A look at next year’s unrestricted free agent class in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary recently previewed the NHL’s 2021 unrestricted free agent class.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).
The notable forwards include Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Montreal Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar, Boston Bruins center David Krejci, and Avalanche winger Brandon Saad.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin’s already signaled his intent to re-sign with the Capitals. Unless Getzlaf feels he’d like one more shot at a Stanley Cup run, I can see him staying with the Ducks on a short-term deal. The Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins are discussing a long-term contract extension. I doubt the Avalanche part ways with Landeskog and I don’t see the Blues letting Schwartz depart after losing Alex Pietrangelo to free agency this year.
Hall could stay with the Sabres if he develops strong chemistry with Jack Eichel and the club significantly improves. Otherwise, he’ll test the market again. Tatar’s inconsistency means the coming season is likely his last in Montreal. The Bruins could let Krejci go unless he accepts a significant pay cut. Saad could be a one-year rental unless the Avs fail to re-sign Landeskog.
Noteworthy defensemen on O’Leary’s list include the Carolina Hurricanes’ Dougie Hamilton, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ David Savard, the Oilers’ Adam Larsson, and the Vegas Golden Knights’ Alec Martinez.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All four could end up hitting the market next summer. Cap constraints could make it difficult for Hamilton, Larsson and Martinez to remain with their current clubs. Savard will turn 31 next October and the Jackets could be reluctant to invest too much in him for too long.
The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask, Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, the Blues’ Jordan Binnington, and the Avalanche’s Philipp Grubauer are among next year’s best UFA goaltenders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Bruins re-signing Rask to a short-term deal provided he doesn’t opt for retirement at the end of 2020-21. Andersen is likely a goner after next season.
The Blues parted ways with Jake Allen this year by trading him to the Montreal Canadiens. Things will really have to go sideways for them to let Binnington walk next summer. Grubauer’s future in Colorado could depend upon his performance in the coming season, especially during the playoffs.
More NHL players speak out against racial injustice, the latest on the league’s return-to-play format, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
GROWING LIST OF PLAYERS, TEAMS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE
THE SCORE: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner joined many in the sports world yesterday taking part in Blackout Tuesday on social media yesterday to bring attention to racial injustice.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (Photo via NHL Images).
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba released a statement yesterday supporting the anti-racism movement across North America. “I’ve been sad, angry, and disturbed by the senseless unjust we have all witnessed this past week. I have been scared for the families in my community. I know I do not want to feel this way ever again; the feeling of helplessness. The feeling too many have to face each day. I am here for you. To lean on, to listen, to embrace, to have a voice and to be a leader in our community!”
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets captain Blake Wheeler vows to become more involved in speaking out against racism. “We have to be as involved in this as black athletes. It can’t just be their fight,” he said. “And I want to be real clear, here. I look in the mirror about this before I look out at everyone else. I wish that it didn’t take me this long to get behind it in a meaningful way. But I guess what you can do is try to be better going forward.”
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos expressed compassion and support for peaceful protesters and didn’t approve of the looting and riots since George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police last week. “But, as many of YOU have opened my eyes to, I see that these actions may be coming from real pain and suffering,” Stamkos wrote. “I can at least try to comprehend that.”
Teammate Patrick Maroon expressed his respect for law enforcement but also anger toward the injustice of George Floyd. Maroon added he felt he needs to set a better example. “I’m sorry and I promise to do better for you,” he finished.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and his wife Brandi sent out a message of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters in Washington through Brandi’s Instagram account. Holtby’s teammate John Carlson did the same via his Instagram account.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues and St. Louis Cardinals issued a joint statement yesterday speaking out against racial injustice. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington took to his Instagram account vowing to stand in solidarity with those “fighting for change, equality and justice,” encouraging his followers to “ask questions, listen, learn and pass your knowledge on to your friends.”
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings and Tigers also released a joint statement in support of “equality, justice, and respect for all.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins also released a statement on Tuesday. “Black lives matter,” the statement issued Tuesday begins. “Bigotry, ignorance and senseless violence in any and all forms is wrong.”
WGR550: Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula issued a statement standing with those peacefully protesting to eradicate racism and inequality and against those motivated by hatred and violence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s heartening to see more NHL teams and players taking a stand against racism, bigotry, injustice, and intolerance. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the words but their actions will speak much louder. Time will tell if their words result in action that leads to positive change within the sport and in society in general.
