NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2021

The Canadiens don’t match the Hurricanes’ offer sheet for Jesperi Kotkaniemi and acquire Christian Dvorak from the Coyotes. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

KOTKANIEMI OFFICIALLY WITH THE HURRICANES

MONTREAL GAZETTE/THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Montreal Canadiens announced yesterday they would not match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canadiens received the Hurricanes’ first and third-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft as compensation.

Carolina Hurricanes forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the first time a player has been successfully signed away from another club via offer sheet since the Edmonton Oilers inked the Anaheim Ducks’ Dustin Penner to a multi-year contract in 2007. While the Hurricanes PR department delighted in taunting the Canadiens on social media, at least there were no threats of a barn fight among general managers.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was pressed for salary cap space, the Hurricanes boxed him in with that offer sheet and he couldn’t justify that investment on a promising but inconsistent young forward. Matching the offer would’ve blown his salary structure apart, leaving the Canadiens with limited cap room for the coming season and create a potential cap headache for next season to qualify Kotkaniemi’s rights.

Cap Friendly shows the Hurricanes above the $81.5 million cap by over $1.5 million but they’re expected to put defenseman Jake Gardiner on long-term injury reserve for the start of the season. Given their depth at center, Kotkaniemi will likely be a winger on their second or third line.

CANADIENS ACQUIRE DVORAK FROM COYOTES

MONTREAL GAZETTE/ARIZONA REPUBLIC: The Canadiens wasted little time finding a replacement for Kotkaniemi, acquiring center Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for two draft picks.

The Coyotes will receive the highest of the Canadiens’ two first-round picks in the 2022 draft plus a 2024 second-rounder. However, if either or both of the Canadiens’ picks are among the top-10, the Coyotes get the lower of the two picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens were linked to the 25-year-old Dvorak throughout last week. He’s a skillful underrated two-way center carrying a $4.45 million annual average value for the next four seasons. Dvorak should prove a worthwhile fit as the Habs second-line center.

Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong has been busy this summer rebuilding his club by shipping out veteran assets for draft picks. He now has eight picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft, including three first-rounders. Armstrong could keep those picks but it wouldn’t surprise me if he uses some of them as trade bait to acquire promising young NHL talent.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars head coach Rick Bowness said Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Roope Hintz and Joel Hanley have recovered from the injuries that sidelined/hampered them for much of last season. Goaltender Ben Bishop is skating again but the club remains uncertain if he’ll be available for the coming season. He missed all of 2020-21 recovering from knee surgery.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW‘s Adrian Dater tweeted Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz has returned to full health and is anxious to resume his NHL career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A lower-body injury sidelined Francouz for the entirety of last season.

TORONTO SUN: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Gerbe will be sidelined four-to-six months following hip surgery.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild unveiled their jerseys for the 2022 NHL Winter Classic at Target Field on New Year’s Day when they face off against the St. Louis Blues.

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 29, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 29, 2021

Could the Canadiens target the Sabres Jack Eichel or the Coyotes’ Christian Dvorak if they don’t match Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet? Which centers could the Penguins target if the need arises this season? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

COULD THE CANADIENS BE SHOPPING FOR KOTKANIEMI’S REPLACEMENT?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed the Carolina Hurricanes signing Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet on Saturday. Friedman said the Hurricanes had discussed the possibility of a trade for Kotkaniemi with the Canadiens but couldn’t work out a deal. He thinks the Hurricanes informed the Canadiens of their intention to sign Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet, probably within 24 hours of doing so.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The initial reports of Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet took most observers by surprise. Some suggested Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was caught off-guard, chiding him for not signing Kotkaniemi when he had the chance to avoid this situation.

Based on Friedman’s reporting, that doesn’t appear to be the case. The Habs GM still didn’t seem fully convinced Kotkaniemi was fully prepared for second-line center duty. He was using his leverage to attempt to sign the youngster to a two-year bridge deal worth around $2.5 million annually.

