NHL Rumor Mill – June 26, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – June 26, 2019

Latest on Mitch Marner, Sebastian Aho, Wayne Simmonds, Brett Connolly and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston wonders if Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner will use the restricted free agent window to meet with other teams. Only one other player (Shea Weber in 2012) has done so publicly. He noted the Marner camp “want to get the lay of the land through phone conversations.” It remains to be seen, however, if a rival club will sign him to an offer sheet.


Speculation persists suggesting Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner could sign an offer sheet (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Paying over $13 million annually for four years plus giving up four first-round picks as compensation is a hefty price for Marner. He’s a terrific young player and I have no issue with him using his rights as a restricted free agent to explore his options. However, he’s not a generational talent like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. Any team ponying up that much will be overpaying for his services.

However, Marner’s also worth much more than those who believe he should get slightly more than William Nylander’s $6.96 million per season. He’s led the Leafs in scoring twice in his short career, becoming the first Leaf since Mats Sundin to reach 90 points. His camp can make a good case that he’s worth $11 million per season. 


NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Chip Alexander reports Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell continues talks with Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney. Both goaltenders are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Waddell’s had daily discussions with Mrazek but less so with McElhinney. He also indicated Scott Darling could be bought out, though the club is exploring other options.

Waddell believes there’s no rush to get a decision from captain Justin Williams about his plans. He added he had a good talk with Justin Faulk’s agent. Faulk has a year remaining on his contract. Waddell claims he feels no sense of urgency to re-sign or trade Faulk.

The Hurricanes GM also said discussions are ongoing with Sebastian Aho, expressing confidence the RFA center will be re-signed before training camp. Waddell also dismissed talk of Aho or other RFAs getting offer sheets, claiming it’s being overblown by the media.


SPECTOR’S NOTE: If I were a Hurricanes fan I wouldn’t be too concerned about that eight-year offer for Aho. That could merely be their opening pitch.

Aho is definitely worth more than that. He was their leading scorer in each of the last two seasons and their top scorer in this year’s playoffs. The 21-year-old center is steadily improving, going from 49 points as a rookie in 2016-17 to 65 points in 2017-18 to 83 points this season. He’s getting much more than $6 million annually. 


LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: The Montreal Canadiens are among what’s believed to be a dozen teams to contract Wayne Simmonds. The 30-year-old right winger is slated to become a UFA on July 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buyer beware with Simmonds. In his prime, he was a skilled, physical two-way winger. Pelvic surgery last spring, however, took a toll on his performance this season. For the first time since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he didn’t reach 20 goals or 45 points. He might be worthwhile on a one- or two-year deal but I’d be reluctant to invest too much for too long. 


THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites an interview with UFA winger Brett Connolly’s agent Gerry Johansson with 630 CHED’s “Oilers Now”, indicating he’d had a good conversation with the Edmonton Oilers about his client. “There’s not a much better opportunity in the NHL than the right side in Edmonton,” he said. “That’s a pretty big opportunity for someone like Brett. And obviously he’s a (Prince George, British Columbia) guy, so he’s a western Canadian.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers lack skilled scoring depth at right wing. Connolly’s completing a two-year, $3-million contract with the Washington Capitals.

Cap Friendly indicates the Oilers have over $8.33 million in salary-cap space. If Connolly’s seeking a reasonable raise (around $4 million annually), the Oilers can afford him. However, they might have to part ways with Alex Chiasson or shed some salary to sign him or other players. 


NHL Rumor Mill – June 17, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – June 17, 2019

The latest Penguins, Bruins, Senators, Capitals, and Flyers speculation, plus an update on Nikita Zaitsev, in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In the wake of the Penguins trading Olli Maatta to Chicago for Dominik Kahan and a draft pick, Ron Cook believes there’s more work to do. Trading Maatta won’t return them to Stanley Cup contender status or resolve their team chemistry. General manager Jim Rutherford last week said he’d welcome back Phi Kessel. Cook, however, believes Rutherford is still trying to trade the winger.

