NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 15, 2021

The Kraken get their first victory, impressive opening-night performances by Anze Kopitar & Tyler Bertuzzi, the Blue Jackets honor the late Matiss Kivlenieks with a big win, my take on the Senators finally signing Brady Tkachuk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken picked up their first-ever NHL victory by holding off the Nashville Predators 4-3. Brandon Tanev scored twice and Jared McCann and Alex Wennberg each had a goal and an assist. Mikael Granlund had a goal and two assists for the Predators.

Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar (NHL Images).

Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar had a historic night in his club’s 6-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. He matched his single-game career-high (five points) with three goals and two assists, joined Luc Robitaille and Jari Kurri as the third King to score a hat trick on opening night and became the oldest player (34 years, 51 days) in league history to collect five points in a season opener. Teammate Drew Doughty had a four-point night. It was a tough loss for the Golden Knights as captain Mark Stone left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period.

Detroit Red Wings center Tyler Bertuzzi scored four goals but it was the Tampa Bay Lightning emerging victorious with four unanswered goals in a wild 7-6 overtime victory with Ondrej Palat tallying the winner. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman each had four points and Steven Stamkos scored twice for the Lightning.

The Columbus Blue Jackets honored the memory of the late Matiss Kivlenieks with a pregame ceremony, then went on to thump the Arizona Coyotes 8-2. Elvis Merzlikins made 36 saves for the win while Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied two goals and two assists and Max Domi collected three points.

Two unanswered third-period goals by Aaron Ekblad set the stage for Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime winner as the Florida Panthers rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4. Penguins forward Jeff Carter tallied his 400th career goal.

Andrei Svechnikov scored twice and added an assist to power the Carolina Hurricanes over the New York Islanders 6-3. Frederik Andersen made 25 saves for his first victory with the Hurricanes.

An overtime goal by Miro Heiskanen lifted the Dallas Stars over the New York Rangers 3-2. It was a costly win for the Stars as defenseman John Klingberg left the game twice with an apparent leg injury while goaltender Braden Holtby was sidelined by dehydration with 11:53 remaining in the third period. Anton Khudobin stepped in and stopped all six shots he faced.

The Buffalo Sabres got off to a good start to this season with a convincing 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Victor Olofsson and Zemgus Girgensons each had a goal and an assist.

Ottawa Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg made a career-high 46 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators opened a 3-0 lead in the first period and held off a third-period rally by the Leafs, who also lost goaltender Petr Mrazek with an apparent injury to his left leg late in the second period.

HEADLINES

OTTAWA SUN: Speaking of the Senators, they finally signed Brady Tkachuk after he missed all of training camp and their season-opener. The 22-year-old left winger agreed to a seven-year, $57.5 million contract. The annual average value is over $8.33 million for this season, followed by an AAV of $8.205 million for the remainder of the deal. It also pays him $10.5 million in actual salary during the third, fourth and fifth seasons of the deal, and includes a full no-movement clause in the final three seasons. There are no signing bonuses.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a significant signing for the Senators, getting one of their best forwards under a long-term deal without ponying up any money upfront in each season. It’s still a good deal for the winger, making him the club’s highest-paid player in terms of annual average salary.

The Tkachuk camp had reportedly sought a three-year deal but general manager Pierre Dorion said what impressed him was the winger’s desire to stay in Ottawa for the long term. This move sends a positive message to the club’s long-suffering fans that they can retain their best young players.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL approved the Montreal Canadiens’ request to place Shea Weber on long-term injury reserve. The league will continue monitoring the defenseman’s health and injuries but he legitimately cannot play right now. This move also allows the Canadiens to activate Carey Price when the goaltender returns from the league’s player assistance program.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics believe Weber could return to the Canadiens’ lineup in time for the 2022 playoffs when his cap hit no longer applies. While that’s possible, everything I’ve heard and read coming out of Montreal suggests it’s also unlikely. Weber is reportedly recovering from three different injuries (knee, ankle, thumb) that could bring his career to an end.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog received a two-game suspension from the league’s department of player safety for boarding Chicago Blackhawks center Kirby Dach on Wednesday.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Emil Bemstrom is out four-to-six weeks with a left oblique strain suffered during practice on Tuesday.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals claimed defenseman Dennis Cholowski off waivers from the Kraken.

SPORTSNET: According to Sportico, the Toronto Maple Leafs has the highest value of all NHL franchises. The New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins round out the top five. In last place are the Arizona Coyotes.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – October 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 12, 2021

Some more Jack Eichel speculation plus the latest on the Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently reported Jack Eichel remains adamant about undergoing artificial disc replacement. While the procedure has never been done on an NHL player, some teams are warming to the idea if they can acquire him from the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Those interested clubs, however, are insisting on having a conditional aspect tied to any trade based on Eichel’s recovery and health. He’d be sidelined for four months with no guarantee he’ll be fully fixed up. The Sabres will thus have to alter their trade demands. General manager Kevyn Adams acknowledged an Eichel deal would have to come with conditions likely tied to games played, etc.