Bergevin also had plenty of advance warning of Carolina’s interest in Kotkaniemi. While the Hurricanes’ PR team played up the revenge angle on Twitter to great amusement on social media, that seems to be merely a secondary factor. Why engage in trade talks if they intended to do the offer sheet all along? And why inform the Habs of their plan and provide Bergevin an opportunity to get Kotkaniemi under contract?

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels speculates Bergevin could target Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak. The Habs GM will have some extra draft capital with the first- and third-round picks he’d get from the Hurricanes as compensation. The Coyotes showed a willingness over the past month to collect as many high-end picks as possible.

Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak (NHL Images).

Dvorak, 25, would be a good fit. The 6-foot, 200-pound two-way center has averaged a half-point per game and carries a cost-effect annual cap hit of $4.45 million over the next four seasons.

Engels also wonders if Bergevin could use those picks as part of a package deal for Jack Eichel. They’d have to live with the risk of the 24-year-old center becoming the first player to have an artificial disc-replacement procedure before he played his first game with them. Bergevin could also attempt the offer-sheet route with Elias Pettersson but doubts he’ll target the Vancouver Canucks center.

TVA SPORTS: Yvon Pedneault also thinks Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin will be working the phones to find a suitable, affordable replacement. He speculates he’ll target teams that have to reduce payroll before the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin has seven days to match the Hurricanes offer for Kotkaniemi. If he has no intention of matching he’s already calling around looking to package those compensatory picks for a replacement or an upgrade.

Dvorak reportedly drew considerable interest around the league but Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could be reluctant to move him. Maybe he’d be swayed if Bergevin offered up a first and a third. PuckPedia shows the Habs currently have two picks in the third, fourth and seventh rounds of next year’s draft. Bergevin could include one or two of those along with the compensation from the Hurricanes or add a prospect or two to sweeten the pot.

Much has been made of Bergevin’s cozy relationship with Eichel’s new agent, Pat Brisson. However, the Sabres are still reportedly seeking four assets comparable to first-round picks. Unless that asking price is lowered, I don’t see the Habs getting into the bidding for the Sabres captain.

Bergevin could attempt to sign Pettersson to an offer sheet but I don’t think the young Canuck is interested. As Engels points out, the expensive price to do so would be difficult to squeeze within the Canadiens’ salary-cap limits.

COULD THE PENGUINS TARGET A RENTAL CENTER?

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski recently examined four possible rental centers for the Penguins if Evgeni Malkin should be sidelined by knee surgery longer than expected. That could create a problem with the Penguins lacking depth at center beyond their top four. The club was also wracked with injuries last season plus Malkin and Jeff Carter are unrestricted free agents next summer.

The first is San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl. Kingerski speculates he could be had for a similar cost the Carolina Hurricanes paid for Vincent Trocheck, which was two bottom-six forwards and a promising prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s assuming the Sharks intend to move Hertl or he intends to test the market. There could be mutual interest in working out an extension. If the Sharks do shop him I suspect they’ll seek a better return than what the Florida Panthers got for Trocheck.

Other options include Columbus’ Max Domi, Dallas’ Joe Pavelski if the Stars are out of playoff contention by the trade deadline, or swapping defenseman Marcus Pettersson’s bad contract for the Minnesota Wild’s Victor Rask.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kingerski acknowledged Domi is sidelined by shoulder surgery until December. He also pointed out the Blue Jackets’ own lack of depth at center. Pavelski has a three-team trade list and could prefer staying out west.










NHL Morning Headlines and Rumors – August 16, 2021

NHL Morning Headlines and Rumors – August 16, 2021

Updated salary arbitration schedule including the latest on Kevin Fiala, the Sharks sign William Eklund, plus the latest speculation on the Flames and Oilers in today’s NHL morning headlines and rumors.

CAP FRIENDLY: Only five of 20 cases remain in this summer’s NHL arbitration schedule.

