NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 21, 2021

Jonathan Drouin reveals the reasons behind last season’s leave of absence, Artemi Panarin doesn’t want to be Rangers captain, Travis Zajac retires and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: In a one-on-one interview that aired on RDS on Monday, Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin revealed anxiety and sleep disorder were behind his season-ending leave of absence in 2020-21. “I’ve had anxiety problems for many years,” said Drouin. “Insomnia problems that relate to my anxiety.”

Montreal Canadiens left wing Jonathan Drouin (NHL Images).

Drouin revealed he’d been dealing with anxiety for several years without knowing what it was. He said his problems had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol and he’s never been to a rehab program.

The Canadiens forward said he’d been handling his anxiety issues better in recent years but the restrictions placed on him and his teammates by COVID-19 took a toll on his physical and mental strength. While he never lost his love of the game, he said there were times last season when he went three straight nights without sleep.

Drouin praised the support he received from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, head coach Dominique Ducharme and his teammates throughout his ordeal. He’s happy with the decision he made last season, wants to remain in Montreal and his mental health is better than ever.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anyone’s who’s ever dealt with anxiety or knows someone who is dealing with it knows how debilitating it can be. Add the pressure of playing for one of hockey’s most iconic teams and it’s no wonder Drouin needed to step away. It’s good to see he’s had the support of his team through all of this. It should help smooth his return to action this season.

NHL.COM: Artemi Panarin said he doesn’t want to be captain of the New York Rangers. “I think we have more deserving candidates for that role now,” he said.

Panarin pointed out the job is more than just playing good hockey. “You also have to give your energy between the periods, motivate guys, giving interviews, being the face of the franchise. Overall, it’s a lot of work off the ice.” He felt he wouldn’t be an effective captain, adding his limited English would also be a problem.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: Travis Zajac signed a one-day contract with the New Jersey Devils in order to retire with the club that drafted him 17 years ago. The 36-year-old center spent almost the entirety of his 15 NHL seasons with the Devils until traded late last season to the New York Islanders. In 1,037 career games, Zajac tallied 203 goals and 552 points. He will remain with the Devils in an on/off-ice player development and consulting role.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Zajac and his family in their future endeavors.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Edmonton Oilers will retire Kevin Lowe’s No. 4 jersey in the rafters at Rogers Place during a Nov. 5 game against the New York Rangers. He played for both clubs during his 19-season NHL career, 15 of those with the Oilers.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes revealed their proposed arena entertainment district in Tempe, Arizona yesterday. The project would cost an estimated $1.7 billion and calls for private funding along with an additional $200 million portion coming from city tax revenues. The city will review the proposal in a process that could take months before a public meeting and a vote to accept or reject the proposal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This season is expected to be the Coyotes’ last in Gila River Arena after the city of Glendale announced it would not renew its operating agreement with the club. They are currently in search of a temporary home.

The Coyotes also revealed their new white Kachina coyote road jerseys for the first time since 2003. The popular Kachina logo will also be the club’s primary logo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I always liked the Coyotes’ original logo. Glad to see they’re bringing it back.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The severity of Flyers defenseman Samuel Morin’s recent knee injury remains uncertain. An initial report claimed the injury was “significant” but Morin’s former teammate Riley Cote tweeted a text message exchange with the blueliner who said one of his knees was banged up but it was “nothing major”. Morin’s career has been hampered by two ACL tears in his right knee since 2018.

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins signed winger Zach Senyshyn to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets placed defenseman Sami Niku on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract.

TSN: The Montreal Canadiens signed blueliner Cody Goloubef to a professional tryout offer.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 16, 2021

Carey Price provides an update on his recovery from knee surgery, the Coyotes and Hurricanes add to their respective management teams, the latest PTO signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Carey Price said he has yet to skate since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on July 22. The 34-year-old Canadiens goaltender said he “feels pretty good” and is continuing his rehab to ensure he’s ready for the coming season.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (NHL Images).

Price’s original timeline for recovery was 10-12 weeks. It was expected he’d be ready for the start of the season on Oct. 13. “With any type of rehabilitation, you’re never quite sure how long it’s going to take,” he said. The Habs star indicated he could be skating soon but wants to be sure he’s ready.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As always, the Canadiens’ playoff hopes rest with Price. They’ll ensure he takes all the time he needs to be fully recovered and ready to go for this season. Fortunately, they’ve got a capable backup in Jake Allen to carry the load in the early going until Price’s return.

Speaking of the Canadiens, the club yesterday announced it is launching a Respect and Consent Action Plan aimed at raising awareness with its employees and the public of the consequences of sexual cyberviolence. This comes in the wake of the backlash the club faced for selecting prospect Logan Mailloux in the first round of this year’s draft. Mailloux was fined by Swedish authorities in December after admitting to charges related to sharing a photo engaged in a sexual act with him without her consent while playing in Sweden last season.

