NHL ProteauType: Wild Are Turning Corner, But Still Not Stanley Cup Contenders
Game recaps, stars of the week, the Kings place Ilya Kovalchuk on unconditional waivers, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Jonathan Huberdeau collected four assists and Noel Acciari tallied a hat trick as the Florida Panthers crushed the Ottawa Senators 6-1. The Panthers blew the game open with four unanswered second-period goals.
David Perron’s hat trick led the St. Louis Blues over the Colorado Avalanche 5-2, snapping the latter’s nine-game points streak. Blues forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Oskar Sundqvist each collected two assists.
The Edmonton Oilers picked up their first win in five games by edging the Dallas Stars 2-1. Mikko Koskinen kicked out 34 shots while teammates Zack Kassian and Leon Draisaitl scored for the Oilers.
Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros made 39 saves backstopping his club over the New York Rangers 5-2. Predators captain Roman Josi collected three points. Rangers winger Artemi Panarin scored to extend his points streak to five games.
The Columbus Blue Jackets blanked the Washington Capitals 3-0. Joonas Korpisalo turned aside 30 shots for the shutout while Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied twice for the Jackets.
Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty, Ottawa Senators winger Anthony Duclair, and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending December 15.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings yesterday placed winger Ilya Kovalchuk on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The contract termination won’t provide the Kings any salary-cap relief because it’s a 35-plus contract. It just means they’re no longer paying Kovalchuk’s actual salary.
Kovalchuk will become an unrestricted free agent. He could sign with another NHL club or return to the KHL.
The 36-year-old winger is no longer an offensive force. If he wants to stay in the NHL, he won’t get a lucrative offer like the three-year, $6.25-million per season contract he had with the Kings.
I’ll have more on Kovalchuk in the Rumors section.
CBS SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger Joel Farabee received a three-game suspension for interference on Winnipeg Jets center Mathieu Perreault.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild sent goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen to their AHL affiliate in Iowa and placed forward Joel Eriksson Ek (upper body) on injured reserve.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks assistant coach Marc Crawford issues an apology for his unacceptable language and actions toward several former players earlier in this coaching career. He will resume his normal coaching duties with the club on Jan. 2.
Could the Oilers pursue Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau? What’s the latest on the Sabres and Leafs? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
OILERS STILL NEED A NO. 3 CENTER
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell believes the Edmonton Oilers still need a third-line center. He feels a trade is the best option to address this issue, but the best options might not become available until closer to the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau would be the best option, but Mitchell feels the Sens will work hard to re-sign him before the deadline. If he becomes available, the asking price could be steep.
Mitchell also thinks Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek or Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault could be worthwhile targets. He suggests offering up a defenseman like Kris Russell or Matt Benning in return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pageau would be the best fit but also the most expensive. Eriksson Ek’s name has surfaced in the rumor mill, but it remains to be seen if Wild GM Bill Guerin intends to move him as part of a roster rebuild.
The Jets have rebounded from a shaky start. Their need for blueline depth isn’t as dire as it was a month ago. If they stay in playoff contention, Perreault won’t be going anywhere. He also has a five-team no-trade list.
SABRES GM OPEN TO “JUST ABOUT ANYTHING” TO LAND A FORWARD OR TWO
WGR 550: TSN analyst Darren Dreger said he’s been informed Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill has made offers for forwards, but he doesn’t know which teams or forwards Botterill has targeted. He also said the conversations are ongoing as Botterill sees his forward depth as an area of concern.
Dreger also indicated Botterill and other GMs interested in making trades are facing the problem of several teams having players on long-term injury reserve. He estimates there are 10-12 clubs in that position.
Botterill could be open to just about anything. Dreger feels Botterill might prefer adding a top-six and a bottom-six forward. Acquiring a top-six forward would mean giving up a piece from the roster.
Dreger suggested the return of defenseman Zach Bogosian could mean parting with a blueliner such as Marco Scandella. If Botterill is reluctant to draw upon his defensive depth, Dreger thinks it could take moving “a pretty damn good prospect or a prospect and a draft pick.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A player-for-player swap isn’t impossible at this point in the season, but finding the right fit is an issue. As Dreger indicated, the unusually high number of teams with players on LTIR make it more difficult to swing a deal. With his club sinking in the standings, Botterill is under growing pressure to do something soon.
WILL THE LEAFS SEEK A BACKUP GOALTENDER?
TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran was asked if the Maple Leafs could also pursue a trade after bringing in Sheldon Keefe as their new head coach. He feels GM Kyle Dubas will want to evaluate the club’s performance under Keefe and give it until Christmas.