LeBrun believes the Minnesota Wild are out of the Eichel market because it would take moving a lot of cap space to absorb the center’s $10 million annual average value. He doesn’t see the Philadelphia Flyers getting involved based on their offseason moves. The Los Angeles Kings also don’t seem to be that involved.

The Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks did their due diligence and LeBrun believes they’re still in it to some degree. The Ducks make the most sense as they’re rebuilding with youth but he wondered how much it would cost them to acquire Eichel. He also believes there are other suitors yet to be identified.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun also didn’t see the New York Rangers pursuing Eichel. He made that assessment before the Blueshirts re-signed Mika Zibanejad, a move that should take them out of the market for the Sabres center.

It appears the teams with the best chance of acquiring Eichel are those with plenty of salary cap space, as well as promising trade bait such as extra draft picks and/or prospects and young NHL players.

The Ducks would fall into that category and would make the most sense. However, the asking price could be Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale and I don’t see them parting with either guy.

The Ottawa Senators would be a prime candidate but who knows if cantankerous Senators owner Eugene Melnyk would sign off on this. The Columbus Blue Jackets have lacked a true first-line center for years and also possess the assets to swing a deal. The same goes for the Arizona Coyotes but they might not be keen to take on that big salary.

I’m skeptical that the Flames can land Eichel. Cap Friendly shows them with just $300K in projected cap space entering this season so they’ll have to dump a lot of salary to take on his contract. Some will suggest offering Johnny Gaudreau given his UFA status next summer or Sean Monahan with a year left on his contract. However, their respective no-trade clauses could prevent a trade with the Sabres. Let’s not forget the Sabres would want assurances of signing either guy which they likely won’t get.

NEW YORK POST: Mark W. Sanchez reports Rangers general manager Chris Drury is attempting to trade defenseman Libor Hajek. They’re carrying him on the roster for now rather than risk another club plucking him off waivers. The chance of moving him within the next couple of days appears minimal.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 2, 2021

Looking ahead at how much the Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy will get on his next contract and the latest on the Blue Jackets’ Joonas Korpisalo in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently reported Charlie McAvoy is putting his focus on this season but the 23-year-old Bruins defenseman knows he’s got a big payday coming. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer, he’s in the final season of a three-year deal with an annual average value of $4.9 million.

Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (NHL Images).

McAvoy took note of the comparable defensemen who signed lucrative long-term contracts this summer. He said they were well-deserved and he was happy for them.

Those blueliners include the Dallas Stars’ Miro Heiskanen (eight years, $8.45 million AAV), the Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar (six years, $9 million). the Edmonton Oilers’ Darnell (eight years, $9.25 million) and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Zach Werenski (six years, $9.58 million).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McAvoy is going to get a big raise on a long-term contract coming off his bridge deal. Murphy believes he’ll come into negotiations with a minimum $9 million as his starting point.

McAvoy’s new deal will take a big bite out of the Bruins’ cap space for 2022-23. Cap Friendly shows them with a projected $60.9 million committed to 18 players with Patrice Bergeron slated to become an unrestricted free agent and Jake DeBrusk also a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

With the cap rising by $1 million for next season to $82 million, McAvoy’s new contract could affect other negotiations. It could also impact whatever plans the Bruins could have to address roster weaknesses via trades or free agency.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger recently reported Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo claims he’s not bothered by the club signing teammate and fellow netminder Elvis Merzlikins to a long-term extension.

It was super because I had no idea about that,” said Korpisalo. “It’s business. But frankly, I don’t give a (expletive) what happened. I’m still going to do me. It’s still the same team, still the same guys. It’s good to be here and I’m going to push with everything I can.”

The two goaltenders maintain a good relationship but Hedger feels Korpisalo’s days with the Jackets are numbered. Both want to be starters but the Blue Jackets have committed long-term to Merzlikins, though management and the coaching staff insist the caliber of their play will determine playing time this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Korpisalo is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Even if he outplays Merzlikins this season I don’t see the Jackets retaining him if they’re out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline. If anything, a strong performance by Korpisalo will make him more enticing to rival clubs seeking an upgrade between the pipes.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2021

The Wild sign Kirill Kaprizov, the Blues Jackets re-up Elvis Merzlikins and the Blues ink Robert Thomas. Check out the details of these signings plus the latest PTO contracts and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed winger Kirill Kaprizov to a five-year, $45 million contract on Tuesday night. The annual average value of the deal is $9 million. This comes on the eve of the Wild opening training camp today.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report adds Kaprizov is in North America, will travel to Minnesota today and will be in training camp tomorrow. The 24-year-old winger’s one NHL season has raised questions over whether he’s worth that type of contract.

