NHL Up and Down the Boards – Blue Jackets, Hurricanes Benefiting from Shutdown
Jordan Eberle and Jared Spurgeon each tally hat tricks, the Jets acquire Cody Eakin from the Golden Knights, the Avalanche re-sign Pavel Francouz, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: On the night the New York Islanders honored John Tonelli, Jordan Eberle netted a hat trick to lead them to a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The Islanders (74 points) hold the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Red Wings are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Earlier in the day, the Isles placed Cal Clutterbuck on injured reserve, while the Red Wings claimed defenseman Cody Goloubef off waivers from the Ottawa Senators.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon netted a natural hat trick to beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins collected three points for the Oilers. The Wild (65 points) sit three points out of the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Goaltender Pavel Francouz celebrated his two-year, $4-million contract extension with the Colorado Avalanche by kicking out 26 shots to blank the Anaheim Ducks 1-0. J.T. Compher scored the only goal as the Avs (77 points) move one point ahead of the Dallas Stars for second in the Central Division.
The St. Louis Blues (80 points) opened a three-point lead atop the Western Conference by beating the Stars 5-1, leaving the latter four points behind them. Blues defenseman Colton Parayko had a goal and two assists.
Mika Zibanejad scored and set up two others to lead the New York Rangers over the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2. Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho tallied his 35th goal of the season. With 68 points, the Rangers sit five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Hurricanes (72 points) are one point behind the Jackets.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat scored twice in a 2-1 overtime win over the Nashville Predators. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford made 42 saves for the win. The Predators (68 points) sit two behind the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card spot. The Blackhawks made defenseman Erik Gustafsson a late scratch, prompting speculation he could be moved before the upcoming Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Speaking of the Flames, they blew a 3-1 lead to drop a 4-3 decision to the Boston Bruins. Patrice Bergeron scored twice and David Pastrnak had two assists as the Bruins (90 points) won their fifth straight and widened their lead atop the overall standings by five points over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mikael Backlund scored two goals for the Flames.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eakin is expected to center the Jets’ fourth line, providing an additional measure of experienced depth to their bottom-six forward lines. By shedding Eakin’s $3.85 million salary-cap hit, the Golden Knights freed up cap room for perhaps another deal before the upcoming trade deadline.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres yesterday placed defenseman Zach Bogosian on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. If unclaimed by noon today, Bogosian will become an unrestricted free agent.
TSN: Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan opened up about his alcohol addiction and his ongoing treatment. He’s returning to the lineup after being out of action for three months participating in the NHL player assistance program.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Ryan on his path forward.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand will be sidelined eight-to-ten weeks with a sprained and factured ankle.
The NHL Department of Player Safety fined Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen $5,000.00 for slashing and Senators forward Scott Sabourin over $1.881.00 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
TVA SPORTS: With Victor Mete and Xavier Ouellet sidelined by injuries, the Montreal Canadiens recalled defenseman Karl Alzner.
Game recaps, Auston Matthews to miss the All-Star Game, a good deed by Matt Dumba goes viral, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets picked up their sixth straight win by edging the slumping Winnipeg Jets 4-3. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice and has four goals (including two game-winners) in his last two games. Teammate Pierre-Luc Dubois picked up three assists.
Mats Zuccarello and Eric Staal each had a goal and an assist as the Minnesota Wild doubled up the Detroit Red Wings 4-2. Filip Zadina scored both Red Wings goals.
TORONTO SUN: A nagging wrist injury will sidelined Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews from the upcoming NHL All-Star Game.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators winger Brady Tkachuk is Matthews’ replacement.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba is downplaying his good deed that went viral on social media. Dumba provided roadside assistance to a family stranded on a highway following Monday’s game against the Florida Panthers.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Local police are investigating an alleged physical assault allegation against Gritty after the Flyers mascot allegedly punched a 13-year-old boy in the back during a game at Wells Fargo Arena in November.
Taylor Hall tallies his first goal with the Coyotes, Alex Ovechkin non-committal about attending 2020 All-Star Game, the latest on Zdeno Chara and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Taylor Hall scored his first goal with the Arizona Coyotes in a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. He now has points in each of his first three games with the Coyotes. Clayton Keller scored twice and picked up an assist while Oliver Ekman-Larsson had three assists.
Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard gave up five goals on 45 shots in his first game since being sidelined by a groin injury on Nov. 27. Teammate Anthony Mantha missed the game as he’s sidelined at least a week with an upper-body injury suffered against Toronto on Saturday. Wings forward Robby Fabbri was fined over $2,400.00 for spearing Maple Leafs center Alexander Kerfoot.
Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm led the Calgary Flames to a 5-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. Tkachuk scored a goal and set up two others while Lindholm collected three assists as the Flames went three-for-five on the power play.
The New York Rangers snapped a three-game losing skid by dumping the depleted Anaheim Ducks 5-1. Chris Kreider scored twice for the Rangers while Mika Zibanejad had a goal and an assist. Ducks forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg were sidelined by illness while Rickard Rakell missed the game with an upper-body injury.
Vegas Golden Knight goalie Malcolm Subban made 37 saves in a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. William Karlsson picked up to assists as the Golden Knights are unbeaten in their last five games (4-0-1). The free-falling Sharks have just one victory in their last 10 games (1-8-1).
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is honored to be voted captain of the Metropolitan Division for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25. However, he’s non-committal on his participation.
“We’ll see,” he said when asked if he would go. “It’s lots of games to play. I’m going to do the best for my health and for the playoffs and I have to be healthy for the most important games moving forward.” Ovechkin opted to skip the 2019 All-Star game and received a league-mandated one-game suspension.
Ovechkin and teammate Tom Wilson posted tweets yesterday honoring Capitals superfan Alex Luey, who passed away yesterday following a three-year battle with cancer. Luey was 13 years old.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Luey’s family and friends, and to the Capitals organization.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will miss today’s game against the Capitals due to a scheduled procedure related to his broken jaw suffered during last spring’s Stanley Cup Final.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Oliver Bjorkstrand will be sidelined four-to-six weeks with a rib/cartilage contusion and oblique strain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bjorkstrand joins a growing list of sidelined Jackets. Among them are Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Josh Anderson and David Savard.
TSN: Ottawa Senators forward Scott Sabourin will return to action tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. He’s been sidelined by a concussion since Nov. 2.
Updates on Jeff Skinner and Jake Muzzin plus the latest on the Flyers’ goaltending needs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SUGGESTED TRADE DESTINATIONS FOR JEFF SKINNER
THE ATHLETIC: Ryan Stimson examined some possible trade options for Jeff Skinner if he and the Buffalo Sabres failed to agree to terms on a new contract before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. He acknowledged there’s some confusion around the league over whether the 26-year-old winger’s no-movement clause remains valid after he voided it to accept a trade to Buffalo last summer.
If the Sabres opt to move him, Stimson believes it should be for “younger players who have shown positive results in a wide variety of situations. No one is going to give up an established forward or back for a Skinner rental, so you’re looking in that 20-to-23 age range and then a pick to continue stockpiling.”
Stimson suggests peddling Skinner to the Nashville Predators for winger Kevin Fiala, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a return including one of their young blueline talents such as Travis Dermott, Timothy Liljegren, and Rasmus Sandin, or to the Edmonton Oilers for forward Leon Draisaitl or defenseman Oscar Klefbom.
Once the Sabres trade away Skinner, Stimson suggests using the salary-cap money that would’ve been invested in the winger into pursuing a big-impact player via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Stimson is merely spitballing here. He’s not saying the Sabres will trade Skinner before the trade deadline, or that his suggested trade targets are definitely the players the Sabres will pursue if they go that route. There’s a very good chance the two sides hammer out an agreement before Feb. 25, or before July 1 when Skinner becomes eligible for unrestricted free agent status.
Still, one has to wonder if the Sabres are willing to risk losing Skinner for nothing if they can’t re-sign him before the deadline, especially as his trade value is now at its peak. Most of Stimson’s trade proposals aren’t “one-for-one” deals. For example, if they were to swap Skinner to Toronto for Dermott, the Sabres will obviously want other pieces, such as a top draft pick and a quality prospect, as part of the return. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on Skinner’s contract status as we get closer to Feb. 25.
