Chase Is On To Reach Career Milestones During 2021 NHL Regular Season
The Blue Jackets sign Dubois, the Blues ink Vince Dunn, plus the latest on Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Nico Hischier, Micheal Ferland and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of 2021.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10 million contract. A restricted free agent before the signing, the 22-year-old center will earn $3.35 million this season and $6.65 million in 2021-22. The annual average value is $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A skilled two-way player, Dubois enters this season as the Jackets’ No. 1 center. Coming off his entry-level contract, Dubois had little leverage other than to stage a contract holdout or demand a trade. It’s an affordable short-term deal for the Blue Jackets and a reasonable raise for the young center, but he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he has arbitration rights.
Before the signing, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported there were “rumblings” from a few clubs around the league that Dubois wanted a “change of scenery.” I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday signed restricted free agent Vince Dunn to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. Like Dubois, the 24-year-old defenseman was coming off an entry-level deal and lacked sufficient leverage to seek a better deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn deserves more than that but the Blues are pressed for cap space this year. While they’ll place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR for this season, they need to ensure sufficient space for the latter’s anticipated return in March.
The Blues also have winger Mike Hoffman in training camp on a tryout offer and must ensure sufficient cap room to sign him to a one-year deal. I daresay Dunn can expect a much better deal next year when he has arbitration rights and the Blues have more cap room.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders had yet to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal but general manager Lou Lamoriello said the RFA center is in New York and contract discussions are ongoing. Lamoriello also revealed the Isles have signed winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening for last season’s 24 playoff clubs on Sunday, Jan. 3, don’t be surprised if Barzal and the Isles reach an agreement on a new contract as soon as today. No details yet on the new deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider but they’re probably affordable one-year contracts.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revealed the club wanted him back for this season but in a reduced role as they transitioned toward younger defensemen. He also said the Bruins made him a contract offer months ago. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the Bruins envisioned Chara filling the role of a seventh defenseman, meaning he wouldn’t see anywhere near as much playing time as he’s used to. He admitted he’s got no guarantees with the Capitals but he’ll have the opportunity to compete.
THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns spent part of the offseason making a guest appearance in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series “Vikings”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns does look like a modern-day Viking so he’d be a natural for a bit part in that series. His most recent acting gig was a commercial during the 2020 playoffs for Kit Kat Chunky.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is listed as week-to-week with an injured foot. While it’s not considered serious and doesn’t require surgery, the injury could sideline the 21-year-old center for the start of the season on Jan. 13.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland won’t be in Vancouver on Sunday for his training camp physical and is expected to undergo testing remotely with team doctors. Ferland’s agent revealed his client is still attempting to recover from post-concussion symptoms suffered last season. If the winger fails his physical, the Canucks are expected to place him on long-term injury reserve for this season.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are attempting to turn oft-injured defenseman Samuel Morin into a left winger for the coming season. Morin, who said he’s “fighting for his career”, approves of the move. He could become part of the Flyers’ taxi squad for the upcoming season.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly hired former NHL defenseman Dan Girardi in a player development role.
TSN: Players on Canada’s seven NHL teams will be exempt from the country’s 14-day quarantine rule. The Canadian government has approved of the teams’ training-camp plans to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 but all teams must operate within provincial guidelines for regular-season play. Alberta is the first province to approve NHL regular-season games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams are able to stage training camps in their respective cities. If the other provinces don’t approve regular-season games, the Canadian clubs could start the season playing their games in a hub city like Edmonton. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently reiterated the league believes it has clearance to play in all seven Canadian cities.
Zdeno Chara signs with the Capitals, seven clubs open training camp today, Ryan Callahan retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals yesterday signed Zdeno Chara to a one-year, $795K contract. The 43-year-old defenseman spent the last 14 seasons as captain of the Boston Bruins. He helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final three times (2011, 2013, 2019), winning the Cup in 2011. Chara was a five-time Norris Trophy finalist during his tenure with the Bruins, winning the award in 2009.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates Chara’s contract also features an additional $730K in performance bonuses. He’s no longer a Norris Trophy contender but the big blueliner is expected to bring accountability to the Capitals roster after two disappointing first-round exits following their 2018 Cup championship. He’ll likely see second- or third-pairing minutes in Washington.
Chara’s departure from the Bruins wasn’t unexpected given their apparent reluctance to bring him back for another season. Nevertheless, his signing with the Capitals was still surprising. While Bruins fans knew Chara was past his prime, management’s unwillingness to bring him back didn’t sit well with some of them. He was one of the greatest defensemen in franchise history. His exit marks the end of an era.
