Game recaps, Ducks and Kings clinch playoff berths, injury updates and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: For the sixth consecutive year, the Anaheim Ducks have clinched a playoff berth. Ondrej Kase snapped a 1-1 tie early in the third period and Andrew Cogliano got the insurance goal to give the Ducks a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild. With 97 points, the Ducks sit third in the Pacific Division, one point behind the San Jose Sharks.
Ondrej Kase scored the game winner as the Anaheim Ducks clinched a playoff berth with a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild (Photo via NHL Images).
The St. Louis Blues’ playoff hopes suffered another blow as they fell 4-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues remains stuck at 92 points, one behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference. Both teams have two games left, including a season-ending showdown with each other on Saturday.
The Blues’ loss also ensured the idle Los Angeles Kings clinched a playoff berth. The Kings (96 points) hold the first Western Conference wild-card berth, sitting fourth in the Pacific Division.
The Buffalo Sabres are assured of finishing last in the NHL’s overall standings after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Ottawa Senators. The Sabres have the best odds (18.5 percent) of winning the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery on April 28. Speaking of the Sabres, forward Zemgus Girgensons’ season has come to an end after undergoing facial surgery on Wednesday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have the best odds but it’s no guarantee they’ll win the lottery. They were in the same position in 2014 and 2015 but the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers won the top picks. The Panthers selected Aaron Ekblad and the Oilers took Connor McDavid while the Sabres took Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel.
TSN: Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the game against the Sabres to spend time with his wife after their baby was stillborn two weeks ago. Sens coach Guy Boucher doesn’t expect Karlsson to participate in the club’s final two games of the season. The club also announced goaltender Mike Condon will miss the remainder of the schedule due to a concussion he suffered in practice on Tuesday and winger Marian Gaborik is also sidelined for the rest of the season with a back injury.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun will miss the remainder of the season with a lower-body injury.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens winger Nikita Scherbak has suffered a season-ending concussion.
TSN: Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard and Bobby Hull are among the notable players who won the Stanley Cup between 1954-1965 to have their names removed from the big mug. The ring containing the names of those teams and players is being removed to make room for a new layer of names. That band, along with previous ones that were removed, will reside on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This procedure is necessary to ensure the trophy doesn’t become too big for the players to carry.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid could receive a significant pay raise on his next contract.
Connor McDavid could get a big pay raise, an update on Dion Phaneuf & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid could sign an eight-year contract extension with the club worth $13.25 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers could take McDavid and his agent to task for seeking such a lucrative contract. I’ve seen a few folks on Twitter attempting to disparage the McDavid camp by comparing his rumored new salary-cap hit to what Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million annually) and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin ($9.5 million) received following the completion of their ELCs.
However, the percentage of McDavid’s potential new annual cap hit would be similar to what Crosby and Ovechkin received coming off their ELCs. McDavid’s annual average value would be around 18 percent of the Oilers’ $75 million cap ceiling for 2018-19 (assuming a flat cap for that season. It could be higher). When Crosby’s five-year deal kicked in back in 2008-09, it was just over 15 percent of the Penguins’ $56.7 million salary-cap maximum for that season, while Ovechkin’s 13-year contract was worth around 17 percent of the Capitals’ cap ceiling in its first season.
Besides, what are the Oilers to do? Not pay their franchise player top dollar? Play hardball with the guy who could lead them back to championship glory? If they’re willing to pony up over $13 million annually to lock up McDavid during his playing prime, so be it. Should he reach all expectations and take over as the NHL’s top player over that period, it’ll be money well spent.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reports the Ottawa Senators intend to keep defenseman Dion Phaneuf. “Inquiries slowed after the Draft in Chicago and more so once Methot was traded to Dallas.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phaneuf’s partial no-trade clause also complicated things. Reports indicated the teams with interest in him weren’t on his list of acceptable trade destinations.
OTTAWA SUN: Speaking of the Senators, they re-signed goaltender Mike Condon to a three-year, $7.2 million contract ($2.4 million annual cap hit).
