NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 6, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 6, 2021

The Canadiens avoid being swept from the Stanley Cup Final, Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks dies in a fireworks accident, Wild re-sign Nick Bjugstad and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Montreal Canadiens staved off elimination from the Stanley Cup Final with a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 on Monday night.

Montreal Canadiens winger Josh Anderson (NHL Images).

Josh Anderson opened the scoring in the first period and tallied the game-winner in overtime. Alexander Romanov scored his first of the playoffs for the Canadiens while Carey Price made 32 saves for the win. Barclay Goodrow and Pat Maroon replied for the Lightning.

The series returns to Tampa Bay for Game 5 on Wednesday night with the Lightning holding a 3-1 lead.

TSN: The Canadiens made some lineup changes for Game 4. Jesperi Kotkaniemi was replaced by Jake Evans as their third-line center while Romanov and Brett Kulak replaced Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill on their third defense pairing. Anderson moved to the Canadiens’ second line alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

Lightning winger Alex Killorn missed his third straight game of this series. He remains day-to-day with a leg injury suffered in Game 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning controlled most of the play in this game. Head coach Jon Cooper lamented several near misses for his club, including several shots clanging off the goalposts.

That doesn’t detract from what was a big win by the Canadiens. Price and his penalty killers were outstanding as they shut down five Lightning power-play opportunities, including a double-minor on Habs captain Shea Weber that stretched from late in the third period into the early minutes of overtime. Price was particularly strong during the opening minutes of the game, shutting down the Lightning as they pushed to open the scoring.

NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died on July 4 at age 24. It was initially reported that he suffered an apparent head injury during a fall, but an initial autopsy revealed he suffered a percussive injury from a fireworks explosion that led to major damage to his heart and lungs.

The incident took place at the Novi, Michigan home of former Detroit Red Wings goalie Manny Legace. Kivlenieks’ death is being investigated as accidental and no charges are under consideration at this time.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets fans gathered at a popular bar near NationWide Arena to mourn Kivlenieks’ passing. It included an 80-second moment of silence in honor of the netminder, who wore No. 80 with the Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My sincere condolences to Kivlenieks’ family, friends, teammates and the Jackets organization and fans. This was a tragic ending to a young life and career that held so much promise.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed Nick Bjugstad to a one-year, $900K contract. The 28-year-old center was slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. He excelled in a depth role with the Wild this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bjugstad’s taking a big pay cut to stay in Minnesota. Cap Friendly indicates he was coming off a six-year deal worth an annual average value of $4.1 million. That reflects how much his role has changed since signing that deal with the Florida Panthers in 2014.

The signing puts only a slight dent into the Wild’s projected salary-cap space for next season. They have over $15.9 million remaining with restricted free agent stars Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala to re-sign.

NHL.COM: Swedish prospect forward William Eklund received the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence. The award, presented by NHL Central Scouting, goes to the candidate who best displays a commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism. Previous winners include Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny and New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eklund overcame an emergency appendectomy and a positive COVID-19 test to become this year’s top European skater as ranked by NHL Central Scouting. He’s projected to go in the top five of this year’s NHL Draft.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: The AHL’s Providence Bruins will be seeking a new head coach as Jay Leach has joined the NHL’s Seattle Kraken as an assistant coach.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 2, 2021

Recaps of Monday’s action, three stars of the week, plus the latest on Tony DeAngelo and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Chris Kreider broke a third-period tie as the New York Rangers downed the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1. Artemi Panarin had a goal and two assists for the Rangers, who lost defenseman Brendan Smith to an upper-body injury during the first period. The Rangers were also playing without Kaapo Kakko, who’s on their COVID-19 protocol list. The Penguins were playing without defensemen Kris Letang (undisclosed injury, day-to-day) and Brian Dumoulin (undisclosed, long-term injury reserve).

Overshadowing the Rangers win was their statement indicating defenseman Tony DeAngelo has played his final game with them following a post-game altercation on Saturday with teammate Alexandar Georgiev. DeAngelo, 24, cleared waivers yesterday. The club also denied a recent rumor claiming DeAngelo had a rocky relationship with rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers are reportedly working with DeAngelo’s agent to trade the blueliner. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak (NHL Images)

The Boston Bruins tallied five unanswered goals to overcome a 3-0 deficit and defeat the Washington Capitals 5-3. David Pastrnak netted his first two goals of the season as the Bruins extended their points streak to six games (5-0-1). Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara scored against his former team.

Yanni Gourde scored twice and Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist as the Tampa Bay Lightning completed their two-game sweep of the Nashville Predators with a 5-2 victory.

