NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2020

Stars of the week, Leafs re-sign Jake Muzzin, two Rangers injured in a car accident, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets snapped an eight-game winless skid with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators. Nick Foligno scored two goals for the Jackets, while Connor Brown tallied twice for the Senators. Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins and center Riley Nash both left the game in the second period with injuries. No update was provided post-game on their status. With 76 points, the Jackets hold the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno scored twice in a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators (Photo via NHL Images).

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, and Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane was the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 23, 2020.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin and forward Pavel Buchnevich were injured in a car accident in Brooklyn on Sunday night. Shesterkin suffered a non-displaced rib fracture and well be re-evaluated in two weeks. Buchnevich was shaken up and is listed as day-to-day. The accident occurred when their vehicle struck another that was doing an illegal U-turn.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thankfully, neither player was seriously hurt. Losing Shesterkin could be a blow to the Rangers’ playoff hopes. His stellar goaltending since his call-up in early January was largely responsible for the Blueshirts’ recent surge in the standings.

CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau created a stir when he momentarily left the ice yesterday during practice, sparking speculation he might be getting traded. Turns out he was answering the call of nature. “I had to pee,” Gaudreau said.

NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs re-signed defenseman Jake Muzzin to a four-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $5.625 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lost in the hubbub of yesterday’s NHL trade deadline, this is a reasonable deal for the 31-year-old Muzzin. He’s a big, physical defenseman with good defensive skills averaging over 21 minutes per game. Given their blueline weaknesses, the Leafs couldn’t afford to lose their best defensive rearguard to free agency.

The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed defenseman Nick Holden to a two-year extension worth $1.7 million per season.

The Nashville Predators re-upped winger Rocco Grimaldi to a two-year, $4-million contract extension.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes may be without injured goalies Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, and defenseman Brett Pesce for an extended period. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he wasn’t sure how long they could be sidelined.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

TSN: Former NHL forward Scottie Upshall has announced his retirement. He spent 15 years in the NHL, scoring 138 goals and 285 points in 759 games with the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – February 1, 2020

The latest on the Stars, Hurricanes, and Panthers, plus updates on Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Andreas Athanasiou and Pavel Buchnevich in today’s NHL rumor mill.

POSSIBLE STARS TRADE TARGETS

NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Mike Heika was asked which players the Dallas Stars could target to bolster their offense before the Feb, 24 trade deadline.

He listed New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider, Los Angeles Kings winger Tyler Toffoli, and Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad as the three easiest targets, though they’re also going to cost the most in terms of draft picks and prospects. He also suggested Montreal’s Ilya Kovalchuk or Pittsburgh’s Alex Galchenyuk as bargain options.

THE ATHLETIC: Sean Shapiro suggests it could cost the Stars a first-round pick or a young NHL-ready forward for Kreider. The New Jersey Devils could seek a return for Kyle Palmieri comparable to what they got for Taylor Hall. In other words, a first-round pick or a conditional pick that could become a first, a good prospect or young player, and perhaps a second-round selection.

The asking price for Toffoli could be a second-round pick and a B-level prospect. Galchenyuk could cost a conditional fourth-rounder. It could take a first-round pick to get winger Josh Anderson from the Columbus Blue Jackets or center Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stars GM Jim Nill doesn’t sound keen to part with first-round picks. He also lacks second- and third-round picks in this year’s draft. I don’t doubt he’s monitoring the trade market, but he could be looking for bargains.

What type of return could the Ottawa Senators receive for Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the trade market? (Photo via NHL Images)

POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS FOR PAGEAU

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently examined the potential trade market for Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He’s skeptical the Sens could get a first-round pick in return because many GMs are reluctant to part with such picks this year.

Some clubs that could be a good fit for Pageau, such as the Edmonton Oilers, aren’t guaranteed to reach this year’s playoffs, making them unwilling to part with a first-rounder for a rental player. LeBrun speculates they could try to make it work with a conditional second based on how far the Oilers advance in the 2020 playoffs.

LeBrun also listed the New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, and Calgary Flames as possible landing spots for Pageau. Conditions could also apply with those clubs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pageau is enjoying a career season in his contract year, but the ongoing assessment among observers is he’s best suited for second- or third-line duty. A legitimate playoff contender won’t give up a first-round selection for a depth player, or at least, they shouldn’t give up that much. If the Senators shop him, perhaps they’ll attempt to land a promising young player and a decent prospect.