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund underwent surgery on his left shoulder and will be sidelined until December.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: The Rangers re-signed defenseman Brendan Smith to a four-year, $17.4 million contract. It’s worth an annual cap hit of $4.35 million.
BSN DENVER: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed forward Sven Andrighetto to a two-year, $2.8 million contract.
BOSTON HERALD: The Bruins re-signed forward Noel Acciari to a two-year deal worth $725K per season.
MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings re-signed defensemen Dylan McIlrath and Brian Lashoff to two-year contracts.
TSN: Rick Westhead reports of ongoing internal squabbling within the NHL Players Association. “In front of the 30 players in attendance in downtown Toronto, NHLPA special assistant to the executive director Mathieu Schneider and union lawyer Bruce Meyer condemned player agents Anton Thun, Ritch Winter and Kurt Overhardt, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting.” The trio were accused of “misleading clients when they said the NHLPA has stonewalled requests for information about union finances.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, this could be poisonous for association unity leading up to what could be another nasty labor dispute with the league if either side exercises its early opt-out option from the current collective bargaining agreement in September 2019, which could lead to another lockout a year later. On the other hand, it might be worthwhile to address these disputes now so that they don’t become toxic before squaring off with the league in three year’s time.
New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero not actively shopping goaltender Cory Schneider.
Latest on the New Jersey Devils, Vegas Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators in your NHL rumor mill.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero telling TSN’s Pierre LeBrun that he isn’t actively shopping goaltender Cory Schneider. While Schneider has a no-trade clause, Shero said no one’s untradeable on his club.
That being said, Shero’s told the goalie he’d love to have him bounce back next season. Regarding trade speculation about Schneider, the Devils GM said he hasn’t called other clubs to inquire about moving the netminder.
Shero also told LeBrun he’s already received some calls about the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft. The Devils won that selection during the draft lottery back in April.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shero didn’t say if he’s getting calls about Schneider, but he doesn’t sound as though he’s looking into moving him. Despite Schneider’s age (31), Shero appears intent to stick with him as his starter. He really doesn’t have anyone in his system to step in and replace Schneider as a reliable starter, nor is there anyone available via free agency or in this summer’s trade market.
As for that draft pick, if Shero could get a good young defenseman or scoring forward as part of the return, I think he might consider it. However, the last time a first-overall pick was traded at the draft was in 2003, when the Florida Panthers shipped the first overall selection to the PIttsburgh Penguins in exchange for the third overall pick. I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting Shero to move that pick.
TSN: Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee expects to acquire more draft picks in the 2017 NHL draft. He said he hopes to start announcing trades by next week.
McPhee’s also hoping to use his club’s window for signing free agents to get a better player than one that a team might otherwise expose in the expansion draft. A free agent signing would count as Vegas’ selection from the player’s previous team.
He also said he’d be open to signing an unrestricted free agent and then trading them for draft picks, though each move like that would leave his club with one less pick in the expansion draft. He could also move some players within days of selecting them in the expansion draft. Though the Golden Knights can select 30 players in the expansion draft, McPhee acknowledged he can’t keep all of them “because we can’t get six or seven players through waivers if we wanted to, most of them are not waiver exempt.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears McPhee will be quite busy throughout June attempting to wheel and deal in hopes of stockpiling assets and trying to add better players to his inaugural roster. It’ll be interesting to see what trades he makes and which players he signs in the coming weeks.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Pierre Dorion intends to renew contract discussions with pending UFA goalie Mike Condon. He admits the two sides aren’t close to a deal, though Condon on Saturday told reporters he hopes to return. Dorion even threw out the possibility of Andrew Hammond returning as their backup next season if unable to re-sign Condon. Hammond has a year remaining on his contract. Garrioch speculates the Sens could pass on Condon if he seeks north of $2 million annually on his next contract.
Could the Colorado Avalanche consider trading Tyson Barrie.
