NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 11, 2021

The Golden Knights advance to the semifinals, the Hart Trophy finalists are revealed, the Blue Jackets hire a new head coach and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights are heading to the semifinals of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs after eliminating the Colorado Avalanche with a 6-3 victory in Game 6 of their second-round series. Alex Pietrangelo snapped a 3-3 tie late in the second period with what proved to be the winning goal, with William Carrier and Max Pacioretty putting the game away in the third period. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar missed practice due to an irregularity in his COVID-19 test result but was cleared to be behind the bench for Game 6.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex PIetrangelo (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights’ depth made the difference as they overcame a 2-0 series deficit with four straight victories. They were built for the heavy going of playoff action and it showed as this series progressed. The speedy Avs were outstanding during the regular season and made short work of the struggling St. Louis Blues but they couldn’t match the Golden Knights’ grinding physical style.

The Stanley Cup Semifinals schedule indicates the Golden Knights will face the Montreal Canadiens beginning Monday, June 14 in Las Vegas. The Tampa Bay Lightning will square off against the New York Islanders on Sunday, June 13 in Tampa Bay.

Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid are this year’s finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy.

THE ATHLETIC: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton had some choice words for the Tampa Bay Lightning in his end-of-season press conference on Thursday. “We lost to a team that was $18 million over the cap or whatever they are,” he said. Hamilton’s Hurricanes were eliminated by the Lightning from the second round in five games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamilton wasn’t far off in that assessment as Cap Friendly shows the Lightning used $17.3 million in long-term injury reserve this season, in part because top-line right winger Nikita Kucherov ($9.5 million) missed the entire regular season recovering from hip surgery. That gave Bolts management sufficient cap relief to maintain their roster, including the addition of defenseman David Savard at the trade deadline.

Critics accused the Lightning of gaming the system but what they did is allowable under the collective bargaining agreement. As long as a team can prove to the league that a player cannot play during the regular season for medical reasons, they’re allowed to keep them on LTIR until the playoffs, when the cap no longer applies. That rule is applicable for all NHL teams.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets announced Brad Larsen has been named their new head coach. He spent the past seven years with the club as an assistant coach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting move by the Jackets in promoting from within rather than looking outside their organization for a new bench boss. His familiarity with the players and the team could make for a smooth transition as the Jackets prepare for what could be a roster rebuild after several notable players departed via trades and free agency in recent years.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames hired Kirk Muller as an associate coach. Muller held the same title with the Montreal Canadiens until relieved of his duties in February.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith underwent core-muscle surgery on Thursday. His recovery time is expected to be six to eight weeks

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen has denied allegations he sexually assaulted a woman in 2017.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed forward Devin Shore to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday worth $1.7 million. The annual average value is $850K. On Thursday, forward Gaetan Haas signed a five-year deal with EHC Biel in Switzerland. He spent the past two seasons with the Oilers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2021

The Jets down the Leafs in their final regular-season game, Conference championship trophies won’t be awarded this season, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Ondrej Kase and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets ended their regular season on a high note by doubling up the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. Kyle Connor scored twice to finish the season with a team-leading 26 goals. The Leafs’ Auston Matthews was held pointless, finishing the season with a league-leading 41 goals.

Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs will have several days off before they begin their respective first-round series. The Jets face off against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday while the Leafs meet the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski reports the NHL won’t be handing out the Prince of Wales Trophy or the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to the conference champions this season. The Prince of Wales Trophy is usually awarded to the Eastern Conference champion while the Campbell Bowl is awarded to the Western Conference champion.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bright side is we won’t have to listen to any of the superstitious nonsense over whether the winning teams will touch those respective trophies. Because, of course, everyone knows touching those awards could determine the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final (end sarcasm mode).

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The lack of a new contract for Alex Ovechkin isn’t bothering Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. He said he and Ovechkin are focused on the upcoming playoffs.

