Check out the latest on Jonathan Toews, Connor McDavid, Matthew Tkachuk, Nikolaj Ehlers and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE ATHLETIC: in an exclusive interview with Mark Lazerus, Jonathan Toews acknowledged he’s probably a COVID “long hauler” given the tell-tale signs of a bout with the coronavirus in February 2020 before the pandemic became widespread. Combined with the cumulative effect of his long NHL career, it led to the symptoms of a mysterious illness that cost him a year, including the entirety of the 2020-21 season.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (NHL Images).
Toews’ doctors initially believed his condition was due to chronic immune response syndrome. Feeling rejuvenated, he intends on returning to action this season. He also said he doesn’t want his story to overshadow the lawsuits by two former players against the Blackhawks alleging the club’s inaction to address their allegations of sexual assault by the team’s former video coach a decade ago.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toews might not be the only NHL player who contracted COVID-19 well before the league shut down the remainder of the regular season in March 2020. Many of them may have been asymptomatic.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid’s focus this season is on becoming a more complete player. He believes the key to helping his club go deeper in the playoffs is improving his play without the puck and in his own zone.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Working on the defensive aspects of his game may help McDavid improve his all-around game, but he still needs a good supporting cast for his Oilers to become a serious Stanley Cup contender. While the roster has improved they still have a ways to go no matter how much their captain’s game evolves.
THE SCORE: Matthew Tkachuk is entering 2021-22 determined to help the Calgary Flames stage a long postseason run. The Flames reached the playoffs in three of his five seasons in Calgary but failed to advance beyond the first round.
NBC BOSTON: An emotional funeral and procession were held on Monday for former Bruin Jimmy Hayes in his hometown of Dorchester, Massachusetts yesterday. Hayes died suddenly last week at age 31. His brother, Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes, recalled Jimmy bringing a cancer-stricken youngster to the Bruins locker room, giving the child one of his best memories before he succumbed to the disease.
NHL.COM: Denmark defeated Norway 2-0 to qualify for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics thanks to an insurance goal by Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons collected an assist to help Latvia qualify for the Beijing Games in a 2-1 win over France in Group E qualification action on Sunday.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators re-signed winger Eeli Tolvanen to a three-year, $4.35 million contract.
Former NHLer Matt Calvert has joined the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings as a development coach. Injuries forced Calvert to announce his retirement earlier this year after 11 seasons.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes signed Dylan Guenther to a three-year entry-level contract. He was the ninth overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.
PHILLY.COM:The Philadelphia Flyers will name a new inductee into their Hall of Fame for the first time in five years.
The latest on Tuukka Rask, Mika Zibanejad, and Jack Eichel, plus the latest signings, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask opened up about his decision to leave the 2020 playoff bubble in August to attend to a family emergency.
Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (NHL Images).
He based the decision on a phone call from his family indicating his young daughter was ill and an ambulance was called. “So obviously at that point, my mind is spinning and I’m like, ‘I need to get out of here’”, said Rask, adding he had no regrets about returning home.
Rask also said his preference is to stay with the Bruins beyond this season. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent in July and was the subject of offseason trade rumors. The 33-year-old goalie appeared open to talking contract during the season. “If they don’t, we’ll just wait it out and see what happens.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask caught flak from some Bruins fans upset over his decision to leave the club but he had the full support of the club, including his teammates. In my opinion, he did the right thing by putting his family first as any decent parent would.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers center Mika Zibanejad missed his third straight day of practice but the club remains optimistic he’ll be ready in time for their season-opener against the New York Islanders on Jan. 14. Zibanejad, 27, has been sidelined for undisclosed reasons.
WGR550: Jack Eichel and Victor Olofsson joined their Buffalo Sabres teammates on the ice yesterday after each was recently sidelined by upper-body injuries. Meanwhile, Sabres winger Zemgus Girgensons’ season is over before it began, undergoing surgery to repair a hamstring injury. His recovery period is expected to last six months.
TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed forward Oliver Bjorkstrand to a five-year, $27 million contract extension yesterday. The annual average value is $5.4 million.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators inked forward Luke Kunin to a two-year, $4.6 million deal. The AAV is $2.3 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can read my take on both signings here.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw admitted he considered retirement during his 14-month recovery from post-concussion symptoms. Shaw says he’s now fully recovered and excited about resuming his playing career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaw’s gritty style of play contributed to his injuries. It’ll be interesting to see if he changes his game.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes received approval from the City of Glendale allowing 25 percent capacity (3,450 fans) during their six home games in January.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers are also allowed 25 percent capacity (around 5,000 fans) at the BB&T Center to start the upcoming season.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning are permitted to allow 23 percent capacity (3,900 to 4,000 fans) at the Amelie Arena to start the season.
Meanwhile, the Lightning reached an agreement with the Panthers to share their AHL affiliate (Syracuse Crunch) for the 2020-21 season. The Panthers affiliate (Charlotte Checkers) opted out of playing this season because of the pandemic.
Anaheim #Ducks have signed goalie Anthony Stolarz to a 2 year contract extension worth $1,900,000.
2021-22: $950,000 2022-23: $950,000
Signing Stolarz gives Anaheim a second goalie that meets the minimum exposure requirements for Expansion, and allowing them to protect Gibson. pic.twitter.com/sjX8CtNfNu
The Jets are reportedly close to acquiring Paul Stastny, Justin Williams retires, the Canadiens re-sign Josh Anderson, the Devils buy out Cory Schneider, and much more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck cites sources claiming the Jets are working on a trade that would bring Paul Stastny back to Winnipeg. Stastny was briefly part of the Jets in 2017-18, helping them reach the Western Conference Final before signing with the Vegas Golden Knights as a free agent. It’s believed the Jets will take on his full $6.5 million salary-cap hit on the final year of his three-year contract, with the two clubs also swapping draft picks.
**UPDATE** TSN’s Darren Dreger reports Stastny to Winnipeg for a 2022 fourth rounder and defenseman Carl Dahlstrom
Vegas Golden Knights center Paul Stastny could return to the Winnipeg Jets (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bringing back Stastny could address the Jets’ need for a second-line center. That suggests sidelined center Bryan Little’s status for next season remains in doubt while putting to rest the trade speculation swirling about winger Patrik Laine.
It will also signal the Golden Knights are shedding salary to be busy in the free-agent market, which opens at noon ET today. The move could also be an indicator of the difficulty the Golden Knights are having trying to move goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in a cost-cutting deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Williams and his family in his future endeavors. He spent 19 seasons in the NHL with the Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals, winning the Stanley Cup with the Canes in 2006 and two Cups with the Kings in 2012 and 2014. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy during the latter run, earning the nickname “Mr. Game 7” by holding the record for most points (15) in Game 7 situations. In 1,264 games, Williams tallied 320 goals and 797 points. He also had 41 goals and 102 points in 162 playoff games.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Two days after acquiring winger Josh Anderson, the Canadiens re-signed him to a seven-year, $38.5-million contract. The annual average value is $5.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a hefty new contract for a 26-year-old winger who’s yet to suit up for the Canadiens, has one good season (27 goals, 47 points in 2018-19) and missed most of last season to a shoulder injury that required surgery to repair.
General manager Marc Bergevin envisions the 6’3”, 222-pounder as a power forward. This will be seen as a worthwhile investment if Anderson has fully recovered from his surgery and plays up to expectation. Otherwise, it’ll provide additional fodder for Bergevin critics and turn up the pressure on Habs ownership to fire their GM.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: The New Jersey Devils placed goaltender Cory Schneider on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out his contract. Schneider, 34, lost the starter’s job to Mackenzie Blackwood. He has two years left on his contract worth $6 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Schneider was among the NHL’s top goalies from 2013-14 to 2015-16. Injuries, however, hampered his performance in recent years. His buyout will count as $2 million annually against the Devils’ cap through 2023-24.
NJ.COM: The Devils also acquired defenseman Ryan Murray from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray is a skilled defenseman plagued by injuries for most of his career. He has a year remaining on his contract worth $4.6 million. If he stays healthy he could be a worthwhile addition to the Devils’ blueline. They still have over $25 million in salary-cap space and could use some of it in the upcoming free-agent market.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets also traded defenseman Markus Nutivaara to the Florida Panthers for minor-league forward Cliff Pu. Nutivaara, 26, has two years remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $2.7 million.