Latest on the Avalanche, Ducks, Blue Jackets & more in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
SPORTSNET: In his latest “30 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman notes the Colorado Avalanche could have decisions to make regarding their goaltending. They intend to protect Semyon Varlamov in the expansion draft but Friedman can’t see them losing backup Calvin Pickard for nothing, especially after his solid performance for Canada at the 2017 World Championships. Pickard has a year left on his contract at $1 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Avs committed to protecting Varlamov they’ll have to expose Pickard. GM Joe Sakic could try to swing a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure they select someone else in the expansion draft. Otherwise, Sakic could be forced to trade Pickard rather than risk losing him for nothing to Vegas.
One executive told Friedman that Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie is available “but it’s got to be a legitimate hockey trade.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pretty much the same terms apply to Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. Sakic will entertain offers but won’t move any one of those guys unless he’s getting a solid return. In other words, no deals built solely on draft picks, prospects or aging and expensive talent. Barrie could attract interest from the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning or Toronto Maple Leafs. All are reportedly in the market for a mobile defenseman with a right-handed shot. However, there could be concerns over his defensive skills.
Friedman notes the Anaheim Ducks are closing in on re-signing Cam Fowler and a source claim “a stop sign goes up” when inquiries are made into Hampus Lindholm. With Sami Vatanen sidelined perhaps longer than five months recovering from shoulder surgery, it could affect his trade value. Friedman wonders if teams are willing to acquire him if they’ll have to wait one, two or possibly three months into next season for him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Ducks don’t move Vatanen and he’s exposed in the expansion draft, I wonder if his shoulder injury could give Vegas second thoughts?
If Ducks GM Bob Murray shops a defenseman, Friedman doubts he’ll move him to a Western Conference club, “unless he covets the third-overall pick from Dallas.” He’s heard the Ducks covet Calgary Flames center Sam Bennett, “but would they really want to do this deal with Calgary?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For that matter, do the Flames really want to deal Bennett? And if they do, would they want to ship him to a Pacific Division rival?
Friedman doubts the Toronto Maple Leafs will trade winger Connor Brown. He also reports Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill seeks a defenseman “that makes a difference.” The Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild could address that need, as could the Winnipeg Jets if they’re willing to part with Jacob Trouba, though Friedman doubts they’ll do that.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nill is definitely in the market for a skilled defenseman. While this year’s draft isn’t a deep one, that third-overall selection will still have value in the trade market. The Stars GM could package it with a promising prospect, especially to clubs with defensive depth in need of shedding salary. As for the Jets, they could listen to offers for Trouba, but the asking price was expensive last year and I doubt it’ll be lower this summer.
Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen is in the market for “a sniper in the key moments.” He’s hoping Pierre-Luc Dubois, last year’s third-overall pick, can help. Friedman believes Blue Jackets rearguard Ryan Murray’s name is in the rumor mill but Kekalainen would discuss him specifically.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets have over $70 million tied up in 22 players for next season. If Murray is moved it’ll free up over $2.8 million in cap space, providing some much-needed wiggle room to re-sign RFAs such as Alexander Wennberg and Josh Anderson.
Friedman knows there’s some interest in Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith, who was their best player last season. He doubts the Coyotes move him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Smith wants out of Arizona, I also doubt the Coyotes trade him this summer.
It sounds like there’s a significant gap in contract talks between the Ottawa Senators and backup goalie Mike Condon.
Luke Fox lists New York Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, Dallas Stars goaltender Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen, Anaheim Ducks blueliner Kevin Bieksa, Edmonton Oilers winger Benoit Pouliot, Colorado Avalanche rearguard Francois Beauchemin, Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Scott Hartnell, Washington Capitals d-man Brooks Orpik, Los Angeles Kings wingers Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, Tampa Bay Lighning defenseman Jason Garrison and Buffalo Sabres forward Matt Moulson as this summer’s top buyout candidates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of the Rangers blueliners, Girardi seems the most likely buyout candidate. He’s certainly been the most mentioned. I expect the Stars will buy out Niemi and keep Lehtonen as Ben Bishop’s backup. Bieksa suffered an MCL tear in the playoffs, which could make him ineligible for a buyout. Gaborik underwent knee surgery and could also be ineligible.
