NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 3, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 3, 2024

Connor McDavid wins the All-Stars skills competition, the Kings fire head coach Todd McLellan and the NHL will return to the 2026 and 2030 Olympics—details on these and other stories in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid won the 2024 NHL All-Star skills competition at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, taking home a $1 million check for his efforts. McDavid won four of the eight events for 25 points.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar finished second with 20 points while Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews was third with 18 points. Makar’s teammate Alexandar Georgiev was the top goaltender in the event, earning a check of $100,000.

THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov drew boos from the Toronto fans for what appeared to be a lackadaisical effort on his part during the passing and stickhandling events. He finished with 0.5 points through four events before being eliminated.

MAYOR’S MANOR: The Los Angeles Kings fired head coach Todd McLellan on Friday and promoted assistant coach Jim Hiller as his replacement on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McLellan is the sixth NHL head coach to lose his job this season. He received a vote of confidence from general manager Rob Blake last month. However, the club’s ongoing slump couldn’t be overlooked any longer as it threatens to derail their season.

Changing the head coach is the easiest go-to for the general manager of a struggling team, especially one that lacks sufficient salary-cap space to make a trade or two to improve the roster.

Nevertheless, Blake isn’t escaping unscathed from this.

The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott and The Athletic’s Eric Stephens believe the Kings GM deserves his share of the blame for constructing a dysfunctional roster.

Elliott and Stephens pointed to the divisions in the dressing room as well as the Kings’ lack of scoring punch and inadequate goaltending. They singled out the indifferent play of Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Kings’ big-ticket acquisition last summer whose performance has been disappointing thus far. Trading away Sean Durzi, Alex Iafallo and Gabriel Vilardi last year also hurt their roster depth.

If Hiller reverses the Kings fortunes it’ll buy Blake time to reexamine his roster and make adjustments accordingly. If things remain the same or worsen it’ll cast the Kings GM into a much harsher spotlight, raising questions about his future in Los Angeles.

NHL.COM: League Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the NHL will return to the Winter Olympics in 2026 and 2030. The last time the league participated in the Winter Games was in 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The return to the Olympics was part of the league’s 2020 memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the NHL Players Association extending the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to 2026. Participation in the 2030 games is an olive branch to the PA for the league’s decision not to participate in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China, over COVID-19 concerns.

Bettman also announced a four-nation tournament involving NHL players from Canada, the United States, Finland and Sweden from Feb. 12-20, 2025. It will be held in two North American cities, one in Canada and one in the United States, with the locations to be announced at a later date.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reason behind this “appetizer” (as Bettman called it) is based on the NHL’s stance against Russia over that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The NHL could’ve fleshed this out into a six-team tournament by following their template from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Smaller European countries such as Germany, Czechia and Slovakia formed Team Europe while North American players 23 and younger skated as Team North America. Team Europe reached the 2016 World Cup Final while Team North America became a fan favorite because of their exciting play.

Instead, we get a half-baked warm-up tournament without superstars such as Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak. I’ll cover it because it’s my job but I am not enthusiastic about it. I’m looking forward to the true international best-on-best hockey in the next two Winter Olympics.

NHL.COM: Bettman said he doesn’t believe the four NHL players facing charges over an alleged sexual assault in 2018 as members of Canada’s World Junior team will return to the league this season.

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, Calgary Flames winger Dillon Dube and New Jersey Devils players Michael McLeod and Cal Foote are on indefinite leave of absence from their respective teams. They each face one charge of sexual assault while McLeod faces an additional charge.

Alex Formenton, whose rights belong to the Ottawa Senators, has also been charged. He’s been playing in Switzerland since last season and is also on a leave of absence from his club.

Bettman confirmed the four players are still being paid by their respective teams. He also said the league conducted its own investigation into the alleged incident but wouldn’t comment on whether it yielded a conclusion of wrongdoing by the players.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league wouldn’t be releasing the results of its findings while charges are pending.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The four players could end up being banned from the NHL and their contracts terminated for violating the league’s and their teams’ respective codes of conduct. However, any such action will likely wait until the completion of their trial and a verdict has been issued.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Bettman and NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh gave conflicting views on the Arizona Coyotes’ efforts to find a new arena site.

