NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 9, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 9, 2022

Duncan Keith’s retirement and its effect on the Oilers and Blackhawks, an update on Kirill Kaprizov, the latest on Johnny Gaudreau’s contract talks, the Kings re-sign Adrian Kempe, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reported Duncan Keith will retire after 17 NHL seasons. The 38-year-old Edmonton Oilers defenseman has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.54 million.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Keith played all but one of his 17 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, becoming the greatest defenseman in franchise history. Joining the Blackhawks when they were among the league doormats in 2005-06, he went on to anchor their blueline as they rose to become one of the league’s most dominant teams.

Keith enjoyed a career worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He helped the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups in six seasons from 2009-10 to 2014-15, took home the Norris Trophy twice as the league’s top defenseman, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2015 and was a two-time First Team All-Star. He is second all-time among Blackhawks skaters with 1,192 games played, sixth in total assists (520) and 10th in points with 625. Keith also helped Canada win two gold medals (2010, 2014) in men’s hockey at the Winter Olympics.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Keith’s retirement provides a boost to the Oilers’ salary-cap space for 2022-23, removing $5.5 million from their books. Having traded Zack Kassian ($3.2 million) to Arizona on Thursday and with goaltender Mike Smith ($2.2 million) and defenseman Oscar Klefbom ($4.1 million) expected to spend next season on long-term injury reserve, the Oilers could have $22 million to work with this summer.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Because Keith was on a 13-year contract signed before term limits were imposed on contracts, the Blackhawks faced a $5.5 million salary-cap recapture penalty for 2022-23 and $1.9 million in 2023-24. The club wasn’t planning on spending to the $82.5 million cap, but it does hamper their efforts to weaponize their cap space by taking on bad contracts from rival clubs with sweeteners such as draft picks and prospects attached.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The financial effects of Keith’s retirement for the Oilers and Blackhawks is newsworthy, but it seemed to overshadow the fact that a future Hall-of-Famer was hanging up his skates after a long and productive career.

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports sources claim Minnesota Wild star Kirill Kaprizov was twice denied entry into the United States and has returned to his native Russia, likely because he currently lacks a work visa. The 25-year-old winger was previously accused of buying a fake military ID in 2017 to avoid service in the Russian military. Russo reports Kaprizov’s father said his son was a student which allowed him to avoid service. However, that exemption expired on June 30.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has raised concerns over whether Kaprizov will be allowed to return to North America given the tensions between the United States and Russia over the latter’s ongoing war with Ukraine. Russo reports the Wild are working with the NHL behind the scenes to sort this out.

SPORTSNET: Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving said there is a genuine desire by his team and Johnny Gaudreau to get a new contract done before the free-agent market opens on July 13. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been reported the Flames offered Gaudreau an eight-year deal worth $9.5 million annually. While there’s talk the club has the flexibility to go higher in salary, there’s also a belief that he wants to gauge other offers before reaching a decision.

TSN: The Los Angeles Kings reached an agreement with winger Adrian Kempe on a four-year, $22-million contract with an official announcement expected on Saturday. Kempe, 25, was slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He’s coming off a career-best 35-goal performance.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: $5.5 million per season is a good contract for a 30-goal winger, especially if he continues that level of production over the course of his new deal.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: More details emerged on the Philadelphia Flyers’ acquisition of Tony DeAngelo from the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. The Flyers sent the Canes a second-round pick in 2024, a third-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-rounder in the 2022 draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The original report indicated the Hurricanes were receiving second, third and fourth rounds picks.

The Flyers acquired DeAngelo because they need insurance in case Ryan Ellis remains sidelined next season by his recovery from a multilayered injury in his pelvis region. Nevertheless, the deal is facing criticism by Flyers followers citing DeAngelo’s checkered history and his average defensive game.

RDS.CA: cites Pierre LeBrun reports it appears Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat is heading to the free-agent market on Wednesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun didn’t rule things changing but this would be a big loss to the Lightning if Palat departs as a free agent. The 32-year-old winger is a reliable two-way player who’s also a clutch playoff performer, sitting third among active players with 12 game-winning playoff goals.

