NHL Rumor Mill – May 8, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 8, 2021

Check out the latest on the Ducks, Blackhawks and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Stephens recently wondered if this season will be the last for Ryan Getzlaf. The 35-year-old Anaheim Ducks captain becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. He and general manager Bob Murray intend to meet following this season to discuss his future.

Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf (NHL Images).

Murray has indicated he’s interested in bringing Getzlaf back but Stephens wonders if that’s a good idea. The Ducks are rebuilding with younger players, Getzlaf’s best seasons are behind him, he was slowed by a bad back this season and no longer skates among their top-six forwards or their top power-play unit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This season was the worst in Getzlaf’s 16-season career, tallying a career-low 17 points in 47 games. He could face three choices. He returns for a final season with the Ducks, he considers signing elsewhere, or retirement.

THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers recently examined which forwards are expected to be in the Chicago Blackhawks lineup next season. Dylan Strome fell into the category of “most likely” while Pius Suter’s future was unknown.

Strome faces an uncertain future with the Blackhawks after struggling this season. Powers believes he’ll return next season in part because his trade value is low coming off a down year plus he’ll require a new contract after next season. He could be exposed in this summer’s expansion draft.

The Blackhawks would like to keep Suter but that could depend on his contract negotiations. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He played well this season but benefited from a larger role with other key players sidelined. Powers speculates the Blackhawks could trade him or let him walk via free agency if a new contract isn’t worked out early in the offseason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hawks could try to trade Strome if they feel they could lose him for nothing to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. A rival club seeking depth at center could make a pitch for him but I agree with Powers’ assessment. The Kraken could pass on him too.

Suter’s contract situation could get dicey if the two sides reach a stalemate that could require an arbiter to sort it out. However, this could end up quickly sorted without much hassle. If negotiations go sideways I expect the Hawks would shop him in the trade market in hope of getting a decent asset in return.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell pointed out Michael Bunting became an important player for the Arizona Coyotes in recent weeks. The 25-year-old winger is slated to become a Group VI free agent (UFA) this summer unless the Coyotes re-sign him. Head coach Rick Tocchet sang Bunting’s praises, calling him “a guy we sorely need in this organization”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bunting has 10 goals and 13 points in 20 games since joining the Coyotes’ roster in late March. He would be an affordable re-signing on a one-year “show-me” contract. Bunting could also become a worthwhile, low-risk signing by another club on the open market.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 8, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 8, 2021

The Hurricanes clinch first place in the Central Division, the Panthers and Lightning will face each other in the playoffs, the Blues clinch a postseason berth, the Stars stay alive and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars kept their playoff hopes alive by downing the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2. Joe Pavelski led the way with two goals and two assists while Roope Hintz had three points. With 58 points, the Stars sit two points behind the fourth-place Nashville Predators.

Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski (NHL Images).

Thanks to the Stars, the Carolina Hurricanes clinched first place in the Discover Central Division. The Lightning will face the Florida Panthers in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes have an opportunity to win their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy. They have 80 points with two games remaining while the Vegas Golden Knights have 78 points with three games left.

The Panthers-Lightning will be facing each other for the first time in postseason competition. I’m looking forward to watching their opening-round series. These rivals are evenly matched, with each team have won three of their six games thus far in their season series. We’ll get a first-round preview as their final two games of the schedule (today and Monday) are against each other with playoff seeding on the line.

The Washington Capitals remain two points out of first place in the MassMutual East Division after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers. Wade Allison scored two goals for the Flyers. Washington was without Alex Ovechkin (lower-body injury) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (COVID-19 protocol list). With 73 points, the Capitals have a game in hand over the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins (75 points), who play their final game of the schedule today against the Buffalo Sabres.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins, Sabres, New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks all have one game remaining in their respective schedules.

The St. Louis Blues clinched a playoff spot in the Honda West Division despite falling 4-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights. Jonathan Marchessault’s overtime goal capped a three-goal rally by the Golden Knights, who hold a four-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues were in danger of missing the playoffs in early April following a seven-game losing skid. Their current eight-game points streak (including five wins) put them over the top.

Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen tallied his 30th goal of the season as his club held off the Los Angeles Kings 3-2, eliminating the latter from playoff contention. Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon missed the game with a lower-body injury in what appeared to be a precautionary move by head coach Jared Bednar. Earlier in the day, the Kings announced winger Dustin Brown will miss the remainder of the season with an upper-body injury.

An overtime goal by rookie winger Kirill Kaprizov lifted the Minnesota Wild to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Kaprizov has 27 goals on the season as the Wild sits one point back of the Avalanche in third place with 73 points.

Phil Kessel collected his 900th career point as his Arizona Coyotes beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2. Kessel had a goal and an assist while teammate Conor Garland collected three points. The Sharks were without captain Logan Couture, who could miss the remainder of the regular season with a lower-body injury.

