NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 30, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 30, 2021

Alex Ovechkin looks forward to chasing Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, the Blue Jackets sign Zach Werenski to a long-term contract extension, and the Blues sign Brandon Saad. Get the details plus other notable trades and signings in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Alex Ovechkin said the opportunity to pursue Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record factored into his recent signing of a five-year contract with the Capitals. Ovechkin, 35, has 730 career goals and needs 165 more to break Gretzky’s record. To do it, he needs to average 33 goals per season.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The all-time goal-scoring record is the most reachable of Gretzky’s significant offensive achievements. Nevertheless, it’ll a daunting challenge for Ovechkin, who turns 36 in September.

Ovechkin’s still among the league’s elite scorers, tallying 24 goals in 45 games last season and 48 in 68 games in 2019-20. If not for the pandemic (and a half-season lost to a lockout in 2012-13), he’d be much closer to Gretzky’s record by now. However, he’s also at an age when his production will begin to decline.

The Capitals captain is currently sixth on the all-time list. A 37-goal performance this season would vault him over Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741) and Jaromir Jagr (766) into third overall, 34 behind Gordie Howe (801).

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed defenseman Zach Werenski to a six-year, $57.5 million contract extension. The annual average value is $9.583 million and takes effect in 2022-23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets consider Werenski among the NHL’s top defensemen over the past five seasons and are paying him accordingly. He’s tallied 189 points in 335 career games. Starting in 2022-23, he’ll be the third highest-paid defenseman in the league with a higher annual cap hit than Colorado Avalanche blueliner Cale Makar’s $9 million and just ahead of former defense partner Seth Jones’ $9.5 million AAV with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Werenski’s a skilled puck-moving defenseman but I don’t consider him worth more than Makar, a Calder Trophy winner in 2019-20 who was a Norris Trophy finalist last season. But after enduring a steady parade of talent departing Columbus via trades and free agency in recent years, the Jackets had to pay the price to keep Werenski in the fold.

His new contract lacks no-trade protection in 2022-23 and a full no-movement clause in 2023-24 through 2026-27, dropping to a modified no-trade in the final season.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues signed winger Brandon Saad to a five-year, $22.5 million contract. The annual average value is $4.5 million. The deal also comes with a full no-trade clause in the first four years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Saad took a pay cut from the $6 million AAV he earned over six seasons on his previous contract. He joins a club undergoing a retooling of its roster since winning the Stanley Cup two years ago. He fills the vacant left wing spot on the Blues’ first line following the departure of free agent Jaden Schwartz to Seattle on Wednesday.

NEW YORK POST/LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights trade winger Ryan Reaves to the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2022 third-round pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers acquired enforcer Reaves in yet another move to bolster their toughness. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, made this move to free up salary-cap space by shedding his $1.75 million cap hit.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning signed winger Corey Perry to a two-year, $2 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perry said he wanted to return to the Montreal Canadiens for another season. The opportunity to play two seasons with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, however, was too good to pass up.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Zach Werenski wasn’t the only defenseman the Blue Jackets signed yesterday, inking Jake Bean to a three-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.33 million. The Jackets acquire the 23-year-old blueliner from the Carolina Hurricanes last week.

MLIVE.COM: Long-time Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Helm and Valtteri Filppula were the last remaining active members of the Wings last Stanley Cup championship in 2008 still with the team last season. Filppula is also an unrestricted free agent and isn’t expected to be brought back.

SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens signed forward Mathiew Perreault to a one-year, $950K contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2021

The free-agent market opens at noon ET today. Check out the latest on Marc-Andre Fleury, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Getzlaf, Darcy Kuemper and many more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NO FLEURY FLIP TO PENGUINS

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman didn’t acquire goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for the Vegas Golden Knights to flip him to another club. There was speculation he could end up in Pittsburgh as that’s where his career began.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel reports a source said the Penguins aren’t looking to acquire Fleury. They’re still interested in upgrading their goaltending but Fleury’s age (36) and cap hit ($7 million) makes no sense for the Penguins given their limited cap space ($7.4 million).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The hockey world still awaits Fleury’s decision on his future. There’s talk he could retire rather than head to Chicago. If he retires, there is no cap recapture penalty because that applies only to exceedingly long contracts signed before 2012-13 and Fleury’s doesn’t fall into that category. The Blackhawks would not be charge his $7 million cap hit.

