NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 27, 2020

The latest on Anthony Cirelli, Ilya Samsonov and Alexis Lafreniere plus updates on return-to-play and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports it doesn’t appear a new contract is imminent for Anthony Cirelli. The 23-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning center is a restricted free agent. Earlier this week, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Mikhail Sergachev but Cirelli’s agent said there’s nothing new to report on a new deal for his client.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Lightning are above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.904 million following the Sergachev signing. The Bolts are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason but perhaps general manager Julien BriseBois intends to shed salary before signing Cirelli and fellow RFA Erik Cernak.

Given the uncertainty over the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, BriseBois has plenty of time to get Cirelli and Cernak under contract and shed some salary to become cap compliant when the season finally begins.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals professional development coach Olaf Kolzig isn’t worried about Ilya Samsonov replacing the departed Braden Holtby as the club’s starting goaltender. “I think Sammy has the ability to be like (Andrei) Vasilevskiy,” said Kolzig, referring to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s starter. Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy in 2019 and backstopped the Bolts to the 2020 Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As a former Vezina Trophy winner, Kolzig would know if Samsonov has the potential to play as well as Vasilevskiy. The young netminder showed considerable promise as a rookie last season, often outplaying Holtby before an injury kept him out of the 2020 playoffs. He’ll be under considerable pressure this season but that should be alleviated by offseason signing Henrik Lundqvist.

THE SCORE: Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s senior VP of national teams, suggested it’s not out of the question for Alexis Lafreniere to join Canada’s World Junior Championship roster.

Lafreniere was selected first overall by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old winger is currently in New York and would face quarantine restrictions to return to Canada but Salmond said there’s an ongoing discussion about the winger’s status.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cites a league executive having “no doubt we’re going to have a season” but he’s uncertain when that will happen. Garrioch believes an agreement to start the season on Jan. 1 will have to be made by no later than Tuesday (Dec. 1).

With negotiations between the NHL and NHL Players Association stalled, a mid-January or early February start appears more likely. The betting in league circles is Feb. 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch also said the word is the players told NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr not to pick up the phone or budge on their position not to agree to the league’s requests for increases to the escrow and salary deferral rates.

Given the importance of ensuring the league doesn’t slip off the sports radar with other leagues ongoing or planning their new seasons, the feeling is the league and the PA will eventually work out a return-to-play plan.

It could be both sides are regrouping and working on workable proposals. We’ll find out soon enough.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell recently wondered if the NHL could legally attempt to leverage the threat of suspending or ceasing the 2020-21 season if their requests aren’t met by the players because of the effects of COVID-19 upon hockey-related revenue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far there’s no indication the NHL is going down that road. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ll use that hardball gambit.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

The latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and an update on the Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Jose M. Romero reports Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson has returned to Arizona and hopes to join a group of his teammates on Monday working out at Gila River Arena. He maintains he’s “really glad” he’s a Coyote, which is why he signed his eight-year contract with the club. However, the 29-year-old defenseman acknowledged it’s been a difficult offseason after he was part of trade talks between the Coyotes and the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).

Ekman-Larsson has a full no-movement clause but only agreed to waive it for the Bruins and Canucks. The Coyotes’ efforts to trade him fell through when a deal couldn’t be reached with either club before his self-imposed deadline on Oct. 9.

The long-time Coyotes blueliner said he understood this was a business decision. He denied any suggestion of tension with new general manager Bill Armstrong and doesn’t expect any strain going forward with their relationship.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan reports Ekman-Larsson explained why he choose Boston and Vancouver. He said the Bruins had an interest in him before he signed his current contract. He also spent a lot of time in Boston when he played in Portland, Maine during the 2012-13 lockout. His Swedish friends enjoyed playing and living in Vancouver plus his agent lives there. He also believes the Canucks have a promising young team.