A three-goal outburst in the second period rallied the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Vladislav Namestnikov scored twice, Valtteri Filppula collected three assists and Joe Veleno tallied his first NHL goal.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Friday he’s hopeful of returning to action for his club’s postseason opener. Stamkos has been sidelined by a lower-body injury since April 8.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Phillip Danault is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will miss Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Goaltender Carey Price (concussion) has been working out on the ice at the Habs’ practice facility but there’s no timetable for his return. Shea Weber and Paul Byron are each listed as day-to-day. Brendan Gallagher (broken thumb) has resumed skating while Jonathan Drouin remains on an indefinite leave of absence.

THE PROVINCE: The NHL department of player safety handed a one-game suspension to Vancouver Canucks forward Zack MacEwen for kneeing Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse on Thursday.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Ondrej Kase returned to Bruins practice for the first time in four months after taking a high hit from New Jersey Devils winger Miles Wood back in January. He hasn’t ruled out returning for the Bruins’ final two games of the season.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2021

Check out the latest on the Blue Jackets, Canucks, Hurricanes, and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline recently reported on Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski’s recent decision to change agents. He has a year remaining on his contract but changing agents suggests he wants to open contract discussions this summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would coincide with the contract talks expected this summer for Seth Jones, Werenski’s defense partner. Jones is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Werenski, meanwhile, will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’ll cost $7 million just to qualify his rights. The Jackets ownership will have to dig deep for the big bucks to keep their top-two defensemen in Columbus.

Portzline also believes Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen must evaluate his current centermen before going shopping for one via trade or free agency. Max Domi, Jack Roslovic, and Alexandre Texier struggled in that position this season. Portzline doesn’t see Kekalainen adding three centers this summer but wonders how many the GM feels he needs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Portzline pointed out, Kekalainen might be lucky to pry away a prominent center from another team. I expect he’ll try to add one experienced center and hope for improvement from Domi, Roslovic and Texier next season, perhaps with a new coach behind the bench if John Tortorella doesn’t return.

TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Kekalainen will try his best to bring in a top-line center for winger Patrik Laine next season. That would be a costly undertaking during the best of seasons. It could prove more difficult under a flattened salary cap.

Boston’s David Krejci and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the best centers in this summer’s UFA market. At 35, Krejci is at the tail end of his career and best suited for second-line duty. Nugent-Hopkins is a versatile two-way forward but I don’t see him as a first-line center.

Cap Friendly shows the Jackets have $56.5 million invested in 16 players for 2021-22. Kekalainen could target a cap-strapped club trying to shed salary. However, re-signing Laine (an RFA with arbitration rights this summer) will bite deeply into that cap space, perhaps as much as $8 million. It’ll take $7.5 million to qualify his right.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Vancouver Canucks haven’t put a new offer on the table for head coach Travis Green. He wants to stay and the Canucks want to keep him. Green is earning $1 million per season, which is in the lower third among NHL head coaches. LeBrun speculates it could take around $2.5 million to get it done.

Darren Dreger reports the Carolina Hurricanes hope to get head coach Rod Brind’Amour under contract before the playoffs begin. Management seems confident it will get a deal done soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brind’Amour has turned the Hurricanes into a Stanley Cup contender in just three seasons. They’re on the verge of winning their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy.

Dreger also reports Arizona Coyotes bench boss Rick Tocchet could be moving on at the end of this season. His sources indicated Tocchet is more likely to test the open market this summer.

AFTONBLADET: Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson could return to HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Hockey League after 14 NHL seasons. Hjalmarsson, 33, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He spent three seasons with HV71 before starting his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007-08.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report doesn’t rule out Hjalmarsson staying in the NHL if he gets an offer he can’t resist or if the tax situation makes it difficult for him to play in Sweden this autumn.










2021 NHL Playoff Races Worth Watching

2021 NHL Playoff Races Worth Watching

 










NHL Rumor Mill – May 1, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 1, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we take a look at the recent speculation over the futures of several head coaches.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently examined what the future could hold for several NHL coaches on expiring contracts or holding interim roles.

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour (NHL.com).

LeBrun believes the Carolina Hurricanes will sign Rod Brind’Amour to a new contract, citing team owner Tom Dundon’s recent reiteration that a deal will get done. His next contract could be worth over $2 million per season but reaching an agreement isn’t a slam dunk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also reported the negotiations between the Hurricanes and Brind’Amour were more of a grind than expected. Like LeBrun, Friedman doesn’t see Brind’Amour moving on but the talks turned out to be more of a challenge.

I’ll be shocked if the Hurricanes fail to re-sign Brind’Amour. It’s no coincidence they rose to become a league powerhouse during his tenure behind the bench. Letting him walk would be a huge blunder on their part.

