NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

Cross-border games are postponed until after the upcoming holiday break as the number of teams shut down by COVID outbreaks reaches seven while Olympic participation is in question. Details and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CROSS-BORDER GAMES POSTPONED, OLYMPIC PARTICIPATION IN JEOPARDY

NHL.COM: The league announced yesterday all cross-border games between Canadian and American clubs have been postponed through the upcoming holiday break period (Dec. 24-26) over COVID-19 concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: 16 teams (Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets) won’t be playing this week for COVID-related reasons.

Despite the increasing number of positive COVID tests among players, the league and the NHL Players Association agreed to continue the 2021-22 schedule. That decision was based on advice by medical experts on both sides who point to the low number of cases among the players with concerning symptoms or serious illness.

Given the rising number of postponed games and its potential effect upon the schedule, the league and the PA are discussing whether players will participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last night reported there’s a “real sense” the players won’t be taking part in the Olympics but there’s nothing official yet. A further announcement is expected in the coming days.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Robin Lehner made 29 saves to backstop the Vegas Golden Knights to their fifth straight win by beating the New York Islanders 4-3. Shea Theodore and Nicolas Roy scored in the shootout to give the Golden Knights the win. Theodore also scored twice in regulation. The Golden Knights have won five straight and taken over first place in the Pacific Division with 40 points. Vegas captain Mark Stone missed the game with an upper-body injury while the Islanders placed Matt Martin and Robin Salo on COVID protocol before this match.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was Lehner’s first game back on Long Island since he last played for the Islanders in 2018-19. He credits Isles fans for helping him battle bipolar disorder and addiction as he got his career back on track.

Paul Stastny scored twice and collected his 500th career assist and Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and three assists as the Winnipeg Jets doubled up the St. Louis Blues 4-2. Earlier in the day, the Jets announced captain Blake Wheeler (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve.

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their win streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, who’ve now lost six straight.

Three unanswered goals lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Washington Capitals 3-2. Garret Sparks made 33 saves for his first NHL win since 2019 as the Kings have won four of their last six contests. Capitals forwards T.J. Oshie and Michael Sgarbossa and Kings center Phillip Danault missed this game as they were placed on the COVID protocol list. Earlier in the day, the Capitals placed winger Tom Wilson (upper body) on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 10.

IN OTHER HEADLINES…

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said he was hit hard by COVID-19 symptoms during the first two days after he tested positive on Dec. 2 and went into the mandatory 10-day quarantine. He’s since recovered and rejoined his teammates during practice on Sunday.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets canceled practice yesterday after Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Gabriel Carlsson were placed on the COVID protocol list.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning center Brayden Point is expected to make his return to action from a shoulder injury on Dec. 28 against the Canadiens. He’s been sidelined for a month.

NHL.COM: The department of player safety suspended Chicago Blackhawks forward Brett Connolly for four games for interference against Dallas Stars forward Tanner Kero on Saturday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kero was stretchered from the ice and taken to a hospital for observation following the hit by Connolly. He’s reportedly been released and is resting at home.

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes senior director of hockey development Matt Shott passed away Sunday following a 10-month bout with liver cancer. He was 34.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Shott’s family, friends and the Coyotes organization.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2021

The latest on Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm plus a look at some Blackhawks trade candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked whether the Nashville Predators should re-sign Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm to long- or short-term contracts. They’re slated to become unrestricted free agents next July.

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).

Vingan expects Ekholm to get a four-year deal worth around $6 million annually. He doesn’t anticipate the 32-year-old defenseman will drag out the process.

Forsberg’s negotiations, on the other hand, could get more complicated. The 27-year-old winger is in his playing prime as the Predators engage in a “competitive rebuild”. General manager David Poile will have to sell Forsberg on his short- and long-term plans for the Predators.

Poile must also decide Forsberg’s worth. He’s currently earning an annual cap hit of $6 million. While he’s the Preds’ most talented forward, he’s inconsistent and injury-prone.

Vingan believes Forsberg could get up to $8 million annually on the open market. He feels the Predators should avoid paying that much but it’s hard to see Forsberg accepting less than the $8 million annually being paid to teammates Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forsberg’s contract situation will be worth following if he’s unsigned when the season begins. Vingan may be right about not paying him more than $8 million annually. However, having Johansen and Duchene each earning that much makes it difficult for Poile to justify paying Forsberg less.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we start hearing Forsberg’s name surface in this season’s rumor mill the longer he goes unsigned. That speculation could go into overdrive if the Predators are out of playoff contention as the trade deadline approaches.