NEW YORK POST: Forget the rumors of the Islanders trading Semyon Varlamov. GM Lou Lamoriello said he’ll be maintaining his goaltending tandem of Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin for next season.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: The Avalanche are reportedly closing in on a new contract for Valeri Nichushkin.

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said it doesn’t appear he’ll be receiving a contract buyout. He’s excited about returning under new GM Mike Grier (who he played with earlier in his career) and the new coaching staff.

THE TENNESSEAN: Speaking of the Sharks, they acquire forward Luke Kunin on Friday from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2023 third-rounder and forward John Leonard.










Notable NHL Trades and Free Agent Signings – July 8, 2022

Notable NHL Trades and Free Agent Signings – July 8, 2022

Check out my take on the notable trades and free-agent signings from the second day of the 2022 NHL Draft.

The Carolina Hurricanes traded defenseman Tony DeAngelo to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for second, third and fourth-round picks (Detail to follow). The Flyers then signed the 27-year-old DeAngelo to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $5 million.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is going to go one of two ways. DeAngelo will either get along well with new Flyers head coach John Tortorella and play his system or they’ll get on like chalk and cheese and this will be a train wreck. For a fragile club on their third coach in less than a year that was walloped by injuries and also shipped out their captain at the trade deadline, drama is the last thing they need right now.

DeAngelo enjoyed a bounce-back performance last season (51 points) with the Hurricanes on a one-year, $1-million contract after being bought out by the New York Rangers. He had no issues with his teammates or head coach Rod Brind’Amour but the Canes couldn’t afford to sign him. He’s a skilled puck-mover but his defensive play doesn’t match his offensive abilities. DeAngelo will be forced to improve that aspect of his game under Tortorella or face a sharp reduction in ice time.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, appear to be clearing salary to re-sign pending UFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Vincent Trocheck. Then again, maybe they’re planning a big addition via trade or free agency. Stay tuned…

Washington Capitals trade goaltender Vitek Vanecek and a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft to the New Jersey Devils for a second-round pick and a third-rounder.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils were in the market for a goalie to share the duties with Mackenzie Blackwood. Vanecek, 27, is a restricted free agent coming off a three-year deal worth over $716K per season and will be seeking a raise with his new club but shouldn’t break the bank. He put up decent regular-season numbers but his playoff stats aren’t anything to write home about. He’ll be best used in a backup role.

It was rumored the Devils might get into the market for an established starter like Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper. Perhaps they still will but that would mean moving out Blackwood, who’s struggled with injuries and inconsistency over the past two years. My guess is they’re going with a Blackwood-Vanecek tandem.

Detroit Red Wings acquire goaltender Ville Husso from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The Wings then signed the 27-year-old Husso to a three-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $4.75 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman opts not to bring in another aging backup but instead lands a younger netminder with starter experience. Husso will share the goalie duties with starter Alex Nedeljkovic and could perhaps push the Red Wings starter, who had some consistency issues last season.

The Blues would’ve preferred to re-sign Husso but lacked sufficient cap space to do so, especially when they’re trying to re-sign winger David Perron. They’ll be in the market for a suitable backup for Jordan Binnington via trade or free agency.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2022

A look at Daily Faceoff’s top offseason trade targets in today’s NHL rumor mill.

DAILY FACEOFF: Alex DeBrincat tops Frank Seravalli’s list of this summer’s top-25 trade targets. He considers it a question of “when”, not “if” the Chicago Blackhawks trade the 24-year-old left winger. Seravalli believes he’d be their best trade chip to stockpile futures for their rebuilding process. It will also cost them $9 million to qualify his rights at the end of next season.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis believes Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson could seek a return comparable to the two first-round picks and two NHL players he got from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Brandon Hagel. A high first-round pick and/or an A-level prospect would have to be a priority. He suggested the New Jersey Devils could be worth watching as they’re willing to part with their first-round pick (second overall) in this year’s draft.

