NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 29, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 29, 2021

Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi signs an offer sheet from the Hurricanes. Check out the details plus the latest on Sidney Crosby, Mitch Marner and Gerard Gallant in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed a one-year, $6, 100,015 million offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canadiens have seven days to match the offer. If they don’t, the 21-year-old Kotkaniemi joins the Hurricanes and the Habs get the Canes’ first-round pick and their third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft as compensation.

The Carolina Hurricanes sign Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet (NHL Images).

The 15 dollars tacked on to the end of the $6.1 million represents Kotkaniemi’s jersey number with the Canadiens. This offer sheet also includes a $20 dollar signing bonus. That number represents Sebastien Aho’s jersey number. The Canadiens attempted to sign him to an offer sheet two years ago but the Hurricanes matched it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes’ Twitter feed took great delight in trolling the Canadiens once the offer sheet signing was announced. That included issuing a bilingual statement that was almost word-for-word what Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said when he signed Aho to his offer sheet.

The revenge angle and the Hurricanes’ joyful spite provided considerable entertainment for some and annoyance over its pettiness from others. I’m more interested in the effect of this signing upon both clubs.

Kotkaniemi would become the second-highest paid forward on the Canadiens if they match the offer. While he has considerable promise, his play to date isn’t worth $6.1 million. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes the Habs were talking a two-year deal in the $2.5 million per season range. TVASports’ Renaud Lavoie said $2.2 million annually was the highest suggestion he heard of Kotkaniemi’s worth from sources around the league.

This contract would create a salary-cap headache for the Canadiens. Cap Friendly shows them already above the $81.5 million by over $2.2 million. They can exceed the cap by 10 percent ($89.65 million) during the offseason but must be cap-compliant when the season begins. However, they’ll be allowed to go over the cap by $7.857 million if Shea Weber goes on long-term injury reserve as expected for 2021-22 ($89.357 million). They can exceed it by an additional $3.4 million by putting Paul Byron (hip surgery) on LTIR but would have to free up some space once he returns to action in the new year.

Kotkaniemi’s new salary would also affect the Habs cap payroll for 2022-23. It would cost $6.1 million to qualify his rights. That’s assuming, of course, he plays well enough to earn that type of deal.

The Canadiens already have $69.2 million invested in 12 players for next season, with Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov and Jake Evans as restricted free agents. They could attempt to negotiate a longer-term deal with Kotkaniemi for less than $6.1 million but it would probably still be well over $5 million annually. They could get over $7.8 million in relief if necessary should Weber wind up on LTIR again, but it would still be a cap complication the Habs don’t need.

Do the Canadiens even want to match? Kotkaniemi signing that offer sheet suggests an unhappiness with his role and his contract talks with the Canadiens. If the Habs don’t match, however, his departure will leave them thin at center following Phillip Danault’s decamping for Los Angeles via free agency. 

The joy of revenge aside for the Hurricanes, this is a bit of gamble for them. The Athletic’s Sara Civian indicates this move puts them over the cap by $1.5 million, but she suggested freeing up cap space by trading defenseman Jake Gardiner or someone claims him off waivers. GM Don Waddell undoubtedly has something in mind to address that issue but it remains to be seen if Gardiner is that solution.

Kotkaniemi’s consistency issues could follow him to Carolina. That would leave the Canes with a $6.1 million mistake on their books (albeit for just one year) plus the loss of two picks in next year’s draft.

They’ll also face the $6.1 million qualifying offer, though Friedman believes this offer sheet was made with the knowledge that Kotkaniemi’s next contract would be long term for less money. However, would it really be worth it if he doesn’t crack their top-six next season or show the potential to do so?

Some are already questioning this move, suggesting Carolina would’ve been better off using that $6.1 million to keep Dougie Hamilton rather than lose him for nothing to free agency. That criticism will grow louder if Kotkaniemi doesn’t play up to his salary for this season.