Ekholm was the subject of intense trade chatter last season but that quickly died off as the Predators surged into a playoff spot in the weeks leading up to the April trade deadline. He seems keen to stay and Poile wants to keep him. I’ll be surprised if a new deal isn’t worked out before the season begins in October.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: With the Blackhawks bringing in additional depth and flexibility to their roster for this season, Ben Pope examined which players could become trade candidates.

Among the forwards, Dylan Strome could be shopped but that might not happen if captain Jonathan Toews isn’t ready to return to action in September and October. If that happens, Strome could get a second chance as a second-line center.

Brett Connolly could also hit the trade block. He’s 29 and overpaid at $3.5 million per season through 2022-23. With Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen expected to split the goalie duties, Malcolm Subban could be traded rather than lost for nothing via waivers.










Evaluating The Notable Trades Before The 2021 NHL Trade Deadline

Evaluating The Notable Trades Before The 2021 NHL Trade Deadline

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2021

Recaps of Sunday’s games feature Patrick Kane and Alain Vigneault reaching career milestones plus updates on Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Gabriel Landeskog and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Patrick Kane scored his 400th career goal as the Chicago Blackhawks thumped the Detroit Red Wings 7-2. He had a three-point performance while Alex DeBrincat collected four points and Kevin Lankinen made 44 saves for the Blackhawks. They’ve won six of their last eight games and sit third in the Discover Central Division.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane tallied career goal 400 in a 7-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers wondered how the Blackhawks would fill the leadership void when team captain Jonathan Toews was sidelined by a mysterious illness. Kane has certainly risen to the occasion. He’s also tied for second with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (34 points) in the NHL scoring race.

Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault picked up career win 700 as his club blanked the Buffalo Sabres 3-0. Goalie Carter Hart made 28 saves for the shutout while James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vigneault is tied with Mike Babcock for eighth on the all-time list.

The Boston Bruins got two goals from Charlie Coyle and two assists from David Pastrnak as they defeated the New York Rangers 4-1. Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev played most of the game with a scratched left eye suffered in the first period. He went to the bench for repairs and returned to the game.

A 28-save performance by Juuse Saros helped the Nashville Predators down the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1, sweeping their two-game series and handing the Jackets their fifth straight loss. Columbus coach John Tortorella said he wasn’t concerned about his job security in a post-game press conference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Changes could be coming to the Jackets if they don’t snap out of this tailspin soon. They’re now six points behind the fourth-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Central.

Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal as the Washington Capitals edged the New Jersey Devils 3-2. Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 19 saves in his first game since coming off the COVID-19 protocol list. Jakub Vrana had a goal and an assist for the Caps. Devils captain Nico Hischier missed the game and is listed as day-to-day after taking a puck to the face on Saturday.

New York Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin made 20 saves for his second straight shutout in a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Oliver Wahlstrom and Jean-Gabriel Pageau were the goal scorers.

HEADLINES

THE SCORE: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel claimed he didn’t get hurt during pregame warmup before Thursday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils, contradicting what coach Ralph Krueger told reporters that night. Eichel said he got hurt in New Jersey on Tuesday, which also forced him to miss Thursday’s game. Krueger said Sunday he wasn’t trying to mislead anyone with his statement on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This would be at best a minor issue for a normal team. For the floundering Sabres, however, it’s seen by their critics as yet another example of the dysfunction within the club.

TORONTO STAR: The Maple Leafs could face the Edmonton Oilers tonight without center Auston Matthews and goalies Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell. They’re nursing injuries and listed as day-to-day. Michael Hutchinson will get the call if Andersen and Campbell can’t play.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog tied Peter Forsberg for the third-most goals (202) in franchise history during Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

NBC SPORTS: Florida Panthers winger Brett Connolly and Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock were placed on waivers yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m interested to see if a team in need of goalie depth plucks Stalock off the waiver wire. He had decent numbers last season but has been relegated to third-stringer behind Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen this season.

STLTODAY.COM: Jacob de la Rose became the sixth player on the St. Louis Blues to be placed on injured reserve.

TSN: Four players – Arizona’s John Hayden, Detroit’s Patrik Nemeth, the New York Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl – remain on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There were calls from some in the media in mid-February for the NHL to pause or reduce the schedule over the growing number of players on the protocol list and the postponement of games as a result. Those numbers have significantly dropped over the last two weeks, suggesting the league’s updated protocols are working.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 3, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 3, 2021

The latest on Tony DeAngelo, Sam Bennett, Victor Mete, Travis Dermott, Vince Dunn and Brett Connolly in today’s NHL rumor mill.

