Jack Campbell is looking forward to his role as the Oilers’ starting goalie, Jonathan Drouin hopes to change his luck this season, the Kings re-sign Mikey Anderson, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (NHL Images).
“I just can’t wait to do my part to try to help out and to get to the next step of being a champion,” said Campbell. He acknowledged the Oilers have a lot of work ahead of them but he’s ready to help them out as best he can as their starting netminder.
“For Edmonton to believe in me and allow me to be here for five years and get to work with this group every single day and try to accomplish some amazing things, I’m just so excited.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Campbell is getting the opportunity in Edmonton that he thought he’d earned with the Maple Leafs over the past two seasons. This will provide him the chance to silence the critics who point to his inconsistent play over the second half of last season as justification for questioning his abilities as a starting goalie.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin is seeking a fresh start in the coming season by changing his sweater number from 92 to 27. He wore the latter number during his junior years with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads and his tenure with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Drouin, 27, has been sidelined by injuries and a mental health break over the past several seasons. He’s in his contract year and eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hockey players are a superstitious bunch. Most will look for anything to change their puck luck, including a number change.
Drouin needs something to help him have a healthy and productive season. It will determine if he has a future with the Canadiens and if not, will bolster his stock in the free-agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anderson, 23, is coming off his entry-level contract and has become a key part of their blueline corps over the past two seasons. His lack of arbitration rights gave Kings general manager Rob Blake the hammer in contract talks but that will change next season when the young blueliner becomes arbitration-eligible.
The Kings have one restricted free agent left in defenseman Sean Durzi, who is also coming off an ELC. With less than $1.4 million remaining in cap space, he’ll probably get a deal similar to Anderson’s.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dominik Simon has rejected an offer from the Penguins to attend training camp to sign with Czech Elite League club Sparta Praha. The 28-year-old forward spent most of his seven NHL seasons with the Penguins along with stops with the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks, amassing 77 points in 256 career games.
NJ.COM: Jonathan Bernier won’t be ready to start the upcoming season with the Devils. The 34-year-old goaltender underwent hip surgery in January and it isn’t clear when he’ll return to the lineup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bernier’s in the final season of his two-year contract with the Devils. They’re pressed against the $82.5 million salary cap but could place him on long-term injury reserve if necessary to garner some cap relief.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH’s Jim Thomas recently reported via Twitter that all 32 NHL teams were informed they will be returning to normal, pre-pandemic media access regulations.
The Avalanche score seven goals for the third straight game, the Flyers long winless skid is over, plus the latest on the Olympics, the Coyotes, the salary cap and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche scored seven goals for the third straight game on route to beating the Detroit Red Wings 7-3. Andre Burakovsky scored twice and Devon Toews had three assists as the Avs won their sixth straight home game. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury and will be reevaluated today. The Avalanche are the first team to tally at least seven goals in three straight games since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Colorado Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky (NHL Images).
Speaking of the Penguins, they doubled up the Washington Capitals 4-2. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby collected two assists to extend his points streak to seven games while Tristan Jarry made 29 saves. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin also had two assists while teammates Tom Wilson and Martin Fehervary left the game with injuries.
The Philadelphia Flyers snapped a 10-game winless skid by holding off the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3. Carter Hart kicked out 41 shots and James van Riemsdyk tallied what proved to be the game-winning goal. Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty netted two goals. It’s the Flyers’ first win under interim coach Mike Yeo.
Elias Pettersson scored in a shootout as the Vancouver Canucks nipped the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 to pick up their third straight win in as many games under new coach Bruce Boudreau. Nils Hoglander potted two goals and Thatcher Demko got the win with a 34-save effort. Jets’ captain Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists but left the game in the third period with a possible knee injury. Kyle Connor also had a goal and two assists for the Jets.
Patric Hornqvist and Sam Bennett scored 10 seconds apart in the first period as the Florida Panthers downed the Arizona Coyotes 3-1. Phil Kessel replied for the Coyotes, who’ve lost four straight games. The win vaulted the Panthers into first place in the overall standings with 40 points.
Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi had a goal and an assist to lead his club over the New Jersey Devils 3-2. Juuse Saros turned aside 29 shots in his return to action after missing two games with a non-COVID-related illness. The Predators have won four straight.
A 36-save performance by Alexandar Georgiev carried the New York Rangers over the Buffalo Sabres 2-1. Mika Zibanejad and Alexis Lafreniere scored for the Rangers as they’ve won eight of their last nine contests. The Sabres have dropped six straight.
NBC SPORTS: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with reporters yesterday following the second and final day of the board of governors meetings.
