NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2018

Nate Schmidt receives 20-game suspension, notable remaining UFAs and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt received a 20-game suspension for violating the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, a charge he, his agent and the team denied yesterday. The league didn’t reveal what substance Schmidt tested positive for or when the test was conducted. His appeal was denied by an independent arbitrator.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt has been suspended for violating the NHL’s PED program. (Photo via NHL Images)

In a statement yesterday, Schmidt professed his innocence, claiming he never knowingly ingested a banned substance. He said the trace amount was “consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.”

Schmidt cited one expert who testified on his behalf claiming the amount of substance found in his system ” 7 billionths of a milligram/mL — as the equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.” Another who analyzed a sample of his hair concluded there was no evidence of intentional use. “The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.”

The Golden Knights also released a statement supporting Schmidt, expressing their belief “that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know the full details from the hearings or what Schmidt may have ingested. Going by his story, however, it appears the punishment received was unduly harsh and perhaps unjustified.  It’s worth noting the Golden Knights are standing by Schmidt. It’ll be interesting to see if the league or the PA will issue a statement. it doesn’t sound as though there’s another appeal option for Schmidt.

In the meantime, Schmidt’s absence will leave a significant gap on their blueline early in the coming season that could force the Golden Knights to address via trade, free agency or waivers. I’ll have more in my Rumors section later this morning.  

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Center Antoine Vermette, left wing Mike Cammalleri, right wing Lee Stempniak, defensemen Luca Sbisa and Cody Franson and goaltender Steve Mason are the notable veterans remaining in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. Others include forwards Scott Hartnell and Daniel Winnik, blueliner Kevin Bieksa and goalie Kari Lehtonen. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A handful of these players could earn one-year deals via professional tryout offers. The rest face continuing their playing careers in Europe or retirement. 

TSN: Former Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators defenseman Alexei Emelin signed a three-year contract with KHL club Avangard Omsk.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The Vancouver Canucks need a healthy Chris Tanev to return to form this season. 


Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Latest on the Golden Knights and another look at the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in your NHL rumor mill.


LAS VEGAS SUN: In the wake of William Karlsson re-signing a one-year, $5.25-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, Jesse Granger reports defenseman Shea Theodore is their only remaining free agent. Theodore is coming off his entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. General manager George McPhee hopes to re-sign the young blueliner before the start of the season.

Vegas Golden Knights hope to re-sign defenseman Shea Theodore before the start of next season (Photo via NHL Images).

Granger also reports McPhee hinted at a possible move to bolster his forward lines. “We’re happy where we are,” said the Vegas GM. “If there’s an opportunity to upgrade at the forward position at any time over the next year we will.”

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Despite re-signing Karlsson to a one-year deal and with Theodore expected to re-sign, Ed Graney reports the Golden Knights aren’t any better on paper than they were in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Graney raises some questions, wondering if they’re really convince Malcolm Subban is a capable long-term solution if starter Marc-Andre Fleury becomes sidelined again, if someone like Ryan Carpenter can steal a job, and if career performances by so many players last season could result in a natural regression in 2018-19.

He also wonders if the Golden Knights “would emerge from a handful of reported suitors” interested in Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights definitely defied expectations last season. While I think they’re still good enough to be a playoff contender in 2018-19, I doubt they’ll make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Unlike many of McPhee’s peers who might have interest in acquiring Erik Karlsson or a skilled forward, he’s carrying considerable depth in draft picks (stick tap to Cap Friendly) and promising young players that could be used as trade bait. Doing so, however, could mean including the promising Theodore in the package or giving up a top prospect such as Cody Glass or Nick Suzuki. 


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the NHL’s top-10 remaining unrestricted free agents. Topping the list is winger Rick Nash, though it remains uncertain if he’ll continue his career due to health and family concerns. Prior to the start of this summer’s UFA market, Nash told several teams (including the Columbus Blue Jackets) that he was sitting out the free-agent frenzy to contemplate his future. 

The remainder of Fox’s list includes defenseman Luca Sbisa (who at one point had reportedly been contacted by the Chicago Blackhawks), blueliner Tobias Enstrom, forward Mark Letestu, forward Mike Cammalleri (who got some interest from Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley in bringing him to the KHL), rearguard Alexei Emelin, goaltender Kari Lehtonen, center Nick Shore, winger Scott Hartnell (who recently conceded he could be headed toward retirement) and left wing Benoit Pouliot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from Nash, most of the others on this list could face going through professional tryouts during training camp to land new contracts for next season. Some could end up continuing their playing careers overseas. Some, like Hartnell, could be retiring.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Blackhawks have ongoing interest in Sbisa as they still need help on the blueline. The KHL could be the oft-injured Cammalleri’s best option to continue his playing career. Lehtonen might still draw some interest from teams in need of experienced goaltending depth. However, he could be a late-September or early-October signing as clubs evaluate their goalies during training camp and preseason play. 


NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2018

Latest on Jacob Trouba’s future with the Winnipeg Jets plus an update on some of the remaining UFAs in your NHL rumor mill. 

Could the Winnipeg Jets trade Jacob Trouba at the end of his new one-year contract? (Photo via NHL Images)


NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck took note of the one-year, $5.5-million contract awarded to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba by an arbitrator on Sunday. With Trouba two years away from eligibility for unrestricted free agency and once against due to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer, Billeck wonders if the blueliner’s time in Winnipeg might be coming to an end.

Speculation over the inability between Trouba and the Jets to work out a long-term deal has prompted speculation the defenseman is angling to depart Winnipeg. There was a significant gap between the two sides prior to his arbitration hearing, with the Trouba camp seeking $7 million and the Jets’ $4 million.

Trading him this summer is an option but Billeck doesn’t consider it the best one if the Jets are serious about making a run for the Stanley Cup in 2018-19. If the Jets trade Trouba, he speculates the asking price could be “a comparable rostered defenseman or a very highly-touted prospect rearguard.”

Billeck expects there will be several potential suitors if Trouba hits the trade block “but pinning down who and what is involved is anyone’s guess.”  He proposes the New York Islanders (who have Manitoba native Ryan Pulock on their blueline) or the Detroit Red Wings as possible options, though acknowledges that’s just pure speculation on his part.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre notes the Jets will likely face a salary-cap crunch next summer. Trouba, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, Joe Morrow and Laurent Brossoit will be restricted free agents while Blake Wheeler, Brandon Tanev, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot will be UFAs. Among McIntyre’s suggests options to address this issue could be trading Trouba, which “would not only be best for both sides, but a necessity from Winnipeg’s perspective.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could surprise us by trading Trouba this summer but I doubt he’ll go that route. He’ll keep his current roster intact to make another serious run for the Cup this coming season. Next summer, however, is another matter. Cap Friendly indicates the Jets currently have over $43 million invested in just nine players. Assuming the salary cap reaches $83 million for 2019-20, they’ll have $40 million to work with.

Sounds like a lot but perhaps half of that will be eaten up in new contracts for Wheeler and Laine, while the others will be due significant raises. Should Trouba have a career year, he’ll be able to justify pushing for over $7 million per season.

While a lot can happen between now and next summer, trading Trouba next June, perhaps during the NHL Draft weekend, could be their best option to ensure sufficient cap room to maintain the bulk of their roster. He’ll attract considerable interest in the trade market. 


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the remaining top-10 NHL UFAs. Among the notable updates is a July 13 report claiming the Chicago Blackhawks contacted former Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Luca Sbisa. There’s also surprise former Dallas Stars blueliner Dan Hamhuis hasn’t been signed by anyone yet.

Buffalo’s WKBW’s Matt Bove suggests the Sabres should consider adding veteran rearguard Brooks Orpik to an affordable one-year deal to bring in some experience and leadership. He could also be used as a trade chip near next February’s trade deadline.

A report out of Russia has Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley trying to woo forward Mike Cammalleri. The agent for defenseman Alexei Emelin recently said his client had spoken with several teams but declined to say if the Montreal Canadiens were among them. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These players have now fallen into the off-season limbo that occurs after the opening two weeks of the free-agent market. When most of the best players are signed up, teams become more budget conscious, meaning those players still available in the UFA market could be forced to wait for weeks before getting new contracts. General managers are also currently focused for the next two weeks upon dealing with players slated for arbitration hearings.

Some of these players, such as Hamhuis and Sbisa, could get new contracts before the start of training camp in September. The others, however, could be forced to accept professional tryout offers, contract proposals from KHL or European teams or retirement. 


Can The Oilers Swing a Season-Saving Trade?

Can The Oilers Swing a Season-Saving Trade?

To put it politely, 2017-18 has become a mess for the Edmonton Oilers.

Considered by many observers (including yours truly) to be a Stanley Cup contender when this season began, the Oilers find themselves floundering near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Following Edmonton’s 5-1 loss last Saturday to the Dallas Stars, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos speculated someone could lose their job if the Oilers failed to reverse their fortunes in a week’s time. Over the following four days, they fell 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks and dropped a 2-1 decision to the Nashville Predators.

Kypreos’ comments prompted some talk suggesting head coach Todd McLellan might lose his job, but general manager Peter Chiarelli rejected that notion.

If a coaching change isn’t in the cards, and assuming Chiarelli isn’t in any danger of getting canned, the only realistic shake-up option is a trade. Not a minor move involving depth players but a significant, season-saving deal.