THE SCORE: The Jackets also placed center Alexander Wennberg on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a contract buyout. The 26-year-old has three years left on his contract worth $4.9 million AAV. For buyout purposes, however, he’ll be considered 25 as that’s what his age would’ve been during a normal regular season when the buyout period would be in June. That means his buyout will be calculated at one-third the remaining value, rather than two-thirds.
NHL.COM: The Jackets also re-signed goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks to a two-year, two-way contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The moves leave the Jackets with $14.2 million in cap space, more than enough to re-sign Pierre-Luc Dubois and perhaps leave enough for an addition or two via trade or free agency.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Long time Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is heading to the free-agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford spent 13 seasons with the Blackhawks, 10 of those as their starting goalie. He backstopped them to two Stanley Cups (2013, 2015) but has been plagued by injuries over the past three seasons. Expect the Blackhawks to seek his replacement via trade or free agency.
SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators acquired defenseman Erik Gudbranson from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick. He has a year remaining on his contract with an AAV of $4 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another short-term pickup by the Senators to take some pressure off their developing young defensemen. The Ducks, meanwhile, have $4.47 million in cap space and will get an additional $6.875 million in wiggle room should Ryan Kesler remain on long-term injury reserve.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Goaltender Tuukka Rask said he doesn’t want to play for anyone but the Bruins. Rask’s name recently surfaced in trade rumors, prompting GM Don Sweeney to claim the goalie is a “big part of the roster going forward.” Rask is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility.
TSN: The Dallas Stars lifted the interim tag from head coach Rick Bowness, who is expected to sign a new contract with the club.
SPORTSNET: The Stars also released a lengthy list of their injured players following the Stanley Cup playoffs. Among the notables was Jamie Benn (shoulder surgery before the schedule was paused), Tyler Seguin (knee, torn labrum), Ben Bishop (knee surgery in May), Roope Hintz (fractured ankle) and Anton Khudobin (arm surgery).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seguin received criticism for his offensive struggles during the postseason. This is yet another reminder that an NHL player failing to play up to expectations in playoff action is usually nursing an injury that would sideline athletes in other sports.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres are close to re-signing forward Zemgus Girgensons to a three-year contract worth around $2 million per season.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed forward Sam Lafferty to a two-year contract with an AAV of $750K.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens re-signed defenseman Noah Juulsen to a one-year, two-way contract.
10 Buyouts this year, list below w/ the # of years remaining on deals:
Forty players filed for salary arbitration, the latest free-agent signings, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHLPA: St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington and New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba were among the 40 players selected salary arbitration by the 5 pm ET deadline yesterday. Arbitrations hearings will be held in Toronto between July 20 to August 4.
New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba was among 40 player filing for salary arbitration on Friday. (Photo via NHL Images)
Chase De Leo
Los Angeles Kings
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vegas Golden Knights
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The dates for each hearing will be released before July 20. As soon as it is, I’ll post it up. Paquette yesterday re-signed with the Lightning to a two-year, $3.3-million contract.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday re-signed head coach Mike Sullivan to a four-year contract extension.
TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets re-signed defenseman Scott Harrington to a three-year, $4.9-million contract.
VANCOUVER SUN: The Canucks re-signed winger Josh Leivo to a one-year, $1.5-million contract.
WGR 550: Forward Zemgus Girgensons signed his one-year, $1.6-million qualifying offer with the Buffalo Sabres. Speaking of the Sabres, 2019 first-round pick Dylan Cozens underwent surgery on his left thumb and will require two-three months to recover.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens signed UFA forward Nick Cousins to a one-year, $1-million contract.
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks signed winger Andreas Martinsen to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.
SPORTSNET: Ontario sports minister Lisa MacLeod has apologized for harsh comments aimed at Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk at a recent Rolling Stones concert. MacLeod said she was giving Melnyk some “feedback”. According to Melnyk, she said, “I am your minister and you’re a f—ing piece of s–t and you’re a f—ing loser,”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Friday’s most bizarre sports story. On the one hand, some Senators fans will probably applaud MacLeod for ripping into the cantankerous Melnyk. On the other hand, she’s among the most despised members of Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet.
Game recaps, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin react to Stars’ CEO criticism, injury updates, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: New Jersey Devils rookie goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made 37 saves to collect his first career NHL shutout in a 2-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Pavel Zacha and Andy Greene were the goal scorers.
