SPORTSNET: Luke Fox took a more in-depth look at the top-10 UFA still on the market.
Will Tuukka Rask return with the Boston Bruins this season? (NHL Images)
Rask’s future depends on his recovery from offseason hip surgery. If he does return, he’s indicated it’ll only be with the Boston Bruins. In his absence, the Bruins will start the season with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman as their goalie tandem.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The writing appears on the wall with Ullmark signing a four-year, $20 million contract with the Bruins. If Rask is ready to return later this season, they could go with him and Ullmark as their tandem and demote Swayman as he’s waiver-exempt this season.
Palmieri, Cizikas and Zajac are believed to have handshake agreements with the New York Islanders but those agreements haven’t been officially announced yet. There’s also talk they’ve signed winger Zach Parise, who was bought out last month by the Minnesota Wild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Consensus among most pundits is Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has most or all of those aforementioned players under contract. It’s believed those deals haven’t been officially announced because he doesn’t want his rival GMs to know how much salary-cap space he actually has left.
It’s the same tactic Lamoriello took during the last offseason with Matt Martin, Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. Those deals weren’t officially announced until just before the start of last season.
That’s fueled speculation the Isles GM is working on a trade. It could be for a winger like St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko or a left-side, top-four defenseman to replace Nick Leddy, who was traded to Detroit last month.
Chara is spending the offseason in his native Slovakia with his family. His agent said his client is working out hard and keeping all his options open. During his season-ending Zoom call, however, the big defenseman seemed uncertain about returning for a 24th NHL season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara had a decent season with the Washington Capitals but it was obvious the 44-year-old blueliner was slowing down. If he does return it would be on an affordable one-year deal and in a third-pairing role.
Fox indicated the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t fully closed the door on bringing back Galchenyuk. He also said the Montreal Canadiens were said to have some level of interest in a reunion.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think there’s a fit for Galchenyuk with either club. Both have limited cap space and have already invested in other low-cost options.
The Lightning thump the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, expansion and NHL draft TV info announced, information on special events for 2021-22 revealed, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with a convincing 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. The Bolts broke the game open in the third period as Nikita Kucherov scored twice and set up Steven Stamkos for the fifth goal. Brayden Point had three assists on the night.
Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).
It was a rough game for Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher. He skated away with a bloodied head after tangling with Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
Canadiens winger Joel Armia took a private jet from Montreal to Tampa Bay to rejoin his teammates after emerging from COVID protocol on Monday. He had been held out of the lineup after entering the protocol on Sunday. His spot in the lineup for Game 1 was taken by Jake Evans, playing his first game since being sidelined by a concussion in Game 1 of the Habs second-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a dominating performance by Tampa Bay from start to finish. Despite the score being 2-1 after two periods, there was a sense that it was a matter of time before they blew the game open.
The Canadiens seemed tentative through much of this contest as they struggled to adjust to the Lightning’s game plan. This series will be over quickly if the Habs fail to find a solution.
Poor puck management proved costly for the Canadiens. The Lightning’s first three goals came from offensive-zone turnovers. Lightning coach Jon Cooper also used his home-ice advantage of having the last line change to good effect in keeping the Point line away from the Canadiens shutdown line.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman defended the performance of the league’s officiating during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. “It seems every season, it’s a playoff ritual for me to address some aspect of the officiating,” said Bettman. “Let’s be clear. Our officials are not only the best hockey officials in the world, they’re the best officials in any sport.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s an annual playoff ritual because there’s an obvious difference over how games are called during the regular season and how they’re called in the playoffs. The commissioner, however, seems unconcerned that this is a growing issue for fans and pundits.
ESPN2, NHL Network and Sportsnet will broadcast the NHL expansion draft on Wednesday, July 21 at 8 pm ET. The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will be televised on ESPN 2, Sportsnet and SN NOW on Friday, July 23 at 8 pm ET.
The Vegas Golden Knights will host the 2022 NHL All-Star Game with the date to be determined. The 2022 NHL Winter Classic will be held on Jan. 1, 2022, at Target Field in Minneapolis between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. The 2022 Stadium Series game will be held Feb. 26 , 2022, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville between the Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. The league also plans to stage a Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic game in March 2022.
SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens will host the 2022 NHL Draft.
THE SCORE: The NHL’s participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing remains “a work in progress,” according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly. He suggested the continued uncertainty over COVID-19 and the games being held halfway around the world doesn’t make it necessarily an ideal Games to elect to go to. NHL participation remains contingent on negotiations with the International Olympic Committee as per the CBA extension agreement with the NHLPA.
