NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2021

Catching up on some notable late trades and free-agent signings, including the Avalanche acquiring Darcy Kuemper, plus a look at the notable free-agents still available in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes traded goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Conor Timmins, a first-round pick in 2022 and a conditional third-round pick in 2024.

Arizona Coyotes trade goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Colorado Avalanche (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche needed a suitable replacement for Philipp Grubauer after he signed with the Seattle Kraken yesterday. They had to move quickly as several teams had some interest in Kuemper. That’s why Avs general manager Joe Sakic paid such a steep price to get him.

In the short term, the 31-year-old Kuemper should offset Grubauer’s absence provided he can stay healthy. He’s been sidelined in recent seasons by a variety of injuries and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong, meanwhile, is doing a superb job trimming payroll while laying the groundwork to restock his prospect pipeline. Timmins is a promising young defenseman who could be a good fit on this rebuilding team. The Coyotes now have two first-round picks and five second-rounders in next year’s draft. They could get more when Armstrong starts shopping some of his pending unrestricted free agents at next year’s trade deadline.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals reacquired goaltender Vitek Vanecek from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Kraken selected Vanecek during last week’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting back Vanecek maintains the Capitals’ goalie tandem from last season. His reacquisition spares them from shopping for a backup goalie that would’ve cost more than Vanecek’s $716, 667 salary-cap hit.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins traded goaltender Dan Vladar to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 third-round pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The signing of Linus Ullmark and the emergence of Jeremy Swayman made Vladar the odd man out among the Bruins goaltenders, especially if they bring back Tuukka Rask next year following his recovery from hip surgery.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed veteran goaltenders Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell to one-year contracts.

SPORTSNET: The Sabres also acquired defenseman Will Butcher and a 2022 fifth-round pick from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for future considerations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I published a list yesterday of most of the notable free-agent signings and trades. You can read my take on yesterday’s top-10 signings here.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: David Krejci, Kyle Palmieri and Brandon Saad are among the best players still available in the free-agent market. Others include Tomas Tatar and Zach Parise.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman ranks the winners and losers from the opening day of free agency.

TSN: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is hopeful of returning to action in 2021-22 once he receives medical clearance to do so. The 39-year-old goaltender signed last season with the Washington Capitals but heart surgery sidelined him for the entire campaign.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There will be interest in Lundqvist if he’s cleared to resume playing. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a contract with a playoff contender.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed head coach D.J. Smith to a two-year contract extension.










Notable NHL Free-Agent Signings – July 27, 2021

Notable NHL Free-Agent Signings – July 27, 2021

With the NHL free-agent market opening at noon ET on July 28, there’s a flurry of last-minute contract signings taking place. Some involved unrestricted free agents while others are restricted free agents. Here’s the rundown of today’s notable signings.

Washington Capitals signed left winger Alex Ovechkin to a five-year, $47.5 million contract.

Washington Capitals re-sign left winger Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Everyone knew Ovechkin was staying in Washington. The cap hit ($9.5 million) wasn’t a shocker as it’s pretty much what it was on his previous contract. What raised my eyebrows was the term. I’d expected three or four years. Five is a bit of a stretch for a player turning 36 in September. Ovechkin has remained among the league’s superstars well into his 30s, but the final year or two of that deal could prove costly to the Capitals cap payroll as his performance inevitably declines. Such is the price of keeping a franchise player and the greatest goal scorer of his generation.

St. Louis Blues sign right winger Pavel Buchnevich to a four-year, $23.2 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues recently acquire Buchnevich from the New York Rangers. This contract is a reasonable deal for a 26-year-old winger who steadily improved as an all-around forward over the past three seasons with the New York Rangers. Now earning $5.8 million per season, Buchnevich will either skate on the Blues’ second-line or take over the first-line role if/when Vladimir Tarasenko gets traded this summer.

Vancouver Canucks sign forward Conor Garland to a five-year. $24.75 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After two solid seasons with the Arizona Coyotes, Garland was acquired by the Canucks last week in the multi-player deal that also landed them Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 25-year-old winger earned a substantial pay raise, going from $775K per season on his previous deal to $4.95 million annually. His impressive play with Team USA at this year’s World Championships suggests he could thrive alongside talented linemates. He’ll get that opportunity with the Canucks alongside Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 27, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 27, 2021

The Panthers re-sign Sam Bennett and trade Anton Stralman to the Coyotes, the Jets re-sign Paul Stastny and acquire Brenden Dillion from the Capitals, the Golden Knights close to re-signing Alec Martinez and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Florida Panthers were busy on Monday. They signed forward Sam Bennett to a four-year deal worth an annual average value of $4.4 million. The club also traded defensemen Anton Stralman and Vladislav Kolyachonok plus a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2023.

