NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 16, 2020

The Senators sign Evgenii Dadonov, the Rangers avoid arbitration with Tony DeAngelo and Alexandar Georgiev, Joe Thornton will play in Switzerland during the NHL offseason and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators yesterday signed Evgenii Dadonov to a three-year, $15 million contract. The annual average value is $5 million. The 31-year-old winger is coming off his third straight 20-goal season.

Ottawa Senators sign winger Evgenii Dadonov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A significant signing by the rebuilding Senators. Dadonov should bolster their anemic offense.

While it was surprising that the Sens landed one of the notable remaining unrestricted free agents, the signing also raised eyebrows over Dadonov getting less than market value. The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin observed it’s an indication of how much the flat salary cap is affecting mid-tier free-agent talent.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers avoided arbitration with defenseman Tony DeAngelo and goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. DeAngelo signed a two-year contract with an AAV of $4.8 million while Georgiev inked a two-year deal worth $2.425 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have $70.6 million committed to 21 players with Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux to re-sign. Both have arbitration hearings coming up but the Blueshirts have enough cap space to avoid that route.

TSN: Free-agent center Joe Thornton will play for Switzerland’s HC Davos during the NHL offseason. He previously played for Davos during the 2004-05 and 2012-13 NHL lockouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The last time Thornton played an NHL game was on March 11 before the regular season was derailed by COVID-19. It’s a good way for him to get into game shape for whenever the NHL returns to action in the new year.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reported Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella hopes the recent additions of centers Max Domi and Mikko Koivu will allow him to open up his offense.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A lack of depth at center last season forced the Jackets to play a more defensive-oriented system. Koivu will likely see fourth-line duty while Domi is expected to fill the second-line center role.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox reports the effects of COVID-19 upon NHL revenue could be generating concern among the team owners. He points to Vegas Golden Knights’ owner Bill Foley’s recent remarks contradicting the league’s official position of returning next season on Jan. 1 with a full 82-games schedule. Foley noted his peers are getting nervous. “We all thought we’d be out of COVID by now”, he told an interviewer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foley believes the NHL will return on Feb. 1 at the earliest and play a reduced schedule to be completed by the end of June because NBC (which holds the league’s US broadcasting rights) will be televising the Summer Olympics in July. No reaction yet from Commissioner Gary Bettman regarding Foley’s remarks, but the Golden Knights’ owner seems to be saying out loud what’s been discussed quietly behind the scenes.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 13, 2020

A look at the top remaining unrestricted free agents, three potential Canadiens’ trade candidates, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP REMAINING UFAS

SPORTSNET: Winger Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Mikael Granlund and Ilya Kovalchuk, along with defenseman Travis Hamonic top Emily Sadler’s list of the best remaining players in this year’s NHL unrestricted free agent market.

Winger Mike Hoffman is among the best remaining players in this year’s NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman and Dadonov are the best of the bunch but they could end up signing for considerably less than they hoped given the current economic climate. I wouldn’t be surprised if interested clubs are using the market against both wingers to drive down their asking prices.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reported yesterday Granlund was in discussions with multiple teams and is whittling down his list to find the best fit. He doesn’t know if the Blue Jackets are among them.

Centers Erik Haula and Carl Soderberg, left-wingers Anthony Duclair and Andreas Athanasiou, and defenseman Sami Vatanen fill out the top-10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All four are on my recent listing of possible bargain signings.

The rest include centers Alex Galchenyuk, Derick Brassard and Joe Thornton, wingers Corey Perry, Colin Wilson, Matt Martin, Patrick Marleau and Conor Sheary and defenseman Zdeno Chara.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Stars bringing back Perry on another affordable one-year deal. A recent report claimed the San Jose Sharks could bring back Marleau. Thornton could also be back with the Sharks while Chara is expected to return with the Boston Bruins.

POTENTIAL CANADIENS TRADE CANDIDATES

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens’ signing of winger Tyler Toffoli yesterday leaves the club sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $353K. They’ll have to offload over $1 million to become cap compliant before the start of next season. Trade options could include Jordan Weal ($1.4 million), Paul Byron ($3.4 million) and Joel Armia ($2.6 million).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byron has three seasons left on his contract. TVA Sports noted he has two 20-goal seasons on his resume but his production declined due to injuries over the last two seasons. His cap hit could make him the most difficult to move.