McGran points out the Leafs have extra forwards and need a backup goaltender. He feels Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry ($675K) would be a good fit under the Leafs’ limited salary-cap space, speculating the asking price could be one of a Leafs’ fourth-liners or scratches.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If that’s all it would cost for Jarry, I think that deal would’ve been made by now. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford isn’t in any hurry to move him, perhaps hoping to drive up the goalie’s trade value.
The Wild hire Bill Guerin as their new general manager, the Senators re-sign Colin White, the Islanders sign Derick Brassard and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild yesterday named Bill Guerin as their new general manager. Guerin spent 18 seasons as an NHL player and the past decade as an executive with the Pittsburgh Penguins, including the past five years as assistant GM.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild hope Guerin, a proven winner as a player and in management, can right the ship and change the culture after they missed the playoffs last season. He didn’t waste any time getting started, re-signing forward Joel Eriksson Ek to a two-year, $2.975-million contract.
Guerin must also re-sign restricted free agent winger Kevin Fiala. He must decide if defenseman Jared Spurgeon still has a future with the Wild as he enters the final season of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: White is considered a core player for the rebuilding Senators. The 22-year-old played 23 games between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Last season was his first full NHL campaign and he didn’t disappointed, tallying 41 points in 71 games to finish fifth among NHL rookies.
A swift, versatile two-way forward, White should prove worthy of his new contract over the next six years. Given his upside, this deal could turn into a bargain for the Sens.
NEW YORK POST: The New York Islanders yesterday signed center Derick Brassard to a one-year, $1.2-million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So much for recent speculation claiming Brassard was on the verge of joining the Edmonton Oilers. The Isles hope the 31-year-old will provide some much-needed depth at center on their bottom-six.
MILE HIGH HOCKEY: (stick tap to Shawn Lamba) cites a report out of Finland indicating Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen “is set to travel to Hamar, Norway next week to begin training with Storhamar of the GET league.” Rantanen reportedly intends to keep his options open if a new contract with the Avalanche isn’t in place when training camp opens next month. Meanwhile, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston believes a new contract with the Avs isn’t far off.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The site reports Rantanen is believed seeking an annual average value in the range of $10 million. There’s also speculation he could get a four-year deal worth around $9 million per season. We’ll find out soon enough when Rantanen is signed and for how much for how long.
TSN: cites The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reporting Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski seeks a three-year contract with an annual salary-cap hit around $5 million.
Hedger also said he’s heard Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Ivan Provorov’s camp has asked for $10 million per season, likely on a long-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Werenski probably thinks he’s not going to get more than Seth Jones’ $5.4 million AAV as Jones is a better all-around rearguard. As for Provorov, I’ll be stunned if the Flyers pay him $10 million annually. He’s a talented defenseman yet to reach his full potential but he’s not worth that much.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes are still awaiting word from winger Justin Williams if he’ll return for another season. GM Don Waddell said he doesn’t want to set a deadline for Williams to reach a decision but noted time is getting short. Williams, meanwhile, is visiting family in Northern Ontario and has “nothing to report.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wouldn’t surprise me if Williams makes his decision following the Labor Day weekend.
TSN: Former Washington Capitals winger Dmitrij Jaskin is expected to sign with the KHL’s Moscow Dynamo.
SPORTING NEWS: Mark Pavelich, a member of the 1980 USA “Miracle on Ice” team and a former NHL player, was arrested Monday for reportedly attacking a neighbor with a metal pole following a fishing trip.
The charges include “second- and third-degree assault, possession of an illegal shotgun and possessing a gun with a scratched off serial number.” Pavelich was ordered by a Minnesota judge to undergo a mental evaluation before standing trial.
Game recaps, injury updates, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 31-save shutout performance in a 4-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brayden Point scored twice for the Lightning. Earlier in the day, Vasilevskiy was named as the replacement for Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price in the 2019 NHL All-Star Game. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov picked up his 70th point of the season, becoming the fastest player to reach that number since Jaromir Jagr in 1999.
Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask picked up his 250th career NHL victory by blanking the Minnesota Wid 4-0. Teammates Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron each had a goal and two assists. Earlier in the day, the Wild recalled forward Joel Eriksson Ek.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask is now two wins away from tying Hall of Famer Tiny Thompson for the most career victories by a Bruins goaltender.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson extended his points streak to 14 games as his club thumped the Edmonton Oilers 7-2. Karlsson collected three assists while forwards Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi each scored two goals.
Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler had a four-point night (one goal, three assists) to lead his club to a 7-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, who’ve dropped seven of their last eight games. Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba each had a goal and two assists for the Jets while Gabriel Landeskog scored twice for the Avalanche.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche hold the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference. If they don’t snap out of their current funk soon, they’ll tumble out of playoff contention.