Regarding NHL participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics, Bettman indicated he’s concerned about a host of issues, including COVID-19 testing and potential quarantine in Beijing if a player tests positive. Nevertheless, he said it’s going to be the players’ decision to go unless the league and the NHL Players Association jointly agree to the contrary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reports suggest a positive test could lead to a player facing a three-week quarantine in China, raising questions as to when the player can leave the country. Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner is the only player thus far to withdraw from participation, citing mental health concerns.
The NHL is projecting hockey-related revenue will rise to $5.2 billion for this season. The salary cap will rise by $1 million to $82.5 million for 2022-23 and to $83.5 million in 2023-24 based upon last year’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) that extended the collective bargaining agreement. That will allow the players to repay the $1 billion in escrow debt owed to the owners by the end of 2023-24, meaning a significant jump in the salary cap for 2024-25.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: How big a jump will depend on how much HRR rises by ’24-’25. It could reach $6 billion which could see the cap rise by $7 million, sparking a frenzy of lucrative long-term contracts for free agents in the summer of 2024.
Bettman also said there were no concerns about the Arizona Coyotes despite the recent threat of eviction from the Gila River Arena over unpaid bills and taxes. The club released a statement claiming they’ve paid those bills, blaming “human error” for the delay. The Coyotes still reportedly owe an additional $2.7 million in rent and other expenses to the city of Glendale.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: “Human error” is the business equivalent of “The dog ate my homework” or “The cheque’s in the mail.” While this raises legitimate questions over the stability of the Coyotes’ ownership, the club won’t be relocating. Put simply, the Coyotes won’t remain in Arizona until Bettman decides it’s no longer feasible.
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli wondered if Bettman got a contract extension after telling reporters he planned on being in his job for a long time. “So you’re still stuck with me,” he said with a smile.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman’s helped the owners make a boatload of money over the years while bringing the NHLPA to heel. Like it or not, he’ll be the commissioner for as long as he wants.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Evander Kane is expected to make his debut today with the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate. The Sharks assigned the 30-year-old winger to the Barracudas following the recent completion of his 21-game suspension for using a fake COVID-19 vaccine card.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks are believed to be still trying to find a trade partner to take Kane off their hands. There’s no indication when he might be recalled to their lineup.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Ben Bishop gave up eight goals on 34 shots in his first game with the club’s AHL affiliate on Thursday. It was also his first game since undergoing knee surgery in October 2020. He’s with the Texas Stars on a conditioning stint as he inches his way toward a possible return with Dallas.
TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs goaltender Petr Mrazek is set to play tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. It’ll be his first game since suffering a groin injury in October.
TSN: New Jersey Devils coach Lindy Ruff said he’s worried and concerned over the long-term health of goalie Jonathan Bernier due to a hip injury. Bernier was placed on injured reserve after dealing with the ailment throughout this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like it could be a career-threatening injury for Bernier. There’s no word if he’ll undergo surgery.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt underwent successful surgery for an upper-body injury. There is no timetable for his return.
THE PROVINCE: The front office purge of the Vancouver Canucks continued Friday as assistant general manager Chris Gear and senior director of hockey operations and analytics Jonathan Wall were dismissed.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel reports a source said the Penguins aren’t looking to acquire Fleury. They’re still interested in upgrading their goaltending but Fleury’s age (36) and cap hit ($7 million) makes no sense for the Penguins given their limited cap space ($7.4 million).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The hockey world still awaits Fleury’s decision on his future. There’s talk he could retire rather than head to Chicago. If he retires, there is no cap recapture penalty because that applies only to exceedingly long contracts signed before 2012-13 and Fleury’s doesn’t fall into that category. The Blackhawks would not be charge his $7 million cap hit.
LATEST ON HAMILTON
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting the Carolina Hurricanes are believed to have offered defenseman Dougie Hamilton a deal comparable to that of St. Louis’ Torey Krug: seven years with an annual average value of $6.5 million. If Hamilton departs, Friedman expects the New Jersey Devils will make a big pitch for him.
Is Dougie Hamilton heading to market today? (NHL Images)
Frederik Andersen hasn’t received a contract offer from the Leafs and appears headed to market. The Avalanche could be interested depending on what happens with Philipp Grubauer. So are the Hurricanes. Petr Mrazek and Martin Jones could be two options for the Leafs.
The Canucks could be interested in Jaroslav Halak after buying out Braden Holtby yesterday. Jonathan Bernier hasn’t worked out a deal yet with the Hurricanes and could head to market. The Devils could be interested in him.
TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski suggests the availability of affordable young forwards such as Nick Ritchie, Ryan Donato and Pius Suter could change the Maple Leafs’ plans to acquire depth via trades. Twitter was also buzzing yesterday over a rumor suggesting Joshua Ho-Sang could be headed to Toronto on a two-way contract.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators will seek a center and a defenseman when the UFA market opens today. Options could include Alex Wennberg, Andrew Copp or Casey Cizikas. They’ve also shown an interest in Rangers center Ryan Strome.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel also wonders about the futures of Malkin and Letang, as well as that of head coach Mike Sullivan.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).
