NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2021
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos hits the ice for training camp, the Wild name Jared Spurgeon captain, an update on Joe Thornton, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: After missing all but one game of the 2020 playoffs to a core muscle injury, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he’ll be a full participant in training camp. He also expects to be ready for the start of the season on Jan 13.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthy Stamkos should help the defending Stanley Cup champions offset the absence of winger Nikita Kucherov, who’s expected to miss the regular season recovering from hip surgery.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild named Jared Spurgeon as their second full-time captain in franchise history. He replaces Mikko Koivu, who was their first full-time captain for 11 seasons until his departure via free agency in October.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spurgeon gets the nod over long-time Wild stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The 31-year-old defenseman has spent his entire NHL career with the Wild, becoming an underrated but invaluable part of their roster core.
TSN: Joe Thornton will begin Toronto Maple Leafs training camp playing left wing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how long that line stays together. There will be concerns over whether the 41-year-old Thornton can keep pace with his younger, faster linemates.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed Dylan Strome to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $3 million. The 23-year-old center is expected to take on a larger role this season with centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach sidelined by illness and injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks couldn’t afford to let Strome’s contract negotiations keep him out of training camp. With Toews and Dach on the shelf, they need all the help they can get at the center position.
Strome played well during his first season with the Blackhawks (51 points in 58 games during 2018-19) but his numbers tumbled to 38 points in the same number of games in 2019-20. This will be a golden opportunity for Strome to prove his worth to the Hawks and earn himself a more lucrative long-term deal in two years’ time.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman John Marino to a six-year contract extension beginning in 2021-22. The annual average value is $4.4 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marino, 23, enjoyed a promising NHL debut with the Penguins, netting 26 points in 56 games while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. This contract could be a bargain for the Pens if he blossoms into a full-time first-pairing defenseman.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders are downplaying Mathew Barzal’s absence from training camp as contract negotiations continue with the restricted free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in New York and it’s expected a new contract could be announced sometime this week.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland won’t be in training camp and his playing career could be in jeopardy as he continues to deal with post-concussion symptoms. He saw action in just 14 regular-season games last season. GM Jim Benning said Ferland is expected to miss the start of the upcoming season.
SPORTSNET: Benning also said the club intends to sign head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. Green has one year remaining on his current deal.
CBS SPORTS: The Calgary Flames signed defenseman Michael Stone to a professional tryout offer. Stone spent the last four seasons playing with the Flames
SPORTSNET: The province of British Columbia has become the second Canadian province to officially approve NHL games this season. Alberta last week also issued its approval for its NHL teams to stage games in Calgary and Edmonton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected the other three provinces with NHL franchises (Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) will follow suit this week.