The Oilers have over $53 million invested in 18 players next season so they don’t have to buy out Pouliot this summer. I can certainly see him being bought out next summer, when he has only a year left on his contract. The Blue Jackets could consider a buyout of Hartnell to clear cap space but they could look at a cost-cutting trade involving Hartnell or someone else. Brown still has five years left on his contract, meaning they’ll carry a buyout for 10 years. The Kings could consider other options. Because Beauchemin’s on a 35-plus contract, the Avs won’t get cap relief by buying him out.
The Caps could buy out the final two years of Orpik’s contract to free up cap space, as could the Lightning with Garrison. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if their respective clubs attempt to trade them by packaging them with a pick or prospect and perhaps offering to pick up part of their remaining cap hits.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks also wondered if Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen’s shoulder surgery might adversely affect his trade value. If so, could it force possible suitors, such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, to “move on to a Plan B that could feature Justin Faulk or Jacob Trouba?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t rule it out, though the asking price for Faulk or Trouba could be more expensive than what it would take to land Vatanen.
Could the Calgary Flames or Vegas Golden Knights pursue Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury?
A look at the offseason goalie market and Nail Yakupov’s future in your NHL rumor mill.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Elliotte Friedman discussing the offseason goalie market with Calgary’s Sportsnet 960, with an emphasis on possible moves by the Calgary Flames.
He believes the Dallas Stars will buy out Antti Niemi if they’re unable to trade him or if the Vegas Golden Knights pass on him in the expansion draft.
He also cites colleague Nick Kypreos claiming he’s hearing there’s something going on with the Golden Knights and the Pittsburgh Penguins regarding Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s enjoying a strong performance in this year’s playoffs.
Friedman wonders if Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving has any interest in Ottawa Senators pending free-agent goalie Mike Condon. He also speculates about the possibility of Treliving bringing back the tandem of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson. Friedman also cites a source saying the Nashville Predators are reluctant to trade backup Juuse Saros.
When asked about New York Rangers backup Antti Raanta, Friedman felt he’d also be a good option for the Flames.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Flames keeping Johnson and looking hard next month for a new starter. Elliott really struggled this season in Calgary. Still, they could bring him back if they cannot find a suitable replacement via trade or free agency.
Fleury going to Vegas would be an interesting development. Most observers (myself included) dismissed that possibility earlier this year, assuming he’d prefer joining a more established playoff contender. Fleury must agree to waive his no-movement clause to become eligible for the expansion draft. He must also agree to a trade if Vegas is looking at going that route.
WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe examines possible goaltending options for the Winnipeg Jets now that Ben Bishop and Scott Darling are out of the free-agent market. He doubts they’ll trade Connor Hellebuyck or expose him in the expansion draft.
Marc-Andre Fleury’s outstanding postseason play this spring with the Penguins likely rules him out as a trade option as he could become more expensive to obtain. He suggests the Flames could be a good fit for Fleury.
Speaking of the Flames, Wiebe suggests Brian Elliott might be worthwhile for the Jets in a mentor role with Hellebuyck. Other options could include Anaheim’s Jonathan Bernier, Ottawa’s Mike Condon, the Rangers’ Antti Raanta or Washington’s Philipp Grubauer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are grooming Hellebuyck as their future starter. Someone like Elliott could be worthwhile as a mentor. Bernier, Condon, Raanta and Grubauer, however, see themselves as starting goalie material and could challenge Hellebuyck for that job.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton reports St. Louis Blues right winger Nail Yakupov is determined to remain in the NHL. Yakupov, the first-overall selection by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 NHL Draft, is a restricted free agent this summer. He’s struggled to develop into a scoring winger. It’s unlikely he’ll be re-signed by the Blues, who acquired him from the Oilers earlier this season. Clinton lists the Vegas Golden Knights, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings as possible destinations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If, as expected, the Blues decline to qualify Yakupov’s rights, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s completing a two-year, $5 million contract. Any interest club could get him for far less on a one-year deal this summer.
Most of the clubs on this list carry limited salary-cap space and need affordable scoring depth. The Golden Knights, of course, could select him via the expansion draft.