Patric Hornqvist’s age, concussion history, and his lengthy contract make him difficult to move. Blueliner Kris Letang has as 12-team no-trade list, and Evgeni Malkin has a full no-movement clause. Cook considers Malkin the least likely to be traded but doesn’t rule it out if the right deal can be found. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel recently spiked a deal that would’ve sent him to Minnesota for winger Jason Zucker. If Rutherford wants to move the winger he must convince him to broaden his eight-team trade list.  I don’t see Hornqvist, Letang or Malkin going anywhere. 


NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty recently suggested defenseman Torey Krug and center David Krejci could become Boston Bruins’ trade bait. Krug, 28, is a year away from unrestricted free agent status and coming off a strong performance this season. Haggerty thinks he’d be the bait the Bruins need to land a top-six power forward but they’ll have to carefully consider that option.

Haggerty also feels Krejci is now at his peak value and could attract interest in the trade market. Moving his $7.25-million annual average value would clear up some potential salary-cap complications.

Could Boston Bruins center David Krejci become a cost-cutting trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins have a projected $14.3 million in salary-cap space. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen are coming off entry-level contracts. Their new deals could eat up most of that cap room. They could buy out David Backes but would see only $333K in cap savings for 2019-20.

Krejci’s no-movement clause reverts to a modified no-trade on July 1. That could make him easier to shop. But after coming so close to winning the Stanley Cup this season, GM Don Sweeney could be reluctant to move Krug or Krejci. 


EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples observes conflicting speculation out of Toronto linking Maple Leafs blueliner Nikita Zaitsev to the Oilers. He notes TSN’s Darren Dreger last week suggesting the Oilers and Vancouver Canucks could have interest in Zaitsev, a third-pairing rearguard earning second-pairing dollars ($4.5 million annually). Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman countered he’s heard the Oilers aren’t going down that route.

However, The Athletic’s James Mirtle considers Edmonton the top destination. He wondered if packaging Zaitsev with Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson would bring Adam Larsson to Toronto.

Staples doesn’t believe the Oilers would agree to that deal. “However you slice it, Edmonton can’t afford to have another big contract from a player who isn’t a top performer, not with Milan Lucic already on the books and Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell and Mikko Koskinen all iffy propositions.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m with Staples on this one. There’s a better chance of Lucic getting traded to Vancouver for Loui Eriksson than a package of Zaitsev and Kapanen or Johnsson going to Edmonton for Larsson. And I think Lucic-for-Eriksson is a long shot. 


NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien points out the Washington Capitals’ limited salary-cap space following their re-signing of Carl Hagelin yesterday. They now have around $10.7 million in projected salary-cap room. Their restricted free agents include Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky while Brett Connolly, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Brooks Orpik are unrestricted. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith-Pelly isn’t expected to be re-signed. NBC Sports Washington’s J.J.Regan believes their acquisition last week of Radko Gudas spells the end of Orpik’s tenure with the Capitals.

Vrana’s going to be re-signed and I think they want to keep Connolly if he’ll agree to accept less than market value. Burakovsky’s frequently come up in trade rumors this season and could be moved if things get tight cap-wise. 


COURIER-POST ONLINE: Dave Isaac reports Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher has spoken with some teams regarding a potential trade for a backup goalie. Fletcher suggests that search could go into the upcoming free-agency period. It doesn’t sound like pending UFAs Brian Elliott and Cam Talbot will be back. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trade options could including James Reimer of the Florida Panthers and Garret Sparks of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both are reportedly being shopped by their respective clubs. 


OTTAWA SUN: Given the Senators’ blueline depth, Bruce Garrioch wouldn’t be surprised if they put defenseman Ben Harpur on the trade block. His size and affordable $725K one-way contract could make him an attractive option. The Senators also wouldn’t mind moving veteran winger Mikkel Boedker. He has a year left on his contract with a $4-million cap hit. They’re also expected to qualify the rights of restricted free agents Cody Ceci, Colin White, and Anthony Duclair. 

NHL Rumor Mill – May 6, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – May 6, 2019

Does a swap of Subban-for-Voracek make sense? Should the Canadiens pursue Justin Williams this summer? Which Capitals could be on the move this summer? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi believes the Philadelphia Flyers should swap winger Jakub Voracek for Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban. Noting recent speculation suggests the 29-year-old Subban could be available, Carchidi feels he’d be a perfect fit on the Flyers blueline. He points out Subban is a right-handed shot, a former Norris Trophy winner who plays with an edge. He would become a leader in the Flyers’ dressing room and complement Ivan Provorov on their top defense pairing. 