Based on comments earlier this season by Brian Burke, the Penguins president of hockey operations, Vensel speculates they could try to bolster their goaltending while also adding some size and toughness to the lineup. The shaky performance of Tristan Jarry could send the Penguins into this summer’s trade and free-agent markets in search of help between the pipes.
THE ATHLETIC: Sean Gentille believes Jarry’s goaltending cost the Penguins the series. He wonders if they’ll move around some money to pursue a free agent such as Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier or Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark or look to the trade market for help.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins don’t need to blow up the roster but changes are necessary after three consecutive early postseason exits. Burke and general manager Ron Hextall will likely retool rather than rebuild, bringing in younger players to support their aging stars.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosbyisn’t in favor of breaking up the core. His opinion could carry some weight with Burke and Hextall but the final decisions rest with those two.
Crosby isn’t going anywhere and Malkin won’t be traded unless he requests it. The Penguins could shop Letang but it wouldn’t be surprising if he returns. He also has a modified no-trade clause listing 18 preferred destinations. He also carries a $7.25 million cap hit next season.
Goaltending is their weakness. Jarry was supposed to be an improvement over the departed Matt Murray but he couldn’t handle the pressure as a starter. Finding a suitably experienced starter will be top of the list, followed by adding more size and toughness.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE PANTHERS?
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan speculates the Florida Panthers could lose a good roster player to the Kraken in the expansion draft. It could be a forward such as Patric Hornqvist or Mason Marchment, a blueliner like Gustav Forsling, Radko Gudas or Markus Nuutivaara, or pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Dave Hyde pondered what promising goalie Spencer Knight’s performance in the final two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning means for Sergei Bobrovsky’s future in Florida. He wondered if general manager Bill Zito will try to move Bobrovsky this summer if someone is willing to take on the veteran netminder’s hefty contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers drafting Knight in the 2019 draft and signing Bobrovsky days later was a topic of recent amusement for some folks on social media. They conveniently overlook the fact that it was former Panthers GM Dale Tallon who made those moves. Zito was left with a headache.
Bobrovksky’s inconsistent play since joining the Panthers, his full no-movement clause and $10 million annual cap hit through 2025-26 makes him difficult to move, especially with the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season. As per Cap Friendly, a buyout will be an expensive long-term headache.
MORE OILERS SPECULATION
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson doesn’t expect Oilers GM Ken Holland to go on a massive spending spree this summer to bolster his roster. While Holland will have $28 million in cap space, a portion will be spent on trying to re-sign pending UFAs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie.
Matheson considers Larsson the cheapest and most likely to be re-signed. Nugent-Hopkins will be the most expensive while Barrie could be departing after a year in Edmonton because he’ll want a long-term deal.
Holland said he intends to bring back goaltender Mike Smith for another season. Matheson wonders if Mikko Koskinen will be traded, perhaps packaged with a draft pick or prospect to a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets for one of their young goalies.
Buyouts are also possible. Matheson believes James Neal to be the most likely candidate. Holland didn’t rule out trading a prospect such as Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg or Dylan Holloway for immediate help but he said he’s not doing that for a one-year player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could try to convince Nugent-Hopkins to accept slightly less than his current $6 million annual average value. If RNH signs elsewhere, Holland will use the savings to bring in a replacement via trade or free agency.
I like Matheson’s suggestion of packaging Koskinen to the Blue Jackets for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo. Koskinen’s 15-team no-trade list, however, could be a sticking point if he doesn’t want to go to Columbus. Even then, the Jackets could get better offers for one of those goalies.
Reaction to rumors linking Jack Eichel to the Coyotes, plus the latest on the Flames and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ARE THE COYOTES INTERESTED IN EICHEL?
AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan said a report earlier this week claiming the Arizona Coyotes were a “serious contender” to acquire Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel appears to be inaccurate. His understanding is the Coyotes aren’t interested in trading for Eichel and he doesn’t think they’ve even talked to anyone about the Sabres star.
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).
Morgan acknowledged the Coyotes could use Eichel, noting they haven’t had a legitimate first-line center in 20 years. However, they forfeited their first-round pick in this year’s draft, which would be a crucial part of the Sabres’ asking price.
The Coyotes cannot afford to give away any more first-round picks. Concerns about Eichel’s neck injury, leadership and his willingness to be in Arizona would also be worrying issues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe the Los Angeles Kings could be the front-runners if the Sabres put Eichel on the trade block. They’ve got the cap space, plenty of draft picks, and considerable depth in prospects and promising roster players to make a competitive bid if general manager Rob Blake is so inclined.
The Rangers would be next but their proximity to Buffalo would make trading Eichel to New York a sticky issue for Sabres management. Their preference could be moving him as far away as possible.