The Florida Panthers re-sign forward Sam Bennett to a four-year deal (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s not surprising the Panthers re-signed Bennett. Slated to become a restricted free agent on July 28, the 25-year-old netted 15 points in his first 10 regular-season games after being acquired at the trade deadline from Calgary. He also had five points in as many playoff games. Bennett should be a key part of their top-two forward lines.

The Stralman trade was a straightforward salary dump by the Panthers. He had a year remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $5.5 million. The 35-year-old blueliner reportedly had to be convinced to waive his modified no-trade to go to Arizona. He’ll likely become a bargaining chip at next season’s trade deadline if the rebuilding Coyotes are out of playoff contention by then.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets also had a busy day, re-signing center Paul Stastny to a one-year, $3.75 million contract and acquiring defenseman Brenden Dillon from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a second-round pick in 2022 and a second-rounder in 2023.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stastny isn’t the offensive talent he once was. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old should be an affordable short-term answer to their need for a second-line center while management seeks a long-term solution. Dillon will help address a glaring need for reliable stay-at-home depth on their blueline, though the cost of two second-rounders seems a little high.

The Capitals, meanwhile, freed up $3.9 million in annual cap space for the next three seasons. They now have over $12 million in cap room if they call up Martin Fehervary as expected for next season. That gives them some additional wiggle room to re-sign Alex Ovechkin and goaltender Ilya Samsonov.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights are reportedly close to signing Alec Martinez to a three-year contract extension. The 35-year-old defenseman would receive an annual cap hit close to $5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martinez proved his worth to the Golden Knights this season, especially in the playoffs where he was their best all-around blueliner. The contract is a bit long for a shot-blocking rearguard of his age but that seems the price the Golden Knights are willing to pay to remain in Stanley Cup contention.

That signing could push them over the $81.5 million salary cap. They could make a cost-cutting trade before the start of next season involving Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes expected to sign forward Dmitrij Jaskin to a one-year, $3.2 million contract. The 29-year-old spent seven seasons with the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals before spending the past two seasons playing for the KHL’s Moscow Dynamo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have been everyone’s favorite dumping ground for unwanted contracts this summer. General manager Bill Armstrong has been clearing up long-term cap space while restocking with draft picks and prospects.

Most of the contracts he’s taken on have only a year or two remaining, with most belonging to still-serviceable players who could become trade bait to playoff contenders later next season. He also did a great job shedding Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s hefty contract by shipping that off to Vancouver during the recent NHL draft.

THE SCORE: Several notable restricted free agents didn’t receive qualifying offers at yesterday’s deadline. Among them were Boston’s Nick Ritchie, Chicago’s Pius Suter, Edmonton’s Dominik Kahun and Anaheim’s Danton Heinen. They are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just because they didn’t get qualifying offers doesn’t mean they can’t re-sign with their now-former teams. Sometimes teams don’t offer a QO because they want to sign those players to a more affordable contract. That’s what the Blackhawks did with Adam Gaudette, inking him to a one-year deal worth just over $997K.

TORONTO STAR: Defenseman Zach Bogosian won’t be back with the Maple Leafs. He’s likely headed to an American market via free agency on July 28.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers are expected to sign Patrik Nemeth when free agency opens tomorrow. The Colorado Avalanche allowed the pending UFA defenseman to speak with other teams.