Asked if he envisioned the Coyotes approaching him again about a trade, Ekman-Larsson left that up to Armstrong. He maintains he’s happy in Arizona but would deal with that issue if it came up again. He repeated he has no issue with what recently went down but expects at some point he’ll sit down with management and talk it through. Ekman-Larsson defended Armstrong, pointing out he arrived at a tough time for the club and had a job to do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A deal couldn’t be reached sending Ekman-Larsson to Boston or Vancouver because Armstrong understandably set a high asking price. It’s also believed the Coyotes weren’t willing to absorb part of the blueliner’s $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit. Perhaps the Bruins or Canucks would’ve taken on his full cap hit during a normal offseason, especially if the salary cap rose to between $84 million and $88 million as projected before the pandemic.

Ekman-Larsson’s name could resurface in the rumor mill if the Coyotes struggle during the coming season or if ownership wants to shed more salary. However, his no-movement clause will continue to give him full control over the situation. His annual average value through 2026-27 will also make him very difficult to move, especially if the Coyotes remain reluctant to pick up part of it to facilitate a trade.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan recently examined the Capitals’ options to bring in a third-line winger. He expects Daniel Sprong is the strongest candidate if they look to promote from within.

If the Capitals look to external options, their limited cap space (less than $1.5 million) means they could afford two players at barely over the league’s minimum salary. If they can free up some cap room, free agents such as Conor Sheary, Andreas Athanasiou and Melker Karlsson could be realistic possibilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regan believes the Capitals could move a defenseman, such as Nick Jensen, to a club with salary-cap space (such as Detroit or New Jersey) to free up room to add via free agency. The Wings need blueline depth but they could also squeeze the Capitals to include a sweetener.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 9, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 9, 2020

The latest on Alex Ovechkin, last season’s non-playoff clubs still waiting to find out when they’ll start training camps, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examined what Alex Ovechkin’s next contract with the Washington Capitals could look like. The 35-year-old winger is entering the final season of his 13-year, $124 million deal. He’s indicated he wants to finish his NHL career with the Capitals and they want to keep him. Gretz speculates a five-year, $50 million contract should be doable even under a flattened cap for the foreseeable future as it won’t dramatically alter the club’s salary-cap structure.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see Ovechkin signing for around the same annual average value ($9.538 million) as his current deal on a three-year deal if he’s keen to return to the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow to finish his playing career. I’ll be shocked if he and the Capitals failed to reach an agreement on an extension.

MLIVE.COM: The seven clubs that failed to make the playoffs last season, such as the Detroit Red Wings, could start training camp sooner than the other teams. However, it remains to be seen when that will take place. Many of the Wings have been working out and skating together, but they could go more than 10 months between games if the 2020-21 season begins in January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings and the rest of last season’s non-playoff teams (Anaheim, Buffalo, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Ottawa and San Jose) could be facing a long wait before they play their first meaningful games again. The NHL-NHLPA return-to-play committee has yet to meet, and there’s speculation the league’s tentative Jan.1 start date could be pushed into February or March.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged those non-playoff clubs will get a longer training camp period. The dates, however, won’t be announced until the league finally reveals the start date for the season.

THE SCORE: Seven Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams located in COVID-19 red zones in Quebec will be playing games in Quebec City from Nov. 17 – 27. Each team will play six games there. The QMJHL is the only CHL branch to begin its 2020-21 season. The Western Hockey League (WHL) is set to begin on Jan. 8 while the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) has targeted Feb. 4 for its return.

NHL.COM: Former Toronto Maple Leaf and colorful hockey analyst Howie Meeker passed away on Sunday at age 97. Meeker spent his entire eight-year NHL career (1946-47 to 1953-54) with the Leafs, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy and four Stanley Cups. He was also the Leafs head coach for one season (1956-57) and briefly served as general manager.

Meeker went on to a 30-year career as a hockey analyst with CBC and TSN. He was honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 1998 and inducted into the Order of Canada and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meeker was a Second World War veteran who overcame injuries from a grenade to reach the NHL. He was also a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for two years while playing with the Leafs. Meeker ran the popular series “Howie Meeker’s Hockey School” on CBC during the 1970s and wrote two books, including his autobiography in 1997. My condolences to his family, friends and former teammates.

