NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2018

Nate Schmidt receives 20-game suspension, notable remaining UFAs and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt received a 20-game suspension for violating the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, a charge he, his agent and the team denied yesterday. The league didn’t reveal what substance Schmidt tested positive for or when the test was conducted. His appeal was denied by an independent arbitrator.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt has been suspended for violating the NHL’s PED program. (Photo via NHL Images)

In a statement yesterday, Schmidt professed his innocence, claiming he never knowingly ingested a banned substance. He said the trace amount was “consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.”

Schmidt cited one expert who testified on his behalf claiming the amount of substance found in his system ” 7 billionths of a milligram/mL — as the equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.” Another who analyzed a sample of his hair concluded there was no evidence of intentional use. “The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.”

The Golden Knights also released a statement supporting Schmidt, expressing their belief “that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know the full details from the hearings or what Schmidt may have ingested. Going by his story, however, it appears the punishment received was unduly harsh and perhaps unjustified.  It’s worth noting the Golden Knights are standing by Schmidt. It’ll be interesting to see if the league or the PA will issue a statement. it doesn’t sound as though there’s another appeal option for Schmidt.

In the meantime, Schmidt’s absence will leave a significant gap on their blueline early in the coming season that could force the Golden Knights to address via trade, free agency or waivers. I’ll have more in my Rumors section later this morning.  

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Center Antoine Vermette, left wing Mike Cammalleri, right wing Lee Stempniak, defensemen Luca Sbisa and Cody Franson and goaltender Steve Mason are the notable veterans remaining in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. Others include forwards Scott Hartnell and Daniel Winnik, blueliner Kevin Bieksa and goalie Kari Lehtonen. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A handful of these players could earn one-year deals via professional tryout offers. The rest face continuing their playing careers in Europe or retirement. 

TSN: Former Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators defenseman Alexei Emelin signed a three-year contract with KHL club Avangard Omsk.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The Vancouver Canucks need a healthy Chris Tanev to return to form this season. 


NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2018

Another update on Max Pacioretty,  the latest on Canucks d-man Ben Hutton and proposed PTO targets for the Devils in your NHL Rumor Mill.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton believes the recent Jeff Skinner trade between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes should lower expectations of a big return if the Montreal Canadiens move Max Pacioretty.

The Hurricanes shipped the 26-year-old Skinner, a three-time 30-goal scorer who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent next July, to the Sabres last week in exchange for a prospect forward (Cliff Pu) and three draft picks, none of which were first-round selections. That could set the stage for an equally underwhelming return for Pacioretty, a 29-year-old left wing who’s also a former 30-goal scorer eligible next summer for UFA status.

The recent Jeff Skinner trade could affect the trade value of Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty. (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s assumed the Canadiens seek a young scoring forward, preferably a center, in return for Pacioretty. They reportedly had a deal in place with the Los Angeles Kings during the 2018 NHL Draft but it apparently fell apart over lack of an agreement on a contract extension. Since then, there’s no indication Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is any closer to dealing Pacioretty, though he reportedly wants to do so before the start of 2018-19.

Still, Bergevin faces slightly better odds of finding a decent return for his captain. Pacioretty’s lack of no-trade protection gives the Canadiens GM more trade options than the Hurricanes had with Skinner, whose full no-movement clause significantly hampered where they could trade him. 

TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie reports there is no truth to rumors Pacioretty would skip training camp next month until the Canadiens trade him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whoever dreamed up that rumor should give their head a shake. Pacioretty is entering his contract year and intends to seek a big raise next summer. Staging a holdout to force a trade not only wouldn’t make any sense but would also be out of character on his part. 


THE ATHLETIC: In a recent piece examining the stock of several Vancouver Canucks players, JD Burke believes no other player on the club needs a change of scenery more than defenseman Ben Hutton. It’s apparent the blueliner has fallen out of favor with coach Travis Green and his stock has declined.

Burke said the Canucks have tried trading Hutton for a while but can’t find any takers. He does point out Hutton’s performance wasn’t as bad as it seemed, noting he and Chris Tanev had solid shutdown numbers where paired together. He adds the Canucks did a better job controlling the puck in 5-on-5 situations with Hutton on the ice.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like rival GMs aren’t impressed with Hutton’s shutdown and possession stats. Otherwise, the Canucks probably would’ve found a club willing to take him off their hands. 


NJ.COM: Chris Ryan suggests right wings Kris Versteeg, Tommy Wingels and Nick Shore, defensemen Toby Enstrom, Brandon Davidson, Alexei Emelin and Jakub Jerabek, center Logan Shaw and left wings Daniel Winnik and Scott Hartnell as professional tryout offer (PTO) options for the New Jersey Devils. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see if the Devils invite any of these guys to training camp. I daresay several of those players could also become PTO candidates with other clubs  The exception could be Hartnell, who’s reportedly contemplating retirement. 


Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Latest on the Golden Knights and another look at the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in your NHL rumor mill.