Whoever pursues DeBrincat must be prepared to pony up big bucks to re-sign him after next season. He’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’ll also be a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility.

Minnesota Wild winger Kevin Fiala, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun, Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller and the Devils’ second-overall draft pick sit Nos. 2 through 5 on Seravalli’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fiala, Chychrun and Miller have been fixtures in this year’s rumor mill. Seravalli thinks Fiala could be a good fit with the Devils alongside Swiss countryman Nico Hischier. The Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders have also been linked to Fiala.

The Coyotes’ expensive asking price for Chychrun remains a sticking point. The Canucks are expected to try and sign Miller to a contract extension this summer but could end up shopping him if that’s not possible.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo, Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie, Devils forward Pavel Zacha and Nashville Predators defenseman Philippe Myers come in at Nos. 6 through 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeAngelo enjoyed a bounce-back performance this season but the Hurricanes might end up shopping him if they can’t re-sign him. Seravalli said Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek quietly floated Gibson’s name before the trade deadline. However, his contract could be difficult to move. He carries a $6.4 million annual salary cap hit through 2026-27 with a 10-team no-trade clause.

Barrie could be shopped by the Oilers to free up cap room for other moves. Seravalli suggests Zacha, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, could be used as a trade chip by the Devils to bring in help elsewhere in their lineup. He also thinks Myers could be useful for a cap-strapped team to acquire and buy out because of the way his deal is backloaded.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry, Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner John Marino, Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov, Vegas Golden Knights winger Evgenii Dadonov and either Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto come in at Nos. 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The cap-strapped Canadiens tried to fulfill Petry’s trade request before the trade deadline and could shop him this summer to free up cap room. Seravalli suggested he could be a solid backup plan for the Penguins if Kris Letang departs via free agency. He’s also been linked to the Dallas Stars. However, the three years left on his deal at $6.25 million could be a stumbling block.

Marino, Varlamov and Dadonov would also be cost-cutting trade candidates. There’s speculation the Canucks could be interested in Marino. Varlamov’s 16-team no-trade clause could complicate attempts to move him. The Golden Knights unsuccessfully attempted to move Dadonov before the trade deadline. They will likely try again this summer.

Seravalli believes the Oilers’ limited cap space could force GM Ken Holland to choose between Puljujarvi and Yamamoto. Both are restricted free agents with arbitration rights.

Florida Panthers winger Patric Hornqvist, Seattle Kraken defenseman Carson Soucy, Canucks forwards Tanner Pearson and Jason Dickinson, Detroit Red Wings forward Filip Zadina, and the contracts of Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom and Canadiens blueliner Shea Weber are shoehorned into Nos. 16 through 21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers need to free up cap space and Hornqvist has only a year left on his contract. Seravalli believes GM Bill Zito will be able to find a taker for the veteran forward as he did with Anton Stralman and Brett Connolly last season.

Seravalli doesn’t see any push by the Kraken to move Soucy but could listen to offers if they won’t re-sign him after next season. Pearson and Dickinson would be salary-dumping moves by the Canucks. Zadina might need a fresh start after struggling with the Red Wings.

Klefbom and Weber are on permanent long-term injury reserve. Seravalli points out that the Oilers and Canadiens would like to move those contracts as having them on LTIR prevents them from accruing cap space during the season.

There’s an assumption the Canadiens will try again to peddle Weber’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes after a rumored deal fell apart before the trade deadline. He carries a $7.857 million annual cap hit for four more seasons but will be paid just $6 million total in actual salary over that period.

