The Senators sign Vladimir Tarasenko, the Bruins intend to retire Patrice Bergeron’s number, the Coyotes sign top prospect Logan Cooley and the Panthers prepare to celebrate their 30th anniversary season in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed free agent Vladimir Tarasenko to a one-year, $5 million contract. It’s expected the 31-year-old scoring winger will skate among the Senators’ top-six forwards.
Ottawa Senators sign Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko was the biggest name remaining in this summer’s unrestricted free-agent market. He’s a six-time 30-goal scorer who should provide a boost to the Senators’ offense this season.
Tarasenko reportedly rejected an earlier bid from the Senators along with others from several other clubs before replacing his agent with new representation in early July. This season’s flattened salary cap hampered his chances of landing a lucrative long-term deal after coming off an eight-year contract worth an average annual value of $7.5 million.
Forced to accept a shorter term for less money, Tarasenko is betting that he’ll have a productive season with the Senators. Another 30-goal campaign could help him land a better contract via next summer’s free-agent market when the salary cap is projected to rise by at least $4 million.
As for the Senators, this move leaves them with around $784K in cap space with restricted free agents Shane Pinto, Egor Sokolov and Alex Formenton to re-sign. A cost-cutting trade could be in the works.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins team president Cam Neely confirmed the club will retire Patrice Bergeron’s No. 37 at some point in the near future. Bergeron announced his retirement earlier this week after 19 NHL seasons, all of them with the Bruins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Proper thing. Bergeron is one of the greatest players in Bruins history. Whether that happens this season or perhaps when he’s officially inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in three years’ time remains to be seen.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes signed top prospect Logan Cooley on Thursday to a three-year entry-level contract. Cooley, 19, was chosen third overall in the 2022 NHL Draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cooley had originally planned to return to the University of Minnesota this season. However, the lure of playing in the NHL proved too strong.
Cooley is perhaps the most highly-touted prospect in Coyotes’ history. He’ll face considerable pressure to play up to lofty expectations. How well he does will affect the rebuilding Coyotes’ plans of becoming a playoff contender in the near future.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers will be celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2023-24. The club unveiled its anniversary logo and there are plans to bring back former players, coaches and personalities who were part of the franchise during those three decades.
Bergeron, 38, said that he felt it was best to leave while still at the top of his game. He also wants to spend more time with his family.
The former Bruins captain also cited the physical toll that two decades of NHL action has taken on his body, though he indicated that he had no major issues. “It’s time to let that heal and move on,” he said.
As for his future, Bergeron indicated that he doesn’t believe joining the NHL coaching ranks is in the cards. “Never say never, but for now, I don’t have a want or will to coach.”
Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most pro athletes tend to hang on too long, often becoming shadows of their former greatness late in their careers. Bergeron was that rare player still capable of playing at a high level at an age when most are in decline. He made the wise choice to trust his instincts and recognize the best time to leave the game.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes yesterday signed Sebastian Aho to an eight-year, $78 million contract extension effective July 1, 2024. The 26-year-old center will earn an average annual value of $9.75 million plus his deal comes with a full no-movement clause throughout and a modified no-trade clause (15-team no-trade list) in the final season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise that the Hurricanes locked up their first-line center on a long-term extension. Aho’s been their best forward since his 2017-18 sophomore season and a key reason why they’re a Stanley Cup contender. His new AAV is a reasonable raise over his current annual cap hit of $8.46 million. Aho probably would’ve gotten more in next summer’s open market but opted for the long-term security of staying with the only NHL club he’s ever played for.
General manager Don Waddell also indicated that he’s not close to re-signing other Hurricanes eligible for unrestricted free-agent status next summer. They include defensemen Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei and winger Teuvo Teravainen.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs announced goaltender Matt Murray is sidelined indefinitely and has been placed on long-term injury reserve.
The designation, however, comes two months after Murray was considered fully recovered from a late-season concussion and was well enough to be considered for a start against the Florida Panthers during the Leafs’ second-round series.
This report also came without any details as to the nature of Murray’s injury. The league reserves the right to have an independent doctor assess to determine if the LTIR designation is justified.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move prompted speculation on social media accusing the Leafs of circumventing the salary cap. It’s my understanding that the approval of the team doctor is required before a player is placed on LTIR. I believe that Murray must also report to training camp and undergo a physical. If he fails that, he will remain on LTIR for the 2023-24 season until such time that he’s physically able to return to action, which might not happen given his injury history.
Murray and his $4.687 million cap hit join sidelined defenseman Jake Muzzin and his $5.625 million on LTIR giving the Leafs some $10.3 million in cap relief. However, they remain above the $83.5 million cap by just over $2 million. That means they’ll have to shed salary via trade or demotion or end up icing a 20-man roster for the coming season.
