NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2021

Capitals down Bruins for a series-opening win, Connor McDavid wins the scoring title, David Perron on COVID-19 protocol list, plus updates on Brayden Point, Zach Parise and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: An overtime goal by Nic Dowd gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. Washington goaltender Craig Anderson made 21 saves on 22 shots in relief of Vitek Vanecek, who left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. Tom Wilson had a goal and an assist for the Capitals. Game 2 is Monday night in Washington.

Washington Capitals goaltender Craig Anderson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 39-year-old Anderson struggled a bit finding his rhythm but eventually settled in well spelling off Vanecek. No word on Vanecek’s status for Game 2.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected an assist in a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. McDavid finishes the season with 105 points in 56 games to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid is only the third player in league history to win the Art Ross Trophy by age 24. Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky were the others.

With their regular season over, the Oilers will face the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues winger David Perron is on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, casting doubt on his availability for his club’s upcoming first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche. He joins teammates Jake Walman and Nathan Walker on that list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This doesn’t necessarily mean Perron had COVID-19. It could be a false positive. So far, there doesn’t appear to be a surge in cases among the Blues. An outbreak would have significant consequences for the NHL’s playoff schedule. Players remain at risk of contracting the coronavirus despite COVID cases dropping in the United States as more people are vaccinated.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning coach Jon Cooper downplayed Brayden Point’s departure from practice yesterday. “He got nicked up. He’s fine. No alarm bells,” said Cooper. Point was their leading scorer this season. The Lightning face off this evening against the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of their opening-round series.

THE ATHLETIC: Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise is slated to be a healthy scratch when his club opens their first-round series this afternoon against the Vegas Golden Knights. He was a healthy scratch in three straight games before the Wild’s final regular-season contest.

THE PROVINCE: Reports indicate the Vancouver Canucks could bring in former Canucks star Geoff Courtnall to serve in an undetermined front-office position. Courtnall is a friend of the Aquilini family, who owns the Canucks. It’s assumed it would be an advisory position.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: And perhaps, as a potential successor to Jim Benning as general manager? Time will tell.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 15, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill, Drew Doughty calls upon Kings management to add experienced depth plus a look ahead at possible offseason moves by the Senators and Canucks.

DOUGHTY WANTS KINGS TO MAKE BIG MOVES THIS OFFSEASON

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites Drew Doughty calling upon Los Angeles Kings management to bring in more experience to their rebuilding roster. The 31-year-old defenseman feels he and veteran teammates Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown are running out of time.

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (NHL Images).

Doughty acknowledged the club’s been rebuilding but feels they have the salary-cap space to make some big moves. “There’s no point in just waiting for these prospects to develop when you’ve got guys in their prime, hungry to win, and sick of losing,” he said. When asked if he’d be happy if big moves aren’t made, Doughty simply replied, “No.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kings general manager Rob Blake has patiently built up his roster with promising youngsters but his veteran core wants to return to playoff contention and a shot at winning the Stanley Cup again.

Doughty has six more seasons left on his contract with an annual average value of $11 million. Kopitar has three more at $10 million annually, Quick has two years at $5.8 million and Brown one year at $5.875 million. Blake could trade one or two of those players but their age or hefty contracts would be difficult to move.

Cap Friendly shows the Kings with over $20 million in cap space for 2021-22 with all their core players under contract. There’s room to make a big offseason move to accelerate the rebuild. That’s why the Kings have been linked to Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel in recent trade rumors.

We’ll have to wait and see what Blake has in store for his roster this summer. If he sticks with his current plan, however, he’ll have an unhappy No. 1 defenseman on his hands. And that will raise questions about Doughty’s future in Los Angeles.

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS AND SENATORS

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance included reallocating salary-cap space among his list of offseason priorities for the Vancouver Canucks. Once restricted free agents Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are re-signed, there won’t be enough cap room to rebuild the blueline, upgrade their bottom-six forwards and add a top-six winger.

They could get some relief if the Seattle Kraken select goalie Braden Holtby (4.3 million) in this summer’s expansion draft. A contract buyout or two is possible. Drance also proposed bundling a future asset to move an additional contract or attempt to move Micheal Ferland’s contract to a cap-strapped team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have over $65 million tied up in 15 players. Most of that will be used up signing Pettersson and Hughes.

GM Jim Benning could be squeezed by the Kraken for a draft pick to take Holtby off his hands. Ferland and Jay Beagle could start next season on long-term injury reserve. However, it would be less complicated if one or both could be shipped to teams better equipped than the Canucks to carry those contracts. Those moves also mean including a draft pick, prospect or young NHL-ready player into the deal.