GROWING INTEREST IN DEANGELO

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the New York Rangers have told Tony DeAngelo to wait at home as they work on trading the 25-year-old defenseman. Dreger said there’s “a ton of interest in him all of a sudden,” with a source claiming the blueliner could be moved within the next few days.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Rangers are willing to absorb part of DeAngelo’s annual salary-cap hit to facilitate a trade. Friedman believes it won’t be easy to move the blueliner as any acquiring team knows there will be heat.

The Blueshirts aren’t looking at terminating his contract as it would be unlikely to do so without the player’s agreement. If they decide to buy him out at season’s end it’ll be at one-third the remaining value as he doesn’t turn 26 until October.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes it might be in DeAngelo’s best interests to enter an anger management program before returning to play given his history of outbursts. He also believes the defenseman’s social media activity could also be a red flag for any organization looking at him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dreger’s report merely confirms my belief that there is always an NHL general manager somewhere willing to give players with maturity or personality issues a chance provided they have a talent that can address a roster weakness.

DeAngelo’s defensive game leaves much to be desired but his offensive skills make him valuable to a team lacking blueline production. The Rangers’ willingness to eat part of his $4.8 million AAV improves his trade value. Now it comes down to what the Blueshirts want in return and how much salary they’re willing to absorb to get this deal done.

FLAMES IN NO RUSH TO MOVE BENNETT

Calgary Flames are in no rush to move Sam Bennett (NHL Images).

TSN: Dreger also reports the Calgary Flames aren’t in any rush to trade forward Sam Bennett after his agent surprised them over the weekend by saying his client would prefer a change of scenery. It has to be a deal that works for the Flames. General manager Brad Treliving is willing to hang onto him as a potentially impactful player for Calgary.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Flames coach Geoff Ward dismissed any talk of Bennett being unhappy with his playing time. Ward indicated he spoke with Bennett before the start of the season to give him the choice of where he wanted to play in the lineup. He started at center and after a couple of games asked to be moved to the wing.

Friedman also expects the Flames to move cautiously on Bennett, in part because of his playoff performance. It’s also possible any frustration between player and organization could pass over time. The Flames have tested his value in the trade market but held onto him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bennett still hasn’t spoken about his agent’s remarks while the official word from management and teammates is this won’t be a distraction. This could settle down over the course of the season but it could resurface if Bennett’s play suffers or the Flames struggle to stay in the playoff chase.

UPDATES ON METE , DERMOTT AND DUNN

SPORTSNET: Friedman reports the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the clubs showing interest in Montreal Canadiens defenseman Victor Mete. He points out the Canadiens’ limited cap space means it would have to be a dollar-in, dollar-out deal but they do like Mete. He also added the Penguins were poking around Toronto for Maple Leafs blueliner Travis Dermott.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance looked at whether players such as Mete, Dermott, Bennett or St. Louis Blues defenseman Victor Dunn might make sense as trade targets for the struggling Vancouver Canucks.

Drance doesn’t believe Bennett would resolve the Canucks’ long-term need for an established third-line center. He feels Mete would be a poor fit because the Canucks have a surplus of puck-moving left-shot defensemen.

The Blues’ asking price for Dunn (first-round pick) is expensive plus he couldn’t join the Canucks until after a two-week quarantine period due to Canadian border restrictions. Dermott might not be an ideal fit but he’d be more reasonably priced than Dunn and would join the team more quickly.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drance offers up a more detailed analysis than my synopsis but I concur with his take. There really isn’t much available that would provide an immediate, affordable improvement to the Canucks’ roster. That doesn’t mean management won’t stop looking but the pickings appear slim right now.

Regarding Dermott, Drance’s colleague Jame Mirtle feels the Leafs will handle the blueliner the same way the Canadiens are handling Mete. They’re leery of moving him because they want to ensure they have sufficient depth over the course of the season. Dermott also won’t fetch a return that provides a swift upgrade to the lineup.

LATEST ON CONNOLLY

Friedman suggests keeping an eye on Florida Panthers winger Brett Connolly, who was a healthy scratch in their last two games. He speculates a contender could show interest in the 28-year-old.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows Connolly is in the second year of a four-year deal with an annual average value of $3.5 million. Teams could be reluctant to take on that cap hit given how tight payrolls are this season.