THE SCORE: Madison Square Garden Company chairman and New York Rangers owner James Dolan released a statement yesterday defending the organization’s decision not to release a public statement following the death of George Floyd. “As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, however, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters. What’s important is how we operate. Our companies are committed to upholding our values, which include creating a respectful workplace for all, and that will never change. What we say to each other matters. How we treat each other matters. And that’s what will get us through this difficult time.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dolan’s been criticized for his position. The NBA’s New York Knicks, also owned by Dolan, are reportedly furious that the team hasn’t released a statement. He’s since sent out a second e-mail to his employees condemning racism, but that’s unlikely to go down well with those upset over his previous comments.
LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports we could learn as early as today if the first two rounds of the NHL’s 16-team playoffs will be best-of-five or best-of-seven. The league proposed best-of-five for expediency while the NHLPA has leaned toward best-of-seven. The play-in qualifying round will be best-of-five.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The pros and cons of the 10 cities under consideration to become the two hubs for the NHL’s return-to-play tournament.
TSN: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said it would be great to have NHL games played in Canada, but ensuring everyone’s safety remains the priority as discussions continue about its return. Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among 10 cities under consideration to become one of the two NHL hubs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There won’t be any NHL hockey this summer unless the Canadian government eases restrictions on non-essential border travel or deems NHL employees as essential workers.
NATIONAL POST: A recent survey indicates 47 percent of Canadians felt it’s not important that Canadian arenas host the NHL’s return-to-play tournament.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The survey also suggested the fact fans won’t be in attendance for those games factored into the result.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov will donate “2,500 disposable masks and 25 containers of hand sanitizer (5.25 gallons each) to the Boys & Girls Clubs serving Wake County on Wednesday.”
SPORTSNET: The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) announced its intention to play a full 68-game schedule for 2020-21 with a certain percentage of fans in attendance, depending on the local social distancing rule in each province.
Some possible regional neutral-site locations to reopen the schedule, Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Quick weigh in on a possible resumption, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont reports a league source confirms Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, chairman of the NHL’s board of governors, is interested in having TD Garden become one of the four regional neutral-site locations if the season resumes in July.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports Las Vegas could be a fit as one of those neutral-site locations. Nevada isn’t a COVID-19 hotspot compared to other NHL cities like New York or the San Francisco Bay area, plus the city has suitable facilities to host and accommodate NHL players. However, it could lack sufficient rinks for training camps.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Sean Shapiro believes Dallas will be high on the list of possible neutral-site locations. The area has suitable accommodations, training facilities, and a major international airport. Climate, however, could make it difficult to sustain acceptable ice conditions.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The league could consider Raleigh, North Carolina as a neutral-site city, but Luke Decock believes a lack of practice facilities would be a major obstacle.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Columbus, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Toronto could be among the leading neutral-site candidates.
Could Las Vegas become one of the NHL’s regional neutral-site locations?
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the aforementioned cities have low COVID-19 numbers and less stringent social-distancing restrictions. Boston, however, is not among them. Jacobs is a very powerful league owner, but I doubt he’ll have enough influence to overcome the local health curtailments.
Meanwhile, Edmonton’s chief medical officer recently announced a recommendation to ban events of 15 or more people until the end of the summer. If approved, kiss that city goodbye as a neutral-site location.
TSN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated a single positive or multiple positive tests involving players or personnel wouldn’t put an immediate halt to on-ice activity. “Everything depends on the facts and the entire set of circumstances,” said Daly.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With all due respect to Daly, local health officials will make that decision, not the league. If they feel one or multiple positive tests among NHL players or staff creates a risk of spreading the coronavirus to the local population, that city will shut down games in their location. If that happens, the league’s plan to resume the schedule could be derailed.
Former NHL player John Scott took to Twitter yesterday claiming NHL training camps will begin on June 1. He anticipates European players will be returning to their NHL clubs soon. However, SPORTSNET’s Eric Engels recently reported Montreal Canadiens winger and NHLPA alternate player rep Brendan Gallagher said on Wednesday that a resumption of the schedule in July has not yet been put before the PA membership for approval.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick believes netminders will need time to get back into form if the league resumes this summer. He recalled his own long recovery from a groin injury just one game into the 2016-17 season.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington teamed up with local businessman David Corbett delivered 2,000 N95 masks to Mercy’s Virtual Care Center in Chesterfield.
SPORTSNET: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is using Scotiabank Arena as a giant kitchen to prepare 10,000 meals a day for Toronto’s front-line health-care workers, their families, and the city’s community agencies and shelters.