Genevieve Paquette, the Canadiens’ vice-president of community engagement and the club’s foundation general manager, said Mailloux is learning and receiving therapy from the team in a “very serious and engaged way.” A member of the London Knights, he is currently suspended by the OHL but can apply for reinstatement on Jan. 1. He was not invited to the Canadiens’ rookie camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Sportsnet’s Eric Engels observed, this is a positive step forward for the Canadiens as they continue to do damage control following the selection of the Mailloux. The club is also continuing to work with the 18-year-old defenseman to assist in his development. Paquette and the Habs director of player development Rob Ramage expressed confidence he’s on the right path toward what Ramage called “his journey of education and awareness” stemming from the incident in Sweden.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes named John Ferguson Jr as their assistant general manager and GM of their AHL affiliate in Tucson. He spent the past seven seasons with the Boston Bruins as their Executive Director of Player Personnel and as GM of their AHL affiliate in Providence.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ferguson Jr tends to get some flak from critics over his difficult tenure as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2003-04 to 2007-08. By all accounts, however, he did a good job with the Bruins and as a pro scout before that for several years with the San Jose Sharks. He should be a good hire for the rebuilding Coyotes.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes hired Michael Futa as a senior consultant to general manager Don Waddell. Futa was previously in the Los Angeles Kings organization from 2007 to 2020, including a stint as their assistant GM. He played a key role in building that club into a two-time (2012, 2014) Stanley Cup champion.

TSN: The Edmonton Oilers signed winger Colton Sceviour to a professional tryout off.

YARDBARKER: Winger Tobias Rieder got a PTO with the Anaheim Ducks.

CAP FRIENDLY: Left wing Scott Wilson signed a PTO with the Seattle Kraken.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights signed defenseman Dylan Coghlan to a two-year contract. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

TSN: The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) rejected a request from an advocacy think tank to suspend Stan Bowman from his role as general manager of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team while he faces allegations of helping to cover up the sexual abuse of two Chicago Blackhawks players over a decade ago.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2021

Did the Canadiens make a mistake acquiring Christian Dvorak? Should the Oilers attempt to acquire Ducks goalie John Gibson? Could the Senators trade Logan Brown? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE CANADIENS HAVE PURSUED EICHEL INSTEAD OF DVORAK?

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski believes the Montreal Canadiens made the wrong choice acquiring Christian Dvorak to replace Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He points out the 25-year-old center hasn’t cracked the 40-point barrier in his five NHL seasons, adding some believe he lacks the necessary work ethic.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Kingerski feels the Canadiens should’ve instead attempted to acquire Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres. That move would’ve cost them the better of their two first-round picks but would’ve established themselves with a premier center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens were among the clubs to inquire about Eichel earlier in the offseason. However, Sabres GM Kevyn Adams’ asking price is said to be at least four assets comparable to first-round picks and he reportedly hasn’t come down from that.

The Canadiens weren’t in a solid position to acquire Eichel. It would’ve probably cost them both of their first-round picks next season, along with Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield, one of their top prospects and possibly more. Factor in the difficulty of squeezing Eichel’s $10 million cap hit within their limited cap payroll and acquiring him was far too expensive for the Habs.

SHOULD THE OILERS TRY TO LAND GIBSON?

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Daniel Nugent-Bowman was asked about the possibility of the Edmonton Oilers acquiring John Gibson from the Anaheim Ducks. He doubts that’s likely to happen, citing his annual salary-cap hit ($6.4 million through 2026-17) and 10-team no-trade list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stranger things have happened but I don’t see Gibson ending up with the Oilers. The Ducks have given no indication Gibson’s available and he hasn’t requested a trade. The Oilers might not be on his list of acceptable trade destinations and it would be difficult to squeeze his contract within their salary-cap payroll.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – September 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 6, 2021

A look at which players the Canadiens may have pursued before acquiring Christian Dvorak, plus the latest on Elias Pettersson, P.K. Subban and what the Leafs and Kraken must still address in the Labor Day edition of the NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In their latest “31 Thoughts” podcast, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed the aftermath of the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer-sheet saga. Friedman believes Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin may have called around asking about San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Calgary’s Sean Monahan. Bergevin acquired Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes almost immediately after declining to match the Kotkaniemi offer sheet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dvorak seemed to be at or near the top of Bergevin’s list during his search last week for a replacement for Kotkaniemi. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels mentioned him as a trade target soon after the offer sheet was signed. I don’t doubt the Habs GM shopped around to see what other options were available but I don’t think he just settled for Dvorak.