Should the Philadelphia Flyers swap winger Jakub Voracek for Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban? (Photo via NHL Images)

Carchidi notes Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher has a close relationship with Predators GM David Poile. He also points out Predators coach Peter Laviolette is a former Flyers bench boss who knows some of their current players well. Carchidi believes Voracek’s offensive skills would make him a good fit with the Predators. If Poile wants a defenseman included in the deal, Carchidi recommends Robert Hagg. 

Trading Voracek for Subban would leave the Flyers in need of a scoring winger. Carchidi proposed using their salary-cap space to pursue a winger like Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner, Anders Lee or Gustav Nyquist via free agency. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carchidi is just making a trade suggestion. He’s not saying the Flyers and Predators are discussing a Subban-for-Voracek swap. Still, it’s an interesting scenario with its share of positives and negatives.

Carchidi touched on the positives for both clubs but there are downsides to this. Subban was plagued by a back injury this season which hampered his production. It could be a sign that his style of play is catching up with him. We also don’t know if Subban’s outsized personality would be a good fit with the Flyers. Voracek’s stats tend to fluctuate from season to season, raising concerns about his consistency. The Preds would get some cap relief, moving out Subban’s $9.5 million for Voracek’s $8.25 million, but they’d be taking on a longer-term contract.

So what say you, Flyers and Predators fans? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.


TVA SPORTS: Louis Jean reported Carolina Hurricanes captain Justin Williams considered signing with the Montreal Canadiens as a free agent in 2015. He ultimately joined the Washington Capitals.

With Williams due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Jean-Charles Lajoie wondered if the Habs should take a run at signing him. Yvon Pedneault believes they’ll have to overpay because of Quebec’s high taxes. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That ship has sailed. If Williams decides to continue playing, he’ll re-sign with the Hurricanes. 

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels believes the Canadiens must explore adding an experienced backup to reduce the workload on starting goalie Carey Price. Potential options could include Philadelphia’s Cam Talbot, Carolina’s Curtis McElhinney, and Ottawa’s Anders Nilsson.

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Other backup options for the Canadiens could include Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo, Carolina’s Petr Mrazek, Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark, and Chicago Cam Ward. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talbot is expected to be re-signed by the Flyers. I can see the Hurricanes keeping the tandem of Mrazek and McElhinney intact. With Sergei Bobrovsky expected to depart via free agency in July, the Jackets could hang onto Korpisalo. The Sabres consider Ullmark a future starter. That leaves Nilsson and Ward, who won’t be re-signed by their current clubs. 


THE ATHLETIC: Chris Kuc speculated Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen could be shopped this summer as a cost-cutting measure. He’s signed through 2020-21 with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.75-million. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan must decide if he’ll re-sign restricted free agent winger Andre Burakovsky and UFA wingers Brett Connolly and Carl Hagelin. Kuc doesn’t expect free agents Brooks Orpik, Devante Smith-Pelly and Dmitrij Jaskin will be back. 

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan thinks the Capitals would prefer retaining Burakovsky because they don’t have much offense in their pipeline right now. Given their salary-cap constraints, trading Burakovsky is a possibility. If they don’t shed salary, they can’t afford to re-sign Burakovsky, Connolly or Hagelin. Trading Niskanen could address that issue. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Capitals have over $72.6 million invested in 17 players. In addition to Burakovsky, Connolly, and Hagelin, they must also re-sign winger Jakub Vrana, who’s coming off an entry-level contract and had a 24-goal, 47-point campaign. They could attempt to sign him to an affordable short-term bridge contract with the promise of a bigger raise after that. However, they’ll still need to free up some room if they wish to re-sign the other three.

Niskanen has a 10-team no-trade list but that still give the Capitals 20 potential trade destinations. He could also agree to expand his list. Given the market for skilled right-shot defensemen, the 32-year-old Niskanen could attract interest in this summer’s trade market. 

NHL Rumor Mill – April 27, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – April 27, 2019

Will James Neal return with the Flames next season? Could the Capitals shop Matt Niskanen and Andre Burakovsky this summer? Should the Canucks pursue Jason Zucker or try to trade Brandon Sutter this summer?  Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.