Could the Panthers pursue Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington? Should the Senators shop Anthony Duclair? Check out the recent speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
PANTHERS PURSUING BINNINGTON?
THE ATHLETIC: During a recent mailbag segment, George Richards was asked about a rumor claiming the Florida Panthers would trade for St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington. Richards dismissed the notion, pointing out the Blues wouldn’t trade a Stanley Cup-winning goalie entering his playing prime.
A recent trade rumor linked St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington to the Florida Panthers (Photo via NHL Images).
Richards was also asked which Panther might be a buyout candidate. He noted there’s a rumor suggesting compliance buyouts could be implemented to help cap-strapped teams for next season, provided the NHLPA agrees to it.
Defenseman Keith Yandle, who has three years left on his contract, could be a candidate, but Richards pointed out Panthers owner Vinnie Viola hates the notion of paying a player not to play for his team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t know where that rumor of the Panthers trading for Binnington came from, but it’s among the silliest I’ve read this season. It just makes no sense.
Maybe somebody compared Binnington’s stats to backup Jake Allen’s, saw Allen’s were better (though he’s played half as many games as Binnington), and assumed the Blues would peddle their starting goaltender to free up salary-cap room to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo. If they shop one of their goalies, it’ll be Allen on the move.
SHOULD THE SENATORS PART COMPANY WITH DUCLAIR?
THE ATHLETIC: Graeme Nichols recently wondered whether it was time for the Ottawa Senators to move on from Anthony Duclair. The 25-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights following this season. After tallying 21 goals and 33 points in his first 47 games, Duclair managed just two goals and seven points in the 19 games leading up to the season’s postponement.
If the Sens intend to re-sign the winger, Nichols believed they must be careful how many years they intend to invest in him. He cited analytical data indicating Duclair might be capable of flirting with 30 goals, but not on the pace of a reliable top-six forward. His defensive shortcomings are also a concern.
Nichols felt the Sens are well-positioned to part with Duclair. He suggested packaging the winger with draft picks and/or prospects to bring in a better player and/or address a roster weakness.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Senators general manager Pierre Dorion shares Nichols’ assessment, shopping Duclair while his trade value is high could be a wise decision. Perhaps a club with more defensive depth looking for offense up front would be interested. Dorion could also offer Duclair to teams with limited cap space looking to unload an expensive contract.
Results from the All-Star Game skills competition, the all-decade team, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal upset Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid for the title of the fastest skater at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game skills competition. Barzal’s time was 13.175 seconds.
New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal won the fastest skater contest during the 2020 NHL All-Star Game skills competition (Photo via NHL Images).
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber won the hardest shot competition at 106.5 mph. St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington delighted the hometown crowd by winning the save streak with 10. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin won the accuracy shooting in 9.505 seconds, while Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane won the shooting stars with 22 points.
In the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game, Canada edged the United States 2-1 in an exciting, fast-paced contest. Melodie Daoust and Rebecca Johnston scored for Canada while Hilary Knight countered for the U.S.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Tomas Hertl brought some levity to the save streak challenge by wearing a Justin Bieber mask when it was his turn to shoot on Jordan Binnington. Bieber and Binnington have a bet on for a breakaway challenge in which the winner donates $10K to the charity of their choice.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin, and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane highlight the NHL’s all-decade First-Team All-Star roster for 2010 to 2019. Defensemen Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were also selected to the first team.
The Second Team consists of Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlson, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
SPORTSNET: The NHL and the NHL alone will decide if it participates in the 2022 Winter Olympics, according to commissioner Gary Bettman during his state of the league address. He also indicated puck and player tracking will be up and running for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the league will continue spotlighting the world’s best women’s players, and it’s expected the NHLPA will soon resume collective bargaining discussions.
Bettman also confirmed the 2021 NHL All-Star Game will be hosted by the Florida Panthers.
Wayne Gretzky is rooting for Alex Ovechkin to break his goal-scoring record. He believes the Capitals captain has “a real, legitimate chance” to surpass his record of 894 career goals. With 692 goals, Ovechkin is 202 goals away. “I’m a big believer that records are made to be broken,” Gretzky told NHL.com. He also feels Ovechkin breaking his goal-scoring record would be good for the game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Many of Gretzky’s records, such as most assists and points, might never be broken. The goal-scoring record was once considered unassailable. That Ovechkin even has a reasonable shot at reaching it is generating a level of excitement and interest that will surely grow the close he gets to it.
PIT has Andreas Martinsen on unconditional waivers to terminate. If it occurs, will take Penguins down to 47 contracts (of the maximum 50).