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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

The latest on the hub cities bids, Red Wings confirm Jeff Blashill will return as head coach, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Max Domi, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WILL A CANADIAN CITY BECOME AN NHL HUB?

TSN: Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the 10 under consideration to serve as the two host cities for the NHL’s 24-team tournament to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup champion. However, they will be out of the running if the Canadian government doesn’t exempt NHL players from its 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for non-essential travelers crossing the Canadian border. The league indicated it will decide on the two host cities in another three or four weeks.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has sent a letter to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau encouraging the federal government to deem professional athletes and training staff as essential workers. BC Premier John Horgan also hopes Vancouver will become a hub city but said his province’s 14-day self-quarantine rule will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan isn’t calling on the local or provincial governments to push for Toronto as a host city. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sports, and tourism, is willing to make the case with the federal government.

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The U.S. government recently signed legislation deeming pro athletes essential workers, lifting restrictions on NHL players from other countries traveling to work into the United States. If the Canadian government doesn’t follow suit, both hub cities will be in the U.S.

Las Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Columbus are believed among the leading candidates, but they could have competition from Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is allowing sports teams in his state to return to action, and the Penguins have submitted a bid to become an NHL host. 

LATEST ON THE NHL RETURN TO PLAY FORMAT

THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the expanded 24-team playoff format is a one-off. “I think our regular season is incredible. Our competitive balance is extraordinary. Our playoffs are the best in sports. What we have is terrific. This is dealing with a unique situation. This, in my view, is a one-time thing.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers wondered if the league would considering expanding future playoffs if the 24-team format proves popular with fans. While Bettman is shooting down that possibility, one can’t help but wonder if the expansion of the league to 32 teams might see some within the league push for a 20-team format. 

ESPN.COM: Donald Fehr, Executive Director of the NHL Players’ Association, said the PA will defer to the proper health authorities if a player tests positive for COVID-19 during the tournament. He expects management will pick up the costs of testing players and considers it unlikely a player will be suspended or have their contract terminated for testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Fehr also said the PA continues to negotiate with the league regarding players with underlying medical conditions, living in hub cities, separation from families, and critical dates calendar, but believes the two sides will find resolutions to those issues. He wouldn’t say how much the remaining decisions might be tied to a new collective bargaining agreement. Asked if the relationship between the league and the PA has been collaborative, Fehr declined to “put any adjectives” on it, suggesting people would interpret it in different ways.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Fehr’s comments, the two sides are working together to come up with an acceptable return-to-play plan. There’s been plenty of reports since the summer of 2018 over the appearance of an improved negotiating relationship regarding a new CBA. Nevertheless, time will tell if this means labor peace is on the horizon.

THE SCORE: listed six deals that could be in limbo involving conditional draft picks. Among them, Toronto’s conditional first-round pick sent to Carolina last June in the Patrick Marleau trade, the two picks Arizona sent to New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade, and Vancouver’s 2020 first-round pick sent to Tampa Bay for J.T. Miller that was later sent to New Jersey to acquire Blake Coleman.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said Jeff Blashill will return as head coach next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings are in the midst of a major rebuild. Blashill couldn’t be faulted for the lack of skilled depth throughout the roster this season.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya welcomed their second son Ilya on Wednesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Ovechkins.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said the team and the league would never put Max Domi in a situation that would expose him to COVID-19. Domi is diabetic and more susceptible to contracting the virus. Bergevin said Domi won’t play if the medical staff says he can’t play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Safe to say that will apply to all NHL players with underlying medical conditions.

Bergevin also said Jonathan Drouin is cleared to play, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi might not be fully recovered from his spleen injury to take part in the qualifying round.

AMNY.COM: New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech has been cleared to play. He’d been sidelined since January with an Achilles injury. Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Johnny Boychuk will also be ready to participate in the qualifying round.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad underwent season-ending surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disc

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut is reportedly considering signing a contract with a KHL team. However, this could be a negotiating ploy on his part. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

SPORTSNET: NHL Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree and former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy are among the 11 new inductees into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. O’Ree has been involved in many diversity initiatives at all levels of hockey, while Kennedy has spent years advocating to protect vulnerable athletes and victims of sexual abuse.

 










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Pittsburgh Penguins