Other interesting factors could be in play here as we await the Canadiens’ decision. I’ll have more in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup. Meanwhile, here’s the rest of today’s notable headlines.

THE ATHLETIC‘s Rob Rossi observes Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby is wearing the captain’s “C” on Team Canada’s Winter Olympics’ promotional media.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rossi noted that it hasn’t been confirmed Crosby will be Canada’s captain in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Nevertheless, it’s a safe bet he’ll get that honor.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox believes Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner will face intense scrutiny this season following the club’s first-round collapse to Montreal in the 2021 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marner bore the brunt of fan and media criticism for his underwhelming postseason play. For the first time, he’ll be facing a much harsher spotlight in Toronto. 

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Gerard Gallant will bring a physical edge to the New York Rangers in his first season as their head coach. However, Gallant said they’re not plotting revenge on Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson in their season opener. Wilson manhandled Artemi Panarin and now-former Ranger Pavel Buchnevich in a game last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting tougher isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s doesn’t overshadow the club’s skill. If they waste time chasing Wilson it will throw them off their game.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2021

The Golden Knights defeat the Canadiens in the opening game of their semifinal series, the Rangers hire Gerard Gallant as head coach, the Hurricanes allow Dougie Hamilton to speak with other clubs, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for his 90th career playoff win in a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their semifinal series. Defensemen provided the bulk of the scoring for Vegas with Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Nick Holden tallying three of their four goals. Cole Caufield replied for Montreal with his first career playoff tally. Game 2 goes Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights withstood a good start by Montreal, scored the opening goal, and took control of the game in the second period. Canadiens goalie Carey Price played well and made some big saves, but three of the four goals against him resulted from the Golden Knights’ moving him side-to-side with their quick puck movement. The Habs successfully killed four penalties but that disrupted their game plan, which the Golden Knights exploited to their advantage.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers have hired Gerard Gallant as their new head coach. The 2018 Jack Adams Award winner recently guided Canada to a gold medal at the World Championships in Latvia.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallant has a proven body of work as an NHL head coach. He’s taking over a Rangers club laden with good young talent and a promising future.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the Carolina Hurricanes have granted permission to Dougie Hamilton to speak with other clubs. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. This could set the stage for a potential sign-and-trade scenario, though it also allows Hamilton the opportunity to return to the Hurricanes if he doesn’t receive better offers on the open market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman observes, this is an interesting maneuver by Hamilton and the Hurricanes. Prior to the extension of the CBA last year, pending UFAs were allowed several weeks to speak with interested clubs before the free-agent market opened. That’s no longer the case. It’ll be interesting to see if others teams will follow this example. I’ll have more on Hamilton’s situation in today’s Rumor Mill.

NHL.COM: Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is this year’s winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.

NEW YORK POST: Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom is almost fully recovered from the lower-body injury suffered during their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he may have to wait to get back into the lineup as Travis Zajac has done a good job in his stead.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – June 9, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 9, 2021

Dougie Hamilton’s contract status is the Hurricanes’ offseason priority, the Kings seek two top-six forwards, and the latest on the Rangers’ search for a head coach in today’s rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE HURRICANES?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan considers it crucial for the Carolina Hurricanes to re-sign Dougie Hamilton, pointing out their defense is built around him and Jaccob Slavin. The 27-year-old blueliner is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Hamilton’s outplayed his current $5.75 million annual cap hit. While there’s mutual interest in a new deal, the two sides tabled contract negotiations until after this season. Kaplan speculates he could get as much as $8.5 million per season on the open market but the Hurricanes could be uncomfortable going that high.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock isn’t optimistic about the Hurricanes’ chances of re-signing Hamilton. He believes the rearguard has “almost certainly played his last game” for the Canes. The same goes for pending UFAs such as Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn and Petr Mrazek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap could limit the number of teams willing to get into a bidding war for Hamilton’s services in this summer’s free-agent market. Nevertheless, there will be a team that will pay him over $8 million annually if the Hurricanes won’t do it.