NHL.COM: The NHL mourned the passing of Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, who died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. League commissioner Gary Bettman, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, Senators’ first-round pick Tim Stuetzle, New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens organization were among those expressing condolences yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trebek frequently appeared in NHL functions such as the league’s award show. His last appearance for the league came during the 2020 NHL Draft last month when he announced the Senators’ selection of Stuetzle with their first-round pick. My condolences to his family, friends and many fans.










NHL Morning Headlines and Rumors – November 8, 2020

NHL Morning Headlines and Rumors – November 8, 2020

The Bruins’ Stanley Cup odds, the Ducks sign another first-rounder and the latest Red Wings, Canadiens and Capitals speculation in today’s NHL morning headlines and rumors.

HEADLINES

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins aren’t as good as they were last season but they remain a Stanley Cup contender. They lost defenseman Torey Krug to free agency, Zdeno Chara has yet to sign, and forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak could miss the start of the season recovering from offseason surgeries. Nevertheless, oddsmakers in Las Vegas give them 14-1 odds to win the Cup. Only the Colorado Avalanche, the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Vegas Golden Knights have better odds.

The Boston Bruins remain a Stanley Cup favorite in 2021 thanks to stars like David Pastrnak (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins still have a solid goalie tandem in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, one of the top offensive lines in Marchand, Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron, two very good young defensemen in Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, and a solid supporting cast featuring David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, and Charlie Coyle. They’re not an overwhelming Cup favorite anymore but we shouldn’t underestimate them.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks signed defenseman Jamie Drysdale to a three-year entry-level contract. They selected Drysdale with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the second signing of a top prospect by the Ducks in recent days. On Thursday, they signed winger Jacob Perreault (26th overall in this year’s draft) to an ELC.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Defenseman Ian Mitchell, winger Lukas Reichel, and center Philipp Kurashev sit atop Ben Pope’s ranking of the Blackhawks’ top-10 prospects.

RUMOR MILL

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons wonders why the Detroit Red Wings haven’t attempted to sign Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli to an offer sheet. He suspects Red Wings general manager (and former Lightning GM) Steve Yzerman has too much respect for his former employer, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could be one reason. Another could be Cirelli might not be interested in an offer sheet. If he was, perhaps he’s not keen to join a rebuilding team when he’s currently a member of a Stanley Cup champion that has a good chance of winning again over the next two or three years. Maybe Yzerman isn’t keen to invest most of his remaining cap space into one player and give up the compensatory draft picks if the Bolts fail to match the offer.

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked what he thought Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin intends to do with Paul Byron. He was also asked if the Habs might pursue a gritty veteran winger like Corey Perry.

While Byron has dropped down the Canadiens’ depth chart, Engels doesn’t see him getting traded. He feels the veteran forward has more value to the Habs as a player than what he might fetch in a trade. However, Bergevin could attempt to package him with a draft pick to the Seattle Kraken to ensure another player on the Habs roster isn’t selected in the expansion draft.

As for Perry, Engels thinks he’s the type of player who could help the Canadiens. He’d be an affordable addition who could be a fringe player in the regular season to save him for the playoffs when they’d need him the most.

Engels was also asked if the Canadiens might bring back Ilya Kovalchuk. Unless one or two of their forwards are sidelined during training camp, he’d be shocked if Kovalchuk returned to Montreal. He also doesn’t expect the Habs will try to trade defenseman Brett Kulak given Bergevin’s preference for as much NHL-quality depth on the blueline as possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Engels on most of his assessments here. My only quibble (and it’s not much of one) is regarding Perry, as I suspect he’ll be back with the Dallas Stars next season.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Tarik El-Bashir was asked which member of the Washington Capitals was most likely to be traded. He feels the Caps don’t have to make a trade but if forced to weigh salary versus role, Nick Jensen could be the likely candidate, though he stressed he’s not saying Jensen will be shopped.