COULD THE RANGERS SHOP BUCHNEVICH?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders if Pavel Buchnevich could be part of the Rangers’ trade-deadline plans. He speculates they could opt to trade the 24-year-old winger’s skill game for one “with a more north-south, hard-hat mentality.” Brooks also acknowledged Buchnevich’s talent and affordable $3.25-million annual average value could make him worth retaining.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After tallying career-high 21 goals last season, Buchenvich is on pace for 15 in 2019-20. He’s also on track for 45 points, which would be eight more than what he had in 2018-19. He’s in the first year of a two-year contract and will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer.

Rangers management isn’t under any pressure to move him. One can’t dismiss the possibility of Buchnevich getting traded, but that move might be better suited for the off-season when he might fetch a better return.

COULD THE OILERS PURSUE ATHANASIOU?

KUKLA’S KORNER: cites tweets by Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson linking the Oilers to Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou. He thinks Oilers GM Ken Holland wants to add more speed to his forward lines. Athanasiou is having a lousy year in Detroit, but Matheson considers him a top-six forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As former Red Wings GM, Holland also knows Athanasiou’s strengths and weaknesses. The versatile 25-year-old tallied a career-high 30 goals last season. He’s currently sidelined by a lower-body injury but could be a good addition to the Oilers once he returns to action. He’s also a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer, which could complicate his future in Detroit, Edmonton, or wherever he finishes this season.

WHAT WILL THE PANTHERS DO AT THE TRADE DEADLINE?

THE ATHLETIC: George Richards took note of recent speculation suggesting the Florida Panthers could move either Mike Hoffman or Evgenii Dadonov at the trade deadline. Both are unrestricted free agents in July and the Panthers might not be able to re-sign them both.

With the Panthers jockeying for playoff positioning, Richards doesn’t see either winger getting shopped unless it’s for a return (such as a defenseman) that will be important for the club going forward. He also points out the Panthers’ limited salary-cap space will affect any attempts to make a move or two at the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers only have over $892K in deadline cap room. If they swing a deal for a defenseman, it’ll have to be dollar-in, dollar-out. It’ll take a considerable offer to convince GM Dale Tallon to part with Hoffman or Dadonov.

LATEST ON THE HURRICANES

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examined how losing defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a fractured fibula could affect Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell’s trade plans. Waddell admitted he was in the market for a defenseman before Hamilton’s injury, but his absence could change the type of player he could target in the trade market.

Gretz observes there are limited options in the trade market to address even a fraction of the offense Hamilton brought to the Hurricanes’ blueline. The best rental option could be New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen. Waddell is reluctant to place Hamilton on long-term injury reserve as he could return before the end of the season.

Turning to the forward lines, the return of Justin Williams provides a boost, as could a bounce-back second half from winger Nino Niederreiter.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – January 20, 2020

Should the Canadiens re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk? Will the Leafs shop for a defenseman? Could Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich become available? What’s the latest on the Red Wings? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE CANADIENS RE-SIGN KOVALCHUK?

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jack Todd believes the Canadiens should re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s tallied eight points in as many games since joining the club on a one-year, $700K contract earlier this month. Todd feels the 36-year-old winger could continue playing at a high level for the next two seasons. While acknowledging there’s risk in re-signing Kovalchuk, Todd feels it’s pointless to trade him for a draft pick when the Habs are already well-stocked in promising young players.

TVA SPORTS: Pat Brisson, Kovalchuk’s agent, said it’s too early to talk about a new contract for his client. He said Kovalchuk is very happy playing in Montreal.

Will the Canadiens re-sign or trade Ilya Kovalchuk? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand the excitement some Montreal observers are feeling about Kovalchuk’s performance thus far. If he continues playing well, regardless of where the Habs are in the standings, perhaps general manager Marc Bergevin will consider re-signing him. However, he could also receive a tempting offer from a rival club before the trade deadline.

As we saw with Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov, Bergevin has shown reluctance to re-sign 30-something stars. If he decides to keep Kovalchuk, he doesn’t have to lock him up to an expensive long-term deal. Given the winger’s age, he could make it a one-year, bonus-laden contract. Of course, that depends on how much interest there is in Kovalchuk heading into this summer’s free-agent market. 

SHOULD THE LEAFS SHOP FOR A DEFENSEMAN?

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has to have a defenseman of some caliber in his sights, even if Rasmus Sandin proves himself as an NHL regular. Acquiring a blueliner would also have to make sense for the cap-strapped Leafs.

Rental players include New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen, San Jose’s Brenden Dillon, and Chicago’s Erik Gustafsson. However, Dubas has shown he’s willing to add a player who’s not on an expiring contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  If Dubas pursues a blueliner, it’ll likely be a dollar-in, dollar-out deal. There’s a growing sense it’ll cost the Leafs a good, young forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot to bring in a decent top-four defenseman.

The Leafs have been linked to Dillon. The Athletic’s Michael Russo wondered if they’d have any interest in Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin, who’s signed through 2020-21 with an AAV of over $4.1 million.

