NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 14, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 14, 2022

Tuukka Rask makes a triumphant return to the Bruins, the 2022 All-Star Game rosters and captains are revealed but several notable players are passed over, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Tuukka Rask made 25 saves in his season debut as he backstopped the Boston Bruins over the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2. David Pastrnak tallied all of the Bruins’ goals, including the game-winner on the power play to snap a 2-2 tie in the second period. Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist for the Flyers while teammate Carter Hart turned aside 33 shots. With 44 points, the Bruins moved to within three points of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (NHL Images).

Speaking of the Penguins, they fell 6-2 to the Los Angeles Kings as the latter tallied four unanswered third-period goals, including three in a span of 1:23. Kings captain Anze Kopitar scored twice and set up another while Sean Durzi had a three-point performance and Jonathan Quick made 27 saves. The Kings (43 points) move into third place in the Pacific Division.

Nikita Kucherov collected two assists and Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 24 shots as the Tampa Bay Lightning doubled up the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. The Lightning holds a two-point lead over the Florida Panthers for first place in the overall standings with 55 points. The Canucks have lost three of their last four contests.

The New York Rangers Rangers got a 37-save shutout from Igor Shesterkin in a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. Chris Kreider scored twice, including his first NHL shorthanded goal. Braden Schneider scored in his first NHL game. The Rangers (52 points) sit atop the Metropolitan Division while the Sharks (41 points) still cling to the final Western Conference wild-card berth with a one-point lead over the Calgary Flames.

Speaking of the Flames, they were upset 4-1 by the Ottawa Senators. Nick Paul tallied twice while Matt Murray made 27 saves for his first win of the season. The Flames have dropped four straight games.

Connor Hellebuyck picked up the shutout with a 33-save performance to blank the Detroit Red Wings 3-0. Andrew Copp scored two goals and Kyle Connor scored shorthanded. The Jets (39 points) are two points behind the Sharks and one back of the Flames.

A four-goal third period carried the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 6-0 thumping of the Carolina Hurricanes. Elvis Merzlikins turned in a 31-save shutout and Yegor Chinakhov scored two goals. The loss leaves the Hurricanes two points behind the Rangers in second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Third-period goals by Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich lifted the St. Louis Blues over the Seattle Kraken 2-1. The Blues extended their home points streak to 13 games while the Kraken have lost eight straight. With 49 points, the Blues are one point behind the first-place Nashville Predators in the Central Division.

The Predators, meanwhile, saw their five-game win streak halted in a 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Jeff Skinner tallied twice while Aaron Dell made 29 saves for the Sabres.

Mathew Barzal broke a 2-2 tie to lift the New York Islanders over the New Jersey Devils 3-2 Barzal’s teammates Zach Parise and Josh Bailey each collected two points as the Isles’ played their first game in 11 days.

Philipp Kurashev scored in overtime as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2, handing the latter their five straight loss. Blackhawks star Patrick Kane also scored to snap a 13-game goalless drought. The Canadiens played without goalie Jake Allen, who is sidelined for a week with a lower-body injury. Teammate Chris Wideman also missed this game as he’s serving a one-game suspension for head-butting Boston Bruins forward Erik Haula.

HEADLINES

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov, New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox and Colorado Avalanche blueliner Cale Makar were among the notable first-time selections for the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Game to be held in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Feb. 5.

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid were named captains of their respective division squads as chosen by fan voting.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow the link to see the full rosters as well as the candidates for the “Last Man In” for each division to be decided by fan voting.

THE SCORE: Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand, Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen, Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin were among the notables passed over for selection.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The exclusion of Markstrom, Rantanen and Ekblad could be a result of being overshadowed by their more well-known teammates. Marchand’s snub is likely tied to his well-earned reputation for questionable play.

Shesterkin still isn’t as well-known as he should be, though his profile should improve if the Rangers remain among the league’s top clubs. It won’t help him become a participant in this year’s All-Star Game but could help him garner recognition for next season’s event.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: A partial tear in a thumb tendon has sidelined Oilers goaltender Mike Smith for at least a week, possibly two. The club has recalled Stuart Skinner from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Signing Evander Kane could help resolve that issue…oh, wait, he’s not a goaltender…never mind…

SPORTSNET: Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, Chicago Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach and Dylan Strome, New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere and Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny are among the notable players added to the NHL’s COVID protocol on Jan. 13.

AHL’s Iowa Wild signed Eric Staal to a professional tryout contract.

TSN: The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) said individual active NHL players will not be permitted to take part in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, any player under an NHL contract cannot participate in the Beijing Olympics.

