NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2021

No changes yet for the Canucks, an update on Samuel Girard, and the latest on the Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NO CHANGES COMING FOR CANUCKS

TSN: Darren Dreger reported Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini met yesterday with general manager Jim Benning to discuss the club’s poor on-ice performance this season. However, there aren’t any changes coming to the Canucks, “at least not yet”, according to Dreger. It’s believed Aquilini will remain patient but the expectation is the results on the ice must change.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That isn’t going to stop speculation that Benning and head coach Travis Green are on thin ice. After reaching the playoffs in 2019-20, they got a mulligan for missing the postseason last season because of the shortened schedule, the outbreak of COVID-19 that decimated the roster in April and Elias Pettersson’s season-ending injury in March.

After a 3-2-1 start, the Canucks are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. They’re six points out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference and in danger of falling so far behind that they’ll be unable to make up the lost ground over the remainder of the season.

Aquilini’s patience will be tested if the Canucks fail to make significant improvement over the next two or three weeks. Another stretch like the last 10 games could spell the end for Benning and Green.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the Colorado Avalanche isn’t interested in shopping Samuel Girard. The 23-year-old defenseman is in the second season of a seven-year contract with an affordable $5 million annual average value.

LeBrun suspects the Girard trade chatter was a result of the Jack Eichel trade talk over the past few months. He said the Avalanche did inquire about Eichel but he doesn’t believe the talks got very far.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Girard trade speculation originated with The Denver Post’s Mark Chambers, who speculated the blueliner could become expendable with young Bowen Byram stepping up as a top-four rearguard. LeBrun doesn’t rule out the possibility of Girard getting moved if the Avalanche received an offer too good to refuse but said the club isn’t interested in moving him.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks examined what the Rangers could do to address the loss of forward Sammy Blais to a season-ending knee injury. They were already thin up front, especially after winger Vitali Kravtsov’s departure to Russia to await a trade.

Brooks wondered if they could interest the Los Angeles Kings in a swap of Kravtsov’s rights for recently demoted center Gabriel Vilardi. For now, he thinks general manager Chris Drury will look within his system to address the issue before turning to the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most general managers tend to look to within for replacements before seeing what’s available in the trade market. If there was interest in Kravtsov’s rights he would’ve been moved by now. The Kings don’t seem to be in any hurry to dangle Vilardi in the trade market.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 16, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – November 16, 2021

Could teams regret not pursuing Vladimir Tarasenko? Should the Canadiens try to acquire Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD TEAMS REGRET NOT PURSUING TARASENKO?

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz believes there are teams that should regret not making a push to acquire Vladimir Tarasenko from the St. Louis Blues after the 29-year-old winger requested a trade this summer.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

Gretz acknowledged there were some concerns over Tarasenko’s health following three shoulder surgeries in two years. He also had two seasons left on his contract with an annual average value of $7.5 million. However, Tarasenko has regained his high-scoring form with seven goals and 14 points in 14 games with the Blues.

The Seattle Kraken passed on selecting an unprotected Tarasenko in the expansion draft. The winger also submitted a 10-team list of preferred destinations that was believed to include the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Vegas Golden Knights, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. Gretz points out several of those clubs (Flyers, Bruins, Rangers) could’ve used Tarasenko.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of the general managers of those clubs could be kicking themselves over failing to pursue a Tarasenko trade this summer. Hindsight, as always, is 20/20. The concerns over Tarasenko’s shoulder were realistic while his contract (paying him a whopping $9.5 million in actual salary this season) was difficult for most of those clubs to absorb under a flattened salary cap.

Let’s not overlook the rumored high asking price of Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. He wasn’t going to just give Tarasenko away. A first-round pick, a top prospect and an affordable young forward with top-six potential were reportedly part of the sought-after package. Armstrong was also said to be unwilling to absorb any portion of the winger’s annual cap hit.

Tarasenko could still end up getting traded if the Blues should tumble out of playoff contention later in the season. That appears unlikely at this point. Interested clubs will likely have to wait until next summer to take another crack at pursuing Tarasenko, provided the winger hasn’t changed his mind about getting traded by then.

SHOULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE GIRARD?

TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie suggested the Montreal Canadiens could use a defenseman to improve their blueline shortcomings this season. Philippe Boucher agreed, proposing they look at acquiring Samuel Girard from the Colorado Avalanche. Girard recently surfaced in trade rumors following a report in The Denver Post suggesting the Avs could shop the 23-year-old rearguard.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several factors sparked the Girard speculation. He struggled during the Avalanche’s second-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights last spring. He had a slow start to this season while rookie Bowen Byram emerged as a top-four blueliner.

However, Byram’s recent concussion combined with an improved effort on Girard’s part highlighted the latter’s ongoing value to the Avalanche defense corps. That doesn’t mean he’s untradeable but it shows the Avs probably aren’t in any hurry to move him.