LATEST ON HAMILTON

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting the Carolina Hurricanes are believed to have offered defenseman Dougie Hamilton a deal comparable to that of St. Louis’ Torey Krug: seven years with an annual average value of $6.5 million. If Hamilton departs, Friedman expects the New Jersey Devils will make a big pitch for him.

Is Dougie Hamilton heading to market today? (NHL Images)

RUMORED DESTINATIONS FOR GETZLAF

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports it’s possible Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf could sign with another club. The Edmonton Oilers could top his list of potential destinations. The Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars could also be in there.

UPDATE ON THE NHL GOALIE MARKET

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers have been in touch with the Arizona Coyotes regarding goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

Frederik Andersen hasn’t received a contract offer from the Leafs and appears headed to market. The Avalanche could be interested depending on what happens with Philipp Grubauer. So are the Hurricanes. Petr Mrazek and Martin Jones could be two options for the Leafs.

The Canucks could be interested in Jaroslav Halak after buying out Braden Holtby yesterday. Jonathan Bernier hasn’t worked out a deal yet with the Hurricanes and could head to market. The Devils could be interested in him.

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER’s Sam Carchidi speculates the Flyers could sign Holtby, citing his friendship with Carter Hart.

IN OTHER FREE-AGENT RUMORS…

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen wondered what’s next for the Golden Knights after shipping Marc-Andre Fleury to Chicago yesterday in a cost-cutting move. Speculation links them to Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Rangers general manager Chris Drury could be pondering the possibility of shipping out center Ryan Strome and replacing him via free agency with Phillip Danault.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Bruce McCurdy cites TSN’s Bob McKenzie reporting the Oilers are getting closer to a multi-year contract with Tyson Barrie. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman adds they could be in the mix for Cody Ceci. Meanwhile, Jim Matheson speculates they could target goaltender Linus Ullmark.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Matthew DeFranks reports the Stars have zeroed in on Ryan Suter as a potential replacement for Jamie Oleksiak, who was chosen by the Seattle Kraken in last week’s expansion draft.

TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski suggests the availability of affordable young forwards such as Nick Ritchie, Ryan Donato and Pius Suter could change the Maple Leafs’ plans to acquire depth via trades. Twitter was also buzzing yesterday over a rumor suggesting Joshua Ho-Sang could be headed to Toronto on a two-way contract.

TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Muzitani expects the Minnesota Wild will target Alex Goligoski, Nick Foligno, Jake McCabe and Derek Stepan in the UFA market. They could also bring back Ian Cole if he doesn’t find any suitable offers via free agency.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators will seek a center and a defenseman when the UFA market opens today. Options could include Alex Wennberg, Andrew Copp or Casey Cizikas. They’ve also shown an interest in Rangers center Ryan Strome.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports the Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to pursue Ohio native Sean Kuraly, who’s expected to hit the open market after four years with the Boston Bruins.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

Niklas Hjalmarsson to retire, the Red Wings re-sign Marc Staal, the Canucks to buy out Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan reports Arizona Coyotes Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring. Morgan doesn’t anticipate he’ll make a formal announcement.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hjalmarsson, 34, spent 14 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Coyotes. A shutdown defenseman, his best years were with the Blackhawks as he helped them win three Stanley Cups during his 10 seasons with the franchise. He finishes with 172 points in 821 career NHL games. Best of luck to Hjalmarsson and his family in their future endeavors.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed defenseman Marc Staal to a one-year, $2 million contract. The deal also includes a no-movement clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal proved to be a valuable addition to the Red Wings. The 34-year-old provided experience, leadership and stability to the rebuilding club’s defense corps. He hopes to become a mentor this season to promising Wings blueliner Moritz Seider, who’s expected to make his NHL debut in 2021-22.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was once considered a promising offensive forward but he failed to play up to expectations. His recent questionable off-ice behavior also became an issue. The Canucks attempted to trade the 24-year-old winger during this season but reportedly couldn’t find any suitable offers. He’s been on leave from the club since May 1 following a sexual misconduct allegation.

THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to keep their goaltending tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo intact to start the 2021-22 season. Both are entering the final year of their contracts. It was anticipated one of them would be traded this summer but the tragic death of promising Matiss Kivlenieks on July 4 changed that plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps one of them will be shopped later in the season if the Jackets are out of playoff contention before the February trade deadline.

CAP FRIENDLY: The St. Louis Blues signed forward Nathan Walker to a two-year, two-way contract. He’ll earn $750K at the NHL level.










Notable Trades and Contract Signings – July 24, 2021

Notable Trades and Contract Signings – July 24, 2021

Here’s a listing of the notable trades and free-agent signings during the second day of the 2021 NHL Draft. This will be updated throughout the day.

The Sam Reinhart trade reported early this morning is official. The Buffalo Sabres trade Reinhart to the Florida Panthers for prospect goaltender Devon Levi and a 2022 first-round pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s one year away from UFA eligibility. That could explain why the Sabres got a prospect rather than a player as part of the return, though they did get a first-rounder as well.

The Philadelphia Flyers trade Jakub Voracek to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Cam Atkinson. The Flyers did not retain any of Voracek’s salary in this transaction.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers and Blue Jackets are among the busiest teams this weekend in the trade market as they continue shaking up their respective rosters. Voracek and Atkinson were both reportedly seeking a change of scenery. They are still reliable top-six wingers though their best seasons are likely behind them.

Voracek is returning to the team where his NHL career began. He was traded by the Jackets to the Flyers prior to the 2011 NHL Draft as part of the deal that sent Jeff Carter to Columbus. Now 31, he has three years left on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million.

Atkinson, 32, spent his entire 10-season NHL career to his point with the Blue Jackets. He has four years remaining on his deal with an annual cap hit of $5.875 million. The Flyers are freeing up $2.75 million over the next three years.

The Colorado Avalanche sign defenseman Cale Makar to a six-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Quite the pay raise for the 22-year-old blueliner coming out of his entry-level contract. He quickly became one of the league’s top rearguards, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2019-20 and was a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy this season.

I’m only surprised that it wasn’t more. Some observers estimated he could receive over $10 million annually. Given his youth and talent, this contract will probably age very well for the Avalanche.

The Edmonton Oilers sign goaltender Mike Smith to a two-year, $4.4 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith played well for the Oilers over the last two seasons…when healthy. The 39-year-old has had injury issues in recent years. He missed 12 games at the start of this season with an undisclosed injury. The annual cap hit is affordable but a two-year deal for a goalie who turns 40 next March seems one year too long.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 24, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 24, 2021

The first round of the 2021 draft is completed, Carey Price undergoes knee surgery, Sam Reinhart reportedly traded to the Panthers, Taylor Hall re-signs with Bruins, Zach Hyman heading to the Oilers, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Buffalo Sabres selected University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power with the first-overall selection in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft. The Seattle Kraken selected Powers teammate, center Matthew Beniers, with the second-overall pick, and the Anaheim Ducks took center Mason McTavish of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes third overall.

The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft is complete (NHL.com).

Defenseman Luke Hughes of the USA U-18 National Team Development Program is joining his older brother Jack Hughes with the New Jersey Devils as the fourth overall pick. Center Kent Johnson, another University of Michigan player, was taken by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the fifth overall pick.

The remaining rounds (two through seven) will be held today starting at 11 am ET.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the full list of first-round selections by following the link above. I offer my sincere congratulations to all the players taken in this round except for the Montreal Canadiens’ selection with the 31st overall pick.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens made a controversial selection with defenseman Logan Mailloux of the OHL’s London Knights. Mailloux had withdrawn from this year’s draft after being fined for invasion of privacy and defamation in Sweden. He took a photo of himself and an 18-year-old woman engaged in a consensual sex act and shared that photo with his teammates without the woman’s consent.

