid sits atop the NHL scoring race with 51 points, with Draisaitl right behind him. Oilers defenseman Matt Benning left the game after being hit in the head by a puck.
David Pastrnak tallied his league-leading 25th goal as the Boston Bruins downed the Montreal Canadiens 3-1. The Habs are now winless in eight games.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane are the NHL’s three stars for November 2019. Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar was named rookie of the month.
THE SCORE: Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi and Stars defenseman Julius Honka are ineligible to play the remainder of this NHL season. The two restricted free agents were still unsigned by yesterday’s 5 pm ET deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars were reportedly working on trading Honka’s rights before yesterday’s deadline. I expect their rights will be traded in the off-season.
SPORTSNET: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski will miss the next four weeks with a shoulder injury.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Brian Dumoulin will be sidelined at least eight weeks following surgery to repair lacerated tendons in his left ankle.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Vegas Golden Knights center Cody Eakin is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur underwent surgery on Thursday to remove a lobe from one of his lungs. Lafleur was coming off quadruple bypass surgery in late September. The procedure went well and he’s under observation in the hospital before returning home to continue his recovery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lafleur for a speedy convalescence.