The Kraken win their first-ever preseason game plus the latest on Mark Stone, Jonathan Drouin, Semyon Varlamov, Jakub Vrana and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: The Seattle Kraken tasted victory in their first-ever preseason game on Sunday, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 in front of 10, 208 raucous fans at Spokane Arena. Morgan Geekie snapped a 3-3 tie early in the third period and added an insurance goal midway through the frame to seal the win.
THE ATHLETIC: Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone and defenseman Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb were injured in a 4-2 preseason loss to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. Stone left the game after being struck by the puck on the right ear. He received stitches but didn’t return. There were no post-game updates on Theodore and McNabb.
Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said the decision to keep Stone out of the game was precautionary. He doesn’t think the injury to his captain is serious.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jonathan Drouin received a warm welcome from Canadiens fans during their annual Red vs White scrimmage yesterday. It marked the first time Drouin played in front of Canadiens fans since 2019-20. He left the team late last season for personal reasons that were later revealed to be anxiety and insomnia issues.
Meanwhile, rookie winger Cole Caufield was scratched after feeling uncomfortable during the warmup. He’s listed as day-to-day but head coach Dominique Ducharme doesn’t feel it’s anything serious.
THE ATHLETIC’s Arthur Staple tweeted New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov still isn’t skating as he remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana will see a specialist today to determine the severity of the shoulder injury suffered on Saturday.
CBS SPORTS: Calgary Flames center Tyler Pitlick left Sunday’s 4-0 preseason loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the first period with a lower-body injury.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar realizes he’s on the hot seat this season. His club failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs in the last three years. Another disappointing finish could spell the end of his job.
Bednar spoke at length over the summer with Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper. Like Bednar, Cooper felt similar pressure after his own Presidents’ Trophy-winning team was swept in 2019 from the opening round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He went on to guide the Lightning to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles.
Jonathan Drouin reveals the reasons behind last season’s leave of absence, Artemi Panarin doesn’t want to be Rangers captain, Travis Zajac retires and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: In a one-on-one interview that aired on RDS on Monday, Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin revealed anxiety and sleep disorder were behind his season-ending leave of absence in 2020-21. “I’ve had anxiety problems for many years,” said Drouin. “Insomnia problems that relate to my anxiety.”
Montreal Canadiens left wing Jonathan Drouin (NHL Images).
Drouin revealed he’d been dealing with anxiety for several years without knowing what it was. He said his problems had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol and he’s never been to a rehab program.
The Canadiens forward said he’d been handling his anxiety issues better in recent years but the restrictions placed on him and his teammates by COVID-19 took a toll on his physical and mental strength. While he never lost his love of the game, he said there were times last season when he went three straight nights without sleep.
Drouin praised the support he received from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, head coach Dominique Ducharme and his teammates throughout his ordeal. He’s happy with the decision he made last season, wants to remain in Montreal and his mental health is better than ever.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anyone’s who’s ever dealt with anxiety or knows someone who is dealing with it knows how debilitating it can be. Add the pressure of playing for one of hockey’s most iconic teams and it’s no wonder Drouin needed to step away. It’s good to see he’s had the support of his team through all of this. It should help smooth his return to action this season.
NHL.COM: Artemi Panarin said he doesn’t want to be captain of the New York Rangers. “I think we have more deserving candidates for that role now,” he said.