Montreal Hockey Now’s Marco D’Amico explains that would allow the Coyotes’ ownership to save millions in payroll, especially as they’ll be playing in a tiny university arena over the next three or four years while awaiting construction of their new arena. However, they could insist on draft picks in the 2023 and 2025 drafts be included in the deal if they’re still willing to take on Weber’s contract.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl, Hurricanes blueliner Ethan Bear, Canadiens winger Josh Anderson and Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele round up the remainder of the list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like so many on this list, Holl would be moved in an effort to trim payroll. Bear, meanwhile, fell out of favor in Carolina and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs. I don’t see the Canadiens shopping Anderson though it wouldn’t hurt the rebuilding club to at least listen to trade offers.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff last week indicated he expected Scheifele to be back next season. Seravalli acknowledged moving him probably isn’t high on Cheveldayoff’s list and considers it difficult for the Jets to get equal value in return.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2022

The Hurricanes hope to retain some key free agents, the possibility of some RFAs not receiving qualifying offers, plus updates on Jack Campbell and David Perron in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HURRICANES HOPE TO RETAIN TROCHECK, NIEDERREITER & DEANGELO

NHL.COM: Kurt Dusterberg reports Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell hopes to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent forwards Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter. Meanwhile, head coach Rod Brind’Amour hopes restricted free agent defenseman Tony DeAngelo also returns.

Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal indicated he’s not thinking about a contract extension this summer, preferring to play out the final season of his contract before determining his future. Waddell indicated they want Staal to play as long as he feels like doing so.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander reports DeAngelo would love to stay with the Hurricanes. He said he believes everyone in the organization knows that and believes they want him back, expressing appreciation for the trust they put in him following his troubled final season with the New York Rangers.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo (NHL Images).

DeAngelo, 26, has arbitration rights and is a year away from becoming eligible for unrestricted free agent status. Waddell indicated there’s interest in signing him to a multi-year contract.

Alexander’s colleague Luck DeCock believes the Hurricanes need an upgrade in pure scoring skill. He suggested parting ways with forward Martin Necas, who regressed during this season and bringing in a scoring winger to replace him via trade or free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Waddell called signing Trocheck a priority. That increases the likelihood he won’t become available in this summer’s UFA market. It will depend on whether the two sides can reach an agreement before free agency begins on July 13.

Trocheck tends to be a streaky scorer but he would draw plenty of interest if he tests the market. Vancouver Hockey Now’s Rob Simpson daydreamed about Vancouver signing him but there’s no indication that’s the direction Canucks management intends to take.

DeAngelo made the most of his opportunity with the Hurricanes. While both sides are pleased with how this season turned out, arriving at a suitable deal could be a challenge.

Cap Friendly indicates the Hurricanes have $19.4 million in cap space with 14 players under contract next season. Parting ways with Necas won’t free up additional cap space as he’s a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

Trocheck earned an annual average value of $4.725 million while Niederreiter’s was $5.25 million. It could cost a combined $12 million to retain them. DeAngelo, meanwhile, could seek a return to the $4.8 million annually he was earning with the Rangers before agreeing to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Hurricanes for this season. Re-signing that trio won’t leave much room to add a scoring forward.

TIDBITS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “32 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: In his latest “32 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman suggested limited salary-cap space among NHL teams could lead to some of them not bothering to qualify the rights of some arbitration-eligible RFAs.

Some worth watching include Carolina’s Ethan Bear, Dallas’ Denis Gurianov, Pittsburgh’s Kasperi Kapanen, Chicago’s Dylan Strome and New Jersey’s Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha. He also noted there was speculation that Ondrej Kase could depart Toronto but believes talks are underway between the winger and the Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those players could bolster the depth of talent in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. There’s no certainty, of course, that most or all of them will hit the open market. Still, it could be worthwhile as Friedman suggested to keep an eye on their respective contract negotiations.

Speaking of RFAs, Friedman believes the Leafs will qualify defenseman Rasmus Sandin’s rights. However, they have a logjam on the left side of their blueline. He pointed out that their cap situation doesn’t afford Sandin contract room.

Meanwhile, there haven’t been any contract talks between the Leafs and goaltender Jack Campbell for months and anything previously discussed is no longer relevant. His agent said there’s been no material contract conversation since the end of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Leafs will get something done with Campbell because there aren’t many suitable replacement options in this summer’s trade and UFA markets. The best free-agent options are Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper and Minnesota’s Marc-Andre Fleury and there’s no certainty either guy can be wooed to Toronto.