The emergence of rookie goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic likely spells the end of Mrazek’s tenure with the Hurricanes. James Reimer is also a UFA this summer but it wouldn’t be surprising if he returned as Nedeljkovic’s backup.

Kaplan also considers re-signing head coach Rod Brind’Amour a priority. Sources indicate the two sides are believed to have the framework of a deal in place. However, Brind’Amour also wants his three assistant coaches taken care of as well. She also believes they could lose Brady Skjei, Warren Foegele or Morgan Geekie to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeCock believes Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon would be insane to let Brind’Amour depart. I can see Hamilton hitting the free-agent market but not Brind’Amour, who’d be quickly snapped up by another club.

KINGS SEEKING TWO TOP-SIX FORWARDS

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Los Angeles Kings could attempt to acquire two top-six forwards via this summer’s trade or free-agent markets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no indication as to who the Kings could target. Unrestricted free agent options include Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boston’s Taylor Hall, Toronto’s Zach Hyman, Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz, Colorado’s Brandon Saad, and the New York Islanders’ Kyle Palmieri.

I spoke with John Hoven of the Kings’ site Mayor’s Manor yesterday about Dreger’s report. He believes they’re seeking established scorers around 27 years old on short-term contracts of two-three years.

That would mean they won’t become a suitor for Buffalo Sabres’ center Jack Eichel. Maybe they’d have an interest in Eichel’s teammate Sam Reinhart? We’ll find out who’s on their radar in the coming weeks.

LATEST ON THE RANGERS COACHING SEARCH

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Gerard Gallant remains the favorite to become the new head coach of the Rangers. However, general manager Chris Drury is waiting to see if there is fallout from the second round of the playoffs that could make another candidate or two available.

Brooks believes the Rangers will watch Rod Brind’Amour’s contract negotiations with the Hurricanes. It’s believed those two sides were discussing a deal worth $1.8 million annually. Brind’Amour could be in line for $4 million per season with the Rangers but a source told Brooks he’d become the Seattle Kraken’s top choice if he goes to market.

The Blueshirts are also monitoring Paul Maurice’s situation with the Winnipeg Jets and Bruce Cassidy’s with the Boston Bruins. There’s talk Jared Bednar’s job as coach of the Colorado Avalanche could be in jeopardy if they fall to the Golden Knights but it’s not clear if he’d become a candidate for the Rangers’ job.

Former Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet remains a viable candidate after creating a favorable impression with Drury following two interviews with the Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallant is probably atop most coaching wish lists this summer. He’ll land an NHL head-coaching gig this summer, be it the Rangers or another club. Brind’Amour would also be pursued by a number of clubs if the Hurricanes are foolish enough to let him walk.

Maurice has been the Jets’ bench boss for seven seasons but there’s no indication the Jets intend to shake things up behind the bench. I don’t think Cassidy will lose his job if the Bruins fall to the Islanders.

Bednar’s done a fine job in Colorado but his coaching of the Avs has come under criticism during their current series with the Golden Knights. It’ll be interesting to see what GM Joe Sakic does if his club fails to advance.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 14, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 14, 2021

The Colorado Avalanche clinch the Presidents’ Trophy, the opening-round schedule of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is released, plus the latest on Nikita Kucherov, John Carlson, Patrick Marleau and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for the best regular-season record by defeating the Los Angeles Kings 5-1. Tyson Jost scored twice for the Avalanche, who’ll face the St. Louis Blues in the opening round of the upcoming 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Colorado Avalanche win the 2020-21 NHL Presidents’ Trophy (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Avalanche on winning their first Presidents’ Trophy in 20 years.

Speaking of the Blues, they completed their regular-season schedule by overcoming a 3-0 deficit to thump the Minnesota Wild 7-3. David Perron, Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou each scored two goals. The Wild will face off against the Vegas Golden Knights in the opening round.

