NHL Rumor Mill – July 18, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – July 18, 2018

Will the Blackhawks make another notable move this summer? Will there be an end to the offer-sheet drought? Find out in today’s installment of your NHL rumor mill.


CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Mark Lazerus reports help might not be coming to the Chicago Blackhawks this summer. Despite freeing up salary-cap room by shipping Marian Hossa’s contract last week to the Arizona Coyotes, general manager Stan Bowman “sounded as though he has come up empty-handed” in making bigger moves while speaking with the local press yesterday. He did leave the door open for a late-summer or early-fall deal once teams have evaluated their rosters during preseason play.

Chicago Blackhawks don’t want to part with young players such as Nick Schmaltz (Photo via NHL Images)

 Lazerus believes Bowman would love to land a winger for Patrick Kane’s line or a defense partner for Duncan Keith. However, he’s not going to part with promising young forwards Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat to do so. The recent return of Marcus Kruger could make center Artem Anisimov expendable but Lazerus doubts they’ll get much for him except more cap space, which they already have.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumors linked the Blackhawks to Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner and defenseman Justin Faulk, as well as Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty. Lazerus ponders the possibility of the asking price for one of those players dropping later on in 2018-19.

It’s obvious Bowman doesn’t want to part with key pieces of his club’s future (Schmaltz or DeBrincat) to bring in a veteran forward (Skinner or Pacioretty) who could depart via free agency next summer or a defenseman such as Faulk, even though he’s signed through 2019-20. It would be best to wait and see if the asking prices drop for those guys, but Bowman cannot sacrifice his good young players for quick fixes.

The Blackhawks must restock their roster with young talent capable of eventually replacing their veteran core players down the road. If that means missing the playoffs or becoming a marginal postseason contender for the next two or three years, so be it. 


THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance reports the recent drought of NHL offer sheets isn’t likely to end this summer. In an informal straw poll of nine NHL general managers, none believed we’ll see an offer sheet this summer.  “I just don’t see where a team could get a player without the team matching,” said one Western Conference GM. 

 “In the NHL’s salary cap era, there have been eight offer sheets. All but one (Dustin Penner) was matched,” observed Custance. The last offer sheet came in 2013, when the Colorado Avalanche matched one signed by Ryan O’Reilly with the Calgary Flames.

Custance noted a list compiled by colleague Jonathan Willis of attractive offer sheet targets, such as “Calgary’s Noah Hanifin, Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, Winnipeg’s Nic Petan, Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse and Toronto’s William Nylander.” However, he believes we shouldn’t hold our breath expecting any of those players to sign one this summer. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Custance pointed out general managers don’t like them because they drive up salaries without actually landing the player, team owners aren’t comfortable going that route, and players often instruct their agents to get a deal done with their respective teams.

He noted there are several theories that could improve the odds (better compensation, targeting teams that don’t offer signing bonuses or young players looking for opportunities elsewhere). Even those, however, aren’t likely to considerable increase the number of offer sheets. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 19, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 19, 2018

Game recaps, scoring race updates plus the latest on Vladimir Tarasenko, Ben Bishop and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning (102 points) defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 to become the first Eastern Conference club to clinch a berth in the 2018 playoffs and the second team overall to do so. Nikita Kucherov (93 points) scored twice to open a five-point lead over Pittsburgh’s Evgeny Malkin, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid in the scoring race.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is playing himself into this season’s Hart Trophy conversation (Photo via NHL Images).

Speaking of MacKinnon, his two-goal, three-point effort powered the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, handing the latter their 10th straight defeat. With 86 points, the Avs opened a two-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference. They’re also just three back of the Minnesota Wild for third place in the Central Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite missing eight games to an upper-body injury this season, MacKinnon ranks among the top-five scorers. He’s also leading the Avalanche into postseason contention, putting him into the Hart Trophy conversation. 

A 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets knocked the slumping Dallas Stars (84 points) out of a Western Conference wild-card spot. Jets winger Patrik Laine scored two goals to tie Washington’s Alex Ovechkin in the goal-scoring race with 43. Both clubs lost key players during this game. Stars goaltender Ben Bishop came out of the game in the first period with a lower-body injury, while Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba left the game in the third period with a possible concussion following a thunderous collision with Stars captain Jamie Benn

Ovechkin, meanwhile, scored his 43 goal of the season but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Washington Capitals from falling 6-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers. Wayne Simmonds scored twice for the Flyers, who sit four points behind the Capitals for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

The Calgary Flames’ playoff hopes suffered another blow as they were blanked by the Vegas Golden Knights 4-0. Marc-Andre Fleury made 42 saves for his fourth shutout of the season while William Karlsson tallied a natural hat trick and sits one shy of the 40-goal mark. The Flames (80 points) remain four points out of a wild-card spot with nine games left in the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames are winners of only three of their last 10 games. Barring a strong surge over the remainder of the schedule, they risk missing the playoffs for the seventh time in the last nine seasons. 

Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell each had a goal and an assist to give the Anaheim Ducks a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. The Ducks (86 points) moved two ahead of the Los Angeles Kings into third in the Pacific Division.

The St. Louis Blues (83 points) moved within a point of the final wild-card spot in the West with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Patrik Berglund potted the winner in the extra frame. Blackhawks rookie Alex DeBrincat tallied a hat trick. The Blues were playing without superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko for the first time since 2015, as he was a late scratch with an upper-body injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers. Tarasenko was listed as day-to-day.

The Carolina Hurricanes kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 4-3 win over the floundering New York Islanders. With 73 points, the Hurricanes are nine points out of playoff contention with 10 games left. Anders Lee scored twice for the Isles, who sit 12 points out of a wild-card spot.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet will miss tonight’s game against Calgary as he’s attending his mother’s funeral. Norma Tocchet passed away last Wednesday at age 93 after battling brain cancer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tocchet and his family. 

SPORTSNET: NHL general managers hope to reach some consensus on goaltender interference during this week’s meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.



NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 26, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 26, 2018

Game recaps plus updates on Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin reached the 30-goal plateau for the 13th consecutive season (Photo via NHL Images).

 NHL.COM:  Alex Ovechkin reached the 30-goal plateau for the 13th time and collected his 500th career NHL assist as the Washington Capitals doubled up the Florida Panthers 4-2. Ovechkin is just the sixth player in NHL history to tally 30 goals in 13 consecutive seasons, joining Mike Gartner (15), Jaromir Jagr (15), Wayne Gretzky (13), Phil Esposito (13) and Mike Bossy (13).

Earlier in the day, the Panthers learned goaltender James Reimer will miss at least the next two weeks with a groin injury.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel each collected three points to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild, snapping the latter’s six-game points streak. With 1,082 career points, Crosby surpassed Jaromir Jagr to move into second place on the Penguins all-time points leader list.

The New York Rangers broke out of a three-game losing skid by beating the San Jose Sharks 6-5. Ryan McDonagh scored twice and teammate J.T. Miller collected three points for the Rangers. Logan Couture scored two goals for the Sharks.

Earlier in the day, the Sharks learned center Joe Thornton will be sidelined indefinitely after undergoing athroscopic surgery on his right knee. 

The Boston Bruins pushed their points streak to 18 games (14-0-4) by edging the Ottawa Senators 3-2. Jake DeBrusk scored the winner in the third period while teammate Patrice Bergeron added two assists.

The Senators got some good news earlier in the day, as the club (through the Rendezvous Lebreton Group) has an agreement in principle with the National Capital Commission to develop LeBreton Flats. A new arena in downtown Ottawa could be opened by 2022

Adam Henrique scored in regulation and also potted the winner in a shootout to give the Anaheim Ducks a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. The Ducks had to finish the game without starting goaltender John Gibson, who left late in the third period with a lower-body injury.

Pekka Rinne kicked out 27 shots as the Nashville Predators blanked the New Jersey Devils 3-0, handing the latter their fourth straight loss.

Earlier in the day, it was announced Devils forward Brian Boyle would replace sidelined teammate Taylor Hall at this weekend’s NHL All-Star Game in Tampa. The Predators also learned forward Cody McLeod was claimed off waivers by the New York Rangers. 

The Chicago Blackhawks snapped a four-game losing skid as Alex DeBrincat’s hat trick carried them to a 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

The New York Islanders upset the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1, ending the latter’s 12-game home winning streak. Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak picked up the win with a 38-save effort.

The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their third straight win by downing the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves while teammate Vladislav Namestnikov scored twice.

Curtis McElhinney turned aside 39 shots while teammate Nazem Kadri scored two goals to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars.

Connor McDavid’s shootout goal gave the Edmonton Oilers a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames. While it’s the Flames fourth straight loss, they extended their points streak to 11 games. Brandon Davidson scored twice for the Oilers.

Carter Hutton made 36 saves backstopping the St. Louis Blues to a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. It’s the Avs second straight defeat following a 10-game winning streak.

Earlier in the day, the Blues placed forward Magnus Paajarvi on waivers to make room for returning winger Jaden Schwartz.

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson wasted little time making an impact in his first game back from injury, scoring the game winner as his club nipped the Arizona Coyotes 2-1.

