NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 28, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 28, 2017

College star Will Butcher signs with the New Jersey Devils.

Devils sign Will Butcher plus updates on Antti Raanta and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

 NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed former Colorado Avalanche blueline prospect Will Butcher to a two-year entry-level contract. Butcher, 22, was the 2017 winner of the Hobey Baker Award. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Devils’ limited depth on defense, Butcher could crack the roster this season as a bottom-third rearguard. 

NBC SPORTS: After years as a backup, Antti Raanta will get his opportunity as an NHL starter with the Arizona Coyotes. He’s replacing Mike Smith, who was dealt in June to the Calgary Flames. How well Raanta does could go a long way toward determining how competitive the Coyotes will be this season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Raanta could become the second former New York Rangers backup to establish himself as a starter with another club, following the example of Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot. 

SPORTSNET: LA Kings insider John Hoven reports defenseman Chris Lee will attend Kings training camp on a tryout basis. The 37-year-old Canadian starred in the KHL and played well for Canada at the 2017 World Championships.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Prior to playing in the KHL, Lee spent several seasons in the AHL. If he makes the Kings roster this season, it’ll be his first in the NHL. 

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs scout Lindsay Hofford was reportedly arrested at a Western New York theme park over the weekend after reportedly getting drunk, stealing a golf cart, colliding with another vehicle and leaving the scene. 


NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2017

Can the Detroit Red Wings find sufficient salary-cap room to bring back forward Thomas Vanek?

Latest on the Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes plus an update on Will Butcher in your NHL rumor mill. 

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites TSN’s Darren Dreger’s Friday appearance on WGR 550 discussing the lingering questions facing the Detroit Red Wings.

Despite the Wings lack of salary-cap space, Dreger wonders if general manager Ken Holland can find a way to add an unrestricted free agent, such as former Wings forward Thomas Vanek. He feels the Wings still have legitimate interest in Vanek, who netted 17 goals last season with Detroit and the Florida Panthers. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier this summer, there were reports claiming the Vanek camp had been in touch with Wings management. While I don’t doubt there’s mutual interest, the Red Wing are above the $75 million salary cap by just over $3 million and still have restricted free agent forward Andreas Athanasiou to re-sign.

They’ll get $3.9 million in cap relief at the start of the season when inactive winger Johan Franzen is once again placed on long-term injured reserve.However, that won’t free up sufficient room to re-sign Athanasiou and bring back Vanek.

Holland recently said he’ll address this issue during preseason. He can demote a couple of players to squeeze out sufficient cap space for Athanasiou but it could take a salary-dumping trade to find enough room to also add Vanek. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: Craig Morgan wonders what the Arizona Coyotes plan will be to address their lack of depth at right wing. He notes they currently have ” Anthony Duclair, Tobias Rieder, Christian Fischer and maybe Nick Cousins, a left-wing transplant or even Emerson Etem” to fill those positions. Morgan notes GM John Chayka sounded like he wanted to make one more move to reshape his roster but it has yet to happen. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chayka could go the UFA route, where ageing wingers such as Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Brian Gionta and P-A Parenteau remain available. He’s obviously not bringing back long-time Coyotes captain Shane Doan.

With over $19 million in salary cap space, Chayka could get bold and maybe pitch an expensive offer sheet to a restricted free agent, such as Boston’s David Pastrnak or Columbus’ Josh Anderson. However, I don’t think he intends to employ that rarely-used tactic. 

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens are not in the running to sign unrestricted free agent college defenseman Will Butcher. 


NHL Rumor Mill – August 25, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – August 25, 2017

The Los Angeles Kings could face a difficult decision regarding the future of defenseman Drew Doughty.

Latest on Drew Doughty, Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford and Will Butcher in your NHL rumor mill. 

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien points out the Los Angeles Kings could face a daunting decision on all-star defenseman Drew Doughty. His contract expires at the end of 2018-19, when he’ll be 27 and eligible for unrestricted free agency. He’s currently earning $7 million annually and could command much more on his next deal. He also lacks no-trade protection.

While re-signing Doughty appears a no-brainer for the Kings, O’Brien suggests management might have to at least consider the possibility of trading the former Norris Trophy winner. While such a move would be wildly unpopular among Kings fans, O’Brien makes the case that it would provide the Kings with salary-cap relief whilst garnering a return of promising roster talent plus draft picks and/or prospects to restock their farm system. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no indication new Kings general manager Rob Blake is mulling a Doughty trade. If asked, he’ll likely say it’s far too early to get into concerns over the blueliner’s future in Los Angeles. I doubt Doughty will end up on the trade block this season.

