NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 24, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 24, 2021

Check out the recaps from a busy Saturday night in the NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: David Perron tallied a hat trick to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Torey Krug collected three assists for the Blues. Kings captain Anze Kopitar was held scoreless for the first time in five games.

St. Louis Blues winger David Perron (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings were without defenseman Drew Doughty, who was sidelined by a knee injury following a collision with Dallas Stars blueline Janne Hakanpaa on Friday. Doughty avoided ligament damage but he’s not expected to return to the lineup anytime soon.

The Vancouver Canucks’ 4-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken spoiled the latter’s first home-opener in franchise history. Conor Garland snapped a 2-2 tie with the game-winner late in the third period. Canucks captain Bo Horvat tallied twice and Thatcher Demko made 29 saves for the win. Defensemen Vince Dunn and Mark Giordano tallied for the Kraken, who’ve won just once (1-4-1) in six games.

A four-goal second period carried the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-1 drubbing of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Defenseman Marcus Pettersson had a goal and two assists, forward Drew O’Connor tallied twice and goalie Tristan Jarry kicked out 28 shots. Earlier in the day, the Penguins announced defenseman Kris Letang was placed in COVID protocol.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins were without Letang, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter. That didn’t unnoticed in restless Leafs Nation as their club put up a feeble effort against their depleted opponent.

Calgary Flames forward Elias Lindholm’s game-winner completed his hat trick in his club’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals, who overcame a 3-0 deficit with three unanswered third-period goals to force the extra frame. Alex Ovechkin’s game-tying goal was the 735th of his career, putting him within six of Brett Hull (741) for fourth place on the all-time list.

The Montreal Canadiens picked up their first win of the season (1-5-0) by thumping the Detroit Red Wings 6-1. Mathieu Perreault had a hat trick, Jake Allen made 26 saves and Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak, Ben Chiarot and Sami Niku each collected two points. Filip Hronek, the Wings’ top defenseman last season, was a healthy scratch from this contest.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings were playing without leading scorer Tyler Bertuzzi, whose decision not to be vaccinated for COVID-19 prevents him from traveling to Canada for road games. They missed his production against Montreal and in their 3-0 shutout loss to Calgary on Thursday. Bertuzzi is now reportedly the only unvaccinated player in the league.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice and added an assist as the Florida Panthers doubled up the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. The Panthers are 5-0-0 to start this season and are jockeying with the Edmonton Oilers (5-0-0) for first place in the overall standings. Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis missed this game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day.

The Minnesota Wild remains unbeaten (4-0-0) following a 4-3 overtime victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Ryan Hartman netted the game-winner for the Wild. Rickard Rakell scored twice for the Ducks.

A two-goal performance by Vincent Trocheck helped the Carolina Hurricanes defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1. Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Staal each had two points for the Hurricanes, extending their record to 4-0-0.

The Colorado Avalanche snapped a three-game skid by nipping the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on shootout goals by Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists for the Avs.

A 26-save shutout performance by Ilya Sorokin backstopped the New York Islanders to a 3-0 blanking of the Arizona Coyotes. Brock Nelson had a goal and an assist. The Coyotes are still seeking their first win of the season (0-4-1).

Paul Stastny scored twice and Nate Schmidt collected three assists as the Winnipeg Jets held off the Nashville Predators 6-4. Nick Cousins and Thomas Novak each had three points for the Predators, who drop to 1-4-0 to start the season. The Jets, meanwhile, move to 2-2-1.

Third-period goals by Chris Kreider, Ryan Lindgren and Barclay Goodrow rallied the New York Rangers over the Ottawa Senators 3-2. Matt Murray left the game following Kreider’s goal after the Rangers’ winger accidentally collided with the Senators goaltender. Ottawa also played without center Shane Pinto, who will miss at least two weeks with a shoulder injury.

An overtime goal by Pavel Zacha lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 2-1. Devils rookie goalie Nico Daws won his NHL debut with a 24-save performance. Nico Hischier also scored for the Devils. New Jersey netminder Mackenzie Blackwood is now reportedly vaccinated for COVID-19, allowing him to travel to Canada with his teammates for their first Canadian road trip in December.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Being fully vaccinated would also allow Blackwood to play for Team Canada in the 2022 Winter Olympics if he is chosen as one of their three goaltenders. He’s reportedly among their long list of six potential candidates.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks placed Patrick Kane, Ryan Carpenter and Erik Gustafsson in COVID protocol on Saturday morning.