Friedman also reported the Kotkaniemi offer sheet had the Vancouver Canucks’ front office nervous about another club doing the same with Elias Pettersson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Contract talks are ongoing between Pettersson and the Canucks. The 22-year-old center would be a tempting target despite the Canucks’ public stance that they’d match any offer.

New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (NHL Images).

However, the high cost of signing away Pettersson ($9 million or more per season) plus the compensation owed to the Canucks for a successful signing (at least two first-round picks, a second, and a third-round pick) make an offer sheet unlikely in this case.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports multiple sources confirmed the Bruins, on more than one occasion, explored what it would take to acquire P.K. Subban from the New Jersey Devils. At the same time, they hope to convince the Devils to pick up half of his $9 million cap hit for this season. Murphy also said the Toronto Maple Leafs had “more than lukewarm interest” in Subban.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It would take a substantial offer to convince Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald to eat half of Subban’s cap hit. He can afford it but why do another club a favor for a less than worthwhile return?

Fitzgerald also isn’t under any pressure to move Subban. He’s only on their books for this season after which he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Devils also aren’t facing any cap crunch this season.

If Fitzgerald decides to trade Subban it could be close to the March trade deadline provided the Devils are out of playoff contention by then. Most of the 32-year-old blueliner’s salary will be paid out by then, making him more enticing to other clubs.

NHL.COM: Mike Zeisberger wondered who will join Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander among the Toronto Maple Leafs top-six this season. The Leafs are top-heavy and will need more secondary scoring from their supporting cast.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could be Nick Ritchie, Alex Kerfoot, and/or Ilya Mikheyev skating among the top six. Perhaps Michael Bunting gets a shot at left wing if Ritchie or Kerfoot don’t work out in those roles.

Nicholas J. Cotsonika believes the Seattle Kraken still needs more firepower up front. He wonders if they have enough depth at center with Yanni Gourde sidelined for at least the opening month of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kraken GM Ron Francis could attempt to address that issue depending on how things go during the club’s first training camp and preseason games.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2021

The fallout from the Carolina Hurricanes signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens, an update on Jake Gardiner, player milestones to watch this season and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell spoke to the media yesterday about his club successfully signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell (NHL Images).

Waddell said the Hurricanes weren’t surprised that the Canadiens opted not to match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet. He denied revenge for the Habs’ unsuccessful attempt to sign Sebastian Aho in 2019 was the motivation behind the Kotkaniemi offer. Waddell also dismissed the club’s PR staff trolling the Canadiens over the signing as merely a marketing ploy to keep their fans engaged.

The Hurricanes GM said he initially attempted to acquire Kotkaniemi via trade and decided several days later to tender an offer sheet. Waddell indicated he hasn’t had contract extension discussions with the 21-year-old forward and his agent. The earliest they can re-sign him is in January.

Asked where Kotkaniemi would play this season, Waddell indicated the 21-year-old will probably start at left wing. Although the Hurricanes now sit above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $1.5 million, they intend to place defenseman Jake Gardiner ($4.05 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve. Waddell indicated Gardiner will undergo hip and back surgery and won’t be ready for the start of the season.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Kotkaniemi also talked about his new contract with the Hurricanes. He considers it a great opportunity and felt confident his new club has trust in him. He noted the presence of fellow Finns Aho and Teuvo Teravainen and considers it an honor to play for a potential Stanley Cup contender.

Asked about his time with the Canadiens, Kotkaniemi acknowledged there were “ups and downs” but overall felt he had a good run in Montreal. However, he did say he thought his development with the Habs could’ve gone better.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The revenge angle keeps getting played up in the media but I think that’s just a small factor here. The Hurricanes were seeking a young forward who could play center or wing. They had an interest in Kotkaniemi, tried to trade for him and when that didn’t work not only went the offer-sheet route but gave the Habs a heads-up as to their intentions.

PuckPedia speculates the Hurricanes could maximize their long-term injury reserve space to the full $4.05 million of Gardiner’s cap hit by demoting two players to put them just under the cap ceiling before the start of the season. They’ll then put Gardiner on LTIR. No word yet on how long he’ll be sidelined but the 31-year-old blueliner could be sidelined for the season.

A contract extension for Kotkaniemi will be decided by his performance this season. It would cost them $6.1 million to qualify his rights but the two sides could agree to a long-term deal for a lower annual average value.

Kotkaniemi’s comments about his development in Montreal and his willingness to accept the Hurricanes offer had some observers suggesting the Canadiens must ensure that issue doesn’t recur with their other younger players. Whether the current management shares that view remains to be seen.