Still, O’Brien’s assessment on Doughty’s future foreshadows what will surely be significant focus on this subject next summer, when the elite blueliner will be only a year away from UFA status. Much will likely depend upon the Kings’ performance this season and whatever moves Blake has in store for his roster and salary cap. 

Some Toronto pundits could seize upon Doughty admitting he’s a Leafs fan, though they’ll likely overlook the part where he said he didn’t know if he could cope with the fishbowl existence of living and playing in Toronto. Still, if the money’s right and the Leafs keep improving, anything’s possible. 

TSN: Agent Brian Bartlett, who represents unrestricted free agent winger Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford, told Buffalo’s WGR 550 on Wednesday that interest in his clients has increased of late and he expects both could be under new contracts soon.

Earlier this summer, it was reported Vanek was in touch with the Detroit Red Wings, but their salary-cap issues makes it unlikely they’ll bring him back. Stafford’s reportedly been in talks with the Boston Bruins and could get a professional tryout offer from them. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several of the notable remaining UFAs, like Vanek and Stafford, could get new one-year contracts by the end of September. They might have to accept PTO offers first in order to earn those deals during training camp and preseason play. Vanek and Stafford still have enough value to be enticing to clubs seeking affordable and experienced depth on the wings. 

WGR 550: Brayton Wilson cites reports claiming former Colorado Avalanche defense prospect Will Butcher could reach a decision on his NHL future on Sunday. The Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights are believed among the finalists. The Pittsburgh Penguins are also said to still be in the mix. 


NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2017

Calgary Flames might have some interest in free agent winger Jaromir Jagr.

Updates on Jaromir Jagr, Drew Stafford, Jason Demers and more in your NHL rumor mill.

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s appearance on the NHL Network on Monday discussing various topics. Among them was the status of unrestricted free agents Jaromir Jagr and Drew Stafford.

Friedman believes the Calgary Flames are among the clubs that “kind of looked at” the possibility of signing Jagr, noting Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan is one of Jagr’s former coaches. He also said he checked into speculation the Anaheim Ducks also had interest in the 45-year-old winger but found that’s not the case.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Flames are looking at Jagr, perhaps it’ll be in a second or third line role at right wing. I expect Michael Frolik will skate on the first line at that position, which would leave Jagr jockeying with Troy Brouwer for the second-line spot. Of course, for now we don’t know for sure if the Flames intend on signing him. 

Friedman said he’d heard a couple of teams had interest in Stafford around July 1. He notes there’s been some conversations with the Stafford camp over the past week and they’re hopeful of getting something done. Friedman added he’s surprised the winger hasn’t been signed at this point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman points out, Stafford is never going to be a big scorer but he has the skills to chip in as a depth forward. The 31-year-old has reached the 20-goal, 40-point plateau four times in his 11 NHL seasons. With the right club, perhaps he could hit those numbers again in 2017-18.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox reports Florida Panthers defenseman Jason Demers declined to comment on rumors earlier this summer he spiked a trade to the Vancouver Canucks. He carries an eight-team no-trade clause and was left unprotected by the Panthers in June’s expansion draft.  “That’s between my agent and me and Dale, but I’m going to camp right now a Panther,” Demers said, adding he’s going to be with the club for four more years. He also acknowledged he and the team have to improve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It doesn’t sound as though Demers will be going anywhere for the time being. If he and the Panthers have better performances this season, it’ll further dampen any trade speculation about the 29-year-old blueliner. But if he or the club struggle again, his name could resurface in the rumor mill. 

WGR 550: Agent Brian Bartlett, who represents free-agent defenseman Will Butcher, said it could take another week for his client to reach a decision over where he’ll sign.




NHL Rumor Mill – August 22, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – August 22, 2017

Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak remains a subject of interest in the NHL rumor mill.

Updates on David Pastrnak, Will Butcher and Alex Kerfoot in your NHL rumor mill. 

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa suggests a bridge contract might be the best way to resolve the negotiation impasse between the Boston Bruins and restricted free agent winger David Pastrnak. The Bruins are apparently reluctant to pay Pastrnak more than $6 million per season while his agent could point to Bruins center David Krejci’s $7.25 million annual cap hit as justification for more. 