THE SCORE: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Quebec finance minister Eric Girard the league isn’t aware of any opportunity at this time that would lead to a franchise returning to Quebec City.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As one observer noted on Twitter, that was Bettman’s polite way of saying, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Oh, and for those of you saying, “What about the Arizona Coyotes?”, should that club be relocated, it’ll likely be to another American city in the Western Conference such as Houston.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 6, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 6, 2022

The Penguins get their ninth straight win after making a minor trade, the Leafs hand the slumping Oilers another loss, plus the latest COVID updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAMES RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their ninth straight win by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Blues 5-3. Bryan Rust scored twice and set up another while Sidney Crosby and Evan Rodrigues each had a goal and an assist. Brayden Schenn also had a goal and an assist for the Blues. Earlier in the day, the Penguins made a minor trade by shipping Sam Lafferty to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Alex Nylander.

Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins were apparently concerned about losing Lafferty via waivers as they attempt to make room for Evgeni Malkin’s return. By trading him to the Blackhawks they get an asset in return who is exempt from waivers this season.

Nylander, 23, is the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs winger Wiliam Nylander. A former first-round pick (eighth overall) with the Buffalo Sabres in 2016, he’s struggled to play up to lofty expectations. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and has spent this season in the minors. He’s expected to be sent to the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they doubled up the Edmonton Oilers 4-2, handing the latter their fifth straight loss. Ilya Mikheyev broke a 2-2 tie in the third period and Alex Kerfoot put the game away with an empty-netter. The Oilers played without Connor McDavid, who entered COVID protocol yesterday.

HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: McDavid, teammate Tyson Barrie and Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson were among the latest players to enter COVID protocol.

NHL.COM: The league has postponed three more home games involving Canadian clubs. Those games are the Jan. 15 contest between the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens, the Jan. 17 matchup between the Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Jan. 18 games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers.

TSN: The NHL and 20 of its teams are suing five of their insurance providers over rejected COVID-19 claims citing losses of $1 billion. The suit was filed in California last June.

THE SCORE: Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen doesn’t appreciate bearing the brunt of the criticism from head coach Dave Tippett and the media for the club’s struggles. “It’s not nice being thrown under the bus,” he told a Finnish media outlet. “I have to be better, but at the same time, we scored seven goals in my last six losses. I can’t score goals.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Koskinen’s shaky goaltending is a factor in the Oilers’ recent swoon but he has a good point about the lack of goal production he’s received of late.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens yesterday announced the hiring of Chantal Machabee as their new vice-president of communications. She’s spent the past 32 years with the Quebec-based sports network RDS covering the Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Machabee’s hiring was met with universal acclaim by her peers throughout the NHL media. She was a pioneer for women hoping to break into sports media.

TVA SPORTS: Speaking of the Canadiens, they’re currently meeting with potential candidates for the role of general manager. Among them is Patrick Roy and they’re expected to meet with him at the end of this week.

SPORTSNET: Eric Staal’s agent said his client is interested in playing for Team Canada at the Beijing Winter Olympics next month.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Arizona Coyotes announced a sports betting partnership with SaharaBets.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 13, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – November 13, 2021

More speculation about Samuel Girard’s future with the Avalanche, Eric Staal hopes to continue his NHL career and the latest on the Islanders in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Appearing on the Nov. 10 episode of The Jeff Marek Show, Mike Chambers of The Denver Post said he believes Samuel Girard was “the big piece” in the Colorado Avalanche’s efforts to acquire Jack Eichel before the Buffalo Sabres trade him to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard (NHL Images).

Chambers still thinks Girard could be traded, claiming the Avalanche want to acquire a forward and shed the 24-year-old defenseman’s $5 million annual salary-cap hit. He also indicated management was unhappy with Girard’s performance against the Golden Knights in last spring’s second-round series, singling out his turnovers and lack of production.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chambers had speculated about Girard’s future with the Avs during his column earlier this week. He also mentioned the emergence of young rearguard Bowen Byram could make Girard expendable.

I didn’t dismiss the possibility of the Avs using Girard as a trade chip for a second-line forward before the March 21 trade deadline. I see no reason to change that opinion if Byram continues playing well over the course of the season.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Eric Staal is hoping to return for an 18th NHL season. The 37-year-old center continues to skate in Minnesota as his agent is in regular contact with three or four clubs. Those teams could decide later this month if signing Staal works for them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal’s best years are now well behind him. That was apparent in his 13 points in 53 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens. However, Staal did have a decent performance with the Canadiens during their run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, collecting eight points in 21 games. He could be an affordable depth option.

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple recently wondered if New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello might jump into the trade market to bolster his blueline. He pointed out Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Trevor Dermott is available for the right price. Dermott is a “serviceable left-handed defenseman” who would be “cheap enough to fit under the cap right now.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dermott might not be on Lamoriello’s radar if he’s considering an early-season move for a blueliner. Perhaps he’s considering other options or maybe the Leafs’ asking price is more than he’s willing to part with.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, Morgan Rielly, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk and Eric Staal in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports it’s difficult to pinpoint a timeline when the Buffalo Sabres could trade Jack Eichel. His new agent, Pat Brisson is on good terms with Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and there are ongoing discussions between the two.

