NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 21, 2021

A five-point performance by Connor McDavid, a four-point output by Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby’s 1000th career game and a long delay in the outdoor game between the Avalanche and Golden Knights are the highlights in this edition of the NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid enjoyed a five-point performance as his club thumped the Calgary Flames 7-1. McDavid tallied a natural hat trick while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice. Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek and winger Kailer Yamamoto left the game with injuries.

Edmonton Oiler captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid remains the early favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season. He leads all NHL scorers with 25 assists and 37 points.

Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. Mitch Marner collected three points for the Leafs, who hold a five-point lead atop the NHL’s overall standings. Matthews now has a league-leading 18 goals on the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs feasted on the defensive miscues of a rusty Canadiens squad that hadn’t played in six days. Matthews tallied two of the Leafs’ three power-play goals.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby collected two assists in his 1000th career NHL game during a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. Kris Letang tallied twice as the Penguins swept the two-game series. Before the game, the Penguins honored their captain with a silver stick and video tributes from current and former teammates and several NHL stars including Steven Stamkos and John Tavares.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Crosby on reaching another significant milestone in his long NHL career.

The Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors game at Lake Tahoe was overshadowed by an eight-hour delay following the first period due to poor ice conditions. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists for the Avs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: What could’ve been an entertaining match-up against a beautiful outdoor backdrop became an embarrassment for the NHL. In fairness, the league has a solid track record staging outdoor games in various locations. I don’t fault them for staging this outdoor contest in that scenic location. Unfortunately, no one seemed to consider what might happen to ice conditions on a bright sunny afternoon at a higher altitude in Nevada.

The sunny conditions at Lake Tahoe forced the league to change the start time for today’s outdoor match between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers from 2 pm ET to 7:30 pm ET.

The Buffalo Sabres snapped a four-game losing skid by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Sam Reinhart scored twice for the Sabres, who lost defenseman Jake McCabe to an apparent right-knee injury in the third period. Before the game, the Devils announced Nico Hischier as their new team captain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on McCabe’s status is expected later today. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he was very concerned about the blueliner’s condition.

Mika Zibanejad ended a 13-game goalless drought and Artemi Panarin collected two assists as the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1. Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves for the win and Ryan Strome had two points, including his 100th career NHL goal.

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier’s 38-save performance carried his club to a 2-1 upset of the Florida Panthers. The Wings got second-period goals by Patrik Nemeth and rookie Mathias Brome as they held on for the win.

The Los Angeles Kings got two goals from Alex Iafallo as they doubled up the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty each collected two assists. The Kings have won four straight games.

Logan Couture’s game-winner in the third period gave the San Jose Sharks a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks blew 3-0 and 4-1 leads before Couture sealed the deal. Jordan Kyrou had a goal and two assists for the Blues.

Third-period goals by Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg lifted the Nashville Predators over the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Jarnkrok scored twice for the Predators while the Blue Jackets lost goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to an apparent arm injury in the third period.

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves for his first career NHL shutout in a 4-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov each had a goal and an assist.

Kevin Fiala scored twice as the Minnesota Wild rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Fiala now has six goals in his last seven games. Teammates Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov each had two points. In a surprising move earlier in the day, the Ducks placed struggling veteran center Adam Henrique on waivers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone claims Henrique. He’s in the second season of a five-year contract with an annual average value of $5.825 million.

TSN: Former NHL coach Mike Babcock has been named head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Hockey Team. He will lead the club on a voluntary basis for the next two years.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s action, the Avalanche and Golden Knights prepare for today’s outdoor game at Lake Tahoe, Sidney Crosby addresses his future as he approaches his 1000th career NHL game, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: A four-goal first period powered the Florida Panthers to a 7-2 romp over the Detroit Red Wings. Aleksander Barkov and Keith Yandle each had three points, Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau picked up two assists. The Panthers (24 points) sit in first place in the Central Division, one point up on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they extended their points streak to five games (4-0-1) by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3. Nino Niederreiter scored twice and collected an assist for Carolina while Patrick Kane factored in each goal (one goal, two assists) for the Blackhawks, who sit one point behind the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane has to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He’s definitely been the Blackhawks’ MVP this season. They wouldn’t be jockeying with the Panthers, Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the division without Kane powering their offense.

The Edmonton Oilers won the latest chapter in the Battle of Alberta by edging the Calgary Flames 2-1. Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made 20 saves for his fourth win since his season debut earlier this month. Jesse Puljujarvi and Gaetan Haas tallied for the Oilers while Rasmus Andersson replied for the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I was really looking forward to this contest but it lacked the usual fireworks we’ve come to expect whenever these two clubs meet.