The Canadiens issued a statement acknowledging the severity of Mailloux’s actions but also felt his decision to renounce himself from the draft was an acknowledgment of his poor behavior. They expressed their willingness to help him become a better person and player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are trying to justify this by claiming he was the best available player at that stage in the draft from a hockey standpoint. They also reportedly took him that high because several teams intended on taking him in the second round before the Canadiens would select with the 63rd overall pick.

The young woman victimized by Mailloux hasn’t forgiven him because she doesn’t believe he’s genuinely remorseful for what he’s done. “I do not think Logan has understood the seriousness of his behavior,” she told The Athletic’s Katie Strang in an e-mail, adding all she wanted was a heartfelt apology. Multiple sources told The Athletic that Mailloux has portrayed her as vindicative during interviews with some NHL teams.

This is inexcusable by the Canadiens. An organization that prides itself on class and character has been stained by this decision. And shame on the teams that were still willing to select him later in the draft before the Canadiens did.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price underwent knee surgery on Friday in New York. His expected recovery period is 10-12 weeks and he’s expected to return in time for the start of the 2021-22 season. Price was also evaluated for a hip injury but it will not require surgery.

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins signed winger Taylor Hall to a four-year contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall was a good fit with the Bruins following his acquisition from the Buffalo Sabres at the April trade deadline. He was seeking some stability after playing for four teams in the past two years. Cap Friendly indicates he gets a no-movement clause throughout the deal and a modified no-trade clause starting in 2022-23.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly traded center Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers. It’s believed the Sabres will receive prospect goaltender Devon Levi and the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trade is expected to be officially announced later today during the remaining rounds of the draft. Reinhart is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s one year away from UFA eligibility. That could explain why the Sabres got a prospect rather than a player as part of the return, though they did get a first-rounder as well.

Speaking of trades, several notable moves took place before the first round of the draft. They include the Columbus Blue Jackets trading Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes engaged in a multi-player swap involving Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Sabres shipping defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers dealing Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues. You can read my take on those deals by following this link.

TORONTO SUN: Zach Hyman’s days with the Maple Leafs are done. The pending UFA winger has verbally agreed to sign with the Edmonton Oilers. If a trade can be worked out between the two clubs before noon ET on July 28, Hyman will sign an eight-year contract with the Oilers. If not, it’ll be a seven-year deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are seeking draft picks from the Oilers. If a trade cannot be worked out today those picks will have to be in future drafts. It’s expected Hyman’s new contract will be worth between $5 million and $5.5 million.

SPORTSNET: The Carolina Hurricanes traded defenseman Jake Bean to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a second-round pick in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: That’s the second young defenseman the Blue Jackets added yesterday. They also got promising Adam Boqvist as part of the return from Chicago in the Seth Jones trade.

TSN: The New York Rangers yesterday placed defenseman Tony DeAngelo on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract.










Notable NHL Trades – July 23, 2021

Notable NHL Trades – July 23, 2021

A list of the noteworthy trades that took place leading up to, and including the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft along with my hot take on each. I will update this throughout the evening.

The Columbus Blue Jackets trade defenseman Seth Jones, the final pick in the first round of the 2021 draft (32nd overall) and a sixth-round pick in 2022 to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Adam Boqvist, a first-round pick in 2021 (12th overall), a second-round pick in 2021 and a first-round pick in 2022. If the latter pick is top-two, it becomes a 2023 first-rounder.

Jones also signs an eight-year contract extension with the Blackhawks worth an annual average value of $9.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t say I’m surprised that Jones wound up in Chicago. The Blackhawks were among the early suitors and really wanted to bolster their defense, especially after shipping Duncan Keith to Edmonton earlier this month.

What I am surprised by is the shock on social media that Jones got that expensive contract extension. Folks, if I’ve said it once, I said it a thousand times: never underestimate the ability of NHL general managers to spend too much on talent. Even under a flattened salary cap, some just can’t help themselves.