Benning attempted to trade disappointing winger Jake Virtanen this season but couldn’t find any takers. His $3.4 million in actual salary for next season combined with his recent off-ice issues could give Benning little choice but to buy out Virtanen.

THE ATHLETIC: Ian Mendes includes the acquisition of a top-four defenseman among his suggested offseason priorities for the Ottawa Senators. He feels they need a veteran blueliner who can log over 20 minutes per game.

Mendes proposed targeting teams with expansion draft protection issues or those with salary-cap issues in the trade market. They could also go the free-agent route.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators want to add another center and perhaps a top-four defenseman. GM Pierre Dorion could attempt to address those needs from within but could shop around first.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have over $53 million invested in 17 players with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson as their notable free agents. They’ll have plenty of salary cap room once those two are re-signed, but that depends on how close to the $81.5 million cap owner Eugene Melnyk is willing to spend.










Potential Trade Destinations For The Sabres’ Jack Eichel

Potential Trade Destinations For The Sabres’ Jack Eichel

 










NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2021

Jack Eichel’s remarks during his end-of-season conference call sparked speculation over his future with the Buffalo Sabres. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl believes Buffalo Sabres stars Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart are ready to play elsewhere following their remarks during their end-of-season conference calls with the media on Monday.

Jack Eichel’s days with the Buffalo Sabres could be numbered (NHL Images).

Eichel is unhappy over the way the Sabres are handling his treatment for a season-ending herniated disk in his neck. He once again expressed his weariness over the club’s inability to become a playoff contender. “I have a lot of thinking to do in this offseason,” said Eichel. “There’s a lot that I have to consider.”

Reinhart is also tired of six years of constant losing and another last-place finish. “No one wants to go through a rebuild, especially going into next year turning 26 at the start of it,” he said.

Vogl points out Eichel has five seasons left on his contract while the Sabres control Reinhart’s rights for one more season. If they aren’t willing to buy into a rebuild, why would anyone else on the roster?

Eichel could generate a good haul for the Sabres, perhaps a player, draft picks and prospects. Reinhart’s stock is high and he could at least fetch a comparable player with more term on his contract.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes Eichel’s comments yesterday indicate his relationship with the Sabres front office is broken beyond repair. He also noted the apparent unwillingness of Reinhart and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to face another rebuild at this stage in their respective careers. “I can’t go for another rebuild,” said Ristolainen, adding he’d be fine with general manager Kevyn Adams trading him this summer.

Eichel’s been with the Sabres for six seasons, Reinhart for seven and Ristolainen eight. They’ve yet to skate in a Stanley Cup playoff game.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox also believes Eichel wants out of Buffalo even if the Sabres captain didn’t come right out and say it. As proof, he pointed to the 24-year-old center’s four words (“Wherever that may be”) when talking about where he’ll be playing hockey next season.

Fox speculates the New York Rangers could come calling. They previously explored acquiring Eichel, are rich in prospects and have an owner eager to accelerate his club’s rebuild.

The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets have glaring holes at center and the cap space to absorb Eichel’s $10 million annual average value. The Los Angeles Kings could attempt to fast-track their rebuild while Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty remain difference-makers.

While other centers, such as Calgary’s Sean Monahan and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov, could be shopped this summer, none have the talent and potential of Eichel.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks is skeptical the Rangers will pursue Eichel. He doesn’t feel the Sabres captain checks the boxes of veteran leadership, a successful team resume or the ability to play a physical game. If the Rangers re-sign Mika Zibanejad, Brooks believes it could cost them $8 million annually. That would take up significant cap space if they already have a $10 million center in Eichel on the books.

THE ATHLETIC: Lisa Dillman examined the pros and cons of the Kings potentially acquiring Eichel. The pros include his established place among the league’s top centers and the excitement he could generate among Kings’ fans. The cons include concern over his neck injury and the expensive return which would have to include promising Quinton Byfield.

Fluto Shinzawa believes the Boston Bruins could have sufficient salary-cap space to acquire Eichel if they don’t re-sign David Krejci and Tuukka Rask. However, the Sabres asking price could be too expensive, with one league source suggesting a return of at least Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak and someone like Trent Frederic in a package deal. McAvoy and Pastrnak are two players the Bruins aren’t giving up.

Shinzawa noted the trade deadline deal that sent Taylor Hall from Buffalo to Boston. However, he feels Sabres GM Adams will draw better offers for Eichel than what he got for Hall. With Eichel lacking no-movement protection until the end of next season, Adams can entertain multiple offers. The Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles and New Jersey Devils could be among the bidders.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes there’s no need for the Senators to pursue Eichel. They have the assets and ability to make that trade. However, he feels it doesn’t make sense for them right now because they’ve built their roster from the ground up. Rookie Josh Norris played well as their first-line center while promising Shane Pinto could fit into the second-line role.