Armia or Weal are more affordable but they probably won’t have as much value as Byron in the trade market. The Canadiens have 14 picks in next year’s draft so perhaps one of those selections could be packaged with one of those players as a sweetener.

The Canadiens also have eight defensemen under NHL contract for next season. Brett Kulak surfaced in recent trade chatter so perhaps there might be a market for him. Kukak is signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $1.85 million.

BRUINS INTERESTED IN WEEGAR?

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites three sources claiming the Bruins have shown interest in MacKenzie Weegar. The rugged 26-year-old defenseman recently filed for salary arbitration. Word around the league is the Panthers have been shopping Weegar for some time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murphy points out Weegar’s a right-hand shot while the Bruins’ biggest need is a left-shot defenseman. He also wonders how the Bruins will address the departure of Torey Krug.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

A look at this year’s noteworthy UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently updated his listing of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents. St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tops the list, followed by Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.

TSN: Frank Seravalli also has Pietrangelo, Hall and Krug among his top-three and Lehner at No. 5 on his top-10 list, with Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in the fourth spot.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument from me regarding Pietrangelo’s placement. He’ll be heavily courted if he and the Blues fail to reach agreement on a contract extension. Despite the flattened salary cap for next season, he could command over $9 million annually on the open market.

The respective playoff performances of Hall and Krug didn’t do much to improve their free-agent value, but they still remain near the top of this year’s UFA crop. Hall’s current annual average value is $6 million and Krug’s is $5.25 million. Under normal circumstances, they’d get long-term contracts with big raises. Now, they might have to accept short-term deals for more modest raises in hopes of scoring more lucrative deals once league revenue improves.

Hoffman played well for the Panthers during the qualifying round. He’s a reliable scorer but his age (31) could limit him to a three-year deal with an AAV of around $6 million.

I’d put Lehner slightly ahead of Markstrom but both are the best pending UFA netminders. Lehner will want a long-term deal after spending the past two years on one-year contracts and for more than his current $5 million. Markstrom is rumored to be seeking over $6 million annually on a long-term contract, but maybe he’ll accept that much on a three-year deal.

Larkin has Markstrom ninth on his listing, with Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, and Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie coming in sixth through 10.

Seravalli has Hoffman and Dadonov sixth and seventh on his listing, followed by Toffoli, Panthers center Erik Haula, and Barrie completing his top-10 list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Toffoli’s two-way skills should put him higher on those lists. Dadonov has tallied 25-play goals in each of the last three seasons and probably would’ve reached 60 points again this season had the schedule not been derailed by COVID-19, but I wonder how productive he’ll be with another club. 

Barrie’s stock really took a hit this season with the Leafs. However, he’s a right-handed shot with good puck-moving skills. As Seravalli suggests, he could regain his form away from Toronto’s harsh spotlight. I’m puzzled by Seravalli’s ranking Haula so high. While I agree this year’s market isn’t a good one for centers, Haula’s injury history could hurt his UFA value.

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are 13th and 14th on Larkin’s rankings. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, and Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk fill in the rest of spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby’s playoff performance didn’t help his UFA stock. His play has been in decline since 2018. The flat cap will also work against his chances of securing a hefty raise on a long-term deal. Granlund also didn’t help his case with his postseason play. I’d put Byfuglien at the bottom of this list because we don’t know if he intends to resume his career after sitting out this season and if the 35-year-old blueliner will be as effective as he once way.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford lands at No. 20 on Larkin’s list, preceded by Calgary Flames defenseman Erik Gustafsson, Washington Capitals blueliner Brenden Dillon, Haula, and Flames rearguard Travis Hamonic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Larkin pointed out, Crawford played well despite the horrible blueline in front of him this season. He wonders if the long-time Blackhawks goalie will take less money to stay in Chicago. I think he will. At 35, he could sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million.

Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin, Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz are among Larkin’s bottom 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin’s play throughout this season and in the playoffs could send his value rising for clubs pursuing an experienced, reliable backup. Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere if he doesn’t re-sign with the Flames. Schultz’s value plummeted this season, in part because he was returning from a serious leg injury suffered last season. He could prove a worthwhile, affordable gamble on a one-year, “show-me” deal.