CALGARY SUN: Despite the calls from Flames followers for the club to rid themselves of veteran winger James Neal, Wes Gilbertson recently reported there’s “little doubt” he’ll return with the club next season. He doesn’t believe Flames ownership will approve a contract buyout stretching through 2026-17 burning up nearly $2 million in annual salary-cap space. He also doesn’t see a market for a winger carrying an AAV of $5.75-million through 2022-23. Neal, meanwhile, wants to be a top-six forward and intends to train this summer toward returning to his 20-goal-per-season form. 

Don’t expect the Calgary Flames to trade or buy out James Neal’s contract this summer (Photo via NHL Images)

During a roundtable with Sun writers Danny Austin and Kristen Anderson on the Flames season and offseason plans, Gilbertson agreed with Anderson that GM Brad Treliving is unlikely to make sweeping roster changes. He believes Treliving must find a second-line right winger, suggesting perhaps revisiting the trade for Jason Zucker with the Minnesota Wild that fell through at the trade deadline. He also agreed with Austin that defenseman T.J. Brodie could be traded this summer. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames have over $69 million invested in 20 players, with RFAs Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett to re-sign and goaltenders Mike Smith and David Rittich to re-sign or replace. Tkachuk’s next contract alone could absorb around $9 million of their salary-cap space. If they’re looking to shed salary, Brodie rather than Neal is a more likely trade candidate.

Neal lacks no-trade protection but the sharp decline in his production this season combined with the remaining years and the cap hit of his contract makes him a tough sell. He’ll likely return with the Flames next season. 

If Treliving intends to acquire Zucker ($5.5 million AAV) or another right winger, that move will have to be as close to a dollar-for-dollar swap as possible or doing a separate deal to shed the cap space necessary to take on that incoming winger’s contract. Those moves could involve Brodie or Michael Frolik, who was reportedly offered up to the Wild (along with a draft pick) for Zucker. 


THE WASHINGTON POST: In the wake of the Washington Capitals first-round playoff elimination, Isabelle Khurshudyan recently examined potential offseason moves in store for the roster. She points out the bonuses owed to Brooks Orpik, Jakub Vrana, and Jonas Siegenthaler ($1.15 million total) will count against next season’s salary-cap payroll. 

Khurshudyan speculates the addition of defenseman Nick Jensen in February could make veteran blueliner Matt Niskanen a salary-cap casualty. Trading Niskanen, who’s signed through 2020-21 with a $5.75-million annual salary-cap hit, would create flexibility this summer and next. 

The Capitals must also decide what to do with winger Andre Burakovsky, a restricted free agent who was also the subject of frequent trade speculation. Fellow RFAs Dmitrij Jaskin and Chandler Stephenson also face uncertain futures. Of their unrestricted free agents, Orpik and Devante Smith-Pelly are least likely to return. The Capitals probably want to re-sign forwards Brett Connolly and Carl Hagelin but probably can’t afford to keep both. With 22 goals and 46 points, Connolly has more upside. 

Khurshudyan considers re-signing Vrana the priority, using Vegas Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch ($4.75-million annual average value) as a “conservative comparable,” speculating his representatives could push for a bridge deal as a hedge that his production will continue to climb, ensuring a bigger future payday. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $72.6 million already invested in 17 players for 2019-20. Deduct that $1.15 million bonus overage from the projected $83 million salary cap for next season and they’ll have around $9 million to work with. Even if Vrana’s camp wants a bridge deal, he’s going to get a significant raise coming off his entry-level contract, perhaps around $4 million. Connolly made $1.5 million annually on his current contract and will likely seek around $4 million. That won’t leave much to fill in the rest of the lineup.

Somebody must be moved in a cost-cutting deal. Niskanen had a modified no-trade clause listing 10 teams he cannot be traded to, leaving a 20-team marketplace. Given his experience, puck-moving skills, ability to log big minutes and the market for right-shooting defensemen, the Capitals should be able to find a suitable destination for him and probably won’t have to absorb any of his salary-cap hit. However, they can’t afford to take any salary back so they’ll likely look at draft picks and prospects in return. 