Bettman said he was “reasonably confident” that the club’s ownership could announce a new location within the next several weeks. However, Walsh said he was “extremely disappointed” in the Coyotes’ efforts, calling for the franchise to be relocated to a new city if a plan wasn’t in place by the end of this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Arizona Republic’s Stacey Barchenger reported yesterday evening that Coyotes ownership confirmed they are applying to buy about 200 acres of state trust land in North Phoenix. However, they stress they’re still considering all options and aren’t yet ready to announce which one they’ll pursue as their primary location. The soap opera continues…

DAILY FACEOFF: Bettman also confirmed that Corey Perry has a grievance pending with the Chicago Blackhawks over his contract termination on Nov. 30 but it has yet to be filed.

The 38-year-old winger’s contract was terminated over an alcohol-fueled incident that included Blackhawks employees and corporate partners. Perry signed a one-year, prorated contract last month with the Edmonton Oilers.

NYI HOCKEY NOW/NEW YORK POST: The Islanders have placed forward Julien Gauthier on waivers. They also hired Benoit Desrosiers as an assistant coach. He worked with Islanders head coach Patrick Roy for six seasons with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, winning the Memorial Cup in 2023.

KLTV: A Franklin County, Texas jury found former NHL player Mike Ribeiro not guilty of two counts of sexual assault and was deadlocked over a third count of attempted sexual assault. It’s not yet clear if he’ll be retired on the third charge. Ribeiro played for the Dallas Stars from 2006 to 2011.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins goaltender Blaine Lacher passed away suddenly in Medicine Hat, Alberta on Jan. 29 at the age of 54. He played two seasons with the Bruins from 1994-95 to 1995-96 with a career record of 22 wins, 16 losses and four overtime losses with a 2.80 goals-against average, a save percentage of .887 and four shutouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Lacher’s family, friends, former teammates and coaches.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 31, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 31, 2024

The Blue Jackets and Sharks get shutout victories, four players face charges in sexual assault investigation, Jesper Bratt will participate in the All-Star Game, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made 21 saves for his first shutout of the season in a 1-0 win over the St. Louis Blues. Dmitri Voronkov scored for the 16-24-10 Blue Jackets. Jordan Binnington turned aside 21 shots for the Blues (26-21-2) as they hold the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 54 points.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues defenseman Scott Perunovich will be re-evaluated following the upcoming NHL All-Star Game for a lower-body injury. He was sidelined during Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings.

The San Jose Sharks got a 32-save performance by Mackenzie Blackwood to shut out the Seattle Kraken 2-0. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jan Rutta were the goal scorers for the 14-32-4 Sharks. Joey Daccord stopped 20 shots for the 21-19-10 Kraken (52 points) as they remain two points behind the Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks center Tomas Hertl missed this game with a lower-body injury that could sideline him from Wednesday’s contest against the Anaheim Ducks and possibly the upcoming NHL All-Star Game.


TSN/SPORTSNET: Four NHL players have been charged with sexual assault in London, Ontario in connection with an alleged incident that took place at a Hockey Canada event in June 2018.

They are Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube, and New Jersey Devils players Michael McLeod and Cal Foote. Lawyers for the players confirmed the charges in statements to the media yesterday.

They join unsigned Ottawa Senators winger Alex Formenton, who surrendered to London police on Sunday. Formenton has been playing in Switzerland since last season.

The reports indicate that none of the allegations against the players have been proven. A trial date has not yet been set.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This comes as no surprise given all five players recently took indefinite leaves of absence from their respective teams within days of each other.

The Flames have been criticized on social media for their initial statement on Jan. 21 indicating Dube’s leave of absence to attend to his mental health. The club released a statement yesterday saying they took this matter “very seriously” and they had “no knowledge of pending charges” when they granted his leave of absence.

NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: Devils winger Jesper Bratt will replace sidelined teammate Jack Hughes in the upcoming 2024 NHL All-Star Game. Hughes has been dealing with an upper-body injury since Jan. 5.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Islanders center Mathew Barzal will replace Hughes in the 2024 NHL All-Star Game skills competition.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings forward Patrick Kane (upper-body injury) won’t play in Wednesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators. The club has decided that Kane will make his return to action following the upcoming All-Star break. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since Jan. 14. The injury is unrelated to his surgically repaired hip.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former NHL defenseman Trevor Daley is applauding the removal of former NHL goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck’s number from the rafters of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Arena.

Vanbiesbrouck starred with the Greyhounds as an undrafted player in 1980-81. Following his NHL retirement, he returned to the Greyhounds as head coach and general manager.

In 2003, Vanbiesbrouck used a racial slur against Daley, who left the team and informed the OHL commissioner about the incident. He subsequently resigned as coach and GM of the Greyhounds and sold his stake in the franchise, issuing a statement apologizing for the incident.

Daley returned to the Greyhounds to finish the season and went on to play 16 seasons in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He said the decision by the Greyhounds to remove Vanbiesbrouck’s number “eliminates a major source of anger and frustration for me and my family.”

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 25, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 25, 2024

Nathan MacKinnon regains the scoring lead with a four-goal performance, five members of Canada’s 2018 WJC team face sexual assault charges, Salt Lake City expresses interest in an expansion franchise, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon regained the lead in the NHL scoring race with a four-goal performance in a 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals. MacKinnon also collected an assist for 82 points, two ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov. Mikko Rantanen had a goal and four assists while Cale Makar had a goal and two assists for the 31-14-3 Avalanche, who sit fourth in the overall standings with 65 points. Dylan Strome scored both goals for the 22-18-6 Capitals (50 points), who sit three points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche extended their home point streak to a franchise-record 24 games. Makar netted his 76th career goal to become the franchise’s all-time leading goalscorer among defensemen. Meanwhile, Avs blueliner Jack Johnson missed this game with an undisclosed injury.

Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice took over sole possession of second place for most games by an NHL coach with 1,813 as his club beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-2. Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist to extend his points streak to 11 games while Matthew Tkachuk had two goals and an assist for the Panthers (29-14-4), who sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with 62 points. Dylan Guenther had a goal and an assist for the 23-20-3 Coyotes (49 points) as they sit two points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov collected an assist as he returned to action after being sidelined for three games by a lower-body injury.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 32 saves for his second shutout of the season in a 1-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Auston Matthews scored in overtime to collect his league-leading 39th goal of the season as his Maple Leafs (24-14-8) regained third place in the Atlantic Division with 56 points. Laurent Brossoit stopped 29 shots for the 30-11-6 Jets as they sit third in the overall standings with 65 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a big win for Samsonov, whose struggles in December saw him briefly demoted to the Leafs’ AHL affiliate. He was touched by Leafs fans chanting his name, admitting he was nearly brought to tears. Meanwhile, Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey left this game with a leg injury after blocking a shot by Leafs forward Matthew Knies.

The St. Louis Blues picked up their third straight win with a 4-3 overtime upset of the Vancouver Canucks. Brayden Schenn tallied the winning goal after his club blew a 3-1 while Jake Neighbours had a goal and an assist for the 24-20-8 Blues (50 points), who sit one point out of the final Western wild-card berth. Pius Suter had a hat trick for the Canucks (32-11-5) as they remain in first place in the overall standings with 69 points.

A late goal by Jordan Martinook lifted the Carolina Hurricanes over the Boston Bruins by a score of 3-2. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen each had two points for the Hurricanes (26-15-5), who moved into second place in the Metropolitan Division with 56 points. Brad Marchand scored both goals for the 29-9-9 Bruins as they remain in second place in the overall standings with 67 points.