NHL.COM: Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud is week-to-week with an upper-body injury suffered during a 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 16, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s action, a look at Charlie McAvoy’s contract extension with the Bruins, plus the latest on Nathan MacKinnon, Dylan Larkin, Brady Tkachuk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Jack Hughes scored twice, including the game-winner, as the New Jersey Devils kicked off their season with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Dougie Hamilton opened the scoring with his first goal as a Devil. The Blackhawks overcame a 3-1 deficit to force the extra frame on third-period goals by Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik.

New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (NHL Images).

The Vancouver Canucks blew a 4-2 lead in the third period but went on to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 on a shootout goal by J.T. Miller, who also had a goal and two assists in regulation. Elias Pettersson and Alex Chiasson each had a goal and an assist for the Canucks. Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers to tie the game.

Marcus Foligno snapped a 1-1 tie with eight seconds remaining in the third period to lift the Minnesota Wild to a season-opening 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Jakob Silfverberg opened the scoring for the Ducks early in the second but Kevin Fiala tied it late in the period. Ducks backup Anthony Stolarz made 46 saves filling in for John Gibson, who’s listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered when he was run by the Winnipeg Jets’ Anthony Copp on Wednesday.

HEADLINES

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins yesterday signed Charlie McAvoy to an eight-year, $76 million contract extension. It’s the richest deal in franchise history as the 23-year-old defenseman will earn an annual average value of $9.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This contract ensures McAvoy will spend his prime playing years in Boston. He’s being paid in line with other talented young defensemen who recently signed new contracts such as Colorado’s Cale Makar ($9 million) and Columbus’ Zach Werenski ($9.58 million). McAvoy’s a better all-around defenseman than those two and will be worth every penny for the Bruins going forward.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar returns behind the bench for tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues after emerging from COVID protocol. Center Nathan MacKinnon remains asymptomatic and sidelined for tonight’s game. Winger Valeri Nichushkin is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin received a one-game suspension for throwing a punch with a gloved hand at Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph after the latter hit him from behind. Larkin was injured on the play and could be sidelined longer as he missed practice on Friday to see a specialist. He missed the end of last season with a neck injury that require weeks of physical therapy.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Mark Scheifele makes his season debut tonight against the San Jose Sharks. He was serving a four-game suspension for charging Montreal Canadiens center Jake Evans during Game 1 of their 2021 second-round playoff series.

OTTAWA SUN: Brady Tkachuk took part in his first practice with the Senators on Friday after signing his new seven-year contract on Thursday. He won’t be playing in tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs but could make his season debut on Sunday against the Dallas Stars or Thursday against the San Jose Sharks.

Speaking of the Senators, goaltender Matt Murray has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 12 due to a non-COVID-related illness.

TSN: Winger Mike Hoffman could make his season debut with the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday against the Sharks or Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. He signed a three-year contract with the Habs during the summer but suffered a lower-body injury during offseason training.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers center Ryan Strome will be sidelined for two games due to COVID-19 protocol.

THE PROVINCE: Travis Hamonic has not reported to the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Abbotsford but has not been suspended. He has been absent since the start of training camp to what is believed related to the league’s COVID-19 vaccination protocol. Hamonic passed unclaimed through waivers last week.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt (upper-body injury) and defenseman Henri Jokiharju (lower-body) are expected to miss at least two weeks.

TSN: The Los Angeles Kings placed defenseman Christian Wolanin on waivers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 11, 2021

The Rangers sign Mika Zibanejad to a lucrative contract extension, Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise officially sign with the Islanders, a large number of players hit the waiver wire, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers yesterday announced Mika Zibanejad signed an eight-year contract extension worth $68 million. The annual average value is $8.5 million. This deal will keep Zibanejad with the Rangers until he’s 36. By keeping his AAV under $9 million, it provided the Blueshirts with some cap flexibility to re-sign key players such as Adam Fox in the near future.