The Sabres’ asking price could be a center, a first-round pick in 2021 and at least a couple of prospects. There aren’t many teams that can make that kind of swap. Garrioch included the Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, Bruins and Kings among them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel, Reinhart and Ristolainen could be on their way out this summer. They’ve endured a lot during their time with the Sabres with no sign the club is any closer to becoming a playoff contender. Trading them for pieces to put toward a rebuild is the best option.

Trading Reinhart and Ristolainen, however, could prove easier to do than moving Eichel. They would be much more affordable for other clubs to acquire.

I’m not suggesting Eichel can’t or won’t be traded. However, his $10 million AAV over the next five years plus the Sabres’ asking price will limit the number of serious bidders for his services.

The Sabres won’t “win” an Eichel trade in the short term. They could even lose it long term if the draft picks and prospects they receive fail to pan out as hoped. Nevertheless, they will set a high price aimed at long-term improvement.

Unlike the Hall trade where they had to accept a lesser offer, they aren’t dealing with a struggling veteran using his no-movement clause to determine his trade destinations. Eichel’s in his playing prime whose lack of no-trade protection this summer gives the Sabres a wider number of possible trade partners. That improves their chances of receiving a very good return.

As for where Eichel could go, the Rangers and Kings seem best suited in terms of cap space, draft picks and prospects to make the most competitive bids assuming they’ll pursue a Eichel deal. Whether they want to remains to be seen.

The Red Wings and Senators could get into the bidding but I think those clubs will continue to remain patient with their respective rebuilds. The Blue Jackets have the cap room but they could lack sufficient prospects to outbid other clubs.

The Devils would have to part with Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes to make it work. The Wild could use a proven first-line center but their improvement this season doesn’t put as much pressure on them to make that deal. The Canucks already have two high-quality centers in Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat. They’d also have to offload a lot of salary to free up the necessary cap space for Eichel.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 11, 2021

The Canadiens clinch the last postseason spot in the North Division, the opening day of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is revealed, Jack Eichel talks about his season and the state of the Sabres, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Montreal Canadiens clinched the final playoff berth in the Scotia North Division in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. An overtime goal by Connor McDavid gave the Oilers the win after Canadiens winger Artturi Lehkonen forced overtime with the game-tying goal in the third period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are expected to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round. However, they could meet the Oilers if they win their final game of the season and the Winnipeg Jets drop their final two games in regulation. The Jets sit in third place with 59 points, one up on the Canadiens.

Speaking of the Jets, they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Vancouver Canucks. Jonas Hoglander scored twice for Vancouver.

A 36-save performance by Philipp Grubauer carried the Colorado Avalanche to a 2-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. J.T. Compher snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period. With 78 points, Colorado sits two behind first-place Vegas in the Honda West Division. The Golden Knights (39 wins) have one game left while the Avs have two.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whoever tops the West will win the Presidents’ Trophy for this season’s best record.

An overtime goal by Justin Faulk gave the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings The Blues will face the Golden Knights or Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs.

The Carolina Hurricanes chances of winning the Presidents’ Trophy ended in a 5-0 loss to the Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne picked up the shutout with 30 saves while Matt Duchene scored two goals. The Hurricanes finish the season in first place in the Discover Central Division with 36 wins and 80 points while the Predators finish in fourth place.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes and Predators will face off against each other in the opening round of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs beginning this weekend.

A 30-save shutout performance by Chris Driedger carried the Florida Panthers over the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0. Keith Yandle had an assist for his 600th career NHL points. Lightning forwards Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Daniel Walcott played together on what is believed to be the first all-Black forward line in NHL history.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the win, the Panthers clinched second place in the Central and home-ice advantage over the Lightning in their first-round series starting this weekend.

Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images)

Taylor Hall’s overtime goal lifted the Boston Bruins past the New York Islanders 3-2. Bruins winger Ondrej Kase left the game with an upper-body injury. The win clinched third place in the MassMutual East Division for the Bruins, who’ll face the second-place Washington Capitals in the opening round of the postseason with Game 1 on Saturday. The Islanders will face the Pittsburgh Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kase was playing in his first game since suffering a concussion in January. An update on his condition could be made today.

The Dallas Stars nipped the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on an overtime goal by Jason Robertson.

Two goals by Joel Farabee gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the North Division playoffs could begin once all the regular-season games in that division are concluded. Several games earlier in the season involving the Vancouver Canucks were postponed due to COVID-19. Their final regular-season game is May 19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would allow those Canadian clubs some extra rest while giving some of their banged-up players more time to recover before the playoffs begin.