The Buffalo Sabres overcame a 3-1 deficit for a 5-3 upset victory over the Los Angeles Kings. JJ Peterka scored twice and collected an assist while Jack Quinn had a goal and two assists for the 21-23-4 Sabres. Adrian Kempe had a goal and an assist for the Kings (22-14-9) as they hold the first Western wild-card berth with 53 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings have won just twice in their last 10 games. Head coach Todd McLellan blasted his players following this match. “The stupidity that went into that loss is beyond explanation,” he said. Asked about his job security, McLellan replied that it was “a very fair question.” Kings general manager Rob Blake recently gave him a vote of confidence but that could change if this club fails to snap out of its funk.

Seattle Kraken winger Tomas Tatar scored two goals as his club beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2. Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann each collected two points as the Kraken (20-18-9) sit two points out of the final Western wild-card spot with 49 points. Seth Jones had two assists for the 14-32-2 Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before this game, the Blackhawks announced they’d reached an agreement with goaltender Petr Mrazek on a two-year contract extension. He’ll earn an average annual value of $4.25 million.


TSN: Five members of Canada’s 2018 World Juniors team have been ordered to report to London, Ontario police to face charges of sexual assault. London police announced they would hold a press conference on Feb. 5 to share further details.

The charges are related to an alleged sexual assault in June 2018 involving the players, who have a set time to report to the police.

NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: Devils forward Michael McLeod and defenseman Cal Foote have taken indefinite leaves of absence from the team. The club indicated it has no further comment at this time.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators’ unsigned winger Alex Formenton has taken an indefinite leave of absence from his Swiss team where he’s played since last season. The club declined to comment on the matter.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers GM Daniel Briere made a statement yesterday regarding the indefinite leave of absence by goaltender Carter Hart. He acknowledged the reports regarding the five unnamed players of Canada’s 2018 WJC team but said neither he nor the Flyers would make any comment until the results of the investigation are released.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames winger Dillon Dube is also on an indefinite leave of absence for what the club deemed mental health reasons. Nevertheless, it’s assumed by hockey fans on social media that Dube, Hart, Formenton, McLeod and Foote are the five players sought by London police. We’ll know for certain by Feb. 5.

DAILY FACEOFF: In a release shared with NHL media yesterday, the Smith Entertainment Group formally requested that the league begin the process of bringing an expansion team to Salt Lake City. The ownership group owns the NBA’s Utah Jazz and has talked with the NHL about an expansion club since 2022. The club would play in the Jazz’s current arena until a new venue is constructed at a later date.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Salt Lake City has a long hockey history with minor league teams playing there over the years. They also hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics.

SPORTSNET: In an interview with The Athletic, NHL Players Association executive director Marty Walsh said the clock is ticking on the ownership of the Arizona Coyotes as they continue efforts to find a location to build a new arena. At the most recent NHL Board of Governors’ meetings, Commissioner Gary Bettman said the Coyotes ownership had until the end of January to finalize a new plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walsh’s comments combined with the news of the Utah Jazz ownership’s interest in an expansion franchise looks like a warning shot to Coyotes ownership. If they don’t soon get their plans for a new arena project sorted out, the league’s patience could finally run out. If so, this franchise could end up sold and moved to Salt Lake City.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames placed center Adam Ruzicka and defenseman Nick DeSimone on waivers.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators re-signed forward Cole Smith to a two-year contract extension with an AAV of $775K.

KLTV: Former NHL player Mike Ribeiro is on trial in Franklin County, Texas. He allegedly sexually assaulted two women on June 23, 2021, and attempted to assault another.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 24, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 24, 2024

The Oilers win their 14th straight game, Nikita Kucherov regains the scoring lead, the Devils re-sign general manager Tom Fitzgerald, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


ESPN.COM: The Edmonton Oilers picked up their 14th consecutive win by downing the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1. Warren Foegele and Evander Kane each had a goal and an assist for the 27-15-1 Oilers, who sit third in the Pacific Division with 55 points. Dmitri Voronkov scored for the Blue Jackets (14-23-9) as they dropped to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with 37 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers need just three more wins to tie the league record of 17 straight wins currently held by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov regained the league in the NHL scoring race (80 points) with a hat trick and an assist in a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Anthony Cirelli collected two assists for the Lightning (25-18-5) as they moved past the idle Toronto Maple Leafs into third place in the Atlantic Division with 55 points. Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist for the 25-17-6 Flyers, who have lost three straight but remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 56 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kucherov sits three points ahead of Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon in the scoring race…Earlier in the day, the Lightning announced forward Austin Watson is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Meanwhile, the Flyers announced before this game that goaltender Carter Hart was on an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons…They also placed winger Owen Tippett on injured reserve.