The Carolina Hurricanes prevailed in a wild 6-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Teuvo Teravainen scored twice and Noah Hanifin had three assists for the Canes. Charles Hudon scored twice for the Canadiens, who rallied three times to tie the game.

Robin Lehner made 30 saves for his second straight shutout as the Buffalo Sabres blanked the Vancouver Canucks 4-0.


Smaller Players Thriving in Today’s NHL

Smaller Players Thriving in Today’s NHL

NHL scouts tend to put a preference on size when ranking potential prospects. As of 2016-17, the average size of an NHL player was 6’1” and 207 lbs.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau is among several undersized players thriving in today’s NHL. (Photo via NHL Images)

Many of today’s top NHL stars, such as John Tavares (6”1′. 208 lbs), Steven Stamkos (6’1”, 194 lbs), Connor McDavid (6’1”, 192 lbs) and Sidney Crosby (5’11”, 200 lbs) fall within the league average.

Players with large, heavy frames have an advantange over their smaller peers. Their size, strength and longer reach gives them the edge in shooting, stickhandling and physical play.

Imagine a modern NHL skater and imposing stars such as Zdeno Chara (6’9”, 250 lbs), Ryan Getzlaf (6’4”, 223 lbs), Joe Thornton (6’4”, 220 lbs) and Alex Ovechkin (6’3”, 235 lbs) likely come to mind. They’re extreme examples, but many scouts, team executives and fans would consider them the perfect size for an NHL superstar.

But with the speed of the big-league game increasing in recent years, there’s been a recent rise in smaller, faster, skilled talent reaching the NHL.

Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau is a notable example. At 5’9” and 157 lbs, he’s well below the league’s average size. Throughout his hockey career, he was considered too small to be an effective player.

Time and again, however, Gaudreau confounded the experts. Now in his fourth NHL campaign, the 24-year-old is a former Calder Memorial Trophy finalist and the face of the Flames. He’s currently on pace for an 85-point performance and should finish as Calgary’s scoring leader for the third straight season.

Smaller skaters have gone on to long, successful NHL careers in the past. Several, such as Ted Lindsay, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer, Dave Keon, Rod Gilbert, Marcel Dionne and Denis Savard, were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Some, such as Theoren Fleury and Martin St. Louis, should be in the Hall one day.

But the preference toward bigger players over the past three decades made it more difficult for smaller players to achieve success at the NHL level. That was particularly true during the league’s “Dead Puck Era” from 1995 to 2004, when size and physicality were prized over speed and offensive skill in a period when uncalled obstruction masquaraded as defensive hockey.

Being undersized by NHL standards undoubtedly contributed to several notable current players being passed over in the draft. New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (5’8”, 179 lbs), Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (5’8”, 183 lbs), Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault, (5’9”, 174 lbs) and Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (5’9”, 186 lbs) are among several who began their NHL careers as undrafted free agents.

Size has also determined a player’s selection in the NHL draft. Gaudreau for example, was a fourth-round selection (104th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft.

He’s not the only notable pint-sized NHL star to be selected in the later rounds. The Boston Bruins chose left wing Brad Marchand (5’9”, 181 lbs) in the third round (71st overall) in the 2006 draft. Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (5’9”, 181 lbs) was taken in the fifth round (147th overall) in 2010. In the 2008 draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets landed right wing Cam Atkinson (5’8”, 179 lbs) 157th overall in the sixth round.

With the emphasis shifting toward speed and skill in recent years, undersized skaters now appear to have greater value.

Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller (5’10”, 170 lbs) was selected seventh overall in the 2016 draft. In the second round, the Chicago Blackhawks took winger Alex DeBrincat (5’7”, 165 lbs) with the 39th overall pick. Both are among the scoring leaders in this season’s rookie class.

Size and strength will undoubtedly remain key factors in evaluating future NHL players. Promising undersized talent could continue to be passed over in favor of larger skaters. That’s especially true for goaltenders, with many of today’s top netminder standing well above the league’s average height.

Still, if the NHL game continues on its current path that favors swift-skating offensive talent, smaller players could become more prevalent in the near future.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 28, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 28, 2017

Games recaps, Luongo makes history, Landeskog suspended and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Roberto Luongo became only the second goaltender in NHL history to win 200 games with two different franchises by backstopping the Florida Panthers to a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Jared McCann netted the game-winning goal in the third period. 

Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, who blew leads of 3-1 and 4-3 as their losing skid is now eight in a row. It was a costly win for the Penguins, as starting goalie Matt Murray left the game in the second period favoring his right leg following a collision with Flyers forward Jakub Voracek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on Murray’s status is expected later today. As for the Flyers, their ongoing slump could turn up the heat under head coach Dave Hakstol. 