LAS VEGAS SUN: In the wake of William Karlsson re-signing a one-year, $5.25-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, Jesse Granger reports defenseman Shea Theodore is their only remaining free agent. Theodore is coming off his entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. General manager George McPhee hopes to re-sign the young blueliner before the start of the season.

Vegas Golden Knights hope to re-sign defenseman Shea Theodore before the start of next season (Photo via NHL Images).

Granger also reports McPhee hinted at a possible move to bolster his forward lines. “We’re happy where we are,” said the Vegas GM. “If there’s an opportunity to upgrade at the forward position at any time over the next year we will.”

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Despite re-signing Karlsson to a one-year deal and with Theodore expected to re-sign, Ed Graney reports the Golden Knights aren’t any better on paper than they were in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Graney raises some questions, wondering if they’re really convince Malcolm Subban is a capable long-term solution if starter Marc-Andre Fleury becomes sidelined again, if someone like Ryan Carpenter can steal a job, and if career performances by so many players last season could result in a natural regression in 2018-19.

He also wonders if the Golden Knights “would emerge from a handful of reported suitors” interested in Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights definitely defied expectations last season. While I think they’re still good enough to be a playoff contender in 2018-19, I doubt they’ll make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Unlike many of McPhee’s peers who might have interest in acquiring Erik Karlsson or a skilled forward, he’s carrying considerable depth in draft picks (stick tap to Cap Friendly) and promising young players that could be used as trade bait. Doing so, however, could mean including the promising Theodore in the package or giving up a top prospect such as Cody Glass or Nick Suzuki. 


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the NHL’s top-10 remaining unrestricted free agents. Topping the list is winger Rick Nash, though it remains uncertain if he’ll continue his career due to health and family concerns. Prior to the start of this summer’s UFA market, Nash told several teams (including the Columbus Blue Jackets) that he was sitting out the free-agent frenzy to contemplate his future. 

The remainder of Fox’s list includes defenseman Luca Sbisa (who at one point had reportedly been contacted by the Chicago Blackhawks), blueliner Tobias Enstrom, forward Mark Letestu, forward Mike Cammalleri (who got some interest from Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley in bringing him to the KHL), rearguard Alexei Emelin, goaltender Kari Lehtonen, center Nick Shore, winger Scott Hartnell (who recently conceded he could be headed toward retirement) and left wing Benoit Pouliot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from Nash, most of the others on this list could face going through professional tryouts during training camp to land new contracts for next season. Some could end up continuing their playing careers overseas. Some, like Hartnell, could be retiring.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Blackhawks have ongoing interest in Sbisa as they still need help on the blueline. The KHL could be the oft-injured Cammalleri’s best option to continue his playing career. Lehtonen might still draw some interest from teams in need of experienced goaltending depth. However, he could be a late-September or early-October signing as clubs evaluate their goalies during training camp and preseason play. 


NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2018

Latest on Jacob Trouba’s future with the Winnipeg Jets plus an update on some of the remaining UFAs in your NHL rumor mill. 

Could the Winnipeg Jets trade Jacob Trouba at the end of his new one-year contract? (Photo via NHL Images)


NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck took note of the one-year, $5.5-million contract awarded to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba by an arbitrator on Sunday. With Trouba two years away from eligibility for unrestricted free agency and once against due to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer, Billeck wonders if the blueliner’s time in Winnipeg might be coming to an end.

Speculation over the inability between Trouba and the Jets to work out a long-term deal has prompted speculation the defenseman is angling to depart Winnipeg. There was a significant gap between the two sides prior to his arbitration hearing, with the Trouba camp seeking $7 million and the Jets’ $4 million.

Trading him this summer is an option but Billeck doesn’t consider it the best one if the Jets are serious about making a run for the Stanley Cup in 2018-19. If the Jets trade Trouba, he speculates the asking price could be “a comparable rostered defenseman or a very highly-touted prospect rearguard.”

Billeck expects there will be several potential suitors if Trouba hits the trade block “but pinning down who and what is involved is anyone’s guess.”  He proposes the New York Islanders (who have Manitoba native Ryan Pulock on their blueline) or the Detroit Red Wings as possible options, though acknowledges that’s just pure speculation on his part.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre notes the Jets will likely face a salary-cap crunch next summer. Trouba, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, Joe Morrow and Laurent Brossoit will be restricted free agents while Blake Wheeler, Brandon Tanev, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot will be UFAs. Among McIntyre’s suggests options to address this issue could be trading Trouba, which “would not only be best for both sides, but a necessity from Winnipeg’s perspective.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could surprise us by trading Trouba this summer but I doubt he’ll go that route. He’ll keep his current roster intact to make another serious run for the Cup this coming season. Next summer, however, is another matter. Cap Friendly indicates the Jets currently have over $43 million invested in just nine players. Assuming the salary cap reaches $83 million for 2019-20, they’ll have $40 million to work with.

Sounds like a lot but perhaps half of that will be eaten up in new contracts for Wheeler and Laine, while the others will be due significant raises. Should Trouba have a career year, he’ll be able to justify pushing for over $7 million per season.