The Calgary Flames downed the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. Earlier in the day, the Canucks confirmed sidelined center Elias Pettersson (upper-body injury) will miss their remaining games of this season but he’s working hard on a healthy return for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks still aren’t revealing the details of Pettersson’s injury but it’s believed to involve a wrist or hand.

The full schedule for the opening round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs was released Thursday.

It kicks off on Saturday, May 15 with the Boston Bruins facing off against the Washington Capitals. Sunday, May 16, sees the New York Islanders squaring off against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tampa Bay Lightning tangle with the Florida Panthers, and the Minnesota Wild squaring off against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Monday, May 17 features the Nashville Predators facing the Carolina Hurricanes while the St. Louis Blues meet the Colorado Avalanche. Wednesday, May 19 sees the start of the Winnipeg Jets-Edmonton Oilers series while Thursday, May 20 features the start of the Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs series.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and winger Nikita Kucherov practiced with their teammates on Thursday and are expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 of their series against the Panthers. Stamkos missed the final 16 games of the regular season with a lower-body injury while Kucherov missed the entire season following hip surgery on Dec. 29.

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson said he’ll be ready for his club’s upcoming series against the Boston Bruins. He missed the final two games of the regular season with a lower-body injury.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Patrick Marleau plans to return for a 24th NHL season and isn’t ruling out coming back to the San Jose Sharks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 41-year-old Marleau set the NHL record this season for most career games. This season was also statistically the worst of his career with just nine points in 56 games. If the Sharks don’t bring him back he could end up seeking a training camp tryout with another club.

THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE: Tyler Toffoli has embraced life with the Montreal Canadiens following his tenures with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. He cited the Montreal fans and the atmosphere at the Bell Centre among his reasons for signing with the Canadiens last fall and looks forward to when fans can return to the building.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli said he wants what Montreal fans want: winning the Stanley Cup. He praised his teammates, singling out Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. He also revealed he thought he would re-sign with the Canucks last fall but they never made him a contract offer.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers have received permission to interview former Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant for their vacant head-coaching job. Meanwhile, Brian Leetch resigned as the Rangers’ hockey operations adviser.

Former New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk has taken on a coaching and advisory role with the club. Boychuk’s career was prematurely ended by an eye injury last season.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks are being sued by a former player for alleged sexual assault in 2010 by their former video coach.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 1, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 1, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we take a look at the recent speculation over the futures of several head coaches.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently examined what the future could hold for several NHL coaches on expiring contracts or holding interim roles.

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour (NHL.com).

LeBrun believes the Carolina Hurricanes will sign Rod Brind’Amour to a new contract, citing team owner Tom Dundon’s recent reiteration that a deal will get done. His next contract could be worth over $2 million per season but reaching an agreement isn’t a slam dunk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also reported the negotiations between the Hurricanes and Brind’Amour were more of a grind than expected. Like LeBrun, Friedman doesn’t see Brind’Amour moving on but the talks turned out to be more of a challenge.

I’ll be shocked if the Hurricanes fail to re-sign Brind’Amour. It’s no coincidence they rose to become a league powerhouse during his tenure behind the bench. Letting him walk would be a huge blunder on their part.

LeBrun chided the Vancouver Canucks for allowing head coach Travis Green to enter this season on an expiring contract as it garnered unwanted media attention. He believes they want to bring him back and suggested there could be news on that front sooner rather than later.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman also weighed in on Green’s contract status, saying he expects negotiations will get serious soon. Canucks general manager Jim Benning’s most recent comments indicated there was nothing new to report. Perhaps those discussions pick up later this month once the regular season ends.

Turning to the Arizona Coyotes, LeBrun speculates general manager Bill Armstrong could replace Rick Tocchet with his own bench boss. Armstrong inherited Tocchet when he took over last fall as GM.