Some believe this is a lousy deal for the Blackhawks, pointing to the decline in Jones’ play over the past year, or the drop in his offensive numbers over the last two years. I believe Jones’ play suffered last season because the Blue Jackets were falling apart. Maybe the reason behind the decline in his production was playing for a club with a popgun offense.

Jones is 26, still in his playing prime, with a contract taking him up to age 35, skating for a team with a lot more talent than the one he just left. True, the Blackhawks are rebuilding, but they’ve got a mix of established and promising talent. Adding Jones to their lineup could help him regain his form and accelerate their rebuild.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, got the best return they could for a player who wasn’t going to re-sign with them before next season. Boqvist, 20, is coming off his NHL sophomore season. He’s a promising offensive blueliner who could be very effective on the Blue Jackets power play.

Landing the Blackhawks’ first-rounder while giving up the 32nd selection still gives the Jackets three selections in that round. They’re in a good position to land some promising prospects as they commence their rebuild in earnest this summer.

The Arizona Coyotes trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and winger Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for winger Loui Eriksson, winger Antoine Roussel, center Jay Beagle, the Canucks first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2021 NHL draft, their second-rounder in 2022 and a seventh-rounder in 2023. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be the blockbuster of the day. The Canucks were one of just two teams Ekman-Larsson was willing to waive his no-movement clause for when the Coyotes tried to trade him last October. The two sides ran out of time to hammer out a deal before the blueliner’s deadline on Oct. 9.

Ekman-Larsson’s performance has declined over the past three seasons. The Canucks are betting he’ll regain his form on a promising team in Vancouver. The Coyotes retained 12 percent of his $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit but that could still be an expensive gamble with six years remaining on his contract at $7.26 million per season.

Garland, 25, is coming off back-to-back 39-point performances and should provide a boost to the Canucks’ secondary scoring. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, he was pursued by several clubs in recent weeks.

The Canucks tried shedding Eriksson’s $6 million cap hit for the past two years. They’re finally rid of it when there’s just one year remaining. Beagle has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $3 million. There was speculation he could miss 2021-22 with an undisclosed injury. Roussel also has a year left on his deal with a cap hit of $3 million. The Coyotes could use the physical winger as a trade chip at next year’s trade deadline. 

For the Coyotes, the real prize was that first-round pick. They forfeited theirs for violating 2020 Draft Combine rules under former general manager John Chayka. Current GM Bill Armstrong was willing to eat the remaining year on Eriksson’s and Beagle’s contracts to get a top-10 pick.

Canucks GM Jim Benning is getting roasted on social media for this move. If Ekman-Larsson improves in Vancouver and Garland bolsters their scoring he’ll come out of this smelling like a rose. If not, he’ll be smelling of something rather unpleasant.

The Buffalo Sabres trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Robert Hagg, a first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2023.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher continues to shore up his defense after acquiring Ryan Ellis last Saturday from the Nashville Predators. Expect Ristolainen to slot in behind Ellis as their second-pairing right-side defenseman. 

The Sabres begin what appears to be another rebuild. Ristolainen’s been a fixture in the rumor mill for a couple of years now. Prying a 13th overall pick from the Flyers was quite a coup by GM Kevyn Adams, especially for a player who’s slated to become a UFA next summer. Flyers fans are taking to social media expressing their unhappiness with Fletcher for parting with that pick for Ristolainen. 

The New York Rangers trade right wing Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for winger Sammy Blais and a second-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could set the table for the Blues to trade Vladimir Tarasenko. It could also set the stage for the Rangers to make their much-rumored deal for Sabres center Jack Eichel. Or, it could simply be the Blueshirts being unwilling to invest too much for too long in Buchnevich when they’ve got two key players to re-sign next summer in Mika Zibanejad and 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believed the Rangers had to bring in another physical winger to skate on the third line with recently-signed Barclay Goodrow. Blais will fill that role at an affordable cap hit of $1.5 million.