New York Rangers winger Jesper Fast, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo, Predators forward Craig Smith, Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, Colorado Avalanche winger Vladislav Namestnikov, Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Joel Edmundson, and Arizona Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the listing.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 18, 2020

A look at off-season questions for several teams eliminated during the qualifying round, plus the latest on the Ottawa Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen examined one big off-season question for each club eliminated during the qualifying round. Among the noteworthy:

What kind of return could Kaspari Kapanen fetch for the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boylen asked what kind of defenseman they’ll add. Given the flat cap and the free-agent pool would be difficult to wade into, Boylen suggested the trade market could be their best option. He wonders if Kaspari Kapanen or Alex Kerfoot become trade bait, and what type of return they might fetch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen or Kerfoot at best could bring a second-pairing right-side defenseman. They won’t bring in a top-pairing guy unless they’re packaged with a first-round pick and/or a top prospect, and they’ll have to target a team in need of shedding salary.

Whoever becomes the Florida Panthers’ next general manager has a lot of work to do. The defense is a problem area, plus they have to decide what to do with free agent wingers Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman. Boylen wonders if they’ll be replaced by rookies if ownership decides to cut payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things are a mess with the Panthers. We can’t really get a bead on their intentions until they’ve hired a new GM.

The Winnipeg Jets need more size on their blueline. Boylen wonders if GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will try to address that issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have over $65 million invested in next year’s payroll and all their core players under contract. There’s room to make an addition or two, but a bigger move would require shipping out a notable player as part of the return. However, he could get more cap flexibility if sidelined center Bryan Little is placed on LTIR next season.

Boylen noted Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin was dissatisfied with his goaltending. He mused about whether Guerin will promote promising Kaapo Kahkonen or explore the free-agent market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s current goalie tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock is under contract for next season. One of them would have to be moved to make room for Kahkonen or someone else. Dubnyk ($4.333 million AAV for 2020-21) has a 19-team list of preferred trade destinations, but his performance this season remains a stumbling block. Stalock’s cap hit ($785K annually through 2021-22) could be the easiest to move. 

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators owner Eugene Melnyk rejected rumors suggesting his club might offer up the third- and fifth overall picks to the New York Rangers for the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, calling the notion “nonsensical.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers would probably reject that offer anyway. It could take a significant pitch to pry that pick away from them.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 16, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 16, 2020

Has Tuukka Rask played his final game with the Bruins? Could the Rangers be tempted to trade the first-overall pick? What’s the latest on the Panthers? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

COULD THE BRUINS AND RASK PART WAYS?

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont suggests it might be time for the Bruins and goaltender Tuukka Rask to part ways. This comes in the wake of Rask’s decision to return home for family reasons. While the club is supportive of the goalie’s decision, and Dupont is also sympathetic, the pundit points out this isn’t the first time he’s taken a leave of absence for family reasons.

Rask has one season left on his contract, but Dupont feels the Bruins cannot have uncertainty between the pipes, especially in the starter’s position. He notes the Bruins can trade the netminder to one of the 15 teams on the list he was obligated to provide in February. He believes Bruins general manager Don Sweeney “will be working the phones.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every statement coming from the Bruins’ organization supports Rask’s decision and I feel they’ve handled this situation well considering the circumstances His critics will condemn him for bailing on the team. We don’t know the full story but it appears to be something he carefully considered for some time.

I don’t fault Rask for putting his family first. The same goes for anyone else regardless of profession. It’s difficult to focus on a job when you’re worried about your family.

Rask’s decision, however, does raise questions over the goaltender’s future in Boston. Some will suggest a trade, others retirement.

Dupont feels the Bruins GM and coach need to know who they can count on during the good times, bad times, and especially during the playoffs. If that’s the rationale the Bruins use to trade Rask (and that’s a big “if” at this point), it will hurt his value in the trade market. If Rask returns next season, they could keep their goalie tandem intact with Jaroslav Halak for one more season. 

Will the New York Rangers use the first-overall pick to select Alexis Lafreniere? (NHL.com)

COULD THE RANGERS SHOP THE FIRST-OVERALL PICK?

ESPN.COM: The New York Rangers won the draft lottery, but Greg Wyshynski notes this year’s top prospect, left-wing Alexis Lafreniere, won’t address their need for a skilled centerman. They’re already well-stocked at the left-wing position with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider.

Wyshynski points out the Rangers could land a proven center and help on defense by shopping the first-overall pick. A bidding war could get started among clubs seeking a skilled left-winger. However, just because it’s an option doesn’t make it the best one.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman cites former NHL GM Brian Burke suggesting the Rangers have got to listen if someone is going to come after that pick hard, but he notes those offers usually aren’t good.

