NHL Playoffs: Ten Players Who Were Stanley Cup Disappointments
Recaps of the second day of exhibition games, an update on John Chayka’s departure from the Coyotes, the Blackhawks announce initiatives to honor Native American culture, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
EXHIBITION GAME RECAPS
NHL.COM: The line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat combined for 10 points as the Tampa Bay Lightning blanked the Florida Panthers 5-0. Point led the way with two goals and two assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up the shutout with a 26-save performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky gave up five goals on 34 shots, but he was hung out to dry by his teammates. The Panthers must improve their defensive play before they face off against the New York Islanders in their qualifying round series.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied twice and set up another to lead his club over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. Capitals defenseman John Carlson left the game in the final 10 minutes as a precautionary measure after crashing awkwardly into the boards. An update on his condition is expected today. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek gave up three goals on 16 shots before being replaced by James Reimer.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck kicked out 37 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Jets captain Blake Wheeler had a goal and an assist. Teammate Nikolaj Ehlers also scored, but left the game in the third period with an apparent lower-body injury. No word yet as to his status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like the long layoff had little effect on Hellebuyck’s performance. The Vezina Trophy finalist was on top of his game against the Canucks. Ehlers may have aggravated an ailment that nagged him throughout training camp.
Dominik Kubalik scored twice and added an assist as the Chicago Blackhawks blanked the St. Louis Blues 4-0. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford made 11 saves through two periods.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford looked sharp in this contest after missing most of the Blackhawks’ training camp when he tested positive for COVID-19. His performance against the Blues is a good sign as he and his teammates face the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round.
Colorado Avalanche forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Joonas Donskoi were the goal scorers as their club edged the Minnesota Wild 3-2. Wild center Eric Staal had a goal and an assist. The Avs killed off seven of eight penalties.
Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss combined for 26 saves as the New York Islanders held off the New York Rangers 2-1. Anthony Beauvillier and Devon Toews scored for the Isles. Rangers defenseman Marc Staal left the game in the second period for precautionary reasons and isn’t expected to miss their qualifying series against the Hurricanes.
NEW YORK POST: Howie Kussoy cites multiple reports claiming former Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka’s relationship with the club’s ownership was irrevocably damaged when he lied about having a job interview with the New Jersey Devils, who then were uninterested in hiring him. Chayka resigned from the Coyotes last weekend as the club was preparing to head to Edmonton for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan.
An NHL team approached Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo about a month ago seeking permission to speak to Chayka, which Meruelo rejected. Chayka then reportedly lied to Meruelo about the Devils’ interest, only to subsequently request his contract be terminated so he could pursue an opportunity within the Devils ownership’s sports portfolio.
Meruelo felt betrayed but wanted to wait until the season ended to discuss this with Chayka, but the latter felt that was unreasonable. The situation quickly deteriorated, culminating in Chayka’s departure from the team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has degenerated into a messy they-said/he said situation with each side blaming the other. If Chayka lied about the Devils interview, it could damage his reputation and his efforts to find employment elsewhere in the NHL.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks are taking steps designed to honor Native American culture. They’ve banned headdresses at their games and intend to incorporate Native American culture and education into their arena and the games there. The club has resisted calls to change its nickname and logo after the NFL’s Washington Redskins announced they were moving on from their nickname.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins re-signed forward Anders Bjork to a three-year, $4.8-million contract extension. The annual average value is $1.6 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins now have over $65.1 million invested in 19 players for 2020-21. Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and team captain Zdeno Chara are among the notables still to be re-signed.
TSN: Former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has taken on a volunteer advisory role with the Vermont Catamounts coaching staff.
LA PRESSE: Montreal Canadiens winger Dale Weise denied a report out of Switzerland claiming he signed a contract with Swiss club HC Lausanne.
League commissioner Gary Bettman admits finishing the regular season might not be possible, Oilers forward Colby Cave in a medically-induced coma, plus the latest on Sergei Bobrovsky, Jeff Skinner and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman admitted finishing the regular season might not be possible, though he stressed many options are under consideration. One could see games played at neutral sites if teams aren’t allowed to play in their home arenas. It could take at least a couple of more weeks for clarity on how the pandemic affects all 31 NHL markets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While NHL fans and pundits are calling upon Bettman to cancel the season and the playoffs, the league and the NHLPA are determined to salvage the rest of the schedule. Failing that, they’ll attempt to stage the Stanley Cup playoffs in some format during the summer.