TSN: The New Jersey Devils traded forward Nick Merkley to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenseman Christian Jaros. The Devils signed Jaros to a one-year, two-way contract.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers re-signed defenseman Sam Morin to a one-year, $750K contract.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is expected to be named head coach of the United States’ Men’s hockey team for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

Niklas Hjalmarsson to retire, the Red Wings re-sign Marc Staal, the Canucks to buy out Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan reports Arizona Coyotes Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring. Morgan doesn’t anticipate he’ll make a formal announcement.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hjalmarsson, 34, spent 14 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Coyotes. A shutdown defenseman, his best years were with the Blackhawks as he helped them win three Stanley Cups during his 10 seasons with the franchise. He finishes with 172 points in 821 career NHL games. Best of luck to Hjalmarsson and his family in their future endeavors.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed defenseman Marc Staal to a one-year, $2 million contract. The deal also includes a no-movement clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal proved to be a valuable addition to the Red Wings. The 34-year-old provided experience, leadership and stability to the rebuilding club’s defense corps. He hopes to become a mentor this season to promising Wings blueliner Moritz Seider, who’s expected to make his NHL debut in 2021-22.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was once considered a promising offensive forward but he failed to play up to expectations. His recent questionable off-ice behavior also became an issue. The Canucks attempted to trade the 24-year-old winger during this season but reportedly couldn’t find any suitable offers. He’s been on leave from the club since May 1 following a sexual misconduct allegation.

THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to keep their goaltending tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo intact to start the 2021-22 season. Both are entering the final year of their contracts. It was anticipated one of them would be traded this summer but the tragic death of promising Matiss Kivlenieks on July 4 changed that plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps one of them will be shopped later in the season if the Jackets are out of playoff contention before the February trade deadline.

CAP FRIENDLY: The St. Louis Blues signed forward Nathan Walker to a two-year, two-way contract. He’ll earn $750K at the NHL level.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill, a look at some of the notable names still in the rumor mill heading into the second day of the NHL draft.

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli provided an updated list of trade targets following yesterday’s busy trade market leading up to the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft.

Jack Eichel remains atop the list. The Buffalo Sabres set a “fantastical” asking price seeking multiple draft picks and prospects.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The chances of an Eichel trade this summer took a hit following the completion of the first round of this year’s draft. Unless the Sabres seek first-round picks in the 2022 draft, they’ll have to lower their asking price or put more emphasis on younger players and prospects.

St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong envisioned the possibility of winger Vladimir Tarasenko returning with the club next season. His shoulder is now 100 percent healthy following his third surgery to address the injury. Despite his no-trade clause, Seravalli said he’s willing to play almost anywhere.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The concern with Tarasenko could be more his $7.5 million cap hit than his shoulder. There are reportedly some teams willing to take it on provided the Blues accept a comparable contract or a return that doesn’t address their roster needs.

The Colorado Avalanche, Seattle Kraken and Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed an interest in Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper. He’s a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility and doesn’t intend to re-sign. The asking price is a first-round pick but that could be lowered considering the Carolina Hurricanes got Jonathan Bernier and a third-round from the Detroit Red Wings for Alex Nedeljkovic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Avalanche land Kuemper it probably means Philipp Grubauer is hitting the open market. I can see him being shopped before the trade deadline if a suitable deal can’t be found this summer.

The Anaheim Ducks are listening to offers for Josh Manson, who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. They seek a first-round pick as part of the return. Moving him would leave a big gap on their blueline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I get the feeling the Ducks are lukewarm toward moving Manson. Sure, they’ll do it if they get a great offer but otherwise, I think they’re fine bringing him back next season and maybe re-signing him if he’s willing to stay.

Wingers Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault could be available as the Vegas Golden Knights attempt to balance their forward lines. Smith can become a UFA next summer while Marchessault has three years left on his deal with an annual average value of $5 million. They could also listen on physical winger Ryan Reaves.

The Philadelphia Flyers are still trying to move Jakub Voracek or James van Riemsdyk. There could be teams interested in Voracek if the Flyers retain $2 million or so of his $8.25 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Voracek has three years left on his contract. No surprise teams want the Flyers to pick up part of that hefty cap hit. Based on previous reports, they seem keener to move Voracek than van Riemsdyk.










Notable NHL Trades – July 23, 2021

Notable NHL Trades – July 23, 2021

A list of the noteworthy trades that took place leading up to, and including the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft along with my hot take on each. I will update this throughout the evening.

The Columbus Blue Jackets trade defenseman Seth Jones, the final pick in the first round of the 2021 draft (32nd overall) and a sixth-round pick in 2022 to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Adam Boqvist, a first-round pick in 2021 (12th overall), a second-round pick in 2021 and a first-round pick in 2022. If the latter pick is top-two, it becomes a 2023 first-rounder.