While a lot can happen between now and next summer, trading Trouba next June, perhaps during the NHL Draft weekend, could be their best option to ensure sufficient cap room to maintain the bulk of their roster. He’ll attract considerable interest in the trade market. 


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the remaining top-10 NHL UFAs. Among the notable updates is a July 13 report claiming the Chicago Blackhawks contacted former Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Luca Sbisa. There’s also surprise former Dallas Stars blueliner Dan Hamhuis hasn’t been signed by anyone yet.

Buffalo’s WKBW’s Matt Bove suggests the Sabres should consider adding veteran rearguard Brooks Orpik to an affordable one-year deal to bring in some experience and leadership. He could also be used as a trade chip near next February’s trade deadline.

A report out of Russia has Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley trying to woo forward Mike Cammalleri. The agent for defenseman Alexei Emelin recently said his client had spoken with several teams but declined to say if the Montreal Canadiens were among them. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These players have now fallen into the off-season limbo that occurs after the opening two weeks of the free-agent market. When most of the best players are signed up, teams become more budget conscious, meaning those players still available in the UFA market could be forced to wait for weeks before getting new contracts. General managers are also currently focused for the next two weeks upon dealing with players slated for arbitration hearings.

Some of these players, such as Hamhuis and Sbisa, could get new contracts before the start of training camp in September. The others, however, could be forced to accept professional tryout offers, contract proposals from KHL or European teams or retirement. 


Slim Pickings Remain in 2018 NHL UFA Market

Slim Pickings Remain in 2018 NHL UFA Market

A week into the 2018 NHL free-agent market, not much talent remains for teams attempting to bolster their lineups. Here’s a brief look at the notable names still available as of July 7, 2018.

Left wing Patrick Maroon is the best player still available in this summer’s UFA market (Photo via NHL Images).

Patrick Maroon. The best remaining scorer in the bunch. A big-bodied (6’3”, 225 lbs) left winger coming off back-to-back 40-plus point seasons. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly interested in his services.

Kari Lehtonen. The 34-year-old Lehtonen posted a respectable 2.56 goals-against average and .912 save percentage last season in a backup role with the Dallas Stars. He could be a mentor for a rising young starter.

Dan Hamhuis. Though Hamhuis’ best days are behind him,  the 35-year-old defenseman still tallied 24 points while skating over 20 minutes per game with the Stars. He could be a solid depth addition for a playoff contender.

Toby Enstrom. Injuries have frequently sidelined the 33-year-old Enstrom, hampering his effectiveness as a puck-moving blueliner. His experience, however, could be helpful to a rebuilding club.

Brooks Orpik. The shutdown blueliner helped the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup this spring. Traded to Colorado and bought out, the Capitals are reportedly interested in bringing him back for one more year.

Steve Mason. The 30-year-old struggled with injury and inconsistency as the Winnipeg Jets’ backup last season. Those factors could hurt Mason’s efforts to land with another NHL club.

Luca Sbisa. Missed all but 30 games to injury last season but was solid in the playoffs for the Vegas Golden Knights. Sbisa could be a good depth addition to a blueline in need of a physical rearguard.

Antoine Vermette. The 35-year-old’s 20-goal, 40-point seasons are well in the past. However, he could provide depth for clubs in need of a veteran checking-line center.

Alexei Emelin. A physical defenseman, Emelin could provide some experienced grit as a third-pairing blueliner.

Ondrej Pavelec. The 30-year-old netminder sported a decent .910 save percentage serving as Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy with the New York Rangers.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2018

Golden Knights take Game 2 of Western Conference Final, plus updates on the Lightning, Capitals and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Jonathan Marchessault scored twice to give the Vegas Golden Knights a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2 of the 2018 Western Conference Final. The series shifts to Las Vegas tied at a game apiece. Tomas Tatar picked up his first goal of the playoffs for the Golden Knights while Kyle Connor tallied the only goal for the Jets. Golden Knights forward David Perron was scratched from this game for unknown reasons. Game 3 will be on Wednesday at 9 pm ET.

Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault scored twice as his club downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 in Game 2 of the 2018 Western Conference Final (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a strong bounce-back effort for the Golden Knights. The Jets came close to scoring several times but the Golden Knights did a good job stymieing Winnipeg’s offense. 

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning are sticking with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who gave up 10 goals in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They really don’t have much choice. As columnist Martin Fennelly observed, “What, Louis Domingue is going to pull your fat from the fire?”

WASHINGTON POST: “Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny was fined $2,419.35, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for cross-checking Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Monday.”

NHL.COM: In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to legalize sports gambling, the NHL released a statement saying it would “review our current practices and policies and decide whether adjustments are needed, and if so, what those adjustments will look like.” The league also said the ruling “has no immediate impact on existing League rules relating to sports wagering, and particularly, wagering involving NHL games.”

THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis is open to signing a contract extension with the club this summer. He has a year remaining on his current deal. Pending free agents Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin won’t be re-signed.