As for Sandin, he’ll obviously be more affordable to sign than Campbell. Given the priority given to the latter, however, they could end up shopping Sandin if they can’t free up sufficient cap dollars to re-sign him. However, I think Leafs management will try to free up cap room by trying to move out veterans like Petr Mrazek and Wayne Simmonds, though peddling either guy won’t be easy.

Friedman believes the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators will be worth watching as they have their first-round picks in play for talent with a lot of team control.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, a player with more than a year remaining on their contract.

He also doesn’t expect St. Louis Blues winger David Perron will hit the open market on July 13.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2022

Check out the latest speculation on the Hurricanes and Blues offseason plans in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE HURRICANES?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski noted the Carolina Hurricanes have several key free agents to deal with this summer. Forwards Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck and Max Domi and defensemen Ian Cole and Brendan Smith are due to become unrestricted free agents. Forward Martin Necas and blueliners Ethan Bear and Tony DeAngelo are restricted free agents.

Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck (NHL Images).

Wyshynski observed that Trocheck tends to be inconsistent. DeAngelo, meanwhile, led their defensemen with 51 points in 64 games after signing a one-year, $1 million contract.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander pointed out that Necas’ erratic third NHL season raises questions over where he fits into the Hurricanes’ plans. Bear, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch throughout this postseason.

Luke DeCock also weighed in on the difficult decisions facing Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell, with what to do with DeAngelo and Niederreiter topping the list. He felt Trocheck’s departure via free agency and cutting bait with Necas should be easier. DeCock also noted coach Rod Brind’Amour’s comment about the Hurricanes lacking elite goal scorers.

THE ATHLETIC: Sara Civian suggested Waddell explore the “elite goal scorer” market this summer. She pointed out the Hurricanes lacked a scorer in the top-20 this season despite being among the NHL’s best teams. Their scoring leader was Sebastian Aho, whose 81 points placed him 30th overall in the league.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Hurricanes have $19.375 million in cap space for 2022-23 with 14 players under contract. Not everyone among those key free agents will be back, especially if Waddell and team owner Tom Dundon decide to pursue a scoring forward this summer.

Maybe they’ll try to sign Colorado’s Nazem Kadri if they let Trocheck walk. Perhaps they’ll pursue Kevin Fiala if the Minnesota Wild decides to shop the pending RFA winger.

I think they’ll bring DeAngelo back after his bounce-back performance this season. Trading Necas could be a mistake but he could be packaged with a draft pick or prospect to land a more established scorer.

LATEST ON THE BLUES

STLTODAY.COM: Jim Thomas reports Blues GM Doug Armstrong doesn’t believe his roster needs major changes after falling in the second round to the Colorado Avalanche. With a number of key players under contract, he felt his team is in a good position for next season.

Armstrong acknowledged the salary cap will affect efforts to re-sign key UFAs David Perron, Ville Husso and Nick Leddy. Still, he believes there’s sufficient time to work things out. He also said he’s not worried about Vladimir Tarasenko returning next season despite last summer’s reports about a trade request. He praised the winger’s bounce-back performance this season.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reported Perron said he’d love to be back with the Blues, though he declined to speak about his contract situation publicly. Armstrong also indicated he’d like to bring the 34-year-old winger back, citing his ability to still elevate his play despite his age.

Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly can sign a contract extension this summer. He said he absolutely wants to remain in St. Louis.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perron earned $4 million annually on his current contract and could return for the same cap hit on a two- or three-year deal. Leddy was a good fit with the Blues after joining them in a late-season trade. However, the 31-year-old defenseman will have to accept a pay cut from his $5.5 million to stick in St. Louis.

Husso made just $700k this season so he’s going to get a significant raise despite his postseason struggles. He could cash in on the free-agent market if he wants more playing time as a starter.