The Vegas Golden Knights nipped the New York Islanders 3-2 thanks to a 40-save performance by Adin Hill. Ivan Barbashev and Nicolas Roy each had a goal and an assist for the 28-14-6 Golden Knights as they sit second in the Pacific Division with 62 points. Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau replied for the 20-16-11 Islanders (51 points) as they sit two points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth.

Speaking of the Red Wings, they dropped a 5-4 decision to the Dallas Stars. Roope Hintz tallied twice and collected an assist while Wyatt Johnston collected three assists for the Stars (28-13-6) as they sit in third place in the Central Division with 62 points. Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond each had two points for the 24-18-5 Red Wings.

An overtime goal by Tomas Hertl gave the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 upset victory over the New York Rangers. Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 29 shots for the 13-31-4 Sharks (30 points). Adam Fox had a goal and an assist for the Rangers (29-15-3), who hold first place in the Metropolitan Division with 61 points but have won just three of their last 10 games.

The Minnesota Wild picked up their third straight win by dropping the Washington Capitals 5-3. Marcus Johansson tallied twice while Filip Gustavsson made 30 saves for the 21-21-5 Wild (47 points) as they move within four points of the final Western Conference wild-card spot. Anthony Mantha scored two goals for the 22-17-6 Capitals (50 points) as they sit three behind the Red Wings for the final Eastern wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Capitals defenseman Ethan Bear was a healthy scratch from this game as Rasmus Sandin returned from injury.

St. Louis Blues winger Brandon Saad scored twice, including the winning goal as his club rallied to a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames. Nick Leddy picked up three assists while Jordan Binnington turned aside 32 shots for the Blues (23-20-2) as they sit three points out of a Western wild-card spot with 48 points. Yegor Sharangovich had a goal and an assist for the 21-21-5 Flames (47 points) as they dropped their third straight contest.

The Anaheim Ducks doubled up the Buffalo Sabres 4-2. Jakob Silfverberg tallied two goals while John Gibson made 28 saves for the 16-30-0 Ducks. Jordan Greenway had a goal and an assist for the 20-23-4 Sabres.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducks rookie Olen Zellweger collected an assist in his NHL debut. Meanwhile, the Sabres announced before this game that defenseman Erik Johnson would miss this contest and Wednesday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Kings.

Ottawa Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo made 24 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Shane Pinto scored his first goal of the season for the 18-24-1 Senators while Johnathan Kovacevic replied for the 19-21-7 Canadiens, who have lost three straight games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovacevic returned to the Canadiens lineup after being out of the lineup for the last three games. Winger Tanner Pearson played his first game since being sidelined on Dec. 9 with an upper-body injury while defenseman Arber Xhekaj was recalled from their AHL affiliate in Laval.


NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: The Devils yesterday announced they’d reached an agreement with general manager Tom Fitzgerald on a multi-year contract extension. He’s also been promoted to president of hockey operations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fitzgerald has done a good job rebuilding the Devils back to respectability despite their struggles this season. He signed Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt to reasonable long-term contracts, acquired Timo Meier, Dougie Hamilton, Tyler Toffoli and Ondrej Palat and drafted Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec. His biggest challenge remains addressing his club’s inconsistent goaltending.

THE SCORE: Los Angeles Kings head coach Todd McLellan has called out center Pierre-Luc Dubois. “At the end of the day, whether PL gets four minutes or 24 minutes, he has to be a difference-maker,” said McLellan.

The Kings acquired Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets last summer and signed him to an eight-year contract worth an average annual value of $8.5 million. He’s managed just nine goals and 19 points in 44 games this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s not the kind of positive impact the Kings envisioned when they traded for Dubois. It’ll be interesting to see whether McLellan’s remarks light a fire under the 25-year-old center.