The Wild, however, had no choice. Kaprizov may have a short body of work but he won the Calder Memorial Trophy last season, becoming the most exciting offensive star they’ve had since Marian Gaborik was in his heyday 15 years ago. Cap Friendly indicates they’re also facing a short-term cap crunch over the next three seasons. They needed certainty over how much he’ll cost them per season, especially when the salary cap begins rising again.

Kaprizov now faces the pressure of justifying that hefty raise and building on his promising NHL debut. If he does, the Wild should remain a legitimate playoff contender despite their upcoming salary-cap issues. If not, things could get ugly very quickly for him and for general manager Bill Guerin.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year, $27 million contract extension. The annual average value is $5.4 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing cements Merzlikins as the Blue Jackets’ starting goaltender. It also means Joonas Korpisalo could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent unless he’s moved before the March trade deadline if the Jackets are out of playoff contention.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues inked center Robert Thomas to a two-year, $5.6 million contract with an annual average value of $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s the same deal teammate Jordan Kyrou recently signed but there was speculation Thomas would get less than that because of his struggles last season. The signing pushes the Blues above the cap by around $1.3 million but it’s expected they’ll offset that by placing sidelined forward Oskar Sundqvist (knee injury) and his $2.75 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve to start the season.

The Blues must become cap compliant when Sundqvist returns to action. That could come about via demoting or trading a lower-salaried player or perhaps they’ll find a trade partner for Vladimir Tarasenko by then.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed Bobby Ryan to a professional tryout offer. The 34-year-old winger played for the Wings last season.

TSN: Alexander Galchenyuk signed a PTO with the Arizona Coyotes. The 27-year-old forward last played for the Coyotes in 2018-19.

NHL.COM’s Brian Compton tweets the New York Islanders signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a PTO, inked goaltender Cory Schneider to a two-way contract and signed Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle.

Freelancer Ken Campbell reports Edmonton Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith is still quarantining after receiving his second COVID-19 vaccination. He’s expected to miss the first week of training camp.

TSN: The Philadelphia Flyers announced center Kevin Hayes underwent abdominal surgery and will be sidelined four to six weeks and defenseman Samuel Morin will be out six to eight weeks recovering from knee surgery. Forward Wade Allison is out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ll feel Hayes’ absence for the opening weeks of this season. His spot as second-line center could be filled by Morgan Frost.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have barred forward Zac Rinaldo from attending training camp due to his unvaccinated status. He’s on a one-year, two-way contract and has been vocal in his stance against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. He’ll instead attend the training camp of their AHL affiliate in Cleveland later this month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinaldo can forget about getting called up by the Jackets. The club is taking a firm stance on ensuring all its players are fully vaccinated, operating under the NHL’s COVID protocols for this season.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Motte remains sidelined by an undisclosed injury suffered on April 29 in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll miss the start of training camp and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

SPORTSNET: After 42 years in broadcasting, Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Jim Hughson has retired. He called his first game on radio in 1979 and become the main play-by-play for the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and national broadcasts on HniC.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hughson and his family for a happy retirement.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021

The latest Jack Eichel speculation and a look at possible goalie trade candidates this season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Duhatschek was asked which club makes the most sense for the Buffalo Sabres to trade Jack Eichel to get the best return.

Assuming Eichel eventually gets healthy and returns to form, Duhatschek feels it’ll take a team willing to make a bold move in order for the Sabres to get full value for him. He rules out the Los Angeles Kings as too conservative and unwilling to part with prospect Quinton Byfield. Also ruled out are the Boston Bruins as there doesn’t appear to be a fit in salary or the player/draft choice combination heading the other way.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Duhatschek feels the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Jarmo Kekalainen and the Minnesota Wild’s Bill Guerin are two general managers with the courage to wade into an Eichel deal. Both clubs need a genuine No. 1 center. He also considers the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks as long shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never with the Kings but I agree with Duhatschek’s take. Anze Kopitar is still their first-line center and the signing of Phillip Danault suggests they’re buying time until Byfield and Alex Turcotte are ready to join the roster on a full-time basis.

The Bruins certainly could use hometown boy Eichel but there just isn’t a fit there unless GM Don Sweeney gets very creative by bringing in a third team to pull off the swap. He could instead set his sights on a more affordable short-term option such as San Jose’s Tomas Hertl.

I’ve also suggested the Blue Jackets as a destination. They have over $10 million in cap space, carry potentially two first-round picks in next year’s draft and have some promising players in their system (Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, Liam Foudy) that could tempt the Sabres. Kekalainen has made bold moves in the past but I’m not sure he’s willing to pursue a big fish like Eichel.