Eichel and the Sabres remain at an impasse over which medical procedure he’ll undergo to repair the herniated disc in his neck. It’s possible Eichel gets traded to a club willing to allow him to undergo the disc replacement surgery he favors but there’s no guarantee and no sign a trade is close.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As they say in the Army: “SITREP: no change.” This will probably drag on for months and perhaps cost Eichel the entire season until a suitable trade partner is found. Even then, his $10 million annual cap hit over the next five seasons plus the Sabres’ expensive asking price could make any interested club leery of taking that gamble.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images)

Pierre LeBrun reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Morgan Rielly’s camp quietly engaged in preliminary contract discussions over the summer. LeBrun doubts anything will be settled quickly. A lot of it has to do with what next summer’s market will be for unrestricted free-agent defensemen after Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Darnell Nurse all got deals this summer worth $9 million-plus per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculates Rielly negotiations could drag on into next June. They could eventually reach a point where they decide to shelf those talks until the offseason. I think Rielly and his representatives saw those hefty offseason signings and believe they can get the same.

Some Leafs fans are still calling for Rielly to get traded if he doesn’t re-sign this season. I don’t see that happening unless the Leafs are out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline.

Dreger believes it’s all about the term and less about money in the Vancouver Canucks’ negotiations with restricted free agent defenseman Quinn Hughes. With training camp underway and Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin and Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov under contract, Hughes and teammate Elias Pettersson are hoping to find common ground soon with Canucks management.

Negotiations are also ongoing between the Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk. Dreger feels the main hurdles here are structure and protection. He wonders if a shorter-term deal might become an option if talks drag closer to the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No real change here from reports earlier in the week. Nevertheless, they could be signed at any time. We began this week with six notable RFAs and are now down to those three.

LeBrun reports unrestricted free agent center Eric Staal is committed to playing another NHL season but has yet to find a new club. His preference is to find a good fit with an American club.










Little Notable Talent Still Available in 2021 NHL Free Agent Market

Little Notable Talent Still Available in 2021 NHL Free Agent Market

Cap Friendly shows slim pickings for talent three weeks after the NHL annual free-agent market opened on July 28. As usual, most of the top players were quickly signed within hours of the market opening, with the remainder snapped up over the next several days.

Several recognizable names remain but almost all are now past their playing prime. With training camps set to open in a little over a month, those still available could end up accepting cheap one-year deals or professional tryout offers in hope of landing a contract.

Still, for teams seeking experienced depth at bargain-bin prices, several noteworthy options remain obtainable.

Tuukka Rask is among several notable players still available in the 2021 NHL free-agent market (NHL Images).

Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask is sidelined until the New Year recovering from off-season hip surgery. It’s believed he’s only interested in returning with the Boston Bruins, who could keep a spot open for him. The former Vezina Trophy winner could be worth pursuing later this season if he and the Bruins part ways before the trade deadline.

Devan Dubnyk is still waiting for a contract. The 35-year-old struggled as a backup last season with the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. Still, he could be worth the gamble on a PTO for teams with a young starter seeking an experienced mentor.

Henrik Lundqvist hinted he’d be up to a comeback if he receives medical clearance. Heart surgery sidelined him for all of last season. The 39-year-old “King Henrik” is no longer an elite netminder but could be a worthwhile backup if he gets a clean bill of health.

Defensemen

Zdeno Chara had a good performance last season as a third-pairing defensemen with the Washington Capitals. The 44-year-old future Hall-of-Famer is training in Slovakia and hasn’t made any decisions about this season. He’d bring plenty of experience and leadership to any blueline if he decides to return for one more year.

Jason Demers could be a worthwhile addition for teams seeking an experienced third-pairing right-shot defender. The same goes for Sami Vatanen though his long injury history hurts his value.

Erik Gustafsson’s puck-moving abilities could be useful for teams looking for a power-play specialist on the blue line. Erik Gudbranson’s toughness and leadership keep earning him work despite the decline in his defensive game.

Forwards

Zach Parise, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac and Casey Cizikas are still available but speculation suggests they’ve already been signed by the New York Islanders. It’s believed Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn’t want his rivals to know how much cap space he’s actually got left as rumors persist he’s shopping for a top-six forward.

Assuming those four are off the market, well-known but fading forwards such as Patrick Marleau, Eric Staal, Bobby Ryan and James Neal are available. Other noteworthy forwards among the 30-plus gang include Tyler Bozak, Artem Anisimov, Tyler Ennis, and Alex Chiasson.

Alex Galchenyuk heads the list of younger options in the mid-to-late twenties. There was talk the Toronto Maple Leafs could bring the 27-year-old forward back but it appears he’ll be seeking work elsewhere. Ryan Donato, Dominik Kahun, Riley Sheahan and Jimmy Vesey round out this group.