Minnesota Wild winger Kevin Fiala’s hearing is slated for Aug. 17, Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros’ is set for Aug. 18 and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Dennis Gilbert’s is Aug. 21. Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Travis Sanheim and Calgary Flames rearguard Nikita Zadorov are scheduled for Aug. 26.

Minnesota Wild winger Kevin Fiala (NHL Images).

SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reports Fiala seeks $6.25 million while the Wild are countering with $4 million. THE ATHLETIC’s Michael Russo tweeted Fiala chose a one-year contract. If the arbiter awards him that, he’ll be a restricted free agent again next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All cases thus far have been settled without going before an arbiter. The remainder could go the same route.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings avoided arbitration with Adam Erne, reaching an agreement on a two-year, $4.2 million contract.

PUCKPEDIA.COM: The San Jose Sharks signed William Eklund to a three-year, entry-level contract. The 18-year-old forward was the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As with the other 2021 picks signed to entry-level contracts, those deals will slide forward to next season if they play outside the NHL this season. Eklund could get a taste of action with the Sharks if he performs well in training camp. They could also play him in nine NHL games without burning the first year of his contract.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Hailey Salvian was asked if other moves could be in store for the Calgary Flames. She feels they still have some obvious holes on the defense, especially on the right side. They could consider going the trade or free-agent route or look within their system to address that issue.

Asked if the Flames could make a big move, Salvian believes they’re not done and there’s plenty of time remaining in the offseason. They’ve been linked to Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and St. Louis’s Vladimir Tarasenko. She also wondered if they might shop Sean Monahan or perhaps attempt to pry Christian Dvorak away from the Arizona Coyotes.

NHL.COM: Tim Campbell believes the Flames need a reliable backup goaltender for Jacob Markstrom. They must also negotiate a contract extension for winger Johnny Gaudreau.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flames general manager Brad Treliving acknowledged changes had to be made following his club’s disappointing performance over the past two seasons. So far, he’s lost Mark Giordano in the expansion draft, acquired defenseman Nikita Zadorov, winger Tyler Pitlick and goalie Dan Vladar, and signed Blake Coleman to a six-year deal.

I don’t see the Flames winning the Eichel sweepstakes. Treliving shot down speculation of a Tarasenko-for-Matthew Tkachuk swap. Monahan’s 10-team no-trade clause is a stumbling block in any attempt to move him. Meanwhile, the Coyotes seem reluctant to move Dvorak unless a club is willing to overpay for his services.

Treliving could be keen to make another significant move and he still could pull it off. However, he could be finding suitable deals difficult to come by.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins speculates the Oilers could use a professional tryout offer route as training camp approaches to add an experienced No. 4 defenseman with a right-hand shot. He suggested Michael Stone or Sami Vatanen as possible options.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 11, 2021

The latest Jack Eichel speculation and a look at what the Bruins still need to address in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC’s Rick Carpiniello tweeted on Monday we shouldn’t be surprised if Mika Zibanejad “is in the deal that ultimately brings Jack Eichel” to the New York Rangers.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

That prompted a reply from THE BUFFALO NEWS’ Lance Lysowski. While that might make the money work, he wondered if Zibanejad would waive his no-movement clause to join the Sabres.

Lysowski believes such a move would require a third team getting involved “because it’s hard to imagine MZ waiving to come to Buffalo.” He pointed out Zibanejad has one year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $5.35 million.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks dismissed the recent rash of “Eichel to the Rangers” speculation on social media as “no more than the ongoing blizzard of contradictory tales and innuendo posted on social media.” He added some of it was coming from “the account of an MSG-Network analyst” who is friendly with Rangers general manager Chris Drury.

Brooks pointed to his tweet last Friday, indicating Drury had been telling agents that he never expressed serious interest in Eichel. The Blueshirts GM apparently added he couldn’t understand why his club is being consistently linked to Eichel.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oh, I dunno, Larry, maybe part of it is due to your reports since late June indicating the Rangers had an interest in Eichel. Just throwin’ it out there.