Alex knows that if he plays five more years, 10 more years, whatever it is, we’ve got his back,” Leonsis said, adding the team’s commitment to his captain is to continue to have great teams. “We’ll spend to the cap, we’ll try to win championships. And that’s what he’s focused on because that’ll be his legacy.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is completing a 13-year, $124 million contract. He and Leonsis agreed at the start of this season to put aside contract discussions until after the playoffs are over. Based on Leonsis’ comments, it sounds like Ovechkin won’t be going anywhere.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase won’t be playing in Game 1 of his club’s opening-round series against the Washington Capitals tonight. Kase suffered an upper-body injury unrelated to the suspected concussion that sidelined him for all but three games this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever the issue, it sounds like Kase could miss more than just Game 1.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins backup goaltender Casey DeSmith left Friday’s practice early to receive medical treatment after making a routine save. It’s suspected to be a lower-body injury. The Penguins open their first-round series against the New York Islanders on Sunday.

TSN: Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman was fined $5,000.00 for a dangerous trip on St. Louis Blues forward Sammy Blais on Thursday.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed defenseman Artem Zub to a two-year, $5 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zub, 25, joined the Senators as a free agent from the KHL and played well in his first NHL season. He finished with 14 points in 47 games and a plus-minus of plus-4 while logging over 18 minutes of ice time per game.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Senators, team owner Eugene Melnyk declined to comment about lawsuits filed against five defendants by his traveling companions related to his Caribbean vacation last Christmas.

THE SCORE: cites a report by The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun indicating Alain Vigneault will return as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers next season.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Speaking of returning coaches, Stars general manager Jim Nill confirmed Rick Bowness will be back behind the bench with his club next season. Nill also said forward Roope Hintz will undergo surgery next week in New York to repair a groin injury.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 6, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 6, 2020

The Penguins could face trading a goaltender, plus some recent Jets speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WILL THE PENGUINS TRADE A GOALTENDER?

NHL.COM: cites Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford saying he might have to trade one of his goaltenders during an interview with The Athletic’s Josh Yohe. Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are restricted free agents with arbitration rights following this season. The Penguins have over $68 million invested in next season’s roster.

Will Matt Murray still be a Pittsburgh Penguins goalie after this season? (Photo via NHL Images)

“I’ll say this: If we are going to keep both of them, we’d have to move a few things around on our team,” Rutherford said. “There is a way to do things and to make that work, yes. There are some very, very tough decisions ahead.” Though next season’s salary cap has yet to be determined, he admitted he’s planning that it won’t be as high as this year’s $81.5 million. “We know that much,” Rutherford said. “It’s certainly not going up.”

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien also referred to Rutherford’s interview with The Athletic. He noted third-stringer Casey DeSmith didn’t come up much in that interview but feels he’s relevant to this situation. O’Brien admitted his surprise that DeSmith failed to secure the backup role this season and that no other club snatched him up when he was placed on waivers before the start of the season. DeSmith’s inconsistency in the minors this season makes O’Brien doubt he’d fetch much of a return in a trade. His best guess is DeSmith will back up Murray or Jarry next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a tough call for Rutherford. Murray backstopped the Penguins to their last two Stanley Cups, but his injury history is cause for concern. Jarry showed potential as a full-time NHL starter this season, but he’s only been in that role for a short time.

I think Rutherford was counting on seeing how Murray and Jarry performed down the stretch and in the playoffs before deciding which one he’d keep. He could re-sign both but that will mean shedding salary elsewhere in the lineup, adversely affecting their overall roster depth.  Murray or Jarry will be playing elsewhere next season.

RECENT JETS SPECULATION

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the Winnipeg Jets’ long-term needs. Citing their issues on the blueline, he wondered if Ville Heinola and Sami Niku will develop into NHL defensemen. He also points out their ongoing need for a second- or third-line center.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Murat Ates recently listed veteran defensemen Dmitry Kulikov, Nathan Beaulieu, and Luca Sbisa among those most likely to depart in the off-season. Center Cody Eakin could also be among them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With last month’s termination of Dustin Byfuglien’s contract, Cap Friendly indicates the Jets have over $65.9 million invested in 13 players for next season. The good news is all their key players are signed for next season, so there should be enough room for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to address those depth issues.

Kulikov, Beaulieu, Sbisa, and Eakin are unrestricted free agents and might not fit into the Jets’ plans. Maybe one of them gets an affordable one-year deal, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Cheveldayoff considers other options via trade or free agency.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2019

The latest on the Leafs, Flames, and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COACHING CHANGE OR TRADE FOR THE LEAFS AND FLAMES?