YARDBARKER: The NHL confirmed the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division as part of its realignment with the addition of the Seattle Kraken. The decision to move the Coyotes was made by the league board of governors in December 2018.
CBS BOSTON: Bruins star David Pastrnak and his family are mourning the heartbreaking death of their infant son on June 23. He was five days old.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My sincere condolences to Pastrnak and his family on their loss.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks have hired the law firm Jenner & Block to lead an “independent review” of sexual assault allegations against former video coach Bradley Aldrich and the Blackhawks’ internal handling of those allegations.
SPORTSNET: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league only recently learned of the allegations, adding it will await the results of the independent investigation before deciding how to proceed.
WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara was honored at a ceremony celebrating his home country of Slovakia’s 28th anniversary “for extraordinary merits in the field of sports and for extraordinary dissemination of the good name of the Slovak Republic abroad.”
NEW YORK POST: ESPN has hired Chris Chelios to join fellow Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier as part of the network’s top hockey studio team.
NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken announced the Charlotte Checkers will be their AHL affiliate starting in 2021-22.
TSN: The Hockey Hall of Fame announced it is moving forward with its induction ceremony for 2020-2021 on Nov. 15.
Could the Rangers pursue a veteran defenseman this summer? Which pending free agents will the Red Wings keep? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks recently reported the Rangers were a finalist in the offseason Zdeno Chara sweepstakes before the 44-year-old defenseman signed with the Washington Capitals. Brooks feels they need to add a veteran presence to their blue line. Someone in their mid-to-late 20s or even in their thirties from a winning program, preferably with a Stanley Cup on his resume, would be ideal.
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could look into this year’s unrestricted free agent market to address that need. The one who best fits that description is Vegas’ Alec Martinez (33), who won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings. Chara could also be available again but he might still prefer playing for Cup contenders if he decides to return for another season. Minnesota’s Ian Cole and Toronto’s Zach Bogosian also have Stanley Cups on their resume but aren’t as skilled as Martinez or as respected as Chara.
The top defenseman potentially available is Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton but he’ll be expensive to sign. The Blueshirts could prefer more affordable options given their depth in young players and the cost of re-signing some of them over the next couple of years.
St. James considers Glendening a lock to be re-signed given his presence in the dressing room and his work ethic and professionalism. Bernier is a close second because he gives the Wings a chance to win every game he plays plus they lack an NHL-ready netminder in their farm system.
Ryan and/or Gagner could be re-signed depending on the circumstances. Perhaps one-year deals can be worked out for Helm and Staal. Filppula isn’t expected back as he was a healthy scratch until injuries forced otherwise.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Red Wings with just $33.4 million invested in only nine players for 2021-22. They can easily afford to re-sign most or all of those aforementioned UFAs to cost-effective one-year contracts if they wish. How many of them want to return with the rebuilding Wings remains to be seen. Guys like Glendening and Bernier could draw interest from playoff contenders if they test the open market.
Sidney Crosby set a franchise scoring record and a points-per-game milestone, Zdeno Chara reached a games-played milestone, the Wild clinch a playoff spot, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust each scored their 20th goals of the season as the Pittsburgh Penguins doubled up the New Jersey Devils 4-2. Crosby’s empty-netter late in the game set a franchise record for most 20-goal seasons with 13. He also joined Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe as the only NHL players with 16 point-per-game seasons, sitting fifth on the all-time list in that category. The Penguins sit in second place in the MassMutual East Division with 65 points, one behind the Washington Capitals. The Devils have dropped nine straight games.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (NHL Images).
Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara became the fifth defenseman in NHL history to play 1,600 games during his club’s 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders. Daniel Sprong scored twice and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who played without captain Alex Ovechkin as he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury. The Islanders (63 points) sit third behind the Penguins.
Aleksander Barkov’s overtime goal capped a three-goal rally by the Florida Panthers as they nipped the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3. Florida defenseman MacKenzie Weegar had a goal and three assists while Carolina blueliner Dougie Hamilton scored twice. The Panthers (67 points) sit one point behind the first-place Hurricanes in the Discover Central Division.
The Dallas Stars kept their playoff hopes alive on Jamie Benn’s overtime goal to edge the Detroit Red Wings 2-1. Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier made 50 saves in a losing cause. With 52 points, Dallas sits just two behind the fourth-place Nashville Predators in the Central. Stars defenseman John Klingberg missed the game with an undisclosed injury.
The league-leading Vegas Golden Knights (70 points) picked up their ninth straight victory by dropping the Anaheim Ducks 5-1. Chandler Stephenson scored twice for the Golden Knights, who opened a four-point lead over the second-place Colorado Avalanche in the Honda West Division. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf left the game following the second period with an upper-body injury.