THE ATHLETIC:Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski has returned to the ice in semi-competitive play for the first time since his season-ending shoulder injury last November. He’s participating in a no-contact summer league as he looks toward returning to NHL action for 2023-24 with the Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Werenski’s absence was among the factors that contributed to the Blue Jackets missing the playoffs last season. They’ve bolstered their blueline this summer by adding Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson but a healthy and productive Werenski will be crucial to their hopes of postseason contention.
TVA SPORTS: Maxime Comtois revealed it was a mutual decision between himself and the Anaheim Ducks to part ways this summer. The Ducks didn’t send him a qualifying offer, making the 24-year-old forward an unrestricted free agent.
Comtois said he’s getting calls from interested clubs though none have turned into a concrete offer yet. After playing several years with the rebuilding Ducks, he said he wants to play for a winning team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Comtois also said that he’d be interested in joining the Montreal Canadiens but he has not received a call from them. The Habs are rebuilding their roster with an eye on making room for their promising young prospects.
SPORTSNET:Logan Cooley is having second thoughts about returning to the University of Minnesota for another season and could sign his entry-level contract with the Arizona Coyotes. Cooley, 19, was taken third overall in the 2022 NHL Draft by the Coyotes.
The Golden Knights beat the Stars in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, reaction to the Leafs firing GM Kyle Dubas, Clayton Keller’s agents meet with Coyotes management and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS DRAW FIRST BLOOD IN WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on an overtime goal by Brett Howden. William Karlsson scored two goals, Zack Whitecloud collected two assists and Adin Hill made 33 saves for the Golden Knights. Roope Hintz had a goal and two assists, Jason Robertson a goal and an assist and Jake Oettinger stopped 33 shots for the Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was an entertaining game with plenty of scoring chances, some big saves and a good overall pace. Four of the six goals in regulation were scored in the third period when the Golden Knights would take the lead but the Stars rallied back twice to tie it.
Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpaa missed this game, perhaps due to a nagging lower-body injury. Colin Miller took his place.
Game 2 goes Sunday in Las Vegas at 3 pm ET.
LEAFS FIRE DUBAS, MARLIES COACHING STAFF SACK, SPEZZA RESIGNS.
TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Friday that they had “parted ways” with general manager Kyle Dubas.
DAILY FACEOFF: In a subsequent press conference, Leafs president Brendan Shanahan spoke candidly of the reasons behind the decision. He revealed that a framework for a contract extension was presented to Dubas prior to the latter’s emotional press conference on Monday where he voiced his uncertainty about returning to the job.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas (NHL Images).
Shanahan explained the Leafs front office was caught off guard by Dubas’ remarks and started to rethink management’s plans. A meeting with Dubas on Wednesday, Shanahan said, left the latter with more questions than answers.
The Leafs president indicated that Dubas presented a new financial package for a contract extension on Thursday. By that point, however, Shanahan had felt differently about the club’s future with Dubas. On Friday, he drove to Dubas’ office and told him that he was fired.
Shanahan indicated that he’ll be open-minded when it comes to Dubas’ replacement. However, he will put an emphasis on experience.
TORONTO SUN: Prior to Shanahan’s press conference on Friday, Jason Spezza tendered his resignation as special assistant to the general manager. Spezza had been in the role for one season following his retirement as a player.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Marlies (the Leafs AHL affiliate) announced the contracts of coaches Greg Moore, A.J. MacLean and John Snowden would not be renewed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After several seasons, the soap opera “As The Leafs Turn” has returned. This was a major front-office bloodletting that will have significant short- and long-term ramifications for the Maple Leafs.
This news made a number of Leafs followers nervous that the club could be returning to the front-office dysfunction of the recent past. Some have drawn comparisons to the dark days of team owner Harold Ballard. Those folks are overreacting or weren’t old enough to remember how horrible the Ballard years were. Nevertheless, the concerns over the front office are understandable.
Dubas’ firing gives the Leafs little time to find a suitable replacement before the NHL draft (June 28-29) and the opening of contract extension talks (July 1) with Auston Matthews and William Nylander, who are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.
The new general manager must also find a way to address the club’s roster needs with limited salary-cap space. That includes deciding whether to shake up the roster by trading one of their core players. They must also decide if head coach Sheldon Keefe and his coaching staff will remain or be replaced.
Buckle up, Leafs fans, you’re in for what could be a very interesting summer.
IN OTHER NEWS…
SPORTSNET: Clayton Keller’s agents met with the Arizona Coyotes met with the club’s front office to discuss the team’s future. There was no trade request made by the 24-year-old winger’s representatives to seek clarity about the Coyotes’ direction after its Tempe arena proposal was rejected by a public referendum.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tying the franchise single-season record of 86 points, Keller is the Coyotes’ best player. He’s signed through 2026-27 and is a vital part of their current rebuilding program. The fact that he’s wondering about the club’s future should be a concern for the front office. If he’s not happy with their direction he could follow the example of former teammate Jakob Chychrun and request a trade.
NEW YORK POST: Connecticut governor Ned Lamont said he’s reached out to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for a meeting to discuss moving the Coyotes to Hartford, the former home of the Whalers before their relocation in 1997 to Carolina.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It would be nice to see the NHL return full-time to Hartford. However, if the Coyotes relocate they’ll likely end up in a big Western market such as Houston or Salt Lake City.