If TJ Oshie and Justin Williams depart via free agency, the Capitals will need help on the right side. The Canadiens need scoring help but they need more depth at center.
If Islanders captain John Tavares hits the trade block this summer, should the Montreal Canadiens pursue him?
Updates on John Tavares, Cam Fowler, Karl Alzner and more in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In his latest 30 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman reported the New York Islanders are working hard on their pitch for a contract extension for team captain John Tavares, who’s eligible in July 2018 for unrestricted free agency.
Given Tavares’ desire to win, Friedman wonders what effect making Doug Weight the full-time head coach, the club’s pitch to build a new arena at Belmont Park and the retention of Garth Snow as general manager could have upon efforts to re-sign the talented center. The Isles can open contract talks with Tavares on July 1.
If the Islanders and Tavares fail to reach agreement on a new contract, Eric Engels suggests the Montreal Canadiens should pursue the center if he’s placed on the trade block this summer, despite the potentially expensive asking price. The Habs lack a first-line center, which was a key reason why they failed to advance beyond the opening round of this year’s playoffs. If Tavares is unavailable, Engels lists Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene and KHL forward Vadim Shipachyov as possible options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Tavares hits the trade block, and that’s a big “if” right now, the Canadiens won’t be the only club pursuing him. If he still believes the Isles are heading in the right direction he’ll re-sign with them, probably an eight-year deal worth around $10 million annually. I think the Habs stand a better chance of acquiring Duchene, though that move could also prove expensive and possibly too difficult to pull off.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols recently cited NHL insider Pierre LeBrun telling Toronto’s TSN 1050 the first order of business for the Anaheim Ducks in the offseason is determine what to do with defenseman Cam Fowler, who’s eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. LeBrun believes the Ducks must find out before the expansion draft what the rearguard’s intentions are.
If Fowler intends to re-sign, they can shop one of their surplus blueliners rather than risk losing one to the Vegas Golden Knights. If Fowler won’t re-sign (and LeBrun isn’t saying he won’t), he could be the one moved. LeBrun points out the Ducks can’t re-sign the blueliner until July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fowler has a year left on his contract at a cap hit of $4 million. He’ll likely want a seven- or eight-year deal worth over $6 million per season. Given his increasing value to the Ducks’ blueline, I expect they’ll re-sign him. If he does become available in the trade market, expects the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils to come calling.
WASHINGTON POST: Isabelle Khurshudyan reports the Capitals limited salary cap space could make defenseman Karl Alzner their odd man out this summer. Alzner, 28, is eligible for UFA status in July, along with teammates T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Williams, while Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov and Brett Connolly are their notable restricted free agents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals have over $50 million invested in just 11 players next season. They could get some additional cap relief when they lose a player via the expansion draft. They can’t afford to re-sign everyone. If Alzner hits the open market, he’ll attract considerable interest from clubs in need of a skilled shutdown blueliner. Some of them could be those noted above who could have interest in Cam Fowler.
BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa recently examined the Buffalo Sabres’ search for a new general manager and head coach. Whoever takes over as GM must find the right coach to work with young center Jack Eichel. If that doesn’t work out down the road, Eichel could end up getting dealt. The new GM must also fix the team culture and improve the defense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: To be clear, Shinzawa isn’t saying Eichel will be traded by a new Sabres general manager, merely suggesting that could be his fate in the future if he can’t work with the new coach. The Sabres are a mess right now and it’s up to owner Terry Pegula to hire the right people to straighten things out.
Shinzawa also said it’s uncertain if Mike Condon will return with the Ottawa Senators after this season. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July. He also speculates the Boston Bruins could buy out winger Jimmy Hayes.
BSN DENVER: Adrian Dater recently reported sources say defenseman Nikita Zadorov hopes to re-sign with the Colorado Avalanche but it’s possible he could get a tempting offer from a KHL team. Zadorov, 22, is completing an entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Zadorov camp could use the threat of a KHL contract as leverage to garner a better deal. Not saying he will, but since he’s ineligible for arbitration, it’s the only real bargaining chip he has.