Panarin pointed out the job is more than just playing good hockey. “You also have to give your energy between the periods, motivate guys, giving interviews, being the face of the franchise. Overall, it’s a lot of work off the ice.” He felt he wouldn’t be an effective captain, adding his limited English would also be a problem.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Travis Zajac signed a one-day contract with the New Jersey Devils in order to retire with the club that drafted him 17 years ago. The 36-year-old center spent almost the entirety of his 15 NHL seasons with the Devils until traded late last season to the New York Islanders. In 1,037 career games, Zajac tallied 203 goals and 552 points. He will remain with the Devils in an on/off-ice player development and consulting role.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Zajac and his family in their future endeavors.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Edmonton Oilers will retire Kevin Lowe’s No. 4 jersey in the rafters at Rogers Place during a Nov. 5 game against the New York Rangers. He played for both clubs during his 19-season NHL career, 15 of those with the Oilers.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes revealed their proposed arena entertainment district in Tempe, Arizona yesterday. The project would cost an estimated $1.7 billion and calls for private funding along with an additional $200 million portion coming from city tax revenues. The city will review the proposal in a process that could take months before a public meeting and a vote to accept or reject the proposal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This season is expected to be the Coyotes’ last in Gila River Arena after the city of Glendale announced it would not renew its operating agreement with the club. They are currently in search of a temporary home.
The Coyotes also revealed their new white Kachina coyote road jerseys for the first time since 2003. The popular Kachina logo will also be the club’s primary logo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I always liked the Coyotes’ original logo. Glad to see they’re bringing it back.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The severity of Flyers defenseman Samuel Morin’s recent knee injury remains uncertain. An initial report claimed the injury was “significant” but Morin’s former teammate Riley Cote tweeted a text message exchange with the blueliner who said one of his knees was banged up but it was “nothing major”. Morin’s career has been hampered by two ACL tears in his right knee since 2018.
NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins signed winger Zach Senyshyn to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets placed defenseman Sami Niku on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract.
TSN: The Montreal Canadiens signed blueliner Cody Goloubef to a professional tryout offer.
The Philadelphia Flyers sign Sean Couturier to an eight-year extension, the Carolina Hurricanes ink Andrei Svechnikov to an eight-year deal, Canadiens expect Carey Price and Jonathan Drouin to attend training camp, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Philadelphia Flyers signed center Sean Couturier yesterday to an eight-year, $62 million contract extension.
Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Couturier will earn an annual average value of $7.75 million starting in 2022-23 through 2029-30. He’ll be 29 when that contract begins.
Winner of the Selke Trophy in 2019-20 as the NHL’s top defensive forward, Couturier is considered among the best two-way players in the league. He’s also the Flyers’ best player and one of their team leaders.
This deal could work out well for the Flyers as long as he maintains that Selke form. That shouldn’t be a concern through the first half of this new deal but could become burdensome if his performance declines over the second half.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes signed winger Andrei Svechnikov to an eight-year, $62 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Svechnikov is getting a big pay raise coming off his entry-level contract. Unlike Couturier who is an established star at the peak of his playing career, the 21-year-old Hurricanes winger is a rising star who has displayed considerable potential as a first-line winger.
The Canes are banking on Svechnikov reaching or exceeding expectations. If he does, they’ll have a high-scoring top-line forward under contract during most of his best seasons at a price well below those of his peers.
SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme said Carey Price is expected to be ready for the start of training camp next month. The 34-year-old goaltender is currently recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Jonathan Drouin is also expected to be at camp. The 26-year-old winger took a leave of absence in April for personal reasons and missed the remainder of the regular season and the Canadiens march to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite last season’s surprising playoff success, the Canadiens could be in a tough fight to clinch a playoff berth in 2021-22 in the competitive Atlantic Division. A healthy Price and Drouin could be crucial to their postseason hopes this season.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty reports Bruins center Charlie Coyle is recovering well from offseason surgery to repair a fracture in his left kneecap and a small tear in his patellar tendon. He’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp in mid-September.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haggerty indicates those injuries accounted for Coyle’s struggles last season as he managed only 16 points in 51 games. He’s expected to take over the second-line center position left vacant by David Krejci’s decision to return to the Czech Republic.
TSN: The Calgary Flames signed winger Dillon Dube to a three-year, $6.9 million deal.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators are expected to name a team captain before the end of training camp. Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk could be the leading candidates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators haven’t had a captain since trading Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks three years ago.