Winnipeg Jets backup Laurent Brossoit turned in a 29-save shutout as his club blanked the Vancouver Canucks 2-0. Jets center Mark Scheifele scored to extend his points streak to nine games. The Jets (21 points) sit one back of the second-place Oilers in the North Division.

HEADLINES

Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal for the Vegas Golden Knights when they tangle later today with the Colorado Avalanche in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday game at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It’s the first outdoor contest for the Golden Knights in franchise history.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will return to the lineup for this contest after coming off the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Defenseman Cale Makar (upper-body injury) will be a game-day decision.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Sidney Crosby reaffirmed his desire to finish his career with the Penguins. “I love playing here, and this is where I’d love to play for the rest of my career,” said Crosby, adding“I can’t really control what’s said or rumors and things like that.” Crosby will play his 1000th NHL game tonight against the New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby was referring to recent media speculation about his future with the Penguins if the club’s new management decides to rebuild. That doesn’t appear to be their intention. It’s worth remembering that he has four years remaining on his contract with a full no-movement clause giving him full control over his situation.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: A lower-body injury could keep center David Krejci from traveling with the Bruins for Sunday’s outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

TSN: Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger believes his club’s fragile psyche is the reason behind their inability to score goals. “They’re fragile right now,” he said. “They don’t believe in themselves and they don’t see themselves celebrating.” The Sabres opened the season 4-4-2 and has dropped three straight since resuming their schedule after it was postponed for two weeks by an outbreak of COVID-19 among their players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are a mess despite their front-office purge and several notable roster changes during the offseason. That sparked recent speculation about captain Jack Eichel’s future in Buffalo. Bigger changes could be in store for the Sabres if they miss the playoffs again. Whether those adjustments would involve their franchise player is anyone’s guess right now.

Meanwhile, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen revealed to a Finnish newspaper that he suffered chest pains and significant drops of oxygen levels when he was sidelined by COVID-19. He was cleared to resume skating on Wednesday but has yet to return to action. He spent a team-high two weeks on the COVID protocol list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Ristolainen can resume his playing career without any adverse aftereffects from the coronavirus.

NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues announce forward Ivan Barbashev was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He’s expected to be sidelined for six weeks.

The league also rescheduled March 28th’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes to today. The Hurricanes game against the Blackhawks today has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.

TSN: The number of players on the NHL’s COVID protocol list dropped to 11 names yesterday. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Long-time Red Wings masseur Sergei Tchekmarev passed away yesterday at age 65. He’d been with the Wings since 1998.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tchekmarev’s family, friends and the Red Wings’ organization.










Crosby, Malkin and Letang Dominate The NHL Rumor Mill

Crosby, Malkin and Letang Dominate The NHL Rumor Mill

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 15, 2021

The Penguins down the Capitals, the Golden Knights edge the Avalanche, plus the latest injury and COVID protocol list updates in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Bryan Rust scored two goals and collected an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals 6-3. Jake Guentzel also had a three-point performance (one goal, two assists) while Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist.

PIttsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby also set a new milestone, surpassing Hall of Famer Al MacInnis for the most points (1,275) by a Nova Scotia-born NHL player.

Marc-Andre Fleury turned in a 30-save shutout as the Vegas Golden Knights blanked the Colorado Avalanche 1-0. Max Pacioretty tallied the game’s only goal. It was the Avalanche’s first game since their schedule was postponed on Feb. 4 for COVID-19 protocols.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury now has 473 career victories, sitting just 11 behind Ed Belfour for fourth on the all-time list. His 63 shutouts place him one back of Henrik Lundqvist for 16th all-time.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos came off the NHL’s COVID protocol list yesterday after it was determined his first test was a false positive. He remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin came off the protocol list yesterday. Krueger, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, joined the Sabres on the ice for a few minutes during yesterday’s practice. He isn’t sure if he’ll be behind the bench for their game today against the New York Islanders. The Sabres haven’t played since Jan. 31 due to COVID protocols.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers still have seven players on the protocol list. Travis Sanheim came off the list yesterday but winger Travis Konecny was added to it. The Flyers’ next scheduled game is Thursday against the New York Rangers, after which they’re slated to fly to Lake Tahoe for an outdoor game against the Boston Bruins on Sunday.