SI.COM: Jason Chen looks at several player milestones to watch in 2021-22. Joe Thornton has an opportunity to move into third place overall for games played, Ryan Getzlaf, Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Spezza could reach 1,000 points while Alex Ovechkin is 36 goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr for third place (766) on the all-time goal-scoring list.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Former Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski sold his Muirfield, Ohio home for $3.75 million.










Kotkaniemi Offer Sheet Highlights Canadiens Poor Draft Record

Kotkaniemi Offer Sheet Highlights Canadiens Poor Draft Record

The Carolina Hurricanes signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens provided a week of welcome excitement for NHL fans bored by the off-season dog days. It’s the first successful offer-sheet signing since the Edmonton Oilers landed Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

NHL pundits and fans of both clubs will watch with interest over the next several years to determine which club made the right decision.

Former Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (NHL Images).

This could blow up in the Hurricanes’ face or prove a shrewd move to take advantage of a cap-strapped rival. It also provides them with a measure of revenge for the Habs failed attempt to sign Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet two years ago.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, could face the humiliation of seeing a promising if inconsistent young player blossoming into a star in Carolina. Then again, they could breathe a sigh of relief if Kotkaniemi fails to develop as hoped.

L’Affaire Kotkaniemi also served as a significant reminder of what a lousy job the Canadiens have done drafting and developing talent.

I wrote about this back in January 2020, reviewing what at that point was 27 years of Canadiens fans futilely waiting for each crop of promising talent to blossom into stars that would carry their club back to Stanley Cup glory.

They came oh-so-close earlier this year. Thanks in part to homegrown stars such as Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher and youngsters such as Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov, the underdog Canadiens shook off a difficult regular season to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Nevertheless, the Canadiens have a long history of busts among their first-round picks since their last Stanley Cup championship in 1993. As I wrote in 2020:

“From Terry Ryan, Matt Higgins, Eric Chouinard and Alexander Burturlin in the 1990s, through Marcel Hossa, Alexander Perezhogin, David Fischer and Louis LeBlanc in the first decade of this century, to Jarred Tinordi, Michael McCarron and Nikita Scherbak in the last decade, all were once touted as potential foundation pieces for future championship clubs in Montreal. None made much of a mark in their short careers.”

Tinordi, McCarron and Scherbak were selected by current Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin and his scouting staff. Since becoming GM in 2012, the Habs’ first-round picks also included Alex Galchenyuk (2012), Noah Juulsen (2015), Mikhail Sergachev (2016), Ryan Poehling (2017), Kotkaniemi (2018), Caufield (2019), Kaiden Guhle (2020) and this year’s unfortunate choice of Logan Mailloux.

Galchenyuk showed promise as a scorer but eventually played his way out of Montreal and has bounced among several NHL clubs. Juulsen’s career was nearly ended by an eye injury before being claimed off waivers by the Florida Panthers earlier this year. Swapped for Jonathan Drouin in 2018, Sergachev blossomed into a star with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Poehling has yet to crack the Habs roster on a full-time basis while Kotkaniemi’s struggles were well-documented during his three years in Montreal.

Caufield made the jump from college hockey last season, becoming a key ingredient in the Canadiens run to the 2021 Cup Final. Guhle is a big, promising defenseman who appeared in three games with the Habs’ AHL affiliate in Laval last season. Mailloux, meanwhile, is suspended indefinitely from the OHL this season after being fined last year by Swedish police for sharing a photo among his teammates of an 18-year-old woman engaged in a consensual sexual act with him without her permission.

Bergevin’s predecessors didn’t have a stellar record of first-round selections but they could at times strike gold in the first round (Price, Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty) or subsequent rounds (Jose Theodore, Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Gallagher). Of his selections, only Sergachev has truly panned out but that was after he was traded to the Lightning. Caufield has the makings of a star but it’s too early to determine what he’ll truly become based on his short NHL career to date. 

It’s too early to tell how things will work out for his selections over the past three years. It takes time for promising youngsters to reach their full potential, with some taking longer than others. Still, there’s no denying the Canadiens haven’t been getting much bang for their buck from their prospect pipeline.

Some of that could be down to poor scouting. Some of it could also be because the Canadiens are doing a poor job preparing those young players for NHL duty.

Bergevin’s saving grace is his ability to win more trades than he loses. Suzuki, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Phillip Danault, Josh Anderson, Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson and Joel Armia were among the notable acquisitions on the roster during their deep postseason run last season.

Nevertheless, Kotkaniemi’s struggles with the Canadiens cast a harsher spotlight on how the Habs draft and develop talent. If he goes on to improve and his full potential in Carolina it will only stoke criticism of Bergevin and his staff. It could eventually lead to changes in the front office, starting with the general manager.