The 2021 NHL Draft begins tonight, the league releases its 2021-22 schedule, Shea Weber’s career is likely over due to injuries, the Flyers send Shayne Gostisbehere to the Coyotes, the Hurricanes trade Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings, plus much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.com: The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft gets underway at 8 pm ET tonight. Rounds two through seven will be held on Saturday. Like last year, it will be a virtual draft.
The 2021 NHL Draft begins on Friday, July 23. (NHL.com).
The Buffalo Sabres hold the first-overall pick. University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power is ranked this year’s top prospect but there’s no guarantee he’ll be selected by the Sabres. Power intends to return to university this fall but Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said that won’t affect his club’s decision. The Seattle Kraken holds the second-overall selection with the Anaheim Ducks holds the third.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Check out my 2021 NHL mock draft of the first round for Bleacher Report. I predict Power will be selected by the Sabres.
The NHL also unveiled its 82-game schedule for 2021-22. The season will begin Tuesday, Oct. 12 with the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning while the expansion Seattle Kraken plays their first-ever NHL game as they visit the Vegas Golden Knights. The Kraken’s first home game is Oct. 23 as they host the Vancouver Canucks
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he doesn’t expect team captain Shea Weber to play next season, adding the defenseman’s career is probably over because of injuries he tried to play through in recent years.
Bergevin confirmed goaltender Carey Price is in New York having his knee and hip examined with the possibility his knee could require surgery with a possible recovery period of 6-8 weeks. He also said he expects winger Jonathan Drouin will return to the team for training camp in September. Drouin took a season-ending leave of absence in March to deal with a personal matter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin anticipates the league will allow him to place Weber ($7.8 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve for 2021-22. That would provide the Canadiens GM the flexibility to exceed the $81.5 million salary cap by the equivalent of Weber’s cap hit if necessary.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes acquired defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere plus a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 seventh-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers without sending anything back in return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was purely a cost-cutting move by the Flyers to shed Gostisbehere’s $4.5 million annual cap hit. “Ghost Bear” struggled over the past two years and could benefit from a change of scenery.
This is the second deal involving the Coyotes where they acquired a player and draft picks without sending anything the other way. They recently swung a deal with the New York Islanders for Andrew Ladd and three picks. As with the Gostisbehere deal, it was done by the Isles to clear some cap room.
The Flyers and Islanders paid a price to get those contracts off their books by giving up those draft picks to the Coyotes. Gostisbehere remains a decent NHL player and is expected to be part of the Coyotes roster next season. Ladd’s spent most of the past two seasons in the minors and could do so again in 2021-22.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings acquired goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for goalie Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick in this year’s draft. Nedeljkovic signed a two-year contract with the Wings worth an annual average value of $3 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move baffled most observers. Nedeljkovic is a promising young netminder and a Calder Trophy finalist this season. However, it appears the Hurricanes front office wasn’t that enamored with his overall performance. Rather than face a possible salary arbitration battle, they opted to trade him to the Wings.
It’s believed the Hurricanes will seek a suitable replacement via trade or free agency. Nevertheless, this could backfire on them if Nedeljkovic goes on to a solid NHL career with the Wings.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed forward Barclay Goodrow to a six-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.642 million. The deal also includes signing bonuses and a 15-team no-trade list. Goodrow was recently acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The cap hit is reasonable but the term seems long for a player of Goodrow’s caliber. The 28-year-old is a solid third-line forward but comparable players usually get three or four-year deals at most. Cap Friendly indicates he’ll receive $5 million in actual salary in 2023-24 and $5.1 million in 2024-25.
TSN: A former Chicago Blackhawks player described his alleged sexual assault by the club’s former video coach Bradley Aldrich in a recent court filing.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The attorney handling two negligence lawsuits against the Blackhawks said one of her clients was bullied by several Blackhawks teammates after he accused Aldrich of sexually assaulting him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman yesterday said he would cooperate with the internal investigation conducted by the legal team hired by the club. The Tribune reports he declined to comment on the specifics of the review or the events in 2010 citing the pending lawsuits.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames acquired forward Tyler Pitlick from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2022.
THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks re-signed Rudolfs Balcers to a two-year, $3.1 million contract.
CAP FRIENDLY: The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed center Gemel Smith to a two-year, $1.5 million contract. The first year is a two-way deal with Smith earning $750K at the NHL level.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed forward Kiefer Sherwood to a one-year deal.
NHLPA: Matt Calvert announced his retirement from the NHL after 10 seasons due to a career-ending injury. He played 566 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche, tallying 203 career points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Calvert in his future endeavors.
Are the Montreal Canadiens a stronger team than we thought, or did they just get lucky and go on a five-week hot streak?
The Canadiens enjoyed an impressive run in the 2021 playoffs. The lowest overall postseason seed, they upset the heavily-favored Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
They came a cropper against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, falling in five games. However, the clubs the Habs eliminated wouldn’t have fared any better against the powerful Bolts.
The Canadiens’ playoff success papered over the fact they barely qualified in the first place.
They cooled off after a hot start, replaced most of their coaching staff by midseason, saw starting goalie Carey Price endure one of the worst regular seasons of his career, endure a 25 game in 44-night second-half stretch following a COVID-19 outbreak, lost playmaking winger Jonathan Drouin for the remainder of the season for personal reasons, and endured a shaky stretch drive with Price, captain Shea Weber and alternate captain Brendan Gallagher sidelined by injury.
Little wonder no one gave them a chance of defeating the Leafs, Jets and Golden Knights in each successive round. And yet, they defied the critics and overcame the odds.
Montreal Canadiens pose with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl (NHL.com).
But which team are the real Canadiens? The one that took their fans on a dazzling run that came within three games of the Stanley Cup? Or the one that stumbled through a shortened season and backed into the playoffs?
On the one hand, the Habs seemed to finally adjust to interim coach Dominique Ducharme’s system in the postseason. They played a strong team game with an emphasis on solid defensive play, quick zone transitions, and in-close scoring chances. Their penalty-killing was the best throughout this postseason.
Price bounced back, reminding everyone why he’s still among the best goalies in the game. Weber, Jeff Petry, Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson formed a solid top-four defense that cleared traffic from around Price’s net and took away the opposition’s scoring lanes.
Young forwards Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Jesperi Kotkaniemi continue to blossom into future stars. Josh Anderson provided size, speed and clutch scoring. Tyler Toffoli was strong at both ends of the rink. Phillip Danault was superb in a shutdown center role. Greybeards Corey Perry and Eric Staal provided invaluable depth experience and leadership.
On the other hand, Price admitted he didn’t play well during the first three games against the Lightning. Anderson’s scoring was inconsistent for most of the playoffs. A thumb injury robbed Weber of his fearsome point shot. Alexander Romanov’s limited postseason appearances raised questions over Ducharme’s faith in the promising defenseman. The power play often looked like they were playing with a live grenade.
So, are they an emerging Stanley Cup contender or an overachiever that crashed to earth in the Final?
Marc Bergevin was a finalist for GM of the Year, which for some weird reason is voted on following the second round of the playoffs. He wouldn’t have even been among the candidates had that vote occurred following the regular season.
The Canadiens’ playoff run probably saved Bergevin’s job (should he still want it) and should remove the interim label off Ducharme’s title. Having gotten their team to the Final, can they avoid the pitfalls that doomed many Cup Final underdogs of the past?
Everything depends on several factors.
Bergevin was able to use plentiful cap space to add Toffoli, Anderson, Perry, Staal, Edmundson and backup goalie Jake Allen. Making similar acquisitions won’t easy with a salary cap expected to remain flat for the next several seasons.
More promising youngsters must begin to crack the lineup. Ryan Poehling, Mattias Norlinder, Cayden Primeau, Jan Mysak, Kaiden Guhle and Jordan Harris have to make a positive impression within the next several years.