No word yet from the Bruins as to who replaces Chara as team captain, but Patrice Bergeron likely becomes the leading candidate to take over the role.
NHL.COM: Last season’s seven non-playoff clubs – the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks open training camp today. The other 24 teams begin camp on Jan. 3.
TSN.COM: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly reiterated that Canada’s seven NHL teams have governmental clearance to hold training camp and open the season in their home arenas.
SPORTSNET: Ryan Callahan announced his retirement as an NHL player yesterday after 13 active seasons with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Renowned for his two-way play, Callahan tallied 186 goals and 386 points in 757 NHL contests. After suffering a back injury in 2019, Callahan was traded to the Ottawa Senators, spending last season on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Callahan and his family in their future endeavors.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes officially announced the signing of forward Derick Brassard to a one-year contract.
SPORTSDAY: Dallas Stars defenseman Stephen Johns might not be playing this season. He’s listed as an injured player not participating in training camp. The Athletic cited sources claiming he’s out for the season but general manager Jim Nill said that would be determined by team doctors. Johns has a history of head injuries, missing 22 months to post-traumatic headaches.
NEW YORK POST: The New York Islanders haven’t invited Josh Ho-Sang to training camp, sparking another turn in the rocky relationship between the club and the former first-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ho-Sang spent all of last season in the minors. He was the subject of trade rumors but nothing came of them.
NEWSDAY: Speaking of the Islanders, the current ownership has bought the remainder of former owner Charles Wang’s shares from his estate. Wang, who passed away in 2019, held a 15 percent stake in the club.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators have decided to open the season without fans in their arena after getting approval from the city’s health department to allow limited crowds. The club hopes to gradually bring back fans over the course of the season.
THE AHL: yesterday announced a framework to open their season on Feb. 5 has been approved by their board of governors.
Check out the recent Bruins and Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa last week reported a league source was uncertain if the Boston Bruins would bring back Zdeno Chara for another season. The source said it feels like they’re waiting to see if anything opens up in the trade market.
Shinzawa observed the Bruins have sufficient salary-cap space to bring back Chara, but there are concerns over the 43-year-old defenseman’s performance. His days of logging over 20 minutes per game may be over. The Bruins also want to see how former first-round picks Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen could complement Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore.
Trading for a younger left-side defenseman could be the Bruins’ preference. However, they’ll have to part with assets and try to make the acquisition fit under the cap.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss recently reported Bruins team president Cam Neely last week observed some teams were pressed for cap space and will probably have to do something. He’s sure general manager Don Sweeney is still looking at tweaking or adding to the roster over the next couple of weeks.
Goss noted Sami Vatanen, Ron Hainsey and Travis Hamonic remain available in the free-agent market. He also pointed out the Bruins’ limited prospect pool and cap space could make it difficult to address their needs via trades.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty observes there are reports suggesting the Bruins could be looking at Ben Hutton. The unrestricted free agent had 16 points and plus-minus of plus-five in 65 games last season with the Los Angeles Kings. Haggerty feels the 27-year-old blueliners could be an affordable fit if Zboril, Vaakanainen or Lauzon aren’t ready for prime time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sweeney is catching flak from some Bruins fans for not making any moves in recent weeks. A lack of cap space and suitable options are the sticking points. Nevertheless, there are some intriguing short-term free-agent options that could be had for the right price.
As for Chara, he could return for one last hurrah with the Bruins. However, there’s a growing sense that he could sign elsewhere. His agent claimed last week he’s received inquiries from over 20 teams. The Bruins prefer Chara to play a third-pairing role but that might not be to the big blueliner’s liking.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey reports the Canadiens’ recent signings of veteran forwards Corey Perry and Michael Frolik pushed the club over the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.1 million. Some decisions will have to be made before the season starts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some players, perhaps even Perry and Frolik, could end up on the Canadiens’ taxi squad, enabling the Habs to be cap compliant when the season opens. Doing so, however, means they’ll have to pass through waivers where they could be claimed by other clubs. Some observers believe GM Marc Bergevin might not be done dealing. We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.
Another updated list of the top UFAs, including the latest on Mike Hoffman, Zdeno Chara and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Forwards Mike Hoffman, Erik Haula and Corey Perry top TSN’s listing of the best remaining unrestricted free agents. Winger Mikael Granlund and defenseman Sami Vatanen round out the top five.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes Hoffman could be a fit with the St. Louis Blues. With Alexander Steen’s playing days ended by a back injury, LeBrun speculated they could put his $5.75 million on long-term injury reserve and use the savings to sign Hoffman.