TSN: Bob McKenzie doesn’t believe the struggling Calgary Flames are considering replacing Bill Peters as head coach. He reports general manager Brad Treliving is trying to shake things up with a trade but there’s nothing imminent on that front.

Darren Dreger said there’s ongoing speculation over the availability of certain players like Mark Jankowski, Oliver Kylington and Michael Frolik. He also suggests the possibility of moving defenseman Travis Hamonic as the trade deadline creeps closer, though they could also retain him if they’re a playoff club by that point. Hamonic is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Tyson Barrie’s poor start could make it difficult for the Toronto Maple Leafs to move him (Photo via NHL Images).

The Leafs ongoing struggles raised questions about coach Mike Babcock’s future in Toronto. McKenzie doesn’t believe the Toronto Maple Leafs are predisposed to a coaching change in-season. However, the Leafs can’t afford many more games like their 6-1 loss on Saturday to Pittsburgh.

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle wonders what the Leafs will do with Tyson Barrie as his poor start continues to worsen. The defenseman’s recent play and tiny salary ($2.75 million) makes it hard for the cap-strapped Leafs to get a decent return. Mirtle suggests a deal for Colin Miller, who seems to have fallen out of favor with the Buffalo Sabres. He also proposed a deal with another club that retains salary to get the contracts to match, pointing out the Leafs showed off-season interest in Flames rearguard TJ Brodie.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan thinks the Leafs should address their backup goalie issues by trying to acquire Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Greg Wyshynski suggests they should go further by flipping Barrie and a sweetener to the Penguins for fellow UFA defenseman Justin Schultz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A coaching change appears more likely in Toronto than Calgary. With the Leafs winless in six, Babcock’s future remains a hot topic. We’re also hearing more trade rumblings regarding the Flames than the Leafs, though that doesn’t mean the latter isn’t exploring the market.

Cap Friendly indicates the Flames and Leafs have limited salary-cap space. If they’re going to deal with each other, it’ll likely have to be dollar-for-dollar. Given Brodie’s recent medical scare, I don’t think he’s going anywhere for the time being. The Leafs can’t afford to take on Schultz’s $5.5 million cap hit unless the Penguins absorb a big chunk of it, which they’re unlikely to do.

The Sabres have more cap space (over $2 million) and could pick up a bit of Miller’s $3.75-milllion cap hit to get Barrie in return. But as we’ll see, they’re not in the market for a defenseman.

SABRES SEEK A FORWARD

WGR 550: Paul Hamilton reports Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill acknowledged he’s actively seeking a forward to improve his struggling club. He also admitted the difficulty in a salary-cap world of swinging a major deal in November.

That doesn’t mean Botterill will shop a defenseman. He wants to ensure he’s got sufficient blueline depth in case injuries strike. However, they already have nine blueliners on their roster and three NHL-ready rearguards (Lawrence Pilut, Will Borgen and Casey Nelson) in the minors.

Sidelined defenseman Zach Bogosian is close to returning to the roster. That means any trades the Sabres make could be dollar-in, dollar-out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Botterill might be reluctant to move a defenseman but I don’t see how he can address his need for a scoring forward without parting with a blueliner. He’s got several potential trade chips on his blueline in Miller, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Marco Scandella.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2019

A look at several notable names on the waiver wire plus updates on Evander Kane, Brock Boeser, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NBC SPORTS: New York Islanders winger Joshua Ho-Sang, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith, and Anaheim Ducks winger Daniel Sprong are among several notable name to hit the NHL waiver wire yesterday.

Others include veterans like Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn, and Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Click the above link for the complete list. These players will be demoted to their teams’ respective AHL farm clubs if unclaimed by noon ET today. A few, however, could be plucked off the waiver wire before then. I’ll have more this morning in the Rumors section.

San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane could face a lengthy suspension for shoving an on-ice official during a preseason game (Photo via NHL Images)

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports Evander Kane’s abuse of an official penalty carries an automatic 10-game suspension. “NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will have to confirm and officially enforce the suspension,” write Dreger. The incident took place during a pre-season game between Kane’s San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights. 

SPORTSNET: Brock Boeser has been cleared to return to action after suffering a concussion last week. The Vancouver Canucks winger was injured after being hit from behind by Ottawa Senators forward Chris Tierney during a pre-season game. 

NBC SPORTS: The St. Louis Blues received their 2019 Stanley Cup championship rings.