Price must maintain his strong playoff form throughout the regular season, something he’s had difficulty doing in recent years. The 36-year-old Weber must begin accepting a reduced role as a second-pairing defenseman, allowing Petry to take the first-pairing role on their right side.
Toffoli and Gallagher must remain healthy. Danault should be brought back but that could prove difficult given his earlier rejection of a six-year, $30 million deal. If not, a suitable replacement must be found. Perry should be an affordable one-year signing.
Suzuki, Caufield, Kotkaniemi and center Jake Evans must keep improving and take on greater roles and responsibilities. Romanov must be given more playing time and room to allow for his development. Anderson needs to find the back of the net more often. They need more from Drouin than what he’s given them in the past, assuming he can continue his playing career.
Ducharme must prove he can still make the right moves as he did through most of this postseason. He has to ensure the players still buy into his system. He must also silence critics who feel he’s slow to trust his youngsters given his seeming reluctance to insert Kotkaniemi, Caufield and Romanov into the lineup earlier in this postseason.
Even if all those factors pan out, will the Canadiens be deep enough and strong enough to match up well in an Atlantic Division? Can they compete on an even footing with the powerhouse Lightning, the improving Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators, the still-talented Maple Leafs and still-dangerous Boston Bruins?
Can they do more than just hold their own against Eastern Conference teams like the veteran-laden Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals? Will they be able to handle the rising Carolina Hurricanes, the promising New York Rangers, and the hard-working New York Islanders?
Can they keep pace with the best of the west in the Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche? Or the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers? The suddenly improved Minnesota Wild?
This year was a heckuva run for the Canadiens but they have a long way to go to prove they’re more than a one-year wonder.
Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot, Joe Thornton reaches an assists milestone, Connor McDavid has another multi-point game and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team in the Scotia North Division to clinch a playoff spot by dropping the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. Joe Thorton reached a milestone by collecting his 1,100th career NHL assist while Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 35th goal of the season. The Leafs sit atop the division with 67 points while the Canadiens are in fourth place with 51 points. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens announced Jonathan Drouin was taking an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton is just the seventh player in league history to reach 1,100 assists. Paul Coffey sits in sixth place with 1,135. With 1,524 points, Thornton is only seven behind Coffey (1,531) for 13th on the all-time list.
Drouin’s faced criticism from fans and pundits (myself included) for his play this season. We don’t know why he’s taken this leave of absence and it’s none of our business. Here’s hoping he gets whatever assistance is needed to help him cope with his situation and return to action.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected three assists in a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyson Barrie each had a goal and an assist as the Oilers (60 points) sit three points ahead of the Jets for second place in the North. The Jets have lost five straight games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has a league-leading 84 points with nine games left in the season. He’s scoring at a pace not seen since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. At his current rate of production, he could still reach 100 points.
The Vegas Golden Knights extended their winning streak to 10 games by downing the Colorado Avalanche 5-2. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty led the way with three points each for the Golden Knights (72 points), opening a six-point lead over the second-place Avalanche in the Honda West Division.
Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas rallied the St. Louis Blues over the Minnesota Wild 4-3. Hoffman scored twice for the Blues (50 points) as they opened a three-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes for fourth place in the West. The Wild (65 points) saw their seven-game win streak snapped. They remain one point behind the Avalanche.
Speaking of the Coyotes, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks. Evander Kane tallied his 20th goal of the season.
The Ottawa Senators rode a four-goal second period to a 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Brady Tkachuk led the way for the Senators with a “Gordie Howe hat trick”.
Cam Fowler scored the game-winner as the Anaheim Ducks edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. The Ducks, however, are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Kings center Quinton Byfield recorded four shots on goal in his NHL debut.
THE SCORE: Former NHL coach Gerard Gallant was named head coach of Team Canada at the 2021 World Championships.