Of course, it’ll depend upon how long it takes before the pandemic has run its course and is eventually contained. If the current situation persists through the summer, Bettman and company will have no choice but to scrap the season and look toward gearing up for 2020-21.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports being told it’s very unlikely the league would consider just one neutral site because it won’t work for its purposes. Scenarios include two locations where they each had two rinks apiece that the league could use, or four locations for 16 teams, or eight locations. LeBrun indicated it’s still very early in those discussions.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers forward Colby Cave underwent emergency surgery yesterday in Toronto to remove a colloid cyst that was putting pressure on his brain. He remains in a medically-induced coma. The condition is not related to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor was it the result of an accident.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Cave makes a full recovery and resumes his playing career.
THE DENVER POST: A third Colorado Avalanche player tested positive for COVID-19. He’s in self-isolation and hasn’t had close contact with his teammates or team staff. The league has had eight players test positive for the coronavirus, including five Ottawa Senators.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland said it’s his understanding his club will keep its conditional third-round pick from the Milan Lucic-for-James Neal swap last summer if the season doesn’t resume. The Flames would’ve received the pick if Neal scored at least 21 goals this season and Lucic tallied 10-or-fewer goals than Neal. The latter had netted 19 goals when the schedule was paused.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is earning praise for his efforts to help the local community during the pandemic. Bobrovsky pledged $100K to cover the salaries of the Panthers’ home arena part-time staff. His teammates and team owner Vinnie Viola subsequently jumped on board to cover those employee losses.
Bobrovsky is also working with the Panthers’ Foundation to equip first responders and medical workers with N95 masks. “I think I just tried to do the right thing for those people, to support them and help them from my side,” said Bobrovsky.
KITCHENER TODAY: Former Kitchener Rangers winger Jeff Skinner donated $53,000 to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. The donation number is a reference to the No. 53 he wired with the Rangers and wears today with the Buffalo Sabres.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien said young center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is resting at home in Finland and suffered no setbacks in his recovering from an injured spleen suffered on March 11.
NBC SPORTS: Former NHL general managers Brian Burke and Mike O’Connell are feuding over Burke’s attempt to acquire Joe Thornton during his tenure as Anaheim Ducks GM in 2005. O’Connell, the Bruins GM at the time, eventually shipped Thornton to the San Jose Sharks. Burke is still bitter about it, believing he’d made a better offer. O’Connell, however, called Burke’s claims a fabrication.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s nothing like a pissing contest between two former NHL GMs to provide a momentary distraction from this pandemic and its effects upon the NHL season.
More compliance buyout speculation and how the Canadiens cap space could serve them well in the off-season in today’s NHL rumor mill.
HYPOTHETICAL COMPLIANCE BUYOUT CANDIDATES
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox reports the anticipation of the 2020-21 NHL salary cap taking a COVID-19 hit has generated speculation the league and the NHL Players Association could agree to the implementation of compliance contract buyouts. He listed 11 hypothetical amnesty buyout candidates, with Vancouver’s Loui Eriksson ($6 million annual average value through 2021-22) topping the list. With Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Tyler Toffoli and others to re-sign, a compliance buyout window would help the Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks were rumored looking into trading Eriksson last summer, but couldn’t find any takers for his contract. Given the complications they’ll face if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, he’ll be a prime compliance buyout candidate.
Others could include Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader ($4.25 million AAV through 2022-23), Chicago’s Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million AAV through 2023-24) provided he’s recovered from his recent surgeries, Calgary’s Milan Lucic ($6 million through 2023-24), Montreal’s Karl Alzner ($4.625 million through 2021-22), and the New York Islanders’ Andrew Ladd ($5.5 million through 2022-23).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox points out the Wings can afford to absorb Abdelkader and Frans Nielsen ($5.25 million AAV through 2021-22), but general manager Steve Yzerman could avail himself of the opportunity to shed the expensive contracts of fading veterans.
if Seabrook hasn’t been medically cleared to return to action during the buyout period (whenever that might be), the Blackhawks won’t be able to avail themselves of that option. Lucic, Alzner, and Ladd are probably goners. The Isles attempted to trade Ladd to the Minnesota Wild as part of a complicated deal for Zach Parise at the trade deadline.
Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo ($6 million AAV through 2022-23), Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky ($10 million AAV through 2025-26), the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist (one year at $8.5 million), Edmonton’s James Neal ($5.75 million through 2022-23) and Anaheim’s David Backes ($6 million for one more season) round out this list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see those guys receiving compliance buyouts. A couple of readers questioned Bobrovsky being a candidate when I wrote about this in an earlier Rumor update, claiming he’s the victim of the Panthers’ woeful defense.