THE TENNESSEAN:  The Nashville Predators and Bridgestone announced the naming rights extension for Bridgestone Arena to 2030. 

NHL.COM: The NHL announced a two-year marketing and promotional platform with the rock group Green Day. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like the league is taking the longview in this partnership. 










NHL Rumor Mill – September 25, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – September 25, 2019

Taylor Hall denies he’s close to a new contract with the Devils, the Canadiens could be shopping a forward, trade talks could heat up for the Penguins, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HALL DENIES HE’S CLOSE TO A NEW CONTRACT

NORTHJERSEY.COM: Abbey Mastracco reports Taylor Hall disputed reports claiming he’s close to re-signing with the New Jersey Devils. While confirming his agent met over the weekend with Devils general manager Ray Shero, the winger claimed it was a preliminary meeting.

Taylor Hall denies he’s getting close to signing a new contract with the New Jersey Devils (Photo via NHL Images).

Hall, 28, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He described the meeting as a positive one. “That’s the thing, when a guy like (TSN reporter Darren) Dreger says stuff that a deal is imminent or it could be close, there wasn’t even numbers discussed. That’s when you have to just let things take shape and see where they go.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s what Dreger actually said:

“Well, Taylor Hall’s agent, Darren Ferris, met with Devils general manager Ray Shero over the weekend and it sounds like they’re making some traction here”…”Now, you have to keep in mind that is coming off a significant injury. He loved the way he was treated by the Devils organization – very professional from start to finish. He likes what Shero has done in the changes that he’s made to the lineup of the New Jersey Devils”…”So it’s one of those situations. It could happen sooner than later, which is saying a lot considering that he’s in the final year of his contract.”

In other words, Dreger merely speculated that there might be some progress. Meanwhile, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes the Devils and Hall are “underselling this a bit.” He said they’re trying “to make a serious run at an extension.”

CANADIENS SHOPPING A FORWARD?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Montreal Canadiens are looking to move a forward. He points out promising youngsters Nick Suzuki, Jake Evans, and Ryan Poehling are pushing for roster spots. Friedman noted Jonathan Drouin played a team-low 11:57 in Monday’s 3-0 preseason loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and suggests this is something worth watching.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Habs assigned Evans to the Laval Rocket but Suzuki and Poehling could be on the Habs roster when the season opens next week.

While the thought of Drouin being shopped just two years after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning makes for interesting speculation, I doubt the Canadiens will move him. Le Journal de Montreal indicated Nick Cousins or Charles Hudon could be the odd man out.

Recent rumors indicate the Habs have interest in Dallas Stars defenseman Julius Honka. Perhaps Cousins or Hudon gets dangled for the young blueliner.

TRADE COMING FOR THE PENGUINS?

THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe reports Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford suggested a trade is a possibility before the start of the season. The Penguins are over the $81.5 million salary cap by between $300-400K and must become cap compliant before the season opens next week.

During the summer, Rutherford admitted interest in trading goaltender Tristan Jarry but couldn’t find any takers at the time. He now believes the goalie market has heated up in recent days. Jarry and goalie Casey DeSmith are no longer waiver exempt, meaning they could be claimed by another club if the Penguins attempt to demote one of them.

Yohe also reports sources claim the Penguins are willing to deal “numerous players” for the right return. They include Jarry, defenseman Jack Johnson, and forwards Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication what the “right return” would be for those players, though I daresay it would be an affordable young roster player. If push comes to shove, it could come down to Jarry or DeSmith.

Johnson’s declining performance and contract (four years remaining at $3.25 million annually) could be a tough sell. There’s been talk Rutherford is reluctant to part with Rust or Bjugstad.

LATEST ON THE DUCKS AND KINGS

Friedman said the Anaheim Ducks continue to look for a right-shot defenseman. They recently attempted to acquire Justin Faulk from the Carolina Hurricanes but that deal fell through. Faulk was shipped yesterday to the St. Louis Blues. He also said there’s nothing imminent on Tyler Toffoli. The Los Angeles Kings forward is slated to become a UFA next summer and could attract interest in the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks have been linked to Buffalo Sabres blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres’ asking price could be a scoring right-winger.

If Toffoli and the Kings failed to reach an agreement on a new contract, he could be shopped if the Kings are out of playoff contention by the Feb. 24, 2020 trade deadline.