I’ve mulled the possibility of a three-team trade sending Eichel to the Rangers. My original idea envisioned the Vegas Golden Knights shipping a package consisting of Reilly Smith, Peyton Krebs, Nicolas Hague and a first-round pick to the Rangers for Zibanejad, assuming he’ll waive his NMC for Vegas. That package was the Sabres’ asking price for Eichel as reported by The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy last month. The Rangers would then flip that return to the Sabres for Eichel.

The main problem with that scenario is the Sabres reportedly want to send Eichel to the Western Conference. My alternate theory is Eichel to Vegas for Kennedy’s reported asking price, with the Golden Knights then shipping him to the Rangers for Zibanejad.

Eichel’s trade status continues to dominate the rumor mill with the trade market going quiet during the offseason dog days. Perhaps we’ll see a resolution before training camps open next month.

NHL.COM: Amelie Benjamin examined the Boston Bruins’ offseason moves and what still needs to be addressed before the season opens in October. David Krejci’s decision to return to the Czech Republic leaves them in need of a second- or third-line center. Their plan is to start Charlie Coyle in the second-line role, though he didn’t have a good performance last season. Benjamin feels they may need to upgrade at that position if they want to be serious Stanley Cup contenders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Addressing that need could be easier said than done. The unrestricted free agent market has been picked clean so they’ll have to go the trade route. They’ve been linked to Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak but those discussions appeared to be in a stalemate.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 8, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 8, 2021

Could the Boston Bruins go shopping for a center? Which defenseman could the Islanders pursue in a trade? Check out the latest in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently reported NHL sources confirmed Bruins general manager Don Sweeney remains open to acquiring a center but the trade market has gone stale in recent days. For now, the club intends to use Charlie Coyle as their second-line center after David Krejci announced he’s returning to the Czech Republic to finish his playing career.

Are the Boston Bruins targeting Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak in the trade market? (NHL Images)

Recent speculation suggests Sweeney could use winger Jake DeBrusk and defenseman Jakub Zboril as trade bait to land a center. The Bruins had serious trade discussions with the Arizona Coyotes regarding Christian Dvorak over two weeks ago but those talks hit a stalemate. There’s no indication if DeBrusk and/or Zboril were mentioned in those talks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murphy also noted Sweeney hinted David Krejci could return to the Bruins later this season. However, he’d have to sign before Dec. 15 to avoid passing through waivers. After that, he’d had to sign before the trade deadline but there’s no guarantee he won’t get snapped up by a rival club on the waive wire.

The Bruins are among several clubs linked to Dvorak but Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could be reluctant to part with the 25-year-old two-way center. He might accept DeBrusk or Zboril but could want a first-round pick as part of the return. Other clubs could also out-bid the Bruins.

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple recently speculated the New York Islanders could turn to the trade market to fill the gap on the left side of their defense corps after trading Nick Leddy to Detroit.

He listed Seattle’s Vince Dunn, Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm, Chicago’s Calvin de Haan, Columbus’ Vladislav Gavrikov, Carolina’s Jake Gardiner, Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm, Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, Winnipeg’s Nathan Beaulieu and New Jersey’s Damon Severson as possible trade targets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn avoided salary arbitration with the Kraken by signing a two-year, $8 million contract soon after Staple’s piece was published. It doesn’t appear they intend to part with him. Lindholm could be available but the rebuilding Ducks could seek a couple of quality futures in return.

I don’t see the Blue Jackets parting with Gavrikov as he’s expected to fill the left-side position on their second pairing. Staple indicated Gardiner’s awaiting surgery that could sideline him for several weeks past the start of this season.

Predators GM David Poile is said to be intent on re-signing Ekholm so he’s probably not available. As Staple observed, Fowler would be expensive in both contract and assets. He also has a four-team trade list and the Islanders might not be on it. Staple also acknowledged Severson’s a right-side defenseman, which doesn’t really make him a viable solution.