Jones also signs an eight-year contract extension with the Blackhawks worth an annual average value of $9.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t say I’m surprised that Jones wound up in Chicago. The Blackhawks were among the early suitors and really wanted to bolster their defense, especially after shipping Duncan Keith to Edmonton earlier this month.

What I am surprised by is the shock on social media that Jones got that expensive contract extension. Folks, if I’ve said it once, I said it a thousand times: never underestimate the ability of NHL general managers to spend too much on talent. Even under a flattened salary cap, some just can’t help themselves.

Some believe this is a lousy deal for the Blackhawks, pointing to the decline in Jones’ play over the past year, or the drop in his offensive numbers over the last two years. I believe Jones’ play suffered last season because the Blue Jackets were falling apart. Maybe the reason behind the decline in his production was playing for a club with a popgun offense.

Jones is 26, still in his playing prime, with a contract taking him up to age 35, skating for a team with a lot more talent than the one he just left. True, the Blackhawks are rebuilding, but they’ve got a mix of established and promising talent. Adding Jones to their lineup could help him regain his form and accelerate their rebuild.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, got the best return they could for a player who wasn’t going to re-sign with them before next season. Boqvist, 20, is coming off his NHL sophomore season. He’s a promising offensive blueliner who could be very effective on the Blue Jackets power play.

Landing the Blackhawks’ first-rounder while giving up the 32nd selection still gives the Jackets three selections in that round. They’re in a good position to land some promising prospects as they commence their rebuild in earnest this summer.

The Arizona Coyotes trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and winger Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for winger Loui Eriksson, winger Antoine Roussel, center Jay Beagle, the Canucks first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2021 NHL draft, their second-rounder in 2022 and a seventh-rounder in 2023. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be the blockbuster of the day. The Canucks were one of just two teams Ekman-Larsson was willing to waive his no-movement clause for when the Coyotes tried to trade him last October. The two sides ran out of time to hammer out a deal before the blueliner’s deadline on Oct. 9.

Ekman-Larsson’s performance has declined over the past three seasons. The Canucks are betting he’ll regain his form on a promising team in Vancouver. The Coyotes retained 12 percent of his $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit but that could still be an expensive gamble with six years remaining on his contract at $7.26 million per season.

Garland, 25, is coming off back-to-back 39-point performances and should provide a boost to the Canucks’ secondary scoring. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, he was pursued by several clubs in recent weeks.

The Canucks tried shedding Eriksson’s $6 million cap hit for the past two years. They’re finally rid of it when there’s just one year remaining. Beagle has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $3 million. There was speculation he could miss 2021-22 with an undisclosed injury. Roussel also has a year left on his deal with a cap hit of $3 million. The Coyotes could use the physical winger as a trade chip at next year’s trade deadline. 

For the Coyotes, the real prize was that first-round pick. They forfeited theirs for violating 2020 Draft Combine rules under former general manager John Chayka. Current GM Bill Armstrong was willing to eat the remaining year on Eriksson’s and Beagle’s contracts to get a top-10 pick.

Canucks GM Jim Benning is getting roasted on social media for this move. If Ekman-Larsson improves in Vancouver and Garland bolsters their scoring he’ll come out of this smelling like a rose. If not, he’ll be smelling of something rather unpleasant.

The Buffalo Sabres trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Robert Hagg, a first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2023.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher continues to shore up his defense after acquiring Ryan Ellis last Saturday from the Nashville Predators. Expect Ristolainen to slot in behind Ellis as their second-pairing right-side defenseman. 

The Sabres begin what appears to be another rebuild. Ristolainen’s been a fixture in the rumor mill for a couple of years now. Prying a 13th overall pick from the Flyers was quite a coup by GM Kevyn Adams, especially for a player who’s slated to become a UFA next summer. Flyers fans are taking to social media expressing their unhappiness with Fletcher for parting with that pick for Ristolainen. 

The New York Rangers trade right wing Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for winger Sammy Blais and a second-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could set the table for the Blues to trade Vladimir Tarasenko. It could also set the stage for the Rangers to make their much-rumored deal for Sabres center Jack Eichel. Or, it could simply be the Blueshirts being unwilling to invest too much for too long in Buchnevich when they’ve got two key players to re-sign next summer in Mika Zibanejad and 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believed the Rangers had to bring in another physical winger to skate on the third line with recently-signed Barclay Goodrow. Blais will fill that role at an affordable cap hit of $1.5 million.