Burakovsky’s days with the Capitals appear in doubt. GM Brian MacLellan resisted the temptation to move the 24-year-old winger this season in hopes he’d improve. While he did play better down the stretch, I don’t think he did enough to ensure a long-term future there. They could decide not to qualify Burakovsky’s rights in hopes of signing him at a lower salary but I think they’ll see what he might fetch in the trade market.

Orpik hasn’t made a decision about his future yet but there’s already speculation he might retire. Hagelin said he’d like to return but they might not have enough cap space to keep him. 


THE ATHLETIC: During a mailbag segment earlier this month, JD Burke was asked about possible trade targets for the Canucks. He suggested making a pitch for Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker. Pointing to the near-deal that would’ve sent Zucker to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline for Michael Frolik and a draft pick, he proposes the Canucks offer up Jake Virtanen. He also believes they should target the Edmonton Oilers, assuming they’ll once again screw up their GM search.

Asked which team the Canucks could trade center Brandon Sutter to this summer, he doubts there’s much of a market for the 30-year-old center, who’s signed through 2020-21 with a $4.35-million AAV and also carries a no-trade clause. He speculates the Edmonton Oilers might be interested, depending on who becomes their next GM. He also wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets would be willing to swap Alexander Wennberg’s contract (signed through 2022-23, $4.9 million AAV) for Sutter’s, or if the New York Islanders might be interested.  

VANCOUVER SUN: Patrick Johnston recently listed Sutter, Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Loui Eriksson, and Ben Hutton as potential Canucks trade candidates. Goldobin’s a restricted free agent who said he wants to stay in Vancouver but Johnston wondered if he’ll get the chance. Eriksson carries a $6 million AAV and was employed on the fourth line this season. He also carries a 15-team no-trade list but could be appealing to budget clubs looking to become cap compliant. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pundits and fans can make suggestions over what moves the Canucks should attempt to make but GM Jim Benning probably has other ideas. If Zucker’s available, the Wild could attempt to drive up his value by getting teams into a bidding war for his services. If so, forget about prying him out of Minnesota with Virtanen.

There could be a market for Sutter or Eriksson among cost-conscious clubs looking to reach the cap minimum. However, those teams will also want a sweetener included in the deal, like a decent draft pick or a good prospect.

The Canucks might not have to worry about re-signing Goldobin. He’s reportedly considering signing with a KHL team this summer.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 20, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 20, 2019

Game recaps, Sharks clinch a playoff spot, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Tyler Seguin collected four assists, Alexander Radulov scored twice, and Ben Bishop returned to action as the Dallas Stars doubled up the Florida Panthers 4-2. Aleksander Barkov scored twice for the Panthers. The Stars (82 points) opened a four-point lead over the Coyotes for the first Western wild-card position. 

Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin collected four assists in a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers (Photo via NHL Images).

Jaden Schwartz tallied a hat trick and David Perron scored twice as the St. Louis Blues thumped the Edmonton Oilers 7-2. Oilers winger Milan Lucic was ejected following a nasty cross-check on Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. The Blues (84 points) remain five points behind the Nashville Predators for second place in the Central Division. 

Sean Kuraly scored twice and Tuukka Rask stopped 13 shots as the Boston Bruins blanked the New York Islanders 5-0. The loss drops the Islanders (91 points) into second place in the Metropolitan Division. Isles forwards Valtteri Filppula and Cal Clutterbuck left the game with upper-body injuries

Jimmy Howard kicked out 41 shots and Andreas Athanasiou scored two goals to give the Detroit Red Wings a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Wings forward Jacob de la Rose was diagnosed with an accelerated heartbeat following the second period and was hospitalized for precautionary reasons. He will return home and will soon see a specialist. Speaking of Howard, he’s expected to sign a one-year, $4-million contract extension later this week. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping de la Rose makes a full recovery and can continue his playing career. Howard, 34, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent but he and the Wings expressed a mutual interest in working out a new contract. This anticipated deal would be a reasonable one for both sides, giving the Wings more time to find Howard’s eventual successor. 

The Montreal Canadiens (83 points) moved within one point of the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot by downing the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1. Carey Price made 32 saves while Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber, and Max Domi scored for the Habs. The loss leaves the Flyers (78 points) six points out of a playoff berth. 