CBS SPORTS: The Seattle Kraken activated goaltender Philipp Grubauer off long-term injury reserve and sent Chris Driedger to their AHL affiliate in Coachella Valley.

DAILY FACEOFF: The Toronto Maple Leafs activated winger Ryan Reaves from injured reserve and designated winger Tyler Bertuzzi as a non-active roster player as he and his wife await the birth of their child.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 25, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – November 25, 2023

The Oilers continue to dominate the media trade chatter. From Leon Draisaitl’s future in Edmonton to their reported interest in the Canadiens goalies, check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Duhatschek was asked what he would do if he were the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers and the club missed the playoffs this season. He said his first order of business would be determining where things stand with Leon Draisaitl.

With a year remaining on his contract, Draisaitl is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2025. Duhatschek would want to know if Draisaitl wants to stay in Edmonton with Connor McDavid and try to win the Stanley Cup or if he’s sick and tired of the pressure of playing there and “scuttle off to somewhere warm,” like Matthew Tkachuk did last year with his trade to the Florida Panthers.

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (NHL Images).

Duhatschek feels there are three paths here. One is Draisaitl stays long term, the second sees him depart as a UFA in 2025 and the third is moving on after trading him for the best possible return. If Draisaitl drags his feet over his plans beyond next season, the best option is moving him rather than wasting a year and an asset.

If Draisaitl agrees to stay, the goaltending would be the priority. He suggested going after someone like Nashville’s Juuse Saros while the rising salary cap would make it possible to leave Campbell buried in the minors if his contract proves untradeable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind that Duhatschek is talking about what he’d do in a hypothetical situation. He’s not saying Draisaitl wants out or that the Oilers will acquire Saros.

Nevertheless, I agree that figuring out Draisaitl’s future should be the priority after this season whether the Oilers make the playoffs or not. If he’s willing to stay and the Oilers are willing to pay him top dollar (which he’s earned), then addressing the goaltending becomes the focus if it isn’t suitably dealt with during this season.

If Draisaitl is noncommittal about staying in Edmonton then they must trade him to the highest bidder next summer. That also means letting interested clubs talk to him about a contract extension as that’ll ensure the Oilers get the best possible return. The assets they receive could help them address their immediate and long-term issues.

Trading away Draisaitl might not sit well with team captain and franchise star Connor McDavid. That’s the risk they’ll have to take. And if he’s not happy with the club’s direction, then it could be time to seriously consider trading McDavid and starting a roster rebuild under new management.

If Draisaitl wants to stay, then moving McDavid isn’t something to worry about unless the Oilers keep spinning their wheels. That means landing a true starting goaltender who can carry this team and offset their porous defense, which would be the next issue requiring serious attention.

Saros would be a prime target but he might not be available. Predators general manager Barry Trotz has repeatedly said he intends to open contract extension talks with his starting goalie next summer. Unless Saros wants to test the market in 2025, the Oilers will have to look elsewhere for help between the pipes. Speaking of which…

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Marco D’Amico cites TSN’s Pierre LeBrun saying that the Oilers have not had any recent trade talks with the Montreal Canadiens regarding their three goaltenders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means a trade is imminent. Kidding! I’m kidding, of course.

The Oilers reportedly scouted the Canadiens goalie trio of Sam Montembeault, Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau. However, they’re also scouring the rest of the league to find a suitable upgrade in the crease. Canadiens GM Kent Hughes has likely set a high asking price hoping to take advantage of the Oilers’ desperate situation.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Caleb Kerney noted recent rumors linked the Oilers to Philadelphia Flyers netminder Carter Hart. He thinks the only way the Flyers would agree to move Hart to Edmonton is if the Oilers sent them Stuart Skinner as part of the return. He suggested adding a first-round pick, a second-round pick, one or two top prospects and a roster player along with Skinner in the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holy overpayment, Batman! That’s waaaay too much for Hart, though I don’t doubt Flyers GM Daniel Briere would give that offer serious consideration. Nevertheless, I don’t see the Oilers making that pitch.