Dillman wondered if the Los Angeles Kings, who own the second-overall pick, might contact the Rangers. The presence of No. 2 prospect Quinton Byfield (a center) might entice the Rangers to listen. While the Kings have depth in center prospects and the Blueshirts have a need at that position, it doesn’t mean there’s a fit there.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if the Rangers don’t get some calls about that pick. Maybe from the Kings, perhaps from the Ottawa Senators, possibly from the Montreal Canadiens or another club in dire need of a potential scoring star. However, it’ll take a significant offer to convince them to part with that pick. Ultimately, I expect the Rangers will keep the pick, select Lafreniere, and find other ways to boost their depth at center, either internally or through the trade or free-agent markets. 

LATEST ON THE PANTHERS

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards noted whoever becomes the Florida Panthers new GM will have decisions to make regarding unrestricted free agents such as Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman.

Richards suggests the flat salary cap could work to the Panthers’ advantage if they want to re-sign a couple of their UFAs without breaking the bank. Dadonov and Hoffman seem to enjoy living in Florida and playing for the Panthers, but they might have to accept short-term deals if they hope to stay. However, their production could make them cost-prohibitive if the Panthers decide to cut payroll.

Improving the defense should be the Panthers’ priority. Richards notes blueliner Mike Matheson has six years left on his contract at $4.8 million per season and was scratched from the final two games of the postseason. If they’re willing to give up on Matheson’s potential it might not be easy to move his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lack of a state tax also works in the Panthers’ favor if they hope to re-sign Dadonov and Hoffman. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires with those two as they approach free agency. They could test the market and then return to the Panthers if there’s nothing to their liking. That’ll depend, of course, on who takes over the GM’s chair between now and then.

Matheson frequently surfaced in this year’s rumor mill. The Panthers could be stuck with him as the decline of his play over the last couple of seasons could hurt his value in the trade market. Still, I can see the next GM calling around to see if there’s a club willing to take a chance on him.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 5, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 5, 2020

A look at possible off-season targets for the Sharks and the cost to the Red Wings of trying to move Justin Abdelkader or Frans Nielsen to the Kraken in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka reports San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will be looking to add depth to his roster in the off-season. He’s expressed interest in acquiring a forward.

Could the San Jose Sharks attempt to acquire Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Pashelka listed Florida Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kaspari Kapanen, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, and Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli as potential targets.

Dadonov and Toffoli are unrestricted free agents at season’s end. Schwartz has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $5.35 million, Kapanen is earning $3.2 million per season through 2020-21, and Johnson is signed through 2023-24 worth $5 million annually.

Pashelka wonders if the Panthers will be willing to pay out another big salary to re-sign Dadonov when they’ve already got $60 million invested in 13 players for next season. The Lightning might consider moving Johnson to free up cap space. If he’s unavailable, perhaps Alex Killorn could be a worthwhile target.

The Leafs would likely want an affordable, right-shot defenseman in return for Kapanen. It might take a third team getting involved for the Sharks to land him. The Blues also need to shed some salary. They might prefer shopping center Tyler Bozak or goalie Jake Allen, but Schwartz would draw more interest. If the Canucks fail to re-sign Toffoli, perhaps he’d consider returning to a California-based club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pashelka also noted the Sharks have cap issues of their own, with 15 players under contract and roughly $14.9 million available next season. Adding Dadonov or Toffoli would take a big bite out of that cap room, forcing Wilson to make a salary-dumping deal. Probably better off to look at the trade market.

Kapanen carries the most affordable contract, but the asking price could be a sticking point. Johnson has a full no-trade clause and could be unwilling to waive it, whereas Killorn has a 16-team no-trade and might be amenable to moving to San Jose. The Blues could move Schwartz if push came to shove, but I see them shopping Allen and perhaps someone else.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James examined the cost to the Red Wings of trying to tempt the Seattle Kraken into acquiring Justin Abdelkader or Frans Nielsen next summer by packaging either player with a draft pick or prospect.

She believes it doesn’t make sense for the Wings if it means including a top prospect or a first-round pick. It also wouldn’t make sense for the Kraken to take on Abdelkader’s annual cap hit ($4.25 million through 2022-23) or Nielsen’s ($5.25 million through 2021-22) for a third- or fourth-round selection or a middling prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the Wings could be stuck with both players beyond next season. Perhaps GM Steve Yzerman can find a budget team looking to reach the cap floor, but those teams would also want something decent in the package deal.