Such trades are usually difficult to make. Given the Oilers’ current precarious position in the standings, it’s likely impossible.

Chiarelli’s rivals won’t do him any favors. The Oilers GM won’t land an established top-four defenseman or a speedy top-six scoring winger unless he sends something substantial the other way.

None of the Oilers’ best players – Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Cam Talbot – are going anywhere. Good luck peddling Milan Lucic’s hefty contract with its $6-million annual salary-cap hit and no-trade clause. Rival clubs would love to pry young defenseman Darnell Nurse away from the Oilers but that’s not going to happen.

Rearguard Adam Larsson won’t fetch a winger equivalent to the guy (Taylor Hall) he was traded for. Blueliner Oscar Klefbom’s struggles this season have probably his value in the trade market.

Center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ value has probably never been higher. However, he’s also got that $6 million cap hit and Chiarelli could be reluctant to move him.

Wingers Patrick Maroon and Mike Cammalleri are eligible for unrestricted free agent status in July. Chiarelli could shop them by the Feb. 26 trade deadline but they’ll be consider rental players for postseason contenders. The return for either guy won’t provide immediate help. Same goes for depth players such as Zach Kassian, Kris Russell, Matt Benning and Mark Letestu.

For a return with the potential to provide a quick reversal of the Oilers fortunes, Chiarelli would likely have to bundle a promising youngster, such as Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto, with his first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Puljujarvi, a 19-year-old right wing, was the Oilers’ first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2016 NHL draft. Yamamoto, another 19-year-old forward, was selected 22nd overall in last year’s draft.

Given the Oilers’ current spot in the standings, they could be in line for another high selection in the 2018 draft. That assumes, of course, that they don’t significantly rise in the standings between now and season’s end.

Packaging Puljujarvi or Yamamoto with their 2018 first-rounder would be a tantalizing offer for clubs looking to move a scoring forward or a quality defenseman. However, most of those teams could be non-contenders peddling pending UFAs or players carrying budget-busting contracts. There’s also the danger the players Chiarelli ships out could blossom into stars elsewhere.

Sure, there’s a chance Chiarelli shocks the league and pulls off a major deal that addresses the Oilers’ needs and vaults them back into contention. Unfortunately, the stark reality is that deal probably doesn’t exist right now.

At this point, Chiarelli’s best bet is to consider shipping out those pending UFAs who don’t figure into the club’s long-term plans (Maroon, Cammalleri) for the best possible return, give more playing time to his younger players and look toward retooling the roster in the offseason.

That’s probably not what Edmonton fans, thrilled by last season’s promise following a decade of mediocrity, want to hear. Nevertheless, any hasty short-term decisions could have damaging long-term consequences.

For now, patience is the only reasonable option.


NHL Rumor Mill – January 11, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – January 11, 2018

Latest look at possible trade-deadline rental players and more in your NHL rumor mill.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson could be among the top rental players at this year’s NHL trade deadline(Photo via NHL Images).


FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites TSN’s Bob McKenzie’s appearance Wednesday on NBC Sports Network discussing the NHL trade market. He considers Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane as the premier rental player available. He also lists Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green, Vancouver Canucks winger Thomas Vanek and blueliner Erik Gudbranson and Edmonton Oilers forwards Patrick Maroon, Mike Cammalleri and Mark Letestu as possible rental players.

McKenzie also suggests several players on struggling clubs with term remaining on their contracts could potentially be on the move. Those include Montreal Canadiens forwards Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk and Ottawa Senators winger Mike Hoffman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McKenzie’s TSN colleague Darren Dreger recently said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Nashville Predators had some interest in Pacioretty. He admits, however, he doesn’t know if the two clubs have held talks.

Nashville and Montreal have a recent trade history (Shea Weber for P.K. Subban in 2016). If the Habs move Pacioretty or Galchenyuk before the trade deadline (and that’s a big “if” at this point), they’ll want a quality return that helps them now and in the future. A winger such as Kevin Fiala or Viktor Arvidsson could be part of the asking price. 

He also speculates the Minnesota Wild, who’ve been busy near the deadline in recent years, could opt to look internally this season. They don’t have much salary-cap room this season. They’d also like to evaluate veterans Zach Parise and Nino Niederreiter, who’ve been hampered by injuries, and younger players such as Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle.


THE ATHLETIC: Mike Halford lists the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins as possible trade destinations for Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson.

Halford notes the Lightning reportedly seek a top-four, right-handed defenseman. They’re deep in prospects and have all their picks in each of the next three drafts, though they’ve been reluctant in the past to part with their prospects. The Bruins were reportedly looking for a minute-munching blueliner but they’re already deep in right-handed rearguards. The Leafs, meanwhile, need experienced d-men but it depends upon how management views Gudbranson.