The Wild’s cap space will shrink considerably once winger Kirill Kaprizov is under contract unless Guerin pulls a swerve and becomes willing to part with the young winger in a package for the Sabres’ center. While the Wild need a bonafide first-line center, I don’t think they’ll pursue Eichel.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving reportedly looked into an Eichel swap but it doesn’t appear things got too far. Unless Treliving intends on a dramatic roster shake-up this season I don’t see Calgary as a serious bidder. The Ducks have lots of cap space and promising youngsters such as Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale but GM Bob Murray probably won’t part with those guys.

Duhatschek was also asked which goaltenders could surface in the trade rumor mill by the Olympic break in February. He points out the Dallas Stars’ depth between the pipes could make them the first place to call, especially if Ben Bishop returns from knee surgery. He doesn’t see Jake Oettinger getting moved as he’s their future starter but Braden Holtby could be an affordable option.

Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo could also get moved. He and Elvis Merzlikins are unrestricted free agents next summer but Merzlikins is the better goalie. Others could include Detroit’s Thomas Greiss, Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the Stars’ goalie situation shakes out. The uncertainty over Bishop’s career is why they brought in Holtby. They could go with him and Anton Khudobin as their tandem to start the season and send Oettinger down to the minors as he’s waiver-exempt. They could also put Khudobin on the trade block.

It’s expected the Blue Jackets will retain Merzlikins and move Korpisalo by the March trade deadline. It was assumed Korpisalo would get shopped this summer but that plan was shelved by the tragic death of Matiss Kivlenieks in July.

Greiss and Koskinen are UFAs this summer and could become rental players at the deadline. Quick, however, has another season on his contract with an annual average value of $5.8 million. Given his age (35) and injury history, there might not be many takers for him.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 14, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 14, 2021

Check out the latest on Auston Matthews, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Ryan Kesler and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews explained why he waited until mid-August to undergo surgery for a nagging wrist injury. He said he wanted to see if it would heal following a period of rest. After ramping up his on-ice training, it still didn’t feel right and the decision to undergo the procedure was made following consultation with specialists and the Leafs’ medical staff.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

It’s nothing serious. So I’m happy we got it done,” said Matthews. The 2021 Richard Trophy Winner indicated he’s not worried about it and anticipates being fully recovered for the opening night of the season next month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Matthews won the goal-scoring crown while plagued by that injury during the 2020-21 campaign. He could be on pace for another Richard Trophy this season.

Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois admitted keeping quiet about his reasons for requesting a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets opened the door for false rumors last season. He still believes maintaining his silence on the matter was the mature thing to do. “Maybe one day, when I retire, maybe I’ll write a book,” he said.

Dubois also acknowledged he never felt comfortable last season because of the mental and physical roller coaster from the trade and subsequent injuries. He’s looking forward to turning the page and believes the adversity will help him in the long run.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois is entitled to this privacy but the lack of details over why he wanted out of Columbus was going to generate conjecture from fans and pundits. I anticipate he’ll be motivated for a strong bounce-back performance this season.

NHL.COM: Ryan Kesler acknowledged he’ll never play in the NHL again as he’s still recovering from resurfacing surgery on his left hip in February. He also underwent a similar procedure on his right hip in 2019. The 37-year-old center also admitted he was in so much pain during his final two NHL seasons that he hated playing the game.

Kesler and his family have moved back to Michigan. He was recently named a volunteer assistant coach with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kesler is entering the final year of his contract with the Anaheim Ducks. His last active NHL season was 2018-19 and he’s been on long-term injury reserve since then.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets have parted ways with assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre after he opted not to get a COVID-19 vaccine and will not be able to coach as a result. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen explained the NHL’s strict COVID-19 protocols are most stringent on those with direct access to the players. Lefebvre has been replaced by Steve McCarthy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report also indicates Kekalainen declined to reveal Lefebvre’s reason for not getting vaccinated. In a statement, he said the team respects Lefebvre’s decision as a personal one.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Colorado Eagles assistant coach Brett Clark has departed his job after he also declined to get vaccinated. The Eagles are the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. The NHL’s COVID protocols also extend to its AHL affiliates.

NHL.COM: The San Jose Sharks re-signed forward Noah Gregor to a one-year contract. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates it’s a two-way deal worth $750K at the NHL level.

TSN: An American advocacy group is calling upon the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USPOC) to suspend Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman from his role as GM of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team. Bowman faces allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of two former Blackhawks players by their former video coach.

NHL ALUMNI: announced the passing of former NHL right wing Jack “Smokey” Egers on Sep. 10 at age 72. Egers spent seven seasons with the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals from 1969-70 to 1975-76, tallying 64 goals and 133 points in 284 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Following his playing career, Egers moved back to Kitchener, Ontario, and became a firefighter, rising to the rank of captain. My condolences to his family, friends, former teammates and co-workers.