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Post’s Larry Brooks indicated Zibanejad’s new deal is a little longer than Rangers’ management preferred. However, it was necessary to reach that $8.5 million cap hit as he likely would’ve received up to $10 million annually on the open market. As per Cap Friendly, they now have over $62 million invested in 16 players for 2022-23 with Fox, Ryan Strome, Kaapo Kakko and Alexandar Georgiev among the notables slated for new contracts next summer.

Zibanejad thrived since being traded to the Rangers in 2016, including a career-best 41 goals and 75 points in 57 games in 2019-20. He had a slow start last season following a bout of COVID-19 but finished strong with 50 points in 56 contests.

This signing should also take the Rangers out of the Jack Eichel sweepstakes. I’ll have more on that in today’s Rumor Mill. Brooks believes the only way it happens is if the Sabres retain 40-50 percent of Eichel’s $10 million AAV which isn’t going to happen.

DAILY FACEOFF: The New York Islanders officially announced the signings of Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise. They’re both on one-year, one-way contracts with an annual average value of $1.5 million. They’ll receive a base salary of $750K plus $750K in bonuses.

Frank Seravalli reported Erik Gustafsson has returned to the Chicago Blackhawks. The 29-year-old defenseman signed a one-year deal believed to be worth $800K.

Forty-three players hit the waiver wire yesterday. Vancouver Canucks defenseman Travis Hamonic and Edmonton Oilers forward Kyle Turris are the two notable names on that list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamonic was absent from the Canucks training camp and preseason for reasons related to the NHL’s vaccination protocols. Unvaccinated players face restrictions that could prevent them from participating in road games, which could also result in them being suspended without pay.

There was talk of the Canucks attempting to trade Hamonic. He’s on a two-year, $6 million contract with an eight-team no-trade clause.

THE PROVINCE: Speaking of the Canucks, they traded defenseman Olli Juolevi to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Noah Juulsen and forward Juho Lammiko.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a trade of young players who failed to pan out with their previous teams. Injuries also hampered the development of Juolevi and Juulsen. The latter is now on his third team in two seasons.

THE SCORE: Vegas Golden Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee accused player agent Allan Walsh of attempting to sabotage efforts to trade Marc-Andre Fleury by telling other clubs his client was considering retirement.

McPhee praised Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon’s handling of the situation. While acknowledging Fleury learned of his trade to the Chicago Blackhawks on social media, McPhee said they spoke with the goalie’s camp leading up to the deal. They stopped communicating with them when Walsh started telling other clubs Fleury planned to retire.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to hear Walsh’s side of the story. The agent generated some controversy during the 2020 playoffs by posting an image on Twitter of Fleury with a photoshopped sword running through his back and head coach Pete DeBoer’s name on the blade. The suggestion was DeBoer stabbed his client in the back by giving Robin Lehner more playing time in the postseason. That image was removed at Fleury’s request.

SPORTSNET: New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood returned to practice yesterday after clearing all COVID-19 protocols. He’d received an inconclusive COVID test on Thursday. He said he “still has some things to do” before deciding one way or the other on getting vaccinated, “but I’m probably going to be getting the shot in the next couple of weeks.” He’s the only unvaccinated member of the Devils.

TSN: Speaking of the Devils, they signed forward Jimmy Vesey to a one-year, $800K contract.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette indicated captain Alex Ovechkin is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He doesn’t consider it serious, suggesting the 36-year-old winger could be in the lineup for their season opener on Wednesday against the New York Rangers.

THE DENVER POST: The Avalanche signed defenseman Jack Johnson to a one-year, $750K contract.

SPORTSNET: Ottawa Senators forward Austin Watson is expected to be sidelined roughly four weeks with an injured ankle.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman was fined $1,812.50 for spearing Columbus Blue Jackets forward Sean Kuraly during Saturday’s preseason game.

Former NHL forward Frans Nielsen signed with DEL club Eisbaren Berlin. The 37-year-old center tallied 473 points in 925 career NHL games with the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 9, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 9, 2021

The Panthers signed Aleksander Barkov to a lucrative extension, more nations name their first players to their respective Olympic teams, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Mackenzie Blackwood & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers yesterday signed Aleksander Barkov to an eight-year, $80 million contract extension. The 26-year-old center will earn an annual average value of $10 million.

Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the deal is heavy with signing bonuses, starting at $11 million annually in the first three seasons, dropping to $10.6 million, $9 million, $7 million and finally $6.2 million in the final two seasons. Barkov also gets a full no-movement clause in the first eight seasons, becoming a modified no-trade for the final two seasons.

Barkov earned this contract as the Panthers’ captain and franchise player. He’s one of the NHL’s elite two-way forwards, earning the Selke Trophy last season. He’s crucial to their hopes of becoming a Stanley Cup contender.

TSN: More countries yesterday named their first players to their respective 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics mens’ hockey teams.

Russia (also known as the “Russian Olympic Committee” since they’re barred from competing under their country’s name and flag due to a doping scandal that has “banned” their athletes from international competition) named Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov and Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, Seattle Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider joins Germany’s team.

Denmark named Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Oliver Bjorkstrand and Seattle Kraken center Alexander True.

Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi, San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier, and New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier were named to Switzerland’s squad.

Slovakia named Dallas Stars defenseman Andrej Sekera, Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Erik Cernak and Vancouver Canucks goalie Jaroslav Halak to their roster.

Latvia added San Jose Sharks winger Rudolfs Balcers, Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Kristians Rubins.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Speaking of Ovechkin, the Capitals captain will be re-evaluated for a lower-body injury suffered during Friday’s preseason contest with the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE ATHLETIC: Mackenzie Blackwood underwent two inconclusive COVID-19 tests on Thursday and Friday. The New Jersey Devils expected to know by Sunday whether their unvaccinated goaltender has contracted COVID for the second time.

If he tests positive on Sunday, he’ll be unavailable to the Devils for 14 days and ineligible to play or practice until Oct. 21. The Devils could also suspend him without pay during that period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackwood’s about to learn the consequences of being an unvaccinated player in the NHL. The league has implemented strict protocols to protect its players and staff and to avoid a repeat of the outbreaks last season that wreaked havoc on its schedule.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken forward Calle Jarnkrok has entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. It doesn’t necessarily mean he has the coronavirus but could instead be a close contact of someone who is infected. The Kraken recently announced all their players were fully vaccinated.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Max Domi could be returning to the Blue Jackets roster much sooner than expected. Told he’d require five months to recover from shoulder surgery in June, he could be in the lineup for their season-opener next week against the Arizona Coyotes.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks defenseman Caleb Jones is expected to miss six weeks with a left wrist strain.

TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Zack Kassian will be in concussion protocol for the next several days after striking his head on the ice during a fight with Vancouver Canucks forward Zack MacEwen on Thursday night.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins forward Curtis Lazar is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators forward Auston Watson suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. There’s no timetable for his return.

THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators assistant coach Todd Richards could be back behind the bench for the club’s season-opener against the Seattle Kraken on Oct. 14. Richards suffered a heart attack on Oct. 1 and has been resting at home.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s great news for Richards. Here’s hoping he continues making a full recovery.

NHL.COM: The Devils signed center Frederik Gauthier to a one-year, two-way contract.

TSN: The Colorado Avalanche released forward Artem Anisimov from his professional tryout offer.

SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators have approval from the Ontario government to host full capacity in their respective arenas for their home games this season.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes played only four preseason games instead of the mandatory six as per the CBA. However, they were among several teams granted an exemption this year due to the pandemic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A supposedly juicy aspect of this is the Montreal Canadiens apparently brought the number of Hurricanes’ preseason games to the attention of league officials. It’s something else that some observers believe could stoke the recent rivalry between the two clubs.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2021

The league will enforce stricter rules for cross-checking, the Olympic schedule is set, plus the latest on Ryan Johansen, Erik Johnson, Joe Thornton and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: The NHL intends to crack down on cross-checking this season. The focus will be on three specific areas of the rink: along the boards, in front of the net, and in open ice.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rule changes are drawing a mixed reaction from players. As always, I’m skeptical as to how tightly enforced these changes will be. I fear we’ll see the usual pattern develop whenever such changes regarding on-ice infractions are implemented: closely called early in the season before drifting back to the previous standard over the course of the schedule.