A hat trick by Ryan O’Reilly rallied the St. Louis Blues past the Colorado Avalanche 5-3. O’Reilly also collected an assist as the Blues (46 points) are one point behind the fourth-place Arizona Coyotes in the West Division. Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar had a goal and two assists for the Avalanche.
The Minnesota Wild became the third team to secure a berth in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs in a 6-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Kevin Fiala and Jared Spurgeon each had a goal and an assist for the Wild (65 points), who moved one point behind the Avalanche. Before the game, the Sharks honored Patrick Marleau for recently setting the NHL all-time games played record.
Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper had a 26-save shutout to blank the Los Angeles Kings 4-0. Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist.
Joe Thornton became the oldest player (41 years, 296 days) in Toronto Maple Leafs’ history to score a goal as his club beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1. Toronto sits atop the Scotia North Division with 65 points, eight up on second-place Winnipeg. The Jets played without forward Adam Lowry, who remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.
The Calgary Flames moved closer to the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens in the Scotia North Division by downing the sputtering Habs 5-2. Johnny Gaudreau scored twice as Calgary sits just four points (45 points) sit just four behind Montreal. Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury. Canadiens forwards Tomas Tatar and Paul Byron missed the game with lower-body injuries while goaltender Carey Price returned to Montreal for further treatment for a concussion suffered earlier in the week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames season seemed over three weeks ago after winning just once in nine games. They’ve since won five of their last seven to keep their playoff hopes alive while the floundering Canadiens have won just three of their last 11.
Third-period goals by Tanner Pearson and J.T. Miller lifted the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa goaltender Matt Murray left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury. Meanwhile, Canucks center Elias Pettersson is reportedly doubtful to return this season as he remains sidelined by an upper-body injury suffered on March 2.
The Canucks win their first game in their return from COVID-19 pause, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Bo Horvat scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, as the Vancouver Canucks edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2. It was the Canucks first game since March 24 as an outbreak of COVID-19 paused their schedule on March 30. Braden Holtby made 37 saves for the win. Canucks defenseman Alex Edler received a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for a knee-on-knee hit on Leafs winger Zach Hyman in the second period. Hyman left the game and there was no immediate update on his condition following the game.
Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hyman’s injured knee is the same one he had surgically repaired in 2019. It remains to seen if Edler will receive supplemental discipline. That aside, it was a big win for the Canucks coming off a traumatic three weeks that threatened to derail the remainder of their schedule. The Leafs, meanwhile, remain in first place in the Scotia North Division with 61 points.
Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand reached his 700th career point with a four-point performance in a 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals. Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci each scored twice and David Pastrnak collected three assists. T.J. Oshie scored two goals for the Capitals, who lost Justin Schultz to a lower-body injury. They also played without Zdeno Chara, who is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed ailment. The Capitals sit atop the MassMutual East Division with 62 points while the fourth-place Bruins (56 points) have won four straight and sit three points behind the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins.
The New York Islanders got a 30-save shutout from Ilya Sorokin to nip the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 on Nick Leddy’s overtime goal. The Isles (60 points) are two points behind the Capitals and one up on the Penguins.
Speaking of the Penguins, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Buffalo Sabres. Sam Reinhart scored twice and Dustin Tokarski made 34 saves as the Sabres have a record of 3-1-1 in their last five contests.
The New York Rangers blew a 3-0 lead but rallied to down the New Jersey Devils 5-3. Goals by Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome late in the third period gave the Blueshirts the victory. With 52 points, they’re four points behind the Bruins.
Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone extended his multi-point game streak to four games as his club down the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. Stone had a goal and an assist. Teammate Reilly Smith left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day. Vegas moved into a tie with the Colorado Avalanche with 64 points but the Avs sit in first place in the Honda West Division with a game in hand.
YARDBARKER: A report in Sports Business Journal claims NHL jersey advertising could begin as early as 2022-23, though nothing has been approved or finalized yet by the league board of governors. The location of a jersey patch is being discussed and evaluated. It could be placed on the shoulder or chest. The size of the patch remains unclear.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As long as that patch doesn’t detract from the team logo I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. The league must find as many new streams of hockey-related revenue as possible given the effect of COVID-19 upon its coffers.
SPORTSNET: Seventeen NHL teams are currently using long-term injury reserve for cap relief. The league is going to closely monitor those clubs over the remainder of the season to ensure there’s no cap circumvention.
AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan reports the Coyotes will sign defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin to a one-year, $1.35 million contract extension.