CSNNE.COM:  Joe Haggerty addresses the notion of trading Pastrnak, point out Bruins management are done “sprinkling their talent around the rest of the league.” He addressed the suggestion by two of his colleagues of shipping Pastrnak to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Noah Hanifin, pointing out Hanifin hasn’t yet developed as projected. If the Bruins were to shop Pastrnak, Haggerty believes they’ll want a comparable player in return. Ultimately, the best possible solution is to re-sign Pastrnak. 

Haggerty also acknowledged the possibility the Bruins are leaving themselves at risk of Pastrnak signing an offer sheet with a rival club. Such a tactic, however, is rarely employed. Haggerty feels if the Bruins were fearful of Pastrnak getting an offer sheet, he would’ve been re-signed by now. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Pastrnak trade speculation flared to life last week when NHL analyst Brian Lawton took to Twitter saying he wouldn’t be surprised if the winger got dealt because of his contract problems. That notion was swiftly denied by Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, but the absence of real trade speculation in recent weeks and the apparent lack of progress in Pastrnak’s contract negotiations has kept his name floating in the rumor mill.

I don’t believe the Bruins have any intention of trading Pastrnak and I don’t see him getting an offer sheet from a rival club. There’s still plenty of time for the two sides to work out a new contract. Pastrnak is coming off an entry-level deal and has little leverage. He can either threaten to play in Europe (which he reportedly doesn’t want to do) or not report to training camp in hopes of either landing a favorable new contract or forcing a trade. Be it on a long-term deal or a bridge contract, I expect Pastrnak will be skating with the Bruins this season. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports a source claims the Penguins are not among the front runners to sign 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher. 

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the New York Rangers are among two or three clubs believed to be under consideration by former Harvard University center and Hobey Baker Award finalist Alex Kerfoot. The 23-year-old opted not to re-sign with the New Jersey Devils and became an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 16. He’s also believed mulling an offer from the Vancouver Canucks. His decision could come today. 


NHL Rumor Mill – August 19, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – August 19, 2017

Can the Edmonton Oilers find a way to avoid making Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a salary-cap casualty?

Latest on the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes plus an update on Will Butcher in your NHL rumor mill. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples addressed speculation suggesting the Oilers could be forced to part ways with center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after this season because of salary-cap constraints and the possibility he’ll be pushed down to the third-line center spot.

Staples thinks Nugent-Hopkins could get choice minutes alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. He predicts the 24-year-old could have a career year and the Oilers will find a way to retain him. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt the Oilers prefer to retain Nugent-Hopkins, who’s developed into a good two-way forward capable of filling the second- or third-line center position. However, I must respectfully disagree with Staples’ take.

The Oilers have over $60 million invested in just 13 players for 2018-19. Barring a surge in the Canadian dollar over the course of this season, the salary cap will likely rise to just over $77 million. That won’t leave much room to re-sign or replace their free agents or to bring in outside help to address a roster weakness.

That salary-cap crunch will force Chiarelli into shedding another big contract to free up more dollars. Nugent-Hopkins is the most likely to be dealt. A career performance on his part would enhance his trade value, making it easier for Chiarelli to find a club willing to take on his $6 million annual cap hit. RNH won’t be dealt during this season but I see him on the trade block next June. 

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander recently reported Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis is comfortable with his current roster, but isn’t ruling out taking action if a deal comes along that helps his club. Addressing team owner Peter Karmanos’ comment that the club lacked a first-line center but had four No.2 centers, Francis notes such players are in limited supply around the league and believes his club is in good shape at that position. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I still think Francis will be in the market for a playmaking center this season. There’s speculation he could be forced to draw upon his depth on defense to address that need. If so, I think Justin Faulk would be the likely trade candidate. Last month, Francis seemingly ruled out pursuing Colorado’s Matt Duchene, saying he didn’t want to part with assets for a player who could depart via free agency in a year or two. 

NJ.COM: Chris Ryan reports University of Denver coach Jim Montgomery believes the New Jersey Devils are high on defenseman Will Butcher’s list of potential NHL destinations. Montgomery coached Butcher during the latter’s four NCAA seasons. The young blueliner is now an unrestricted free agent and is currently meeting with several NHL clubs.