TSN’s Darren Dreger said on Thursday that Briere is willing to listen to offers that will bring in a solid foundation to make the Flyers better. He’s reportedly listening on every position but not every player, with Dreger suggesting pending UFA defensemen Sean Walker and Nick Seeler as possible trade candidates. No mention of Hart’s potential availability.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 23, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – November 23, 2023

Check out the latest on the Oilers and Flames in today’s NHL Rumor Roundup.


DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli suggested five options for the Edmonton Oilers to target in order to upgrade their goaltending.

Topping his list is James Reimer of the Detroit Red Wings. Mackenzie Blackwood of the San Jose Sharks and Jake Allen of the Montreal Canadiens were next, followed by the Arizona Coyotes’ Karel Vejmelka and the Philadelphia Flyers’ Carter Hart.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackwood and Allen appear the more likely to be available. The Sharks are going nowhere fast while the Canadiens could opt to move Allen if they decide to go with a tandem of Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau (which I think they should).

Speaking of Blackwood, TSN’s Darren Dreger said he’d be looking at the Sharks netminder if he were the Oilers general manager. When Oilers GM Ken Holland is doing so remains to be seen.

Like the Canadiens, the Red Wings are carrying three goalies but they’re also trying to reach the playoffs this year. They could opt to hang onto Reimer.

The same goes with Vejmelka and Hart. Their respective clubs are off to better-than-expected starts this season and they could be reluctant to move their starting goalies right now. Perhaps that changes if they fall out of contention as the season goes along.

A lot would also depend on how much the Oilers are willing to overpay for one of those goalies.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault (NHL Images).

Seravalli also dismissed the notion of the Boston Bruins parting with Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark. He also rejected speculation about Nashville Predators’ starter Juuse Saros, pointing to Predators general manager Barry Trotz’s desire to sign Saros to a contract extension next summer.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited TSN’s Darren Dreger speculating over what it might cost the Oilers to acquire Sam Montembeault from the Montreal Canadiens.

Dreger believes the Canadiens would want a “substantial” return for Montembeault, who’s earning $1 million this season and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He thinks prospect Xavier Bourgault would have to be part of the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve also heard speculation suggesting the only way the Oilers can swing a trade for a goalie is to find someone who’ll take struggling former starter Jack Campbell and his $5 million average annual value through 2026-27 off their hands.

Maybe that’s possible but it would take a hell of an offer with a lot of sweeteners bundled with Campbell to make it happen. Right now, I don’t see that sort of deal happening. Maybe in the offseason leading up to the draft but not during a season where most teams are pressed against the $83.5 million cap.


THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Julian McKenzie was asked if there was any scenario he could see where the Calgary Flames could shed higher-salaried players such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, MacKenzie Weegar and Jacob Markstrom should they decide to rebuild.

Such moves would require some salary retention on the Flames’ part. Given Huberdeau’s hefty contract, they would likely have to include a draft pick or a prospect to tempt another club into taking him off their hands.

McKenzie said he would be very surprised if those four players were shipped out this season. He believes the Flames should focus on bringing in younger, better players (like Conor Zary) to build around the expensive core.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even with the salary cap projected to rise significantly over the next two or three seasons, Huberdeau, Kadri, Weegar and Markstrom would still be difficult to move. All but Markstrom are in the first year or two of their long-term deals while Markstrom has two more seasons left on his contract.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently cited NHL analyst Pierre McGuire telling the Eye Test Podcast that he thinks the Flames and Boston Bruins seem like trade “dance partners.” He noted that Bruins GM Don Sweeney has long coveted Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That dance might take place near the March 8 trade deadline if the Flames are out of playoff contention by that point. Given the Bruins’ limited trade deadline cap space ($2.6 million), perhaps Sweeney will wait until the offseason when he could pursue Hanifin via the free-agent market.

NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: James Nichol cited a report from The Fourth Period claiming the New Jersey Devils are among four teams interested in Flames defensemen Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov. The others were the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils are struggling defensively of late and Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald has shown a willingness to make big moves during the season. We shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of him landing Tanev or Zadorov at some point this season.