The Panthers could still be interested in bringing back Gudbranson. The Capitals could be in the market for a veteran defenseman. While Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and Canucks GM Jim Benning have a trade history, the Pens recent acquisition of Jamie Oleksiak could take them out of the bidding for Gudbranson.

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites insider Elliotte Friedman telling Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 his belief that there are teams kicking tires on Gudbranson, but it remains to be seen how serious those suitors are. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if Toronto, Tampa Bay or the Los Angeles Kings have made inquiries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There is some concern over whether Gudbranson remains suited to the increasing speed of the NHL game. Still, I think there are playoff contenders willing to pursue him if the asking price is reasonable. The Canucks, however, gave up a lot to pry Gudbranson away from the Panthers in 2016 so they won’t just give him away. If the Panthers want him back, I assume they’ll wait for this summer when he’ll likely hit the UFA market.

The Lightning could be a little more willing to part with prospects this season if they’re all-in for a Cup run. The Leafs and Capitals could also be suitors. I think the Pens have made their move to address their defense and could shift their focus toward a scoring forward. If the Bruins remain in the market for a blueliner I expect they’ll put their focus on one with a left-handed shot. 



Latest on the Oilers and Sharks – January 8, 2018

Latest on the Oilers and Sharks – January 8, 2018

Is now the right time for the Edmonton Oilers to trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?

Could there be moves afoot soon for the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks? Read on to find out in your NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis recently suggested that if the Edmonton Oilers want to sell high on center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, now’s the time while he’s playing well. Willis examines the pros and cons of making this move. He concludes trading Nugent-Hopkins now “is a better idea than trading him a year from now. But that doesn’t mean it’s smarter than just keeping him.”

Willis also recently wondered if Oilers right wing Ryan Strome might become a dark horse trade deadline candidate. “His scoring has picked up markedly after a difficult October and he’s a right-shot centre/wing, all of which make him valuable.” Willis noted Strome, a restricted free agent at season’s end, needs to be qualified at his $3 million base salary this summer, which could prove difficult to peddle him to clubs with salary-cap concerns.

Allan Mitchell weighs in on what the Oilers might do with their free agents. He expects left wing Patrick Maroon, an unrestricted free agent in July, to be dealt. He wonders if the asking price is a younger player who’s already in pro hockey. He suggests the Boston Bruins could be a good fit.

Center Mark Letestu is another UFA who could go. Mitchell noted he has experience with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, suggesting he could return to one of those clubs via trade for the right offer.

Veteran Mike Cammalleri might appeal to teams seeking scoring depth but the 35-year-old won’t fetch much of a return. As for Strome, Mitchell suspects he could be an offseason move given what the Oilers gave up to get him last summer. Anton Slephshev, Brandon Davidson and Matt Benning could also attract some interest in the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Oilers become sellers, I expect a couple of their pending UFAs, such as Maroon, Cammalleri and Letestu, could hit the trade block in the coming weeks. Given the club’s current trajectory, I think that decision’s coming very soon. Strome could also be moved by the deadline.

Over the past two seasons, Nugent-Hopkins has frequently surfaced in the rumor mill. They could move him to get shed his $6 million annual cap hit but that’s not a certainty. I’ll be very surprised if he’s peddled at the deadline. I believe the Oilers want to keep him but it’ll depend upon how things shake out at the trade deadline, their salary-cap space this summer and what plans the club beyond this season. A change in management could see RNH hit the trade block this summer. 


NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White wonders if the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators might become trade partners. With the Senators in danger of missing the playoffs, winger Mike Hoffman is among the players believed to be available, which should interest the low-scoring Sharks.

Landing Hoffman, however, could prove difficult. He’s got a 10-team no-trade list, while the Sharks lack picks in the second and third rounds of the 2018 draft. They’re also unwilling to part with young forwards Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, and Joakim Ryan ” and they don’t have an exceptional prospect pool.”

THE ATHLETIC: In a Jan. 2 mailbag segment, Kevin Kurz addressed a question regarding the possibility of the Sharks trading veteran defenseman Paul Martin, who’s missed most of this season to an ankle injury and is now the odd man out on the San Jose blueline. Kurz said we can only speculate over Martin’s future with the club but doesn’t believe we should assume he’s on the trade block just yet. 

Regarding the possibility of the Sharks pursuing a high-talent playoff rental such as Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane, Kurz doubts they have the prospect depth available to make that move. He also notes their lack of picks in the second and third rounds of this year’s draft. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve suggested San Jose as a potential destination for Hoffman or Kane, but I must admit their unwillingness to part with their younger roster players and lack of available prospects and draft picks makes that unlikely now. They could add an affordable depth forward by the deadline but it now seems unlikely they’ll pursue bigger fish.

Martin, who turns 37 in March, isn’t likely to draw much interest. He’s on the downside of his career.