NHL.COM: The men’s hockey schedule for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has been released. It begins on Feb. 9 with Russia (also known as the “Russian Olympic Committee”) versus Switzerland, the Czech Republic facing off against Denmark and Sweden taking on Latvia.

Feb. 10 sees Canada squaring off against Germany, the United States against China, Finland going up against Slovakia, and Denmark taking on the “Russian Olympic Committee”.

The tournament ends on Feb. 19 with the medal games. The gold medal game begins at 11:10 pm ET.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canada vs Germany features Edmonton Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl facing off against each other for the first time in Olympic hockey. That’s an early must-watch for me in this tournament.

The “Russian Olympic Committee” will hereafter be referred to as the “ROC” by me throughout the Olympics. The gold medal game starts after midnight my time, meaning my Keurig will be getting a workout that night.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Joe Thornton and Anton Lundell were absent from Florida Panthers training camp yesterday. Thornton was dealing with a minor sprain while Lundell missed his second straight day with an undisclosed ailment.

THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen is hoping for a big bounce-back year following two sub-par seasons.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Pavel Francouz are trying to put their lost seasons’ behind them. Injuries limited Johnson to just four games in 2020-21 while Francouz was sidelined the entire season.

MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider hopes to make his NHL debut this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A highly-touted prospect, Seider could be a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate if he cracks the lineup and plays well in 2021-22.

TSN: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An unfortunate setback for Samberg, who was expected to become a regular on the Jets blueline this season.

Calgary Flames prospect forward Connor Zary is listed as week-to-week with a fractured ankle after blocking a shot in a rookie game earlier this week.

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Sami Niku to a one-year, two-way contract. Earlier this week, the 24-year-old Niku agreed to a mutual termination of his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

THE ATHLETIC: The New Jersey Devils hope to convince their one unvaccinated player to change his mind and join their other 49 players in camp who are vaccinated against COVID-19.

THE SCORE: The Washington Capitals will be the first NHL club to feature ads on their jerseys starting in 2022-23 after agreeing to a multi-year deal with Caesars Sportsbook.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 18, 2021

Patrick Kane says he didn’t know anything about sexual assault allegations against the Blackhawks former video coach, the Canadiens will host the 2022 Draft, James Neal is among the latest PTO signings & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said he has participated in the investigation into allegations the club’s former video coach sexually assaulted two players in 2010. The 32-year-old winger denied having any knowledge about the incidents at the time.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s remarks run counter to those of former teammate Nick Boynton, who claimed everyone knew about the incidents during an interview with the lawyers hired by the Blackhawks to investigate the allegations. “I said talk to Torch (former assistant coach John Torchetti). I called out Brian Campbell, and said talk to Patrick Sharp and talk to Kaner (Patrick Kane),” he told TSN on July 29.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The NHL announced Friday the 2022 Draft will be held in Montreal at the Bell Centre on Thursday, July 7 and Friday, July 8. The 2020 Draft was originally scheduled to be held there but was instead conducted virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. The first round will be on Thursday evening and rounds two through seven the following day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Returning to a live venue should significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for teams to make their selections. The recent virtual drafts saw teams take an inordinate amount of time selecting prospects, with each round taking much longer to complete.

NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues announced the signing of wingers James Neal and Michael Frolik to professional tryout contracts.

TORONTO SUN: Nikita Gusev was invited to Maple Leafs training camp on a professional tryout offer.

TSN: The New Jersey Devils inked center Fredrik Gauthier to a PTO.

SPORTSNET: Zack Smith is hanging up his skates after 12 NHL seasons, all but one with the Ottawa Senators from 2008-09 to 2018-19. He spent last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Smith, 33, tallied 98 goals and 204 points in 662 career regular-season games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Smith and his family in his future endeavors.

PHILLY.COM: Former NHL forward Lou Angotti passed away Thursday at age 83. He spent 10 seasons in the league from 1964-65 to 1973-74 with the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues. Angotti was the Flyers’ first-ever captain. He had 103 goals and 289 points in 653 career NHL contests. He also went on to coach the Blues for two seasons (1973-74 to 1974-75) and the Penguins in 1983-84.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Angotti’s family, friends and former teammates.