A three-goal second-period outburst powered the Montreal Canadiens to a 6-2 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks. Jeff Petry had a three-point performance (including two goals) and Corey Perry collected his 800th career NHL point. Defenseman Victor Mete made his season debut for the Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens earned this win with a dominating performance but the Canucks certainly didn’t help their cause with a lousy defensive effort.

Johnny Gaudreau scored in a shootout as the Calgary Flames edged the Winnipeg Jets 4-3. Gaudreau also tallied in regulation to extend his points streak to eight games. Kyle Connor scored twice for the Jets while teammate Blake Wheeler assisted on all three of his team’s goals.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko plus Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and forward Leon Draisaitl were the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Jan. 31.

The NHL department of player safety fined Minnesota Wild center Nick Bjugstad $5,000.00 for cross-checking Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves on Sunday.

The league also announced the rescheduling of four games involving the Vegas Golden Knights after three of their games were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: The New Jersey Devils’ next three games were postponed after four more players were added Monday to their COVID-19 protocol list. They have a league-high 10 players on that list, including Mackenzie Blackwood, Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen, Andreas Johnsson, Travis Zajac and Pavel Zacha.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek could require surgery for a suspected right-arm injury after getting hurt during a collision with teammate Max McCormick during Saturday’s game against the Dallas Stars.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb was placed on long-term injury reserve with a lower-body injury.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers placed forward Alex Chiasson on waivers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 12, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 12, 2020

Islanders get their first win of the Eastern Conference Final, Nathan MacKinnon wins the Lady Byng Trophy, the Penguins trade Nick Bjugstad to the Wild, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Brock Nelson’s tie-breaking goal late in the third period powered the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the third before Nelson scored and Jean-Gabriel Pageau netted the insurance goal. Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves for the win.

The Lightning leads the best-of-seven series two games to one. They were without two regulars in this contest. Winger Alex Killorn served a one-game suspension for boarding Nielsen in Game 2. Center Brayden Point was unfit to play following an undisclosed injury in Game 2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Isles to avoid falling behind 3-0 in the series. It appeared the Lightning were going to pull off a come-from-behind victory but the Isles proved their mettle in this one. Their top-six forwards led the way with Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier each netting a goal and an assist while Josh Bailey collected two assists.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is this year’s winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL player who best displays sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability. He took just five minor penalties during the regular season while finishing fifth in points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins traded Nick Bjugstad last night to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional draft pick in 2021. The 28-year-old center has a year remaining on his contract. Cap Friendly indicates they’re retaining $2.050 million of Bjugstad’s $4.1 million salary-cap hit for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquired by the Penguins from the Florida Panthers in February 2019, Bjugstad was frequently sidelined by injuries, limited to just 13 games this season. He’ll get a chance to get his career back on track in his hometown next season. This is a salary dump by the Penguins as they attempt to clear some cap space, perhaps for other offseason moves.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner rejected a report yesterday claiming he and the Golden Knights agreed to a five-year, $25-million contract back in June. “Yeah, well, it’s not true,” said Lehner. “You know, you have some talks and kind of (discuss) where you’re at, what you want to do. Nothing has been finalized.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report might not be true but Lehner seems to suggest his camp has had some discussions with Golden Knights management. We know Lehner seeks stability after bouncing from Buffalo to the Islanders to the Blackhawks to Vegas since 2018. Perhaps he’ll find it with the Golden Knights. If so, that will only stoke speculation about Marc-Andre Fleury’s future with the club.

The 2020 NHL Draft will be held virtually from Oct. 6 and 7. The first round begins at 7 pm ET on Oct. 6, with rounds 2 through 7 taking place the following day beginning at 11:30 am ET. Broadcast times to be determined.

The NHL free-agent market opens at noon et on Friday, Oct. 9.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings re-signed defenseman Sean Walker to a four-year, $10.6 million contract extension. The annual average value is $2.65 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good, affordable move by the Kings. As the report observed, Walker’s blossomed into a speedy, productive two-way blueliner. He’ll be a key piece of their rebuilding roster.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 9, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 9, 2020

Check out the latest on the Penguins, Wild, and Predators in this Sunday’s NHL rumor roundup.

PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel examined several pressing questions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wake of their elimination from the playoff qualifying round.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (NHL Images).

He wondered if Matt Murray will return, believing it’ll come down to how much the restricted free agent will seek on his new contract. Backup Tristan Jarry is also an RFA and showed potential as a starting goalie this season.

Murray was also on Vensel’s list of Penguins who might not return next season. Unrestricted free agents such as Patrick Marleau and Justin Schultz probably skate away, while Conor Sheary will have to accept a bargain-basement deal to stay.