That’s as may be, but there’s no denying the two-time Vezina Trophy winner has struggled over the last two years. His performance this season was not the Panthers’ front office banked on when they signed him to that whopping big contract.
There’s talk that ownership will want to slash payroll if they miss the playoffs this season. An amnesty buyout for Bobrovsky would be the easiest option.
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels believes the Montreal Canadiens could be well-positioned to use their cap space to their advantage once the salary-cap figures are determined for 2020-21.They have over $63 million invested in 16 players.
Re-signing restricted free agents Max Domi and Victor Mete and re-signing or replacing other free agents will have little impact upon next summer, when such notables as Tomas Tatar, Joel Armia, Jeff Petry, and Phillip Danault will become free agents. Engels suggested they’d have more flexibility if they traded Domi for a defenseman like Minnesota’s Matt Dumba.
Engels believes it’s all but assured winger Ilya Kovalchuk will return to the Canadiens on a bonus-laden deal next season. He also anticipates they’ll look to the UFA market for a reliable backup for Carey Price. He doubts they’ll go the offer-sheet route this summer, but they could target cap-strapped clubs looking to make cost-cutting trades before the start of next season, like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vegas Golden Knights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens fans and pundits have been waiting for Bergevin to use his cap space to provide a significant boost to the roster. This summer could provide that opportunity if the cap remains flat and compliance buyouts aren’t implemented as a cost-cutting measure.
As for the suggestion of trading Domi for Dumba, the latter lacks no-trade protection, but it could be premature to believe Wild GM Bill Guerin will go that route. If he does, he’ll be shopping Dumba to the highest bidder, meaning Domi might not be enough to pry him away from the Wild.
The latest roundup of the NHL’s plans during the postponement of this season and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The NHL distributed a memo to its players yesterday outlining its plans for the coming days during the postponement of its schedule over coronavirus concerns.
The players will continue receiving their paychecks for the remainder of the season during their normal pay period. They’re also asked to self-quarantine themselves for a week in their club’s city and avoid travel, though they will be allowed to see family outside of their respective cities provided they alert their general manager.
They are to work out at home and avoid informal skates at public arenas. Players rehabbing injuries will be allowed if necessary to continue using team facilities. Following the quarantine period, the league hopes to re-open facilities for players to work on conditioning before introducing a training camp period.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there would be no mandatory testing of players for COVID-19, but testing will be conducted if a player exhibits symptoms or becomes sick. He added the league will work in close conjunction with the NHL Players Association regarding the schedule, noting both sides can agree to extend existing contracts to accommodate the resumption of play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hockey News’ Jared Clinton believes the NHL will follow the lead of the National Basketball Association regarding the resumption of play. Both leagues share the same arenas. If the NBA returns in 30 days, the NHL could quickly follow suit.
A growing list of NHL teams will compensate their respective arena staffs for postponed games. They include the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Washington Capitals.
Florida Panther goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is pledging $100K to his club’s arena workers. His pledge will be matched by his teammates, with club ownership pledging to take care of outstanding amounts.
TVA SPORTS: No official word yet from the Montreal Canadiens regarding Bell Centre employees, but it’s expected they will also follow suit.
WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen believes the Jets must step up and do right by MTS Centre employees. Club chairman Mark Chipman said Thursday those employees aren’t full-time. “They work when we work. So, regrettably, to the extent that we’re not putting on shows and games, those people obviously would not have a call to work.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m willing to give Chipman the benefit of the doubt and suggest he was preoccupied with the fallout from the league’s announcement it was pausing the season. However, it won’t be a good look for the Jets if they won’t compensate MTS Centre workers when other NHL clubs are looking after their own.
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is still counting on the 2020-21 season to begin on time and run its usual course.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NHL.COM: The Hockey Hall of Fame will be closed from March 14 to April 6 over coronavirus concerns.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Coronavirus concerns prompted the family of the late Henri Richard to close his funeral to the public. The Montreal Canadiens Hall-of-Famer passed away last week at age 84. His funeral will be Monday, March 16.
TSN: The Department of Player Safety determined New York Rangers winger Brendan Lemieux will be suspended for his hit on Colorado Avalanche winger Joonas Donskoi on Wednesday. “The precise parameters of the suspension will be determined and announced once resumption of play guidelines have been established.”