Dougie Hamilton’s shootout goal gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, moving the Canes (87 points) within two points of the Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division. Pens defenseman Kris Letang scored in his return to the lineup while teammate Phil Kessel set a franchise record for consecutive games with 320. 

The Washington Capitals regained first place in the Metropolitan Division by downing the New Jersey Devils 4-1. Brett Connolly had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who’ll visit the White House on Monday to commemorate their 2018 Stanley Cup championship.

Connolly, however, said he’ll respectfully decline the invitation in solidarity with teammate and friend Devante Smith-Pelly, who indicated last fall he was not attending. “The things that (President Donald Trump) spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” said Smith-Pelly. “Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross. I’m not too into politics, so I don’t know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don’t agree with.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what the reaction will be toward the Capitals’ White House visit. The Pittsburgh Penguins faced criticism from some quarters for their 2017 visit, though that came in the midst of a protest among NFL players (and some owners) over Trump’s remarks against black players taking a knee during the American national anthem against police brutality toward the black community. 

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne kicked out 22 shots to shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0, handing the latter their fourth loss in their last five games. Wayne Simmonds tallied his first goal with the Predators (89 points), who sit one behind the Winnipeg Jets for the top spot in the Central Division. 

A 36-save performance by Philipp Grubauer gave the Colorado Avalanche a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. The Avalanche (76 points) sit one point behind the Wild and two back of the Arizona Coyotes for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference. 

The Calgary Flames opened a three-point lead over the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Western Conference by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau tallied his 35th goal of the season.

NBC SPORTS: Thanks to the Avalanche’s victory over the Wild, the San Jose Sharks clinched a playoff spot. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 30, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 30, 2018

Latest on Martin Brodeur, Wayne Simmonds, Jack Johnson, Brett Connolly and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils yesterday announced Martin Brodeur was returning to the club as their new executive vice president of business development. Brodeur spent all but one of his 22 NHL seasons with the Devils during his Hall of Fame career. He recently left the St. Louis Blues after spending several seasons as their assistant general manager.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds believes his agent and Flyers GM Ron Hextall have had preliminary discussions regarding a new contract. For now, he’s focusing on returning healthy for the upcoming season after recovering from offseason pelvic surgery. Hextall has said several times he’d like to re-sign Simmonds, who’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds is unconcerned over lack of progress in contract extension talks (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers could take a “wait-and-see” approach with Simmonds to assess his performance in the coming season before getting down to serious contract talks. 

THE ATHLETIC (Subscription required): Defenseman Jack Johnson is keeping mum over his final days with the Columbus Blue Jackets but he’s very happy to be a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who signed him as an unrestricted free agent earlier this summer. Johnson was a healthy scratch during the Blue Jackets first-round playoff series last spring against the Washington Capitals.

WASHINGTON POST: Capitals winger Brett Connolly said he won’t be joining his teammates during their visit to the White House commemorating their Stanley Cup championship. Connolly said it had nothing to do with politics, adding he wouldn’t be surprised if several other teammates also didn’t go. Connolly joins Devante Smith-Pelly in skipping the event. The Capitals have yet to receive a formal invitation from the White House. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said Connolly, who added his decision was “about what’s right and what’s wrong and we’ll leave it at that.”

CALGARY SUN: Former Flames forward Matt Stajan has signed with Red Bull Munchen of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. Stajan spent 15 NHL seasons with the Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs.

THE SCORE: Former San Jose Sharks winger Joel Ward remains hopeful of landing with another NHL club when training camp opens in two weeks time. Heading to Europe isn’t something he’s put at the top of his minds. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Age and injuries took a toll on the 37-year-old Ward last season. He could end up on a professional tryout offer if he hopes to secure an NHL job for 2018-19. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Tod Leiweke, the president and CEO of the group heading up Seattle’s NHL bid, said they will be meeting with league executives in early-October to begin the process of getting approval to become the NHL’s 32nd franchise. If all goes well, the y could make their pitch before the league board of governors in December. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If approved, the first season for a Seattle franchise would be 2020-21. 

SPORTSNET: NHL teams apparently take a dim view of players spending too much of their free time playing video games, especially the game Fortnite. Excessive gaming is considered an unnecessary addictive distraction that hampers a player’s development.