Cap Friendly indicates the Blues are over the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.175 million, with restricted free agent Vince Dunn to be signed. That might not leave enough to land Hoffman, who’s open to a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. They could get more flexibility by placing Vladimir Taransenko (shoulder surgery) and his $7.5 million cap hit on LTIR, but they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns later in the season.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Carl Soderberg, blueliner Travis Hamonic and winger Ilya Kovalchuk round out the top 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston reports Chara’s agent said the Bruins have been “very communicative” with them over how they see things going forward. Team president Cam Neely said his club was still trying to flush out where things stand with their former captain. Neely said they still respect Chara but couldn’t say where the 43-year-old would fit on their blueline.
Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now pointed out the Bruins’ unsuccessful attempt to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson earlier in the offseason. He also reported they’ve been linked to Calgary’s Noah Hanifin in the rumor mill.
If the Bruins don’t sign Chara, perhaps they’ll swing a trade to address their lack of skilled depth on the left side of their blueline. Revisiting an Ekman-Larsson deal seems unlikely. The Hanifin speculation originated with a reporter suggesting he’d be a good fit with the Bruins but there’s no indication the two clubs have discussed it.
Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with KHL club Avangard Omsk because he couldn’t find any takers in the NHL. Maybe that changes now that we know the start date for this season.
Wingers Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson and defenseman Mirco Mueller rank from 11 to 15.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin is believed to have a one-year deal with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once they re-sign RFA center Mathew Barzal. Wilson seems to be transitioning from his playing career after recently revealing his treatments for OCD and nagging hip injuries.
Forwards Melker Karlsson and Trevor Lewis, defensemen Ben Hutton and Andy Greene and goaltender Ryan Miller fill slots 16 to 20.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson recently signed for the season with a Swedish club and isn’t expected to return to the NHL. Like Martin, Greene is said to have a deal with the Isles pending their signing of Barzal. With teams allowed to carry a third goalie this season on their “taxi squad”, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders if this could improve the value of unsigned goalies such as Miller.
Defensemen Ron Hainsey, Michael Del Zotto, Madison Bowey, and Jan Rutta and forward Brian Boyle come in from 21 to 26.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drake Caggiula was also among this group but he signed yesterday with the Arizona Coyotes.
Defenseman Karl Alzner, forwards Michael Grabner, Fredrik Gauthier and Riley Sheahan and goalies Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson round out the rest of the list.
A look at a recent update on the notable unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently published her updated list of the top remaining unrestricted free agents.
Mike Hoffman remains atop the list, with the Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils among possible destinations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports talks have heated up with Hoffman, with as many as six clubs involved. With the dates for training camp and the start of the season now official, Hoffman won’t be the only UFA whose contract discussed will intensify.
Sadler cited Fox Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland earlier this month linking winger Mikael Granlund to the Predators, Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes, among other clubs. She doubts there will be a reunion between the Predators and Granlund, who struggled during his brief tenure in Nashville.
Manitoba-born defenseman Travis Hamonic could be a fit with the Winnipeg Jets. The Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers had had some interest in Hamonic. Sadler also notes his former team, the Calgary Flames, could use him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speculation persists linking Hamonic with the Canucks, but they’ll have to clear some cap space to do it. One way could be placing Micheal Ferland (head trauma) on long-term injury reserve as well as demoting someone like winger Sven Baertschi. The Flyers no longer seem interested while the Flames seem to be going with younger, more affordable blueliners.
Speculation persists of a possible reunion between center Erik Haula and the Vegas Golden Knights. Given their cap constraints, they’ll have to shed a salary to get under the salary cap and to sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent trade chatter about the Golden Knights shopping Max Pacioretty or Jonathan Marchessault was based on them cutting cap payroll and perhaps add an affordable forward like Haula.
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley denied Pacioretty was being shopped but we haven’t heard any denials about Marchessault’s trade status. I think the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup hopes are better with those two in the lineup. They’ll have to consider other options if they want to bring back Haula.
Other notables on Sadler’s list include center Carl Soderberg, defenseman Sami Vatanen, forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Derick Brassard and Corey Perry and blueliner Zdeno Chara, as well as winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider, plus defenseman Ron Hainsey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed Martin, Greene and Schneider already have deals with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once center Mathew Barzal is re-signed.
Anthony Duclair, Ilya Kovalchuk and Melker Karlsson also appeared on Sadler’s list. Since its publication last week, Duclair signed with the Florida Panthers, Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with a KHL team while Karlsson is under contract with a Swedish team for the rest of this season.