WGR 550: Jack Eichel expressed his displeasure over the way the Buffalo Sabres handled the herniated disk in his neck during an end-of-season media conference call on Monday. He suffered that season-ending injury in early March. Asked why he hasn’t yet undergone surgery, he said it’s a contractual issue, saying the club decides what he can or cannot do to treat an injury.

The Sabres captain also revealed he suffered a sprained ankle during the season, fractured a rib several weeks before training camp and had a lingering abdominal injury from last season.

Eichel dodged the question of whether he’ll ask for a trade but admitted he has a lot of thinking to do regarding his future. He said he has to do what best for him and the Sabres must do what’s best for the organization.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s comments (which you can read in full by following the above link) raised eyebrows around the league. It sounds like he may have played his final game with the Sabres. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said yesterday it’s “self-explanatory” that Patrik Laine remains a key part of the club’s future. The winger is a restricted free agent this summer. However, his rights remain under the Jackets’ contract until 2022-23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine’s contract status prompted speculation suggesting he could be traded if he and the Blue Jackets failed to reach an agreement on a new deal. The winger yesterday confirmed his wish to remain with the Jackets.

THE SCORE: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane said filing for bankruptcy was a big weight off his shoulders. He considers it a relief that he didn’t have to hide his financial troubles anymore, calling it the end of that chapter of his life. Kane said the birth of his daughter 10 months ago helped him mature and accept responsibility for his actions.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: That relief was reflected in Kane’s play this season. He’s the Sharks’ leading scorer with 22 goals and 49 points in 55 games.

NHL.COM: The list of candidates for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy was released yesterday. Among the notables is Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, and Washington Capitals blueliner Zdeno Chara.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending May 9, 2021.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed defenseman Ryan Lindgren to a three-year, $9 million contract extension.

ESPN is reportedly adding Ray Ferraro and Brian Boucher as NHL analysts starting next season. The network declined to comment.

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders have renamed AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers as the Bridgeport Islanders.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2021

Check out the latest on the Blue Jackets, Canucks, Hurricanes, and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline recently reported on Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski’s recent decision to change agents. He has a year remaining on his contract but changing agents suggests he wants to open contract discussions this summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would coincide with the contract talks expected this summer for Seth Jones, Werenski’s defense partner. Jones is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Werenski, meanwhile, will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’ll cost $7 million just to qualify his rights. The Jackets ownership will have to dig deep for the big bucks to keep their top-two defensemen in Columbus.

Portzline also believes Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen must evaluate his current centermen before going shopping for one via trade or free agency. Max Domi, Jack Roslovic, and Alexandre Texier struggled in that position this season. Portzline doesn’t see Kekalainen adding three centers this summer but wonders how many the GM feels he needs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Portzline pointed out, Kekalainen might be lucky to pry away a prominent center from another team. I expect he’ll try to add one experienced center and hope for improvement from Domi, Roslovic and Texier next season, perhaps with a new coach behind the bench if John Tortorella doesn’t return.

TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Kekalainen will try his best to bring in a top-line center for winger Patrik Laine next season. That would be a costly undertaking during the best of seasons. It could prove more difficult under a flattened salary cap.

Boston’s David Krejci and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the best centers in this summer’s UFA market. At 35, Krejci is at the tail end of his career and best suited for second-line duty. Nugent-Hopkins is a versatile two-way forward but I don’t see him as a first-line center.

Cap Friendly shows the Jackets have $56.5 million invested in 16 players for 2021-22. Kekalainen could target a cap-strapped club trying to shed salary. However, re-signing Laine (an RFA with arbitration rights this summer) will bite deeply into that cap space, perhaps as much as $8 million. It’ll take $7.5 million to qualify his right.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Vancouver Canucks haven’t put a new offer on the table for head coach Travis Green. He wants to stay and the Canucks want to keep him. Green is earning $1 million per season, which is in the lower third among NHL head coaches. LeBrun speculates it could take around $2.5 million to get it done.

Darren Dreger reports the Carolina Hurricanes hope to get head coach Rod Brind’Amour under contract before the playoffs begin. Management seems confident it will get a deal done soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brind’Amour has turned the Hurricanes into a Stanley Cup contender in just three seasons. They’re on the verge of winning their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy.

Dreger also reports Arizona Coyotes bench boss Rick Tocchet could be moving on at the end of this season. His sources indicated Tocchet is more likely to test the open market this summer.

AFTONBLADET: Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson could return to HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Hockey League after 14 NHL seasons. Hjalmarsson, 33, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He spent three seasons with HV71 before starting his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007-08.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report doesn’t rule out Hjalmarsson staying in the NHL if he gets an offer he can’t resist or if the tax situation makes it difficult for him to play in Sweden this autumn.