LeBrun chided the Vancouver Canucks for allowing head coach Travis Green to enter this season on an expiring contract as it garnered unwanted media attention. He believes they want to bring him back and suggested there could be news on that front sooner rather than later.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman also weighed in on Green’s contract status, saying he expects negotiations will get serious soon. Canucks general manager Jim Benning’s most recent comments indicated there was nothing new to report. Perhaps those discussions pick up later this month once the regular season ends.

Turning to the Arizona Coyotes, LeBrun speculates general manager Bill Armstrong could replace Rick Tocchet with his own bench boss. Armstrong inherited Tocchet when he took over last fall as GM.

As for the Detroit Red Wings, LeBrun doesn’t know if Jeff Blashill will return or not. Blashill has earned the opportunity to return but there could also be time for a fresh voice behind the bench.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tocchet and Blashill did the best they could in difficult situations with rebuilding clubs. They’ve earned the right to return but their respective general managers could see things differently. They shouldn’t have much difficulty finding other NHL coaching gigs if they depart from their current jobs.

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t tip his hand as to what’s in store for head coach John Tortorella in a recent interview with LeBrun. This could come down to what Kekalainen feels is right as much as what Tortorella feels like doing. It could be headed for a split.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been some speculation suggesting Tortorella could test the market this summer. I think the Jackets are ready for a change behind the bench. While “Torts” did a good job with them through most of his tenure it seemed like the players were getting weary of his system this year. Wingers Patrik Laine and Max Domi struggled throughout this season, raising more questions about Tortorella’s future in Columbus.

The Seattle Kraken and Buffalo Sabres are searching for a head coach. Gerard Gallant would be an obvious choice for the Kraken. Brind’Amour, Tocchet or Green could also fit the criteria.

If the Montreal Canadiens reach the playoffs, Dominique Ducharme could have his interim tag lifted.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun noted Kraken GM Ron Francis wanted to be patient making his coaching selection to see who might become available after this season. Sabres GM Kevyn Adams seems to be following suit.

I still think Gallant would be the best choice for the Kraken but Brind’Amour could jump to the top of the list if he and the Hurricanes fail to work out a deal. Francis and Brind’Amour were teammates and associated during their days in Carolina.

Making the playoffs might not be enough for Ducharme to become the Canadiens’ full-time bench boss. They’ll have to at least win their opening-round series to make that happen. Getting swept by the Leafs could spell the end of Ducharme’s tenure and perhaps that of Marc Bergevin as the Habs’ GM.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 1, 2021

Coyotes end Golden Knights’ 10-game win streak, Canadiens rally to down the Jets, the Seattle Kraken officially join the league, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: A 25-save shutout by Adin Hill gave the Arizona Coyotes a 3-0 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights to end the latter’s 10-game win streak. John Hayden, Michael Bunting and Christian Fischer were the goalscorers for the Coyotes (49 points), who sit three points behind the fourth-place St. Louis Blues in the Honda West Division. The Golden Knights remain in first place with 72 points.

Montreal Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki (NHL Images).

The Colorado Avalanche moved within four points of Vegas by blanking the San Jose Sharks 3-0. Philipp Grubauer picked up the shutout with 21 saves in his first game back from the COVID-19 protocol list while Mikko Rantanen collected three points. The Avs (68 points) opened a two-point lead over the third-place Minnesota Wild.

A four-goal rally by the Montreal Canadiens carried them to a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Nick Suzuki led the way with two goals and an assist as the Canadiens (53 points) moved within four points of third-place Winnipeg in the Scotia North Division and opened a six-point lead over the fifth-place Calgary Flames. The Jets have dropped six straight games.

Anze Kopitar scored with 56 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Los Angeles Kings over the Anaheim Ducks 2-1. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick kicked out 33 shots.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: The Seattle Kraken officially joined the NHL yesterday following the final payment of its $650 million expansion fee. The Kraken can now make player transactions and participate in league meetings and voting. Their first season will be 2021-22. An expansion draft to fill out its roster takes place on July 21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the NHL, Seattle Kraken. Looking forward to what will hopefully become an entertaining rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks.

CBS SPORTS: New York Rangers center Brett Howden is done for the season after suffering a fractured foot during Thursday’s loss to the New York Islanders.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets prospect Yegor Chinakhov may sign his entry-level NHL contract after helping KHL club Avangard Omsk win the Gagarin Cup earlier this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets selection of Chinakhov in last year’s draft (21st overall) left many pundits scrambling to find out who he was as he wasn’t listed among last year’s top prospects by NHL scouts. The 20-year-old forward reportedly had a solid rookie KHL performance this season.

NBC SPORTS: Former NHL star and future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr isn’t ready to hang up his skates yet. The 49-year-old winger intends to return with hometown club Kladno Knights next season after helping them earn promotion to the Czech Extraliga. It will be his 34th professional season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jagr’s last NHL season was 2017-18 when he played 22 games with the Calgary Flames before heading to Kladno to finish that season. He’s been there ever since.