Tarasenko hasn’t publicly said he’s changed his mind about a trade but I’d say Armstrong’s comments are a strong indication he won’t be shopped this summer.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2022

Zdeno Chara sets record for defensemen, Zach Parise reaches a scoring milestone, the Predators retire Pekka Rinne’s number, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders’ Zdeno Chara surpassed Chris Chelios for most games (1,652) by an NHL defenseman but his club dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the San Jose Sharks. Isles winger Zach Parise also reached a personal milestone by tallying his 400th career NHL regular-season goal. Logan Couture netted the winning goal for the Sharks (52 points), who sit seven points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

New York Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Chara and Parise on their respective achievements in what could be their final NHL seasons. Both are now well past their playing prime and could face retirement following this season.

A shootout goal by Mikael Granlund gave the Nashville Predators a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars after they honored former goaltender Pekka Rinne by retiring his jersey No. 35 in a pre-game ceremony. Rinne’s successor, Juuse Saros, made 27 saves for the win as the Predators opened a six-point lead over the Oilers in the first Western wild-card berth with 64 points. The Stars (59 points) sit just behind the Oilers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Winner of the Vezina Trophy in 2018 and a two-time All-Star, Rinne retired at the end of last season as the Predators’ all-time leader in games played (683), wins (369), save percentage (.921), goals-against average (2.43) and shutouts (60).

J.T. Miller scored twice and added two assists while Thatcher Demko made 29 saves as the Vancouver Canucks thumped the Calgary Flames 7-1, snapping the latter’s 10-game win streak. Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat each tallied two goals as the Canucks (56 points) moved within three points of the Oilers. The Flames remain atop the Pacific Division with 66 points.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews scored twice to take over the NHL goal-scoring lead (36) in a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild to snap a three-game losing skid. Petr Mrazek kicked out 29 shots while Mitch Marner collected two assists. With 70 points, the Leafs sit two points behind the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division. The Wild remain in third place in the Central with 65 points, one behind the St. Louis Blues. Leafs winger Ilya Mikheyev left the game early with a non-COVID-related illness.

The Boston Bruins got a two-goal performance by Jake DeBrusk, including the winning goal in overtime, to down the Seattle Kraken 3-2. Charlie McAvoy collected two assists while Linus Ullmark stopped 25 shots. Bruins winger Brad Marchand was held scoreless in his return from a six-game suspension. The Bruins hold the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 64 points, one behind the Washington Capitals. The Kraken has dropped six straight games.

Speaking of the Capitals, they suffered a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers. Igor Shesterkin turned aside 36 shots for the Rangers while teammates Mika Zibanejad and Alexis Lafreniere each had a goal and an assist. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin netted his 32nd goal of the season. The Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 71 points, three behind the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.

Patrik Laine scored a goal to extend his points streak to 11 games as his Columbus Blue Jackets upset the Florida Panthers 6-3. Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jakub Voracek and Jack Roslovic each collected two points for the Jackets while J-F Berube made 39 saves for the win. The Jackets have won four straight games and sit nine points behind the Bruins. The Panthers remain atop the Eastern Conference with 75 points.

Speaking of upsets, the New Jersey Devils rolled to a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes each collected three points while Nico Daws turned in a 37-save performance for the Devils. The Penguins sit one point behind the Rangers in the Metro Division.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo will be sidelined for at least a month with an upper-body injury. It appears he injured his midsection during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeAngelo was enjoying a solid bounce-back performance with the Hurricanes. Skating for much of the season alongside Jaccob Slavin, he’s third among Hurricanes scorers with 40 points.

THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Kaplan reports Evander Kane described his professional prospects beyond this season as “uncertain” and his pending contract grievance with the San Jose Sharks as “unclear” in a recent court filing in his ongoing bankruptcy case.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL Players Association reportedly filed a grievance on Kane’s behalf three weeks ago over the Sharks terminating his contract. A date for a hearing has yet to be determined.

FOX 13 SEATTLE: The Kraken placed winger Jared McCann (upper body) on injured reserve. He’s their leading scorer with 21 goals and 33 points in 48 games.

NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting was fined $2,000.00 by the department of player safety for diving/embellishment during a recent game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

TSN: The Dallas Stars claimed forward Martin Studenic off waivers from the New Jersey Devils.