Beaulieu and de Haan could be available. However, I don’t think either guy can suitably fill that second-pairing role. The Isles might have to be patient and see what develops in the trade market over the course of the season.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 4, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 4, 2021

Could the Coyotes shop Phil Kessel, Christian Dvorak or Clayton Keller? Should the Oilers attempt to acquire Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST COYOTES SPECULATION

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz believes it’s a given the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes will trade Phil Kessel at some point. The 33-year-old winger becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer and a re-signing appears unlikely.

AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan reports Kessel’s trade status seems to change daily. He felt the club might be content retaining the winger this season with an eye on shopping him near the trade deadline. However, multiple sources claim Kessel’s representatives have approached Coyotes general manager Bob Armstrong requesting a trade before this season begins.

Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel (NHL Images).

Honoring that request won’t be easy. Kessel would like to play for the Vegas Golden Knights but a source said they’re not interested in acquiring him. The Coyotes might have to remain patient as there isn’t much interest in the veteran winger around the league.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel also carries a $6.8 million cap hit and an eight-team trade list along with a no-movement clause that prevents him from being demoted to the minors. Unless the Coyotes are willing to pick up half of his cap hit his best chance of getting traded could be the February trade deadline.

Morgan also observed the considerable interest around the league in Christian Dvorak. The 25-year-old has become a hot commodity because of his two-way play and affordable contract. However, it’s not a certainty Armstrong will trade Dvorak. Morgan suggests it would take a significant offer of either a couple of prospects or a prospect and a first-round pick.

The Boston Bruins expressed interest in Dvorak and could use another center after David Krejci’s departure. Other teams linked to the Coyotes center include the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and his hometown Chicago Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dvorak’s situation could be worth monitoring through training camp and leading up to the start of this season in mid-October. That’s when teams will evaluate their rosters and determine if they need to turn to the trade market for help. One of them could make an offer for Dvorak too good for Armstrong to pass up.

Gretz also suggested the Coyotes consider shopping Clayton Keller. Under contract for seven more seasons at $7.15 million annually, the 23-year-old forward is in theory one of the players they should build around. However, if they weren’t going to keep a key player like Conor Garland, what’s the point of holding onto Keller at this point?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gretz believes no one should be kept out of trade discussions with the rebuild underway. However, Morgan hasn’t mentioned Keller as a trade candidate. Neither did Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in his latest podcast. Perhaps Armstrong sees Keller as one of a small core of players to build around.

COULD THE OILERS PURSUE KHUDOBIN?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples wondered if the Oilers should make a pitch for Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin. The Stars need to move out a goalie and the Oilers need one.

The Stars have a crowded crease with Khudobin, Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby and Jake Oettinger. Bishop, however, could be sidelined for the upcoming season with a knee injury. It was assumed they’d start this season with Khudobin and Oettinger but the addition of Holtby raised questions about their intentions in goal and whether one of them could be used as a trade chip.

Staples believes the Oilers would have to find someone to take Mikko Koskinen off their hands before acquiring Khudobin. That could include adding a sweetener in the deal with Koskinen. It also depends on whether the Oilers are on Khudobin’s four-team no-trade list.

The Stars’ plan could be to put Bishop on long-term injury reserve, demote Oettinger to the minors (he’s waiver-exempt this season) and start with Khudobin and Holtby. However, if they can move Khudobin it would free up cap space to sign a forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That seems to be the game Stars GM Jim Nill is playing. Bishop’s career could be in jeopardy but for now, he faces an uncertain future regarding this season. Adding Holtby gives them the opportunity to shop Khudobin and go with a Holtby-Oettinger tandem. If there’s no immediate market for Khudobin, they send Oettinger to the minors until a new home for the 35-year-old veteran netminder and his $3.33 million cap hit is found.

The Oilers’ situation could be more complicated. Koskinen’s $4.5 million cap hit, inconsistent play and 15-team no-trade list make him difficult to move unless the Oilers are willing to retain salary or package him with a quality prospect or draft pick. Even then, there’s no certainty they can land Khudobin or any other suitable replacement at this point. The Oilers could be starting this season with Koskinen backing up Smith again.