BUCHNEVICH AVAILABLE?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks observed Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich hasn’t generated much offense of late. He’s managed just one goal and three assists in his last 13 games, and two goals and four assists over the last 23 contests.

Brooks speculates Buchnevich “is certainly to be a topic of conversation in the executive suite as Feb. 24 approaches,” regardless of where the Rangers sit in the standings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks pointed out Buchnevich has battled flu-like symptoms for the past week, but that doesn’t account for the decline in his production since late November. The 24-year-old winger tallied 21 goals and 38 points in 64 games last season and 43 points as a sophomore in 2017-18.

Buchnevich is signed through 2020-21 with an affordable $3.25-million annual average salary. He would attract interest if the Blueshirts shop him at the trade deadline.

LATEST ON THE RED WINGS

DETROIT FREE PRESS: In a recent mailbag segment, Helene St. James was asked what Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman will do at the Feb. 24 trade deadline. She notes Yzerman’s intention to add more picks to the eight he already holds in the 2020 NHL Draft but could be hard-pressed doing so. Struggling pending UFAs such as Mike Green, Trevor Daley, and Jimmy Howard will have limited value in the trade market

Andreas Athanasiou scored 30 goals last season, but the decline in his production this season has tarnished his trade value. St. James feels it’s pointless to move the 25-year-old Athanasiou unless the return boosts the rebuild. The Pittsburgh Penguins might consider him after losing Jake Guentzel to shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is probably Yzerman’s best trade chip. I don’t see him shopping a young core player like Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha, or Filip Hronek, and Robby Fabbri has fit in well after being acquired from St. Louis earlier in the season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 27, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 27, 2019

An update on Phil Kessel plus the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

THE SCORE: Phil Kessel is hoping to bring more than scoring to the Arizona Coyotes. He’s also hoping to take on a leadership role with the club.  “I haven’t really got to have that in my career. I think it’s going to be great. I’m going to do whatever I can to help these guys win and help them improve. (If) the young guys have questions or anything they want to talk about, I’m there to talk about it. Try to get our team better and them better.”

Phil Kessel hopes to take on a leadership role with the Arizona Coyotes (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: During Kessel’s latter years with the Toronto Maple Leafs he was expected to become more of a leader. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out well. By his own admission, he’s a quiet person and not a “rah-rah guy.”

Kessel’s critics will scoff but he could be an effective leader with the rebuilding Coyotes. He’s now 31 and more mature than he was during his Leafs days. He’s also got more playoff seasoning and now in a market where the spotlight is considerably less harsh compared to his previous NHL stops.

NBC SPORTS: The New York Rangers avoided arbitration with Pavel Buchnevich, re-siging the winger to a two-year, $6.5 million contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The annual average value is $3.25 million. Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers are above the $81.5-million salary cap by over $4.1 million, with restricted free agents Brendan Lemieux and Anthony DeAngelo to re-sign. Something’s gotta give via trade or contract buyout. I’ll have more in today’s rumor update. 

NBC WASHINGTON: The Capitals avoided arbitration with forward Chandler Stephenson, inking him to a one-year, $1.05-million contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals sit $1.3 million over the cap. They’ll also have to shed salary before the start of the season, though their options will be easier than those facing the Rangers. More on that in the rumors section. 

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed forward Dominic Turgeon to a one-year contract. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins traded a conditional sixth-round pick in 2021 to the Edmonton Oilers for prospect defenseman John Marino. 

The Vancouver Canucks extended their affiliation with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings. 

SPORTSNET: The St. Louis Blues are donating equipment to the Hockey Hall of Fame celebrating their first Stanley Cup championship. 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2019

An updated list of the best remaining UFAs plus the latest Rangers and Islanders speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

UPDATED UFA LIST

THE SCORE: updated their listing of the best available unrestricted free agents by position. That includes Jake Gardiner, Joe Thornton, Justin Williams, Cam Ward, and Thomas Vanek. Other notables include Patrick Marleau, Pat Maroon, Derick Brassard, Jason Pominville, and Niklas Kronwall. 

Jake Gardiner remains the best player still available in this summer’s UFA market (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those on his list, only Gardiner can be considered still in his playing prime. The rest are all past their best-before date. Many observers are surprised Gardiner remains available. Some suggest he was hoping to be signed by the Leafs but that doesn’t seem possible with Mitch Marner due for a big raise. Last season’s back injury could also be dampening his UFA value.

It’s expected Thornton will be back for one more season with the Sharks. Their recent re-signing of Kevin Labanc to a one-year, $1-million deal prompted speculation this could also allow them to bring back Marleau for a last hurrah.

