NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 22, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 22, 2024

Conference Finals storylines and Conn Smythe Trophy favorites, the Lightning reacquire Ryan McDonagh from the Predators, the Leafs introduce Craig Berube as their new coach, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti looks at the top 10 storylines to follow in the 2024 Conference Finals.

They include New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin and Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky facing each other in postseason competition for the first time since their departures from the Columbus Blue Jackets as free agents in 2019.

Gulitti also wondered if Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl could take the next step and carry the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final.

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (NHL Images).

The NHL.com staff listed their favorites thus far for the Conn Smythe Trophy. They include Draisaitl and teammate Evan Bouchard, Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov, Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin and teammate Vincent Trocheck, and Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen and forward Wyatt Johnston.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You could include Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk, though he isn’t the same presence as in last year’s postseason. Stars goaltender Joel Oettinger deserves a nod but Heiskanen and Johnston have stood out thus far. Rangers winger Chris Kreider’s hat trick in the series-clinching game against the Carolina Hurricanes earns him some recognition heading into the Conference Final with the Panthers.


TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning reacquired defenseman Ryan McDonagh from the Nashville Predators in exchange for two draft picks. The Predators get a seventh-round pick in the 2024 draft and the Lightning’s second-rounder in 2025. They also sent the Lightning a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft that originally belonged to the Edmonton Oilers.

McDonagh, 34, spent nearly five seasons with the Lightning, helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021. The Lightning traded him to Nashville in a cost-cutting move in 2022.

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said he received a call last week from Predators GM Barry Trotz asking if he’d be interested in reacquiring McDonagh, who requested a trade during his exit interview. BriseBois leaped at the chance to reacquire the veteran blueliner, citing his importance to the Lightning’s defense corps.

McDonagh is signed through 2025-26 with an average annual value of $6.75 million. The Predators did not retain any part of his cap hit.

The move leaves the Lightning with over $5 million in cap space for 2024-25 with 18 active roster players under contract. BriseBois insists he can still work out a new contract for Lightning captain and pending free agent Steven Stamkos. “We still have some cap space to get done what I think we need to get done this off-season,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois must trade to free up sufficient salary-cap space or acquire a player on permanent long-term injury reserve to give him some cap flexibility.

A cost-cutting trade means moving out someone like winger Brandon Hagel ($6.5 million AAV through 2031-32), center Anthony Cirelli ($6.25 million AAV through 2030-31), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev ($8.5 million per season through 2030-31) or blueliner Erik Cernak ($5.2 million annually through 2030-31) for draft picks and/or prospects.

Moving any of those players could create a weakness on their Lightning roster that proves difficult to address.

BriseBois acquired permanently sidelined defenseman Brent Seabrook from the Chicago Blackhawks in July 2021. With Seabrook’s $6.875 million coming off the Lightning’s books, BriseBois could consider making a similar move again. It would keep his current roster of active players intact while providing the necessary wiggle room to re-sign Stamkos, leaving enough to make some affordable additions.

THE TENNESSEAN: Trading McDonagh frees up nearly $7 million from the Predators’ books. They now have over $26 million in cap space. Trotz said he was more concerned with doing right by McDonagh but admitted his club now has salary-cap flexibility to make some moves this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s raised questions over what Trotz will do with his windfall and which players he’ll target. I’ll have more about that in today’s Rumors update.

SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs officially introduced Craig Berube as their new head coach on Tuesday. “I’m going to bring my own style here in how we played the game,” said Berube. “Competitive. We don’t want to get outworked ever.”

Berube expects the Leafs to be a hard-working club that plays a heavy game, wins puck battles, earns their ice time, and moves their feet. “It’s all about the team for me,” he said. “Everyone is used. Everyone has a role. Playing predictable and north and playing as fast as we can.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Berube is expected to make the Leafs players more accountable. He’ll do his best to fulfill his part of the bargain but management must address the ongoing roster issues (a reliable starting goaltender, improved defensive depth) that have plagued this club during the “Shanaplan.”

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins captain Brad Marchand hopes to sign a contract extension “at some point.” The 36-year-old winger has a year remaining on his deal with an AAV of $6.175 million. He had 29 goals and 38 assists in 82 games this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marchand could get a two or three-year contract. It’s unlikely he’ll get a raise over his current AAV but it could be between $5 million and $6 million given his performance this season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators hired Rob DiMaio as their director of player personnel and head of pro scouting. DiMaio spent the past two seasons as assistant general manager with the Anaheim Ducks and GM of their AHL affiliate in San Diego. Before that, he spent 13 seasons with the St. Louis Blues as director of player personnel from 2015 to 2022 and was named their director of scouting in 2012. His work contributed to the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship in 2019.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a smart hire by GM Steve Staios. DiMaio’s hiring should improve the Senators’ drafting and development of young players.

CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Martin Pospisil suffered a shoulder injury on Tuesday while playing for Slovakia in the ongoing IIHF World Championships. An X-ray revealed no fracture or dislocation. A further update is expected following an MRI.