SPORTSNET: Coyotes top prospect Logan Cooley intends to return to the University of Minnesota for his sophomore season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt that Cooley’s decision is tied to the Coyotes’ failed arena bid. Earlier this year, he indicated that he wasn’t in a hurry to make the leap to the NHL. U.S. College players tend to spend at least two seasons with their university clubs. Management isn’t in any hurry to rush Cooley into their lineup, preferring to let him develop and mature as a player in the college ranks.
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports four potential candidates for the Flames’ vacant general manager job visited Calgary this week for interviews. Among them were Dave Nonis, Stan Bowman and Marc Bergevin. Seravalli believes the favorite could be Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Conroy seems to me to be the best choice. He knows the Flames well during his years in their front office.
THE ATHLETIC: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will reportedly meet with veteran coach Joel Quenneville after the playoffs to discuss his future with the league.
Quenneville resigned as head coach of the Florida Panthers in 2021, following the investigation into the sexual assault of former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach by former Blackhawks video coach Bradley Alrich.
At the time of Quenneville’s resignation, Bettman said he would have to meet with the commissioner if he wished to re-enter the league at some point.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could mean that there’s a team interested in hiring Quenneville.
The aftermath of a chaotic first round of the 2022 Draft, Joe Sakic was named GM of the Year, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Montreal Canadiens surprised the hockey world and made history by selecting winger Juraj Slavkovsky with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, making him the first player from Slovakia to go first overall. The Canadiens bypassed center Shane Wright of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, who had been ranked as the top prospect by NHL Central Scouting.
Further history was made when the New Jersey Devils chose defenseman Simon Nemec with the second-overall selection. Slavkovsky and Nemec are the first Slovakians to become the top-two players selected in an NHL draft.
Center Logan Cooley of the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) was selected by the Arizona Coyotes with the third-overall pick. Wright was chosen fourth overall by the Seattle Kraken.
The Canadiens also chose Slovakian winger Filip Mesar with the No. 26 pick. Meanwhile, the Coyotes selected center Conor Geekie (11th overall) from the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and Maveric Lamoureux from the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs at No. 29.
After starting Thursday with no picks in the first round, the Chicago Blackhawks wound up with three after shipping winger Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators, center Kirby Dach to the Canadiens and acquiring goalie Petr Mrazek as part of a return from the Toronto Maple Leafs. They chose defenseman Kevin Korchinski from the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds at No. 7, center Frank Nazar from the USNTDP at No. 13 and defenseman Sam Rinzel from Chaska High School at No. 25.
With two picks in the first round, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Czechia defenseman David Jiricek sixth overall and blueliner Denton Mateychuk from the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors with the No. 12 pick.
The Buffalo Sabres had three selections in the first round, choosing Winnipeg Ice center Matthew Savoie ninth overall, Swedish center Noah Ostlund with the No. 16 selection and Czechia center Jiri Kulich at No. 28.
With two first-rounders, the Anaheim Ducks selected Pavel Mintyukov of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit at No. 10 and center Nathan Gaucher of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts at No. 22. The Minnesota Wild used their two first-round picks to choose Swedish winger Liam Ohgren at No. 19 and Russian winger Danila Yurov at No. 24.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the full results from the first round by following the link above.
That was one of the wilder drafts regarding surprising selections and player movement via trades. You can read my take on those moves involving NHL players here.
Slafkovsky was as surprised as most in the Bell Centre by his selection as the first-overall pick. The big winger has the potential to become a scoring star in the NHL. He was named tournament MVP in the 2022 Beijing Olympics helping Slovakia win its first-ever medal (bronze) in men’s hockey with a tournament-leading seven goals.
Wright, meanwhile, admitted he’ll have a chip on his shoulder from this outcome which he intends to use as motivation in the future. His style of play drew comparisons to Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. The Kraken will have a future Selke Trophy center on their hands if he plays up to projections.
Rounds 2 through 7 will be held today at the Bell Centre in Montreal at 11 am ET.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Center Jagger Firkus of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, defenseman Ryan Chesley of the USNTDP and blueliner Calle Odelius of Djurgardens in the Swedish Hockey League are among Tony Ferrari’s top-five prospects remaining after the first round. Center Jack Hughes of Northeastern University in the NCAA and winger Julian Lutz of EHC Munchen in Germany round out his list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-deserved honor for Sakic who did a fine job building the Avalanche into the 2022 Stanley Cup champions.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland said he’s given defenseman Duncan Keith until Saturday whether he intends to play next season or retire. Keith, 38, has one year remaining on his contract. His retirement would free up $5.54 million in salary-cap space.
TSN: The Los Angeles Kings hired former goaltender Manon Rheaume as a hockey operations advisor focusing on prospect development. She’s among several women hired to prominent positions among NHL teams in recent weeks.