Maroon would love to stay in St. Louis but the Blues are said to be offering a one-year deal and he wants a multi-year contract. Williams is said to be mulling retirement. If he does decide to play it’ll only be with the Hurricanes.

Some Quebec pundits suggest the Montreal Canadiens should sign a Quebecker like Pominville or Brassard. It remains to be seen if the Habs intend to take that advice. 

LATEST RANGERS AND ISLANDERS SPECULATION

NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton still has to figure out how he’ll shed some salary to make room for restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba. That includes deciding the future of winger Chris Kreider, who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. “Also on the trade block would be restricted free agent Pavel Buchnevich, as well as Vladislav Namestnikov.”

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples noted Cyrgalis’ report that Buchnevich could be on the trade block and wonders if the Edmonton Oilers should look at him. Staples feels Buchnevich could fill a need for the Oilers. He also noted a rumor suggesting the possibility of the Oilers acquiring Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett. He also pondered the notion of the Oilers using unhappy winger Jesse Puljujarvi in a deal for Buchnevich, Bennett, or another forward. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buchnevich was considered part of the Rangers’ youth movement. Their recent, expensive signing of Artemi Panarin and their need to re-sign Trouba could make the 24-year-old winger expendable. He had 43 points in 2017-18 and tallied 21 goals and 38 points in 64 games last season. He’s filed for arbitration, which could also determine his future in New York. The Rangers probably prefer moving Namestnikov and his $4-million cap hit for 2019-20 but Buchnevich would probably attract more interest.

As for the Oilers landing Bennett, I don’t think the Flames want to move him. But if they do, it’ll likely be anywhere other than up the road to their biggest rival. 

Cyrgalis also believes defenseman Nick Leddy remains the New York Islanders’ “best possible trade piece.” He feels the 28-year-old blueliner’s contract ($5.5 million annually through 2021-22) would be attractive in the trade market. However, Leddy isn’t likely to fetch a return that turns the Isles into a contender. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leddy was linked to the Canadiens last month. So far, however, there’s no indication they’re interested in acquiring him. Indeed, things have gone quiet on the Leddy trade rumors since late June. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2019

Game recaps, Maple Leafs clinch a playoff berth, Oilers officially eliminated from the playoff race, stars of the week, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning became the third team in NHL history to win 60 games in a season with a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Yanni Gourde scored two goals and Nikita Kucherov added three assists. Earlier in the day, the Lightning revealed defenseman Victor Hedman is doubtful to play the club’s remaining regular-season games due to an upper-body injury

John Tavares scored the winning goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff berth with a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders (Photo via NHL Images)

John Tavares scored the winning goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff berth by edging the New York Islanders 2-1. Tavares also set a franchise record for most goals by a Leafs center (46), while reaching a personal best with his 87th point of the season. The Leafs will face the Boston Bruins next week in the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The Washington Capitals missed an opportunity to clinch first place in the Metropolitan Division by dropping a 5-3 decision to the Florida Panthers. Vincent Trocheck scored two goals and Aleksander Barkov collected three assists for the Panthers. The Capitals (102 points) remains three points ahead of the Islanders. 

The Calgary Flames picked up their 50th win of the season by thumping the Los Angeles Kings 7-2. Derek Ryan scored twice and Mark Jankowski had a three-point performance. Flames forward Sam Bennett left the game late in the second period following a hit from Kings defenseman Kurtis McDermid but is expected back in the lineup for their next game. 

Kevin Hayes scored in overtime as the Winnipeg Jets nipped the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3. Jack Roslovic also scored twice for Winnipeg.  With the win, the Jets (96 points) move into sole possession of first place in the Central Division, holding a two-point lead over the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues.  Dylan Strome scored two goals for the Blackhawks (80 points), who sit six points out of a playoff spot. 

The Blues, meanwhile, slipped past the Predators into second place in the Central Division with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Ryan O’Reilly scored the only goal in the shootout. The Blues and Predators each have 94 points but the Blues have lost one fewer game. The Avalanche (86 points) picked up a point and hold a two-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes for the final Western Conference wild-card berth. 

The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their first win in six games by beating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1, eliminating the latter from postseason contention. Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury missed his ninth straight game as he works his way back from a lower-body injury. 

Connor Carrick scored the winning goal and picked up an assist as the New Jersey Devils doubled up the New York Rangers 4-2. Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich was held out of the game for precautionary reasons related to being sent into concussion protocol during Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Detroit Red Wings left winger Tyler Bertuzzi, and Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending March 31, 2019. 

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens got some good news as winger Paul Byron will return to the lineup this week after missing two games with a concussion.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks rookie Tory Terry suffered a broken tibia during Friday’s loss to the Calgary Flames.