NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 22, 2021

The Kraken unveil their roster, the Bruins close to re-signing Taylor Hall, the Oilers reportedly ink Mike Smith, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken finally have a full roster as they made their 30-player selections in their expansion draft yesterday. Mark Giordano, Jordan Eberle and Yanni Gourde were among the notable players chosen by the Kraken.

The Seattle Kraken officially announced their roster on July 21. (NHL.com).

Gourde will have to wait for a little way to make his debut with the Kraken after undergoing shoulder surgery this week. His recovery period is estimated to be four months.

Adam Larsson, Chris Driedger and Jamie Oleksiak were considered draft selections from the Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars respectively after signing new contracts with the Kraken. The trio was slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 28 but the Kraken had a three-day window to exclusively negotiate with free agents exposed in the draft.

Larsson signed a four-year, $16 million contract. Driedger’s new deal is for three years and is worth an annual average value of $3.5 million while Oleksiak’s is for five years with a $4.6 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The unofficial Kraken roster I posted yesterday based on media links throughout the day turned out to be the official list. You can read my take on the expansion draft on Bleacher Report.

The Kraken’s home opener is slated for Oct. 23 against the Vancouver Canucks. The NHL’s full 2021-22 schedule will be released on Thursday.

No side deals emerged during the draft despite weeks of hype. General manager Ron Francis was asked if he has any trades in hand that could be unveiled when the expansion draft roster freeze is lifted at 1 pm ET today. “Probably a lot less than you guys think there might be,” he said.

In other news