As for the Detroit Red Wings, LeBrun doesn’t know if Jeff Blashill will return or not. Blashill has earned the opportunity to return but there could also be time for a fresh voice behind the bench.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tocchet and Blashill did the best they could in difficult situations with rebuilding clubs. They’ve earned the right to return but their respective general managers could see things differently. They shouldn’t have much difficulty finding other NHL coaching gigs if they depart from their current jobs.

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t tip his hand as to what’s in store for head coach John Tortorella in a recent interview with LeBrun. This could come down to what Kekalainen feels is right as much as what Tortorella feels like doing. It could be headed for a split.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been some speculation suggesting Tortorella could test the market this summer. I think the Jackets are ready for a change behind the bench. While “Torts” did a good job with them through most of his tenure it seemed like the players were getting weary of his system this year. Wingers Patrik Laine and Max Domi struggled throughout this season, raising more questions about Tortorella’s future in Columbus.

The Seattle Kraken and Buffalo Sabres are searching for a head coach. Gerard Gallant would be an obvious choice for the Kraken. Brind’Amour, Tocchet or Green could also fit the criteria.

If the Montreal Canadiens reach the playoffs, Dominique Ducharme could have his interim tag lifted.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun noted Kraken GM Ron Francis wanted to be patient making his coaching selection to see who might become available after this season. Sabres GM Kevyn Adams seems to be following suit.

I still think Gallant would be the best choice for the Kraken but Brind’Amour could jump to the top of the list if he and the Hurricanes fail to work out a deal. Francis and Brind’Amour were teammates and associated during their days in Carolina.

Making the playoffs might not be enough for Ducharme to become the Canadiens’ full-time bench boss. They’ll have to at least win their opening-round series to make that happen. Getting swept by the Leafs could spell the end of Ducharme’s tenure and perhaps that of Marc Bergevin as the Habs’ GM.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 29, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 29, 2021

Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot, Joe Thornton reaches an assists milestone, Connor McDavid has another multi-point game and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team in the Scotia North Division to clinch a playoff spot by dropping the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. Joe Thorton reached a milestone by collecting his 1,100th career NHL assist while Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 35th goal of the season. The Leafs sit atop the division with 67 points while the Canadiens are in fourth place with 51 points. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens announced Jonathan Drouin was taking an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton is just the seventh player in league history to reach 1,100 assists. Paul Coffey sits in sixth place with 1,135. With 1,524 points, Thornton is only seven behind Coffey (1,531) for 13th on the all-time list.

Drouin’s faced criticism from fans and pundits (myself included) for his play this season. We don’t know why he’s taken this leave of absence and it’s none of our business. Here’s hoping he gets whatever assistance is needed to help him cope with his situation and return to action.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected three assists in a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyson Barrie each had a goal and an assist as the Oilers (60 points) sit three points ahead of the Jets for second place in the North. The Jets have lost five straight games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has a league-leading 84 points with nine games left in the season. He’s scoring at a pace not seen since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. At his current rate of production, he could still reach 100 points. 

The Vegas Golden Knights extended their winning streak to 10 games by downing the Colorado Avalanche 5-2. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty led the way with three points each for the Golden Knights (72 points), opening a six-point lead over the second-place Avalanche in the Honda West Division.

Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas rallied the St. Louis Blues over the Minnesota Wild 4-3. Hoffman scored twice for the Blues (50 points) as they opened a three-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes for fourth place in the West. The Wild (65 points) saw their seven-game win streak snapped. They remain one point behind the Avalanche.

Speaking of the Coyotes, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks. Evander Kane tallied his 20th goal of the season.

The Ottawa Senators rode a four-goal second period to a 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Brady Tkachuk led the way for the Senators with a “Gordie Howe hat trick”.

Cam Fowler scored the game-winner as the Anaheim Ducks edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. The Ducks, however, are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Kings center Quinton Byfield recorded four shots on goal in his NHL debut.

THE SCORE: Former NHL coach Gerard Gallant was named head coach of Team Canada at the 2021 World Championships.