Vegas Golden Knights netminder Malcolm Subban picked up his first win of the season with a 30-save performance to defeat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1, snapping the latter’s four-game win streak. Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch each had a goal and an assist. Earlier in the day, the Golden Knights claimed forward Valentin Zykov off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers.
Speaking of the Oilers, they fell 7-4 to the San Jose Sharks. San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson had a goal and three assists while teammates Logan Couture and Melker Karlsson each scored twice. Connor McDavid scored twice and Ty Rattie had three assists for the Oilers.
The Minnesota Wild broke a five-game losing skid by holding off the Winnipeg Jets 3-1. Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 26 saves and teammate Zach Parise collected two assists. Patrik Laine scored for the Jets, who also lost defenseman Dustin Byfuglien in the third period with what appeared to be an injured left ankle. An update on his condition could come later today.
Jake DeBrusk’s game-tying goal in the third period set the stage for Sean Kuraly’s overtime winner as the Boston Bruins edged the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Earlier in the day, the Sabres announced forward Zemgus Girgensons is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Mathew Barzal’s natural hat trick powered the New York Islanders to a 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo via NHL Images)
The New York Islanders welcomed back Toronto Maple Leafs center (and former Isles captain) John Tavares back by shutting out his new club 4-0. Robin Lehner kicked out 36 shots while Mathew Barzal tallied a natural hat trick in the second period.
With starting goaltender Frederik Andersen listed as day-to-day with a groin injury, the Leafs acquired Michael Hutchinson earlier in the day from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 and sent him to their AHL affiliate. The Isles, meanwhile, placed winger Jordan Eberle (upper body) on injured reserve and called up Michael Dal Colle.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A statement game by the Islanders, one that should soothe the sting of Tavares’ departure to Toronto via free agency in July.
Tyler Lewington and Madison Bowey tallied their first-ever NHL goals to give the Washington Capital a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Earlier in the day, the Senators announced defenseman Thomas Chabot (upper body) will be sidelined three weeks, Christian Jaros (broken finger) will miss four weeks, and forward Magnus Paajarvi is dealing with an upper-body issue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The hits just keep coming for the Senators, as those three join starting goalie Craig Anderson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Justin Falk on the sidelines.
Two third-period goals by Adam Erne lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 6-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens to extend their points streak to 14 games. Andrew Shaw scored and Phillip Danault had three assists.
Earlier in the day, Danault was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL’s department of player safety for tripping Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Meanwhile, Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph returned to action after missing six games with a lower-body injury but J.T. Miller was placed on IR and is listed as week-to-week.
Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau enabled the Florida Panthers to squeak past the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1.
The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their fifth straight win with four power-play goals to beat the St. Louis Blues 6-1. Matt Murray made 30 saves whiles teammates Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang each had three points. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a hand injury.
The Nashville Predators suffered their sixth straight loss, falling 4-3 to the New York Rangers. Mika Zibandejad assisted on all the Rangers’ goals while teammate Jesper Fast scored twice. Kevin Fiala collected three points for the Predators.
Alexander Radulov scored two goals to lead the Dallas Stars to a 5-1 thumping of the Detroit Red Wings. Earlier in the day, Stars captain Jamie Benn and linemate Tyler Seguin responded to the harsh criticism leveled at them on Friday by Stars CEO Jim Lites. Both attempted to downplay the situation but admitted their surprise over Lites’ remarks, adding he never personally addressed his concerns to them. They also acknowledged they and their teammates had to play better.
“I don’t play for him [Lites],” Benn told the media. “I play for every player in this room, the coaching staff. I come to the rink and, like I said, I am proud to be a Dallas Star and I am proud to go out every night and battle with these guys in games. I really put my teammates first.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Watching the interviews, you could tell Benn and Seguin were doing their best not to add fuel to the firestorm Lites created with his expletive-laden rant the day prior. I’ll have more on this later this morning in the Rumors section.
An overtime goal by Patrick Kane gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, giving the Hawks their fifth win in their last six games. Kane’s winner was also his second goal of the game.
Nick Schmaltz’s scored in overtime as the Arizona Coyotes overcame a 4-2 deficit to down the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. Ondrej Kase scored twice for the Ducks and Nick Ritchie added three helpers.
Alexander Edler’s game-winner in overtime gave the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. The Canucks have won eight of their last 11 contests. Edler and Brock Boeser each had a goal and an assist.