PROS AND CONS OF TRADING JAKE MUZZIN
THE ATHLETIC: Lisa Dillman and Josh Cooper examined the case for and against the Los Angeles Kings trading defenseman Jake Muzzin. They note the 29-year-old is arguably the Kings’ best blueliner this season, he carries an affordable $4-million salary-cap hit through 2019-20 and would be the missing piece for contending teams seeking defensive help. Muzzin might attract a solid return, perhaps even a first-round pick or a high-end prospect.
On the other hand, if the Kings see themselves not that far away from getting back into playoff contention, they’ll need Muzzin to be part of the solution. He shouldn’t be too expensive to re-sign, remains in his playing prime and has emerged as a team leader.
If the Kings decide to move him, the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and perhaps the Minnesota Wild could be worthwhile trade partners.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Muzzin hits the trade block before the Feb. 25 deadline he will attract plenty of suitors. In addition to the Oilers, Leafs, and Wild, the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, and Montreal Canadiens could also come calling. He also lacks a no-trade clause, giving the Kings’ plenty of options for possible destinations.
FLYERS MUST TAKE ACTION TO FIX THEIR GOALTENDING
THE HOCKEY NEWS: With the Philadelphia Flyers season slipping away, Jared Clinton believes it’s time for new general manager Chuck Fletcher to take immediate action to address their goaltending beyond claiming Mike McKenna off waivers from Vancouver. Waiting for sidelined Brian Elliott, who hasn’t played in nearly two months, to return in mid-January won’t come in time to save the season.
Short of swinging a blockbuster deal to bring back Sergei Bobrovsky from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Clinton feels Fletcher could address the situation without having to touch the stockpile of draft picks and prospects left by his predecessor. He suggests pending UFAs such as Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov might be had for the right price. He points out the Avalanche could use secondary scoring and proposed offering up Wayne Simmonds in the deal. The rebuilding Wings could have some interest in a pick or prospect for Howard.
Other options could include San Jose’s Aaron Dell, Ottawa’s Craig Anderson, Dallas’s Anton Khudobin and Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of Clinton’s proposed options, only Howard might be available, and the rumored asking price is said to be a first-round draft pick. Bobrovsky isn’t going anywhere. I think the Avs will stick with Varlamov, who is often injured and inconsistent.
The Sharks aren’t moving Dell, who’s a solid backup for Martin Jones. Same goes for the Stars with Khudobin as Ben Bishop’s understudy. Anderson is currently sidelined by a concussion and there’s no timetable for his return. With Antti Raanta likely gone for the season, I don’t see the Coyotes peddling Kuemper.
Former goaltender Ray Emery has passed away, an update on Joe Pavelski and the latest notable contract signings in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Former goaltender Ray Emery, died by drowning in Hamilton, Ontario yesterday. He was 35. Emery spent 11 seasons in the NHL, playing for the Ottawa Senators, Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers.
Emery backstopped the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. He was also a two-time Masterton Trophy finalist, shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Corey Crawford and won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Very sad news for the hockey community.The day before his death, Emery had taken part in a local charity game to raise money to feed hungry children in the community.
Emery had his ups and downs during his NHL career, especially during his tenure with the Senators. However, he was well-liked by teammates, opponents and fans, as the tributes continue to pour in honoring his memory.
NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski finished third at the American Century Championship golf tournament.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets re-signed forward Oliver Bjorkstrand to a three-year contract worth $7.5 million. The annual salary-cap hit is $2.5 million. Bjorkstrand, 23, tallied a career-best 40 points last season.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens avoided salary arbitration with Phillip Danault, inking him to a three-year, $9.249-million contract. The annual average value is $3.083 million.
NHL.COM: The Los Angeles Kings signed defenseman Kurtis MacDermid to a two-year, two-way contract.
SPORTSNET: The Buffalo Sabres signed forward Justin Bailey to a one-year, two-way contract.
CBS SPORTS: The Anaheim Ducks inked left wing Kevin Roy to a one-year, two-way deal.