Earlier in the day, the Flyers activated defenseman Andrew MacDonald off injured reserve and sent Samuel Morin back to the minors. 

Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor each had a goal and two assists as the Winnipeg Jets overcame a 2-0 deficit to crush the Minnesota Wild 7-2. Earlier in the day, the Jets called up Eric Comrie to replace sidelined goalie Steve Mason, who suffered a concussion during Saturday’s game against New Jersey. The Wild, meanwhile, were missing defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who’s out with a groin strain. 

Rookie Alex DeBrincat tallied his first career hat trick and Patrick Kane collected three assists as the Chicago Blackhawks thumped the Anaheim Ducks 7-3. 

Carey Price made 37 saves to carry the Montreal Canadiens to their second straight win as they defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1. Habs defenseman Shea Weber missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Price looks like he’s regained his Vezina-worthy form since returning from a 10-game absence with a lower-body injury. That’s good news for the Habs playoff hopes, which could  further improve once Weber returns to action.

Vegas Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Nov. 26. 

DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog received a four-game suspension for crosschecking Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk in the head. during Saturday’s game in Denver. 

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury but has traveled with the club to Philadelphia. 

VANCOUVER SUN: Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson could miss the next two weeks with a shoulder injury. 

THE BUFFALO NEWS: An ankle injury has sidelined Sabres center Jacob Josefson for four-to-six weeks. 

NEWSDAY: New York Islanders forward Casey Cizikas is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. 

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin will be out until at least Saturday with an undisclosed injury. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 12, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 12, 2017

Game recaps plus updates on Marian Gaborik, Travis Zajac, future Olympic participation & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Rick Nash scored twice to give the New York Rangers their sixth straight victory by doubling up the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey wound up with his two front teeth knocked out and driven into his lower lip after being struck in the mouth by the skate of Oilers forward Zach Kassian.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After struggling through most of October, to the point where head coach Alain Vigneault was reportedly in danger of losing his job, the Rangers have climbed from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings into a wild-card berth

Mike Hoffman scored twice as the Ottawa Senators edged the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 to sweep their two-game 2017 SAP NHL Global series. The Sens were playing without forward Zack Smith, who suffered a fractured thumb in the first game of the series and will be sidelined for three weeks. 

Kyle Turris scored and set up another while Kevin Fiala and Filip Forsberg scored in a shootout as the Nashville Predators edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4. Phil Kessel also had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. 

Jason Zucker scored his sixth goal in three games and Devan Dubnyk made 32 saves as the Minnesota Wild blanked the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0. 

Brandon Saad’s overtime goal completed a three-goal rally by the Chicago Blackhawks in their 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Alex DeBrincat scored twice for the Hawks. Brock McGinn tallied twice for the Hurricanes. 

Anders Lee scored and set up another as the New York Islanders tallied three first-period goals on route to beating the St. Louis Blues 5-2. 

Aaron Dell turned in a 41-save shutout performance while Logan Couture and Chris Tierney each scored twice to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 5-0 blanking of the Vancouver Canucks. Sharks forward Timo Meier could face supplemental discipline for butt-ending Canucks blueliner Michael Del Zotto in the face. Meier received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. 

Curtis McElhinney made 38 saves while Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk each scored a goal and an assist to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins.

Jack Johnson’s goal in the ninth round of a shootout gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings, snapping their four-game losing skid. The Wings were playing without forward Justin Abdelkader, who suffered a fractured cheekbone in a fight with Troy Brouwer during Thursday’s game against the Calgary Flames.

Cory Schneider made 32 saves as the New Jersey Devils ended a four-game losing streak with  a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers. The Devils also learned center Travis Zajac, who underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, could return to action as early as next week. 

Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine each netted a goal and an assist to give the Winnipeg Jets a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. 

Max Pacioretty’s overtime goal lifted the Montreal Canadiens to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, giving the Habs their fourth win in five games. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens learned backup goalie Al Montoya is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.

Winger Marian Gaborik has resumed skating with his Los Angeles Kings teammates for the first time in six weeks. He’s still recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee. 

SB NATION: cites an interview given by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman with SVT Sport in Sweden saying he isn’t ruling out sending players to future Olympic Games, but he finds it ““hard to envision a scenario where it makes sense.” While there’s speculation the NHL could take part in the 2022 Beijing Olympics to grow the league’s brand in China, Bettman hints future Olympic participation could be limited to those staged in North America. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s some speculation Olympic participation could become an issue in the next round of collective bargaining between the league and NHL Players Association. However, I don’t see that being a significant sticking point in future negotiations.