If Avalanche GM Joe Sakic dangles Girard in the trade market he’ll likely seek a top-six forward in return. Given the Canadiens’ offensive woes, there might not be a deal to be had there.










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 – November 8, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – November 8, 2021

Could the Avalanche shop a defenseman for a scorer? What the latest on the Senators? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers believes the strong performance by rookie defenseman Bowen Byram might explain why the Colorado Avalanche were among the suitors for Jack Eichel before the Buffalo Sabres traded the 25-year-old center to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard (NHL Images).

Chambers took note of Eichel telling Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman following his trade that at one point he thought he might be going to the Avalanche. He also speculated the Avs likely would’ve offered up defenseman Samuel Girard plus a top prospect or two and draft picks for Eichel but the Sabres likely would’ve wanted more.

Girard, 23, carries a $5 million annual salary-cap hit through 2026-27. Byram’s early-season play plus Devon Toews’ return from offseason shoulder surgery could’ve made it possible to dangle Girard in a package deal for Eichel. Chambers believes he’s still expendable if the Avs seek an elite forward or goaltender.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Girard also surfaced in the rumor mill earlier this year, Chambers and a couple of his Denver Post sportswriting colleagues suggested he could become an offseason trade candidate following the Avalanche’s disappointing second-round exit from the 2021 playoffs.

Despite trading away Ryan Graves last summer, the Avalanche still possesses a deep defense corps. If Byram continues to blossom, general manager Joe Sakic could consider using Girard as a trade chip to add a second-line scorer before the March 21 trade deadline. He lacks no-trade protection and could interest teams in need of a skillful young puck-moving blueliner.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Ian Mendes was asked why the Ottawa Senators sent promising defenseman Erik Brannstrom to their AHL affiliate to start the season. He felt it was done because he was waiver-exempt and they needed to move a body.

Mendes believes Brannstrom is frustrated and that could be why he changed agents. His sense of the situation is the young blueliner hasn’t requested a trade and he doesn’t think the Senators are shopping him. His guess is Brannstrom will either be playing with the Senators following the trade deadline or he’ll be dealt away. This is his last season with waiver-exempt status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mendes felt the Senators need to know what they’ve got in Brannstrom or risk losing him to waivers next fall. He believes they want to give him a legitimate shot on their roster. Still, it could be worth monitoring Brannstrom’s situation.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 26, 2021

T.J. Oshie and Drake Batherson get dueling hat tricks in high-scoring Capitals-Senators game, the Panthers, Hurricanes and Blues remain undefeated, the Sabres upset the Lightning and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Washington Capitals defeated the Ottawa Senators 7-5 in a wild game that saw Washington’s T.J. Oshie and Ottawa’s Drake Batherson each tally a hat trick. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice to move within four goals of Brett Hull (741) for fourth place among the all-time goal leaders. With seven goals, he takes over the goal-scoring lead from Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. The Capitals led 4-1 at one point but the Senators stormed back to tie it in the second period to make it interesting before the Caps regained the lead.

Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie (NHL Images).

Jonathan Huberdeau, Sam Bennett and Brandon Montour had two-point performances and Joe Thornton scored his first goal of the season as the Florida Panthers beat the Arizona Coyotes 5-3. The Panthers take over first place in the overall standings with a 6-0-0 record. Coyotes goalie Carter Hutton and defenseman Conor Timmins both left the game with lower-body injuries.

Carolina Hurricanes goaltenders Frederik Andersen made 24 saves against his former team to backstop his club over the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1. Andrei Svechnikov and Jaccob Slavin each had two points for the Hurricanes, who remain unbeaten at 5-0-0. Auston Matthews tallied his first of the season (the 200th goal of his career) for the slumping Leafs, whose record drops to 2-4-1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of unhappiness in Leafs Nation as their club’s early-season woes are drawing comparison to their similar difficulties two years ago. That led to a November coaching change as Sheldon Keefe replace Mike Babcock. Could Keefe face a similar fate if the Leafs fail to reverse their fortunes? Stay tuned…

Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals and Ville Husso turned in a 34-save shutout as the St. Louis Blues blanked the Los Angeles Kings 3-0. The Blues extended their record to 5-0-0.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues, Hurricanes and Panthers join the Edmonton Oilers as the only clubs to remain unbeaten through their first five games of the season. It’s the first time in league history four teams begin the season with records of at least 5-0-0.