Vensel suggests Nick Bjugstad and Jack Johnson as cost-cutting trade options, though moving the latter could prove difficult. He also proposed shopping Kris Letang after the emergence of John Marino.

The Pens must find two new defensemen to plug into their top-six, with promising Pierre-Olivier Joseph as an option. They also need to sort out their third-line center position and their bottom-six forwards.

It’s unlikely they’ll consider trading Evgeni Malkin unless he asked to be traded. So far, he’s given no indication he wants to move on.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Penguins have over $68.2 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Unless Murray’s taking a hometown discount for a year or two with the promise of bigger bucks down the road, or the Penguins shed salary to make room for his new contract, I don’t see how they can afford to keep him and Jarry.

Unless Malkin wants out, he’ll be back with the Penguins next year. So will Johnson, who’s earning an annual average value of $3.25 million through 2022-23 and isn’t capable of being a decent third-pairing defenseman anymore. They’ll have to package him with a sweetener to make him palatable, but his age (33) and the remaining years on that contract are serious sticking points.

Bjugstad has a year remaining at $4.1 million. If he hasn’t recovered from spinal surgery they could place him on long-term injury reserve to start next season. They can’t buy him out as long as he’s still recovering from surgery.

As I noted yesterday, trading Letang won’t be easy. He has an 18-team list of preferred trade destinations, but the oft-injured rearguard is 33 and carries a $7.25 million AAV through 2021-22.

PREDATORS

THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina wondered what the Nashville Predators will look like next season following their qualifying-round elimination.

He suggested buying out Kyle Turris’ contract, though that would cost $2 million annually against their salary cap through 2027-28. They could also let Craig Smith and/or Mikael Granlund depart via free agency and replace them with prospects such as Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Rexrode advocates buying out Turris and bidding farewell to Granlund. However, the hard part is figuring out if a major trade is necessary to push the Preds back into relevance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Predators GM David Poile intends to make a big move, the question becomes which player hits the trade block? Not Filip Forsberg or defensemen Ryan Ellis and team captain Roman Josi. Rexrode doubts Poile will shop Matt Duchene only a year after signing him to a long-term contract. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson comprise the Predators’ best line alongside Forsberg, but there’s been some grumbling over Johansen’s reliability as a first-line center.

Poile has a history of making big moves that no one saw coming. If he considers going that route again, my guess is Johansen becomes the trade candidate, provide a taker can be found for his $8 million AAV through 2024-25.

WILD

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sara McLellan suggests Kirill Kaprizov could address some of the Minnesota Wild’s scoring woes. He’ll make his NHL debut next season, but other reinforcements might be necessary.

It remains to be seen what happens to captain (and pending UFA) Mikko Koivu. McLellan feels the Wild need better depth on defense and wonders about the status of their goaltending after Alex Stalock replaced Devan Dubnyk as their starter. Both are under contract for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have over $65 million tied up in 17 players. With Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin coming off entry-level contracts, GM Bill Guerin could ink them to affordable bridge deals to ensure sufficient space for other moves.

Unless Koivu’s willing to accept a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary, the 37-year-old probably played his final game for the Wild, or as an NHL player. They’ll probably stick with the Dubnyk-Stalock tandem and see how things shake out next season. Stalock’s signed through 2021-22 while Dubnyk is a UFA next year.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 24, 2020

Latest on potential hub cities plus updates on Oskar Lindblom, Ryan Graves, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

UPDATE ON POTENTIAL NHL HOST CITIES

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Minneapolis/St. Paul, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Dallas were ruled out as possible host cities for the NHL’s 24-team playoff tournament later this summer. Six cities – Las Vegas, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Chicago, and Los Angeles – remain in the running.

CNE Grounds in Toronto.

Toronto appears to be outside its western Canadian cousins. The city resubmitted its bid over the weekend, proposing a 40-acre Olympic Village-like bubble on the CNE Grounds where the players would have access to BMO Field, Coca-Cola Coliseum (home of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies), and the Toronto Raptors practice facility.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports New York City was under consideration as a hub city, but establishing and maintaining an appropriate quarantine bubble was unsustainable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Las Vegas, Vancouver, and Edmonton are said to be the favorites. The league is expected to make an official announcement by week’s end.

VANCOUVER SUN: The government of British Columbia confirms only NHL players and team officials will be part of the cohort quarantine.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Families of players could travel to the two hub cities, but will remain separated by the quarantine bubble. How they’ll be able to spend time together is a concern among a number of players. It’ll be interesting to see how this issue is addressed if the next two phases of the return-to-play plan are approved.