UPDATE ON THE FLAMES
CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson reports Flames general manager Brad Treliving acknowledged his club must make changes following this season’s disappointing performance. Whether he’ll be sticking around to make those changes remains to be seen. While Treliving is said to have two years left on his contract, he indicated he hasn’t heard from team ownership yet about his own job security.
Gilbertson also reported captain Mark Giordano could be left exposed in this year’s expansion draft, where he’d be a tempting target to be plucked away by the Seattle Kraken. Giordano said he wants to remain with the only NHL club he’s ever played for. However, the Flames can’t risk leaving younger defensemen like Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin or Chris Tanev exposed.
Daniel Austin reports winger Johnny Gaudreau is willing to discuss a contract extension. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Gaudreau said he loves the city and loves playing there. Austin considers the winger to be their best trade chip and re-signing him won’t be easy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Big decisions are coming for the Flames this summer, starting with whether Treliving remains as the general manager. If he does, he’ll likely be working more closely with head coach (and former Flames GM) Darryl Sutter on addressing their roster needs.
The Flames’ best option with Giordano is exposing him in the draft but cutting a side deal with the Kraken so they’ll take someone else from their protected list. Otherwise, they’ll have to hope Kraken GM Ron Francis will be put off by Giordano’s age (37) and the single year left on his contract.
Gaudreau’s been the whipping boy for fans and pundits for the Flames’ recent struggles. Nevertheless, I think he’s sincere about wanting to sign an extension. He’s going to seek a hefty raise over his current $6.75 million annual average value.
Given the decline in Gaudreau’s production over the last two seasons, the Flames must decide if he’s worth that kind of long-term investment. If not, they could shop him this summer. for the best possible return.
LATEST ON THE RED WINGS
THE ATHLETIC: Max Bultman reported Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman believes his club must add more scoring and shore up the depth on the left side of his blue line.
Bultman speculates Yzerman could turn to free agency or trades to address those issues, especially for a left-shot defenseman. He also noted the Wings GM would consider trading draft picks and prospects for a 26-or-young scorer who would fit in with the club’s current young forwards.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan reports Marc Staal is open to returning with the Wings next season. The 34-year-old defenseman is an unrestricted free agent this summer, completing a six-year, $34.2 million contract. He’s also open to playing with brother Eric (who’s also a pending UFA with the Canadiens) or Jordan in Carolina.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports Jonathan Bernier is also interested in returning with the Wings. Like Staal, the 32-year-old netminder is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Look no further than Jakub Vrana for the type of young forward Yzerman would like to add to his roster. He acquired Vrana from the Washington Capitals (along with two draft picks and veteran winger Richard Panik) in exchange for Anthony Mantha at last month’s trade deadline. Yzerman didn’t give up draft picks and prospects in that deal but he would to in order to land another comparable young scorer.
If Staal and Bernier are willing to accept affordable short-term deals then there’s probably a place for both with the Wings. However, that will depend on what moves Yzerman has in store during the summer. Both could be replaced by younger options via trades or free agency.
Could the Rangers pursue a veteran defenseman this summer? Which pending free agents will the Red Wings keep? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks recently reported the Rangers were a finalist in the offseason Zdeno Chara sweepstakes before the 44-year-old defenseman signed with the Washington Capitals. Brooks feels they need to add a veteran presence to their blue line. Someone in their mid-to-late 20s or even in their thirties from a winning program, preferably with a Stanley Cup on his resume, would be ideal.
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could look into this year’s unrestricted free agent market to address that need. The one who best fits that description is Vegas’ Alec Martinez (33), who won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings. Chara could also be available again but he might still prefer playing for Cup contenders if he decides to return for another season. Minnesota’s Ian Cole and Toronto’s Zach Bogosian also have Stanley Cups on their resume but aren’t as skilled as Martinez or as respected as Chara.
The top defenseman potentially available is Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton but he’ll be expensive to sign. The Blueshirts could prefer more affordable options given their depth in young players and the cost of re-signing some of them over the next couple of years.
St. James considers Glendening a lock to be re-signed given his presence in the dressing room and his work ethic and professionalism. Bernier is a close second because he gives the Wings a chance to win every game he plays plus they lack an NHL-ready netminder in their farm system.
Ryan and/or Gagner could be re-signed depending on the circumstances. Perhaps one-year deals can be worked out for Helm and Staal. Filppula isn’t expected back as he was a healthy scratch until injuries forced otherwise.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Red Wings with just $33.4 million invested in only nine players for 2021-22. They can easily afford to re-sign most or all of those aforementioned UFAs to cost-effective one-year contracts if they wish. How many of them want to return with the rebuilding Wings remains to be seen. Guys like Glendening and Bernier could draw interest from playoff contenders if they test the open market.