TORONTO STAR: Joe Thornton returns to the Maple Leafs lineup tonight against the Ottawa Senators after missing 10 games with a rib injury.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (lower-body injury) will miss tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Jaden Schwartz is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He joins Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder surgery), Tyler Bozak (upper body, likely concussion), Robert Thomas (broken hand) and Sammy Blais (undisclosed) on the sidelines.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Radim Simek (upper body) on injured reserve.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – February 14, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – February 14, 2021

More Penguins speculation, two of the players involved in yesterday’s Hurricanes-Senators trade shouldn’t get too comfortable, and an update on Derek Stepan in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

MORE PENGUINS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi recently examined the big decisions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins following their hiring of Ron Hextall as general manager and Brian Burke as president of hockey operations.

Sources close to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin confirm both players endorsed the Burke-Hextall partnership. Team co-owner Mario Lemieux has long expressed to confidants and previous GMs that he wants both players to retire as Penguins.

Malkin’s contract expires at the end of next season. The Penguins can open contract extension talks this summer. Rossi noted Malkin stated in September 2019 his preference to signing a three-year extension to finish his career in Pittsburgh. He believes the Penguins will keep Malkin as that was the understanding when Burke and Hextall signed on.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits outside of Pittsburgh wondered about Malkin’s future (and Crosby’s) under the Penguins’ new management. It appears neither he nor Crosby will be going anywhere based on Rossi’s report. The situation could change but if ownership wants Malkin and Crosby to retire as Penguins then that’s what’s going to happen.

Kris Letang’s contract also expires at the end of next season. Rossi reports Lemieux is believed to prefer retaining the veteran defenseman. However, Burke and Hextall weren’t told Letang couldn’t be traded, only that any trade “must be done the right way for respect for all he’s done.”

Rossi also cited sources saying former GM Jim Rutherford placed calls to many teams to gauge interest in Letang. However, a deal to move him was never in place and wasn’t the reason behind Rutherford’s decision to step down. It remains to be seen if Letang wants to re-sign or what the Penguins might get in return if they trade him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Letang has a modified no-trade clause listing 18 preferred trade destinations. It’s difficult to say what his value could be but given his age (34) and UFA status next summer they might not find many takers in the trade market.

The logjam on the left side of the Penguins’ blueline could become Hextall’s priority to address before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. Rossi speculates either Mike Matheson or Juuso Riikola will have to go.

Parting with Matheson could require Hextall to package the blueliner with a draft pick, prospect or a player off the current roster. The Penguins cannot afford to carry an extra defenseman with Matheson’s contract ($4.875 million AAV through 2025-26).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson lacks no-trade protection this season but his modified no-trade (eight-team no-trade list) goes into effect next season. Moving him this season is preferable but his cap hit and poor play make him a tough sell.

COULD GALCHENYUK AND DZINGEL BE ON THE MOVE AGAIN?

SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Chris Johnston reports anyone involved in yesterday’s trade between the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senator shouldn’t get too comfortable in their new locations.

Johnston doesn’t consider it out of the question that Alex Galchenyuk’s stay with the Hurricanes will be short given he’s bounced around a lot in recent years and could be on the move again in the near future. Meanwhile, the Senators have a decision to make with Ryan Dzingel. He’s in the final year of his contract and could be flipped for a draft pick at the Apr. 12 trade deadline if they decide not to keep him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cedric Paquette was the centerpiece of that deal. The Hurricanes intend to keep him for the playoffs given his gritty style of play and postseason experience. Galchenyuk saw limited action with the Senators while Dzingel wasn’t playing up to expectations with the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes could flip Galchenyuk to another club at some point before the trade deadline. Dzingel could also be moved if he fails to regain the scoring touch he had during his previous tenure with the Sens.

UPDATE ON STEPAN

SPORTSNET: Wayne Scanlan reported Friday center Derek Stepan could be among the first Senators moved before the trade deadline. He’s among several players eligible for unrestricted free agent status this summer who could be useful pieces for a contending team.

Scanlan reported the team and the player seem to regret the trade that brought him to Ottawa. The veteran center is missing his family in Arizona but GM Pierre Dorion insisted Stepan hasn’t requested a trade. Nevertheless, Scanlan feels it’s clear Stepan is hoping the Senators can move him closer to home.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid performance by Stepan in the coming weeks could improve his trade value. His annual average value is $6.5 million but he’s earning just $2 million in actual salary after being paid a $3 million signing bonus by the Arizona Coyotes before his acquisition by the Senators. Still, the Sens might have to pick up part of his AAV to make him attractive to cap-strapped contenders.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 12, 2021

Could Sidney Crosby one day be traded to the Avalanche? Did the Penguins attempt to reacquire Marc-Andre Fleury? What are some possible trade destinations for Sam Bennett? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WOULD CROSBY BE A GOOD FIT WITH THE AVALANCHE?