SPORTSNET: Canucks general manager Jim Benning hopes to have all his players return to Vancouver this week in preparation for the start of training camp on July 10.

THE ATHLETIC’s Michael Russo took to Twitter to report all the Minnesota Wild’s European players will be back in town by Friday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All 24 NHL teams participating in the playoff tournament expect their players to return to their respective team cities by Friday. That will allow a 14-day quarantine period before Phase 3 commences in two weeks’ time.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Over six months after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom resumed skating with several teammates. Lindblom is completing his treatments and isn’t expected to participate in the playoff tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a good sign Lindblom feels strong enough to being skating again. It probably gave the youngster a tremendous physical and mental lift to return to the ice.

Some folks on social media questioned the Flyers allowing Lindblom to take part in small-group training. General manager Chuck Fletcher said every player and staff member must follow strict social distancing guidelines, pointing out the practice facility is a very safe environment. Lindblom also likely had his doctors’ approval.

SPORTSDAY: cites an interview Dallas Stars defenseman Stephen Johns gave to The Athletic detailing his 22-month absence from the NHL as he recovered from head trauma. His journey included battling depression and suicidal thoughts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johns returned to the Stars lineup on Jan. 18, netting five points in 17 games before the schedule was paused by COVID-19. He’s the Stars’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves is so excited about returning to play that he drove 2,500 miles from Prince Edward Island to Denver. He chose to drive rather than fly as it would allow him to resume skating at the Avalanche’s practice facility soon after arrival. 

Josh Yohe reports Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad (spinal surgery) could be ready to return to the lineup if the Penguins make a deep run in the playoffs.

TSN: Rimouski’s Alexis Lafreniere, Mannheim’s Tim Stutzle, and Sudbury’s Quinton Byfield top Bob McKenzie’s ranking of this year’s top prospects. The NHL Draft Lottery will be held this Friday. Depending on when the playoff tournament ends, the draft could be held in October or November.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports New York Rangers assistant coach Lindy Ruff is among the candidates to become head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Ruff spent 15 years as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres and four seasons as the Dallas Stars’ bench boss.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks promoted Martin Madden as their new assistant general manager. Madden was their director of amateur scouting.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 14, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 14, 2020

Check out the latest on the Kings and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT COULD THE KINGS DO IN THE OFF-SEASON?

THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his postmortem on the Los Angeles’ Kings 2019-20 season, Matt Larkin observed they’ll have around $20 million in salary-cap space if the cap remains at $81.5 million for next season. With all their impact players under contract, Larkin wondered if general manager Rob Blake will chase a major unrestricted free agent. Noting it’s still too early for the club to become a contender, Larkin believes Blake could remain conservative for another year.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Lisa Dillman was asked if the Kings might re-sign Trevor Lewis to a contract extension in the off-season. She doesn’t think so, pointing out the 33-year-old center was reportedly available at this year’s trade deadline. She suspects there haven’t been any contract discussions lately.

Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (Photo via NHL Images).

Dillman was also asked if Jeff Carter might be traded. She doubts it, pointing out the 35-year-old center recently underwent core-muscle surgery. She said there wasn’t a trade scenario before Carter’s surgery, but if there was, this would change the equation.

Asked which player she felt might be a good target for the Kings in the 2022 UFA market, Dillman cited Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. She cautioned, however, that most pending free agents tend to re-sign with their teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that Blake is likely to wait another year before attempting to make a big splash in the UFA pool. However, I don’t rule out the possibility he’ll attempt to pry away a good young player from a cap-strapped rival.

With over $69 million invested in 16 players (as per Cap Friendly) for next season, the Kings also have sufficient cap space to make that kind of addition. Blake has some tradeable assets if the opportunity arises to land a promising NHL talent. The Kings have seven picks in rounds two through four of this year’s draft and six in the same rounds next season.

LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Josh Yohe was asked what he thought the Pittsburgh Penguins will do about their goaltending situation. Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are both restricted free agents with arbitration rights and the Penguins can’t afford to keep both.

Yohe speculates Murray could hit the trade block. He’ll command the most money, which could be a problem for the Penguins if the salary cap declines next season. To keep both goalies would mean trading Kris Letang or a couple of other important players.

Asked which two players won’t be on the roster next season, Yohe thinks Nick Bjugstad and Patrick Marleau are the most likely candidates. Bjugstad’s injury history, however, will make him hard to trade. Marleau, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins GM Jim Rutherford hasn’t ruled out re-signing Murray and Jarry, but it will require some salary and roster juggling to pull it off. Even if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, the Penguins have over $68 million committed to 15 players in 2020-21. New contracts for both goalies will eat up a big chunk of that cap room.