Fox could be eyeing a deal comparable to the $9 million AAV Cale Makar signed this summer with the Colorado Avalanche. Promising winger Kaapo Kakko is also slated for RFA status next summer.
NEW YORK POST: Before the Zibanejad signing, Larry Brooks was skeptical of the Rangers acquiring Eichel. On Oct. 9, he suggested the only way the Blueshirts could afford Eichel and Zibanejad was if the Buffalo Sabres absorbed 40 to 50 percent of the 24-year-old center’s $10 million annual cap hit.
Brooks dismissed the likelihood of Sabres owner Terry Pegula agreeing to that. He believed Pegula would prefer shipping Eichel anywhere else but the Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers aren’t acquiring Jack Eichel unless Zibanejad’s new contract is part of some elaborate “sign-and-trade” deal by general manager Chris Drury. Otherwise, they’ll have to shed $10 million in cap space to fit Eichel’s cap hit within their payroll. Doing that would weaken their depth.
Cap Friendly shows the Rangers with over $62 million invested in 16 players for 2022-23 with Fox, Kakko, Alexandar Georgiev and Ryan Strome among their notable free agents. Fox and Kakko are coming off their entry-level contracts and lack arbitration rights. Georgiev has arbitration rights while Strome is a UFA.
I don’t see the Rangers taking the hard-line with Fox. He’ll get at least $9 million, maybe more after winning the Norris Trophy last season. That will push the Rangers’ cap payroll to over $71 million with $11 million remaining for the others. They can likely afford most of them but it could be expensive to find a suitable replacement for Strome if he hits the open market.
OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren believes Senators GM Pierre Dorion will take a close look at the waiver wire to see if he can add another center with Colin White on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: He could also go the trade route for help, perhaps by targeting a cap-strapped club.
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks don’t have to worry about losing Alex Nylander through waivers. He’d been previously designated as waiver-eligible but Cap Friendly now indicates he’s exempt because he was sidelined throughout last season. He still needs another pro season or 53 NHL games to be waiver-eligible.
Connor McDavid wins both MVP awards as the remainder of the major individual player awards are announced, the First and Second Team All-Stars revealed, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay Award as league MVP as voted by the NHLPA membership. It’s the second time he’s won the Hart and the third time he’s taken home the Lindsay Award.
McDavid became just the second player in NHL history to receive 100 percent of the first-place votes for the Hart. The last player to do so was Wayne Gretzky in 1981-82.
New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s top blueliner. He’s the first Ranger to do so since Brian Leetch in 1996-97.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury took home his first Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder. He’s the first goalie in Golden Knights history to win the Vezina.
Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year. He’s the first player in Wild history to win this award.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to all the winners for their well-deserved honors during an unusual season.
The NHL’s First All-Star Team for 2020-21 includes Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, defensemen Adam Fox of the Rangers and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche, Oilers center Connor McDavid, Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner and Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand.
The Second All-Star Team features Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defensemen Victor Hedman of the Lightning and Dougie Hamilton of the Carolina Hurricanes, Leafs center Auston Matthews, Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen and Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau.
The NHL’s All-Rookie Team for 2020-21 features Hurricanes netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, defensemen K’Andre Miller of the Rangers and Ty Smith of the New Jersey Devils, and forwards Kirill Kaprizov of the Wild, Josh Norris of the Ottawa Senators and Jason Robertson of the Dallas Stars.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber was fined $5,000.00 for slashing Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens are asking the Quebec government to allow 50 percent capacity (10,500 fans) for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Friday.
NHL.COM: Lightning winger Alex Killorn is questionable for Game 2 tonight after leaving Game 1 in the third period with a suspected leg injury.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have named Don Granato as their head coach, signing him to a three-year contract. Granato took over on an interim basis midway through this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres showed obvious improvement after Granato replaced Ralph Krueger. It’ll be interesting to see how the players respond to his coaching over the course of a full 82-game schedule. This club’s constant changes behind the bench in recent years have contributed to their ongoing mediocrity.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers have hired former NHL player Tuomo Ruutu as an assistant coach. Ruutu spent the past two seasons with the New York Rangers and was their assistant director of player development last season.
THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets will hire Sylvain Lefebvre as an assistant coach. He’s spent the past nine seasons coaching in the AHL.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes have reportedly done extensive vetting of Ottawa 67s head coach Andre Tourigny. They’re seeking a new bench boss after parting ways with Rick Tocchet last month.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed winger Wayne Simmonds to a two-year contract extension with an annual average value of $900K.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A two-year deal seems a little long for a player who didn’t have as big an impact as hoped when he joined the Leafs this season. Part of the reason was a broken wrist he suffered in February. If Simmonds doesn’t work out they can bury the full value of his contract in the minors.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed goaltender Jonas Johansson to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche backup Pavel Francouz is under contract for next season with a $2 million cap hit. He missed the entire season with to a lower-body injury that required surgery in April. Francouz is expected to be healthy for next season but Johansson will be insurance should he become sidelined again.
TORONTO STAR: TSN’s Ray Ferraro and Sportsnet’s Cassie Campbell-Pascall have joined ESPN’s NHL broadcasting team. Both will continue at their current networks while doing their new ESPN gigs.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks have officially announced their AHL affiliation deal with Abbotsford, BC. The new deal is for five years with options for renewal that could run as long as 20 years.
PORTLAND PRESS-HERALD: The Maine Mariners are expected to announce today that they will become the ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins.
COVID-19 strikes the Stars and Blue Jackets, plus updates on Henrik Lundqvist, Corey Crawford and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars’ training facilities are closed indefinitely and the club’s practices canceled after six players and two staff tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL is revising the Stars’ regular-season schedule with the expectation the club won’t be able to play until Jan. 19 at the earliest. That means their season-opener on Jan. 14 and their following two games (Jan. 15 and Jan. 17) will be rescheduled.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars and the league haven’t revealed which players tested positive for the coronavirus. The report noted forwards Jason Robertson, Joel L’Esperance and Tye Felhaber and defensemen Joel Hanley were missing from the Stars’ last practice but it’s unknown if those absences were injury- or illness-related.
While the Stars’ facilities are closed indefinitely they could reopen soon. As the report observed, the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning had several players test positive before the start of the 2020 playoffs, but their facilities opened several days later.
Despite the NHL’s health and safety protocols, it was inevitable COVID-19 would make its presence felt. Unlike the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the upcoming regular season isn’t being held in hub cities under strict quarantine conditions.
The coronavirus also affected Major League Baseball and the National Football League this season but those leagues managed to complete their seasons. This outbreak won’t prevent the start of the NHL’s overall schedule, but it means the Stars’ 56-game schedule has become more compressed.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday held 17 players out of practice for precautionary reasons. Most were regular roster players, including team captain Nick Foligno, forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Max Domi and defensemen Seth Jones, Vladislav Gavrikov and David Savard. The Jackets didn’t indicate if any of the absent players had tested positive for COVID-19.
Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll find out during this weekend if those players will remain sidelined and if the Jackets will be carrying on with their practice sessions. Their season-opener is Jan. 14. The report observed the Jackets dealt with an outbreak last month during small-group workouts that closed their practice facilities for a week.
NHL.COM: Henrik Lundqvist took to social media on Friday to report he is recovering well from his recent five-hour open-heart surgery. Lundqvist had signed with the Washington Capitals but his heart condition sidelined him for the entire season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to King Henrik for a swift and full recovery.
NJ.COM: Corey Crawford is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the New Jersey Devils for personal reasons. The 36-year-old goalie signed a two-year deal with the Devils in October. There’s no timeline for his return. The Devils are expected to turn to Scott Wedgewood as Mackenzie Blackwood’s backup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping things are okay for Crawford and his family and he returns to action soon.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Riley Sheahan to a one-year, $700K contract. Sheahan was attending Sabres’ training camp on a professional tryout offer.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brendan Guhle suffered a sprained right knee during a collision with another player. He’ll be sidelined for six weeks.
CAP FRIENDLY: Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, New York Rangers blueliner Adam Fox, Pittsburgh Penguins rearguard John Marino, Washington Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov and Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk are among several players within five games of losing their waiver-exempt status.
ESPN.COM: Long-time Pittsburgh Penguins play-by-play man Mike Lange, 72, is sitting out the start of the 2020-21 season as a precaution due to COVID-19.
TSN: The province of Manitoba has given approval for the Winnipeg Jets to stage games in their home arena.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams have the approval of their respective provinces to play in their home cities this season.
THE MERCURY NEWS: Growing number of COVID-19 cases in California’s Santa Clara County is casting doubt on whether the San Jose Sharks can return to the SAP Center early next month as scheduled. The Sharks are starting the season on the road because of the county’s current restrictions on sporting events.