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater cites NHL insider Darren Dreger telling TSN radio yesterday he wouldn’t be surprised if Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby asked to be traded to a Stanley Cup contender or a club on the rise.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (NHL Images).

Dreger made that suggestion on the premise of the Penguins either missing the playoffs or if Crosby feels they aren’t a Cup contender anymore. He proposed the Penguins captain might do this as a way for the club to secure pieces for their future in return for sending him to “the Colorado Avalanche the New York Rangers whatever the team is,” with Dreger saying Colorado “makes a lot of sense to me, by the way”.

Sending Crosby to the Avalanche would unite him with hometown buddy Nathan MacKinnon. Dater acknowledged that would give the Avs the benefit of Crosby as their No. 2 center while still in his playing prime for the next two or three years. However, he wouldn’t part with Bo Byram or prospect Alex Newhook along with two or three first-round picks plus a roster player to get him.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski also weighed in on the possibility of Crosby being traded. He noted there was a hot rumor soon after Jim Rutherford stepped down as general manager that Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux and Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin (a good friend of Lemieux from their playing days) discussed the possibility of dealing Crosby to Montreal before Lemieux “snapped out of it”. He said a Penguins team source vigorously shot down that rumor.

Kingerski considers Crosby trade chatter as “mostly ridiculous”. However, Dreger’s scenario in which the Penguins captain accepts a trade if the return brings pieces that will benefit their future “doesn’t sound insane in that context.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The notion of Crosby getting traded sounds silly. Nevertheless, we all know the old chestnut that (say it with me) “if Wayne Gretzky can be traded anybody can be traded.”

Most observers believe new Penguins GM Ron Hextall and new president of hockey operations Brian Burke will meet at some point with Crosby and the club’s ownership to discuss the team’s future and his place within it. All reports thus far suggest Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle want to build around their aging core of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. That could be the game plan for the remainder of this season and next regardless of how this season shakes out.

The notion of Crosby wanting out after all these years seems absurd. For all we know, Sid’s a Penguin for life no matter what. The more pressing issue is addressing the futures of Malkin and Letang. Both players are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.

Assuming Crosby doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild, or if he feels the Penguins’ championship window has slammed shut, he will want to sit down with the front office and discuss potential trade options.

Teams will be interested in Crosby, but fitting him into their roster will be costly in terms of absorbing his annual $8.7 million cap hit and the return. The Penguins will want quality draft picks, top prospects and one or two good young NHL players in return.

The Avalanche, Rangers and Canadiens could all meet the return needs. However, they’d have to ship out considerable salary to make room for Crosby’s cap hit. The Penguins have limited space themselves so they’ll be reluctant to absorb any portion of his salary.

PENGUINS ATTEMPTED TO REACQUIRE FLEURY

Kingerski also cited insider Bob McKenzie telling NBC Sports the rumors last summer of the Penguins attempting to reacquire Marc-Andre Fleury was true. Rutherford and Penguin assistant GM Patrik Allvin both tried to bring the 35-year-old goalie back home. However, the Vegas Golden Knights lacked the cap space to absorb part of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wonder if the Penguins might try again in the offseason. Fleury has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $7 million. He also has a 10-team no-trade list but perhaps he’d waive it to return to the city where he had his best seasons.

POTENTIAL TRADE DESTINATIONS FOR BENNETT

THE ATHLETIC: Hailey Salvian recently examined several possible trade destinations for Sam Bennett. The Calgary Flames forward is reportedly interested in a change of scenery though trade chatter involving him has cooled of late.

Salvian noted the reports out of New York suggesting a swap of Bennett for Tony DeAngelo. She also cited two Sportsnet reports claiming the Flames have no interest in the troubled Rangers defenseman. She feels the Blueshirts could still be a viable trade option if they offered up a less controversial return.

Other options include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild. Salvian questions if the Leafs have the right piece they’d be willing to send to Calgary to make the trade work. She cites colleague Thomas Drance’s recent assessment suggesting Bennett would be the long-term solution to the Canucks’ third-line center position.

Michael Russo, The Athletic’s Wild beat reporter, believes the Wild could be a good fit provided the Flames are willing to take back a significant contract in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see how DeAngelo would be a good fit with the Flames but the New York Post’s Larry Brooks insisted they had some interest. However, he also recently noted the market for DeAngelo has dried up so a Bennett-for-DeAngelo swap seems unlikely now.

The Leafs are pressed for cap space so they can’t afford Bennett’s $2.55 million cap hit unless they move out some salary. I don’t think the Wild would have the type of return the Flames would seek, specifically a versatile third-line forward to replace Bennett.