Asked about any news on trading Jensen or Richard Panik, El-Bashir notes it won’t be easy to move their contracts. Jensen ($2.5 million annual average value) and Panik ($2.75 million AAV) each have three years remaining on their deals. He also doesn’t see the Capitals signing a free-agent forward like Anthony Duclair without freeing up some cap space first.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals are above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.024 million. However, there’s no reason to make a salary-dumping deal because Michal Kempny ($2.5 million cap hit) is sidelined six-to-eight months following Achilles tendon surgery. They’ll simply place him on long-term injury reserve to become cap compliant for 2020-21.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 6, 2020

Alex Ovechkin discusses his future, the Rangers avoid arbitration with Ryan Strome, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: Alexander Ovechkin told Russian Television International he’d like to finish his playing career with KHL club Dynamo Moscow. However, he still intends to finish his NHL career with the Washington Capitals. “It is clear, in two, three, four years, maybe five, I will end my career in Washington,” he said.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He is still motivated to win another Stanley Cup, but he’s also chasing Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record. Ovechkin sits 188 goals behind Gretzky’s 894. He’s also one season shy of tying Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons (10).

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers avoided arbitration with Ryan Strome, signing the 27-year-old center to a two-year, $9 million contract. The annual average value is $4.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a nice pay raise for Strome over the $3.1 million AAV of his previous contract. Larry Brooks noted the move also provides stability at center for the Rangers, though they could leave Strome unprotected in next year’s expansion draft. Cap Friendly indicates the Blueshirts have over $6.3 million in projected cap space with Brendan Lemieux left to sign. He’s slated for arbitration today. 

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov to a three-year, $8.4 million contract. The annual average value is $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gavrikov, 24, had a solid NHL debut with 18 points in 69 games while averaging almost 19 minutes per game. His contract leaves the Blue Jackets with $9.225 million in cap space with Pierre-Luc Dubois to sign.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks signed prospect winger Jacob Perreault to a three-year, entry-level contract. Perreault was selected 27th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed winger Marko Dano to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700K at the NHL level.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – October 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 27, 2020

The latest on the Bruins, Red Wings, Capitals and Jets in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: DJ Bean wonders if the Bruins intend to trade Jake DeBrusk. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent who averaged 20 goals per season over the course of his entry-level contract. He’s also surfaced in recent trade rumors.

Could the Boston Bruins trade Jake DeBrusk? (NHL Images)

Bean considers DeBrusk as one of the Bruins’ best trade chips if they were serious about making a big splash this offseason, “but perhaps they aren’t.” If not, he ponders how much the winger should get on his next contract and for how long. Bean suggested something around $4 million annually on a short-term deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bean also acknowledged the flattened salary cap could explain why the Bruins haven’t signed DeBrusk yet. They could still make that big offseason move or perhaps wait until training camp/preseason to make that splash with the young winger as the centerpiece. Otherwise, a two-year contract worth $4 million annually for DeBrusk seems the most likely route.

MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan observes the Detroit Red Wings should have around $8 million in salary-cap space once their restricted free agents are signed. He noted Wings general manager Steve Yzerman didn’t rule out adding another player via the free-agent market.

The most prominent unrestricted free agents include former Wing Andreas Athanasiou, Zdeno Chara, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Travis Hamonic, Mike Hoffman and Sami Vatanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman could dip into the market to add a veteran on an affordable short-term contract. I doubt he’ll bring Athanasiou back after his disappointing performance last season. I still expect Chara to return to the Bruins while Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year, $6-million deal. The Wings’ defense corps could benefit from adding a veteran like Hamonic or Vatanen.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: explored the Capitals options to add a 13th forward. Among them could be trading Nick Jensen.

The 30-year-old defenseman would be an obvious trade candidate, though the current economic conditions make it difficult to move a player who’s struggled in Washington with three years left on his contract. However, Jensen’s a right-shot blueliner carrying an affordable $2.5 million cap hit, though the Capitals might have to include an asset in the deal.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jason Bell reports the Jets might be shopping Sami Niku, but the 24-year-old defenseman isn’t seeking a trade. His agent said his client has not asked to be moved. Niku and forward Jack Roslovic have surfaced in trade rumors of late. The blueliner is a restricted free agent.