T.J. Oshie scored twice, including his 200th career goal, as the Washington Capitals downed the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3. The Flyers tied an NHL single-season record by starting a seventh goalie as Mike McKenna made 21 saves in a losing cause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers’ two-plus decades of failing to find or retain – hello there, Sergei Bobrovsky – a reliable starting goaltender has come home to roost in a big way this season. Addressing this issue must be the top priority of new general manager Chuck Fletcher.
Buffalo Sabres rookies C.J. Smith and Lawrence Pilut scored their first career NHL goals in a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Sabres winger Jeff Skinner tallied his 29th goal of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner sits one goal behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the league goal-scoring lead. He needs nine more goals to break his career high of 37.
The Carolina Hurricanes held off the New York Islanders 4-3 to pick up their fifth straight win while snapping the Isles’ six-game winning streak. Brock Nelson scored twice for the Islanders, who re-activated Valtteri Filppula off injured reserve and demoted winger Joshua Ho-Sang. With the loss, the Isles slipped one point out of the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ho-Sang continues to struggle to earn a full-time roster spot with the Islanders. I consider him a prime trade candidate, either at the deadline on Feb. 25 or during the offseason.
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray made 36 saves to pick up his eighth consecutive win as his club defeated the Florida Panthers 5-1. Sidney Crosby tallied his 20th of the season and Bryan Rust scored twice, including one of two shorthanded goals for the Penguins.
Antti Niemi kicked out 30 shots as the Montreal Canadiens edged the Detroit Red Wings 3-2, handing the latter their eighth loss in their last nine games. Tomas Tatar had two assists for the Canadiens while Andreas Athanasiou tallied twice for the Wings. Earlier in the day, Canadiens defenseman David Schlemko cleared waivers and was demoted to their AHL affiliate in Laval.
Tyler Seguin scored twice and set up another as the Dallas Stars downed the St. Louis Blues 3-1. Blues forward Alex Steen is expected to be sidelined for the remainder of January with an injured left shoulder.
The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their seventh straight victory by beating the New York Rangers 4-2. Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault snapped a seven-game goalless drought.
SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks placed center Elias Pettersson (knee sprain) on injured reserve. He’s expected to return in time for the All-Star Game in San Jose later this month.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz will miss the remainder of this season with a lower-body injury.
Second-round playoff opening dates confirmed, Messier Leadership Award nominees revealed, Francois Beauchemin to retire. Details and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The dates for the opening games of the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs have been revealed.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will face the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their series in Washington at 7 pm ET on Thursday, April 26, while Game 1 of the San Jose Sharks-Vegas Golden Knights series begins at 10 pm ET in Las Vegas.
Game 1 of the Nashville Predators- Winnipeg Jets series opens at 8 pm ET on Friday, April 27 in Nashville.
The Tampa Bay Lightning await tonight’s winner of Game 7 between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. If the Bruins win, the opening game will take place at 3 pm ET on Saturday, April 28 in Tampa Bay. If the Leafs advance, they’ll face the Lightning in Tampa Bay at 8 pm ET on Saturday.
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds and Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler are this year’s nominees for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
TSN: Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov is cleared to play in Game 7 tonight against the Bruins, but it remains to be seen he’ll be dressed for that contest. Komarov hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury in Game 2.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury) and Patric Hornqvist (upper-body) are listed as day-to-day heading into their series with the Capitals.
NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski played through an undisclosed injury suffered during a game against the Bruins on Oct. 30. Werenski wouldn’t say if the injury requires surgery.
NJ.COM: New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen admitted he suffered a concussion following a hit from Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov in Game 4 of their opening-round series. He missed Game 5 of that series and will continue working out and rehabbing in New Jersey until fully recovered.
CBS SPORTS: Minnesota Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek suffered an undisclosed minor injury during his club’s opening-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. He’s not expected to undergo surgery.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Former Coyotes captain Shane Doan is auctioning a signed jersey in an effort to support the families affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 16 people.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow this link if you want to bid for Doan’s jersey. As of 6 am ET today, the largest bid was $2,000.00. The auction concludes Friday.
98.5 FM SPORTS MONTREAL: After 14 seasons, long-time NHL defenseman Francois Beauchemin has announced his retirement. Beauchemin tallied 76 goals and 212 assists for 288 points in 903 regular-season games, adding 10 goals and 39 points in 101 playoff contests. He spent the bulk of his career with the Anaheim Ducks, winning a Stanley Cup with them in 2007.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Beauchemin and his family in his future endeavors.