The Buffalo Sabres stunned the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-1. Craig Anderson made 35 saves for the win while Victor Olofsson scored twice for the Sabres, who maintain their surprising hot start with a 4-1-1 record. The Lightning are still without winger Nikita Kucherov, who could be sidelined for another eight weeks by a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning definitely miss Kucherov’s offense but other factors are also behind their stumbling start. Their forward depth was depleted by this summer’s departures of Tyler Johnston, Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow. A shortened offseason also gave them less time than most clubs to rest and prepare for this season.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made 31 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. On his way to pre-game warmups, Merzlikins was heckled by a Stars fan making a negative comment about the death of his close friend Matiss Kivlenieks, who was killed in a fireworks accident in July. “I was expecting a shutout because I believe in karma,” said Merzlikins. “There is some stupid people in this world. That was really, really bad what happened in the tunnel when I was walking out. There was a fan from Dallas who (provoked) me about Matiss.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are some disgusting people in this world whose lives are so pathetic that their only source of joy is trying to incite sadness or anger in other people. Good on Merlikins for not letting that douchebag’s remarks knock him off his game.

A 28-save shutout by Jacob Markstrom and two goals from Andrew Mangiapane carried to the Calgary Flames to a 5-1 win over the New York Rangers. Blake Coleman and Mikael Backlund each had a goal and two assists for the Flames, who’ve now won three straight games.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, and New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Oct. 24, 2021.

YARDBARKER: The Vegas Golden Knights have moved Max Pacioretty (fractured foot) from injured reserve to long-term IR.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The move provides the Golden Knights some flexibility to call up a player or acquire one via trade. However, they must become cap compliant when Pacioretty returns to the lineup.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed defenseman Kris Letang tested positive for COVID-19 and remains in COVID protocol.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury after being checked awkwardly into the board by the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos on Saturday.

NBC SPORTS: The New Jersey Devils confirmed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine last week. He’ll have to continue following league protocols for unvaccinated players until two weeks after his second dose.

TSN: New York Islanders goaltender Cory Schneider hit the waiver wire yesterday. Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks placed forward Alexander Volkov on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract.

THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE: Former NHL player Colin Wilson opens up about his addiction to drugs, including cocaine and prescription drugs. He cited the recent death of Jimmy Hayes motivating him to come clean about his addiction.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a difficult but invaluable story that everyone should read. Wilson’s tale will hopefully motivate other players with addictions to seek help and perhaps provoke more positive change with the NHL toward addressing this issue.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 14, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 14, 2021

Could the Avalanche let Gabriel Landeskog walk via free agency? Could they shop Samuel Girard? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST AVALANCHE SPECULATION

THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers, Mark Kiszla and Ryan O’Halloron discussed possible offseason moves for the Colorado Avalanche following their second-round elimination by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Could the Colorado Avalanche part ways with Gabriel Landeskog? (NHL Images)

They mused over Gabriel Landeskog’s future with the club following his disappointing performance against the Golden Knights. Chambers speculates the Avs could offer their captain a “take it or leave it” offer of $5 million annually and not at his preferred term. O’Halloran believes a “bad team with salary-cap space” like the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks seeking a “heart-and-guts leader like Landeskog” will give him an offer he can’t or won’t refuse.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic faces some difficult decisions this summer. Cap Friendly indicates he has $61.7 million invested in 18 players with Landeskog, goaltender Philipp Grubauer and winger Brandon Saad as unrestricted free agents and defenseman Cale Makar a restricted free agent.

The Avs will get some additional cap space when they lose a player to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft but it will still be expensive to re-sign those four. They can’t afford to lose Grubauer to free agency and Makar will get a hefty raise as a Norris Trophy finalist.

How much Landeskog wants will determine if he still has a future in Colorado. Chambers’ pitch of $5 million annually would probably ensure his departure.

Samuel Girard also had a difficult series against the Golden Knights. The 23-year-old defenseman is earning $5 million annually through 2025-26. Kiszla suggests Sakic check Girard’s value in the trade market, pointing out they have enough blue-line “wizardry” with Makar. O’Halloran thinks Sakic will listen to offers as the Avs need cap flexibility for Makar’s new contract. If they keep Girard, O’Halloran believes they need to add a defenseman like Jamie Oleksiak to give him the space he needs to use his puck-moving skills.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving Girard to free up some cap space makes sense, but it could also deplete their defense corps if they lose an unprotected defenseman (like perhaps Ryan Graves) in the expansion draft. If they trade Girard they could promote from within or perhaps look for an affordable physical defender.

If Sakic decides to make a blockbuster move, Chambers believes he should target a third-line power forward similar to Vegas’ Alex Tuch and “a big, heavy defenseman”. Kiszla proposed offering Girard to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones, though he admitted the Jackets could be hesitant to do that deal. O’Halloran proposed pursuing Buffalo’s Jack Eichel but also suggested more realistic options like Montreal’s Phillip Danault or Toronto’s Nick Foligno.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic has shown in the past his willingness to make big moves. We can’t discount he’ll make a big deal or two this summer to address his club’s needs.

Trading for Jones seemed like a bad idea given the Avs’ blueline depth. But if they lose Graves and decide to trade Girard, perhaps pursuing the Jacket defenseman wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Sakic could consider signing Danault or Foligno via free agency but he could seek better options in the trade market.