NHL Sense or Nonsense – Let the deals begin
Game recaps, Leafs acquire Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford from the Kings, plus the latest on Mark Giordano, Anthony Mantha, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Charlie McAvoy’s overtime goal gave the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Sean Kuraly also scored for the Bruins (78 points), who picked up their fifth straight victory. They move one point ahead of the Washington Capitals into first place in the Eastern Conference and overall standings. Alex DeBrincat replied for the Blackhawks (58 points), who picked up a point to move within two of the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider scored six seconds apart in the first period as the New York Rangers downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3. Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich had a goal and two assists. Auston Matthews scored twice for the Leafs (63 points), who remains two points out of an Eastern Conference wild-card spot and one back of the Florida Panthers for third in the Atlantic Division.
Following the game, the Leafs traded winger Trevor Moore, a third-round pick (originally from Columbus via Ottawa) in 2020, and a conditional third-rounder in 2021 to the Los Angeles Kings for goaltender Jack Campbell and winger Kyle Clifford. The Kings retain half of Clifford’s $1.6-million annual salary-cap hit. The 2020 third-rounder becomes a second-round pick if the Leafs re-sign Clifford, or Campbell wins six regular-season games and the Leafs reach the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas had no choice. Starting goalie Frederik Andersen is day-to-day with a neck injury, Michael Hutchinson isn’t getting the job done as the backup, and third-stringer Kasimir Kaskisuo has limited NHL experience. With the Leafs spinning their wheels and in danger of missing the playoffs, Dubas had to shore up his goalie depth.
Campbell’s stats (8-10-2, 2.85 GAA, .900 SP) are better than Hutchinson’s. He’s also signed through 2021-22 at an affordable $1.65-million AAV. Clifford, meanwhile, should bring some welcome grit and veteran leadership to the Leafs’ lineup. Moore, 24, is a Southern California native who can be an immediate fit with the rebuilding Kings’ checking lines.
If this deal doesn’t pan out, it’ll stoke ongoing criticism of Dubas’ inability to suitably address his club’s depth between the pipes.
CALGARY SUN: No word yet regarding the status of defenseman Mark Giordano. The Flames captain underwent an MRI for a lower-body injury suffered during Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames were reportedly in the market for a top-six forward. Their priority could shift if Giordano is out long-term.
OTTAWA SUN: Bobby Ryan rejoins the Senators for the first time since entering the NHL’s Players’ Assistance program on Nov. 20. While medically cleared to resume skating, there’s no timetable when he’ll return to action.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha revealed he suffered a punctured lung after being slammed to the ice by Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin during an altercation on Dec. 21. He also came down with the flu that week. Mantha estimates he could return to the lineup between Feb. 10 – 15.
NJ.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (laceration, left knee) and defenseman Sami Vatanen (lower-body bruise) will miss tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE WASHINGTON POST: Capitals rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov is listed as day-to-day with a head injury from a high shot taken by Alex Ovechkin during practice on Tuesday.
The latest on Connor McDavid, Zdeno Chara, Auston Matthews, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers captain Connor McDavid show no ill-effects from a knee injury suffered during the final game of last season during an informal skate on Saturday. He claimed he felt great but remains uncertain about being in the lineup for next month’s season opener.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a promising sign that McDavid said he feels like nothing’s changed regarding his skating. Still, he’ll have to test it during training camp with his teammates and preseason play to determine if he’ll be good to go for the season opener. The Oilers won’t take any chances and could ease him into limited preseason play.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara can’t say for certain if he’ll be ready for the club’s season opener next month. He’s recovered from the broken jaw suffered during the Stanley Cup Final. However, he’s now recovering from a “small elbow procedure” this summer that might not be fully healed in a month.
THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is disappointed over speculation by Sportsnet’s Brian Burke suggesting he’ll head to an American market when his current contract expires. “We haven’t even started my first year (on the new contract) and then this?” he said.
Matthews grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and recently said he hopes the Coyotes become successful. That sparked speculation over his plans. He insists he loves playing in Toronto, praising the city and its fans.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews also pointed out Burke’s comments came in late August, suggesting they were made to stir up controversy and generate internet traffic. It’s way too early to start pondering Matthews’ plans. Worry about it if he hasn’t signed a contract extension in the final season (2023-24) of his current deal.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets re-signed goaltender Eric Comrie to a two-year contract worth $700K per season. The first season is a two-way deal, meaning he’ll earn $200K at the AHL level.
TSN: The Los Angeles Kings re-signed goaltender Jack Campbell to a two-year, $3.3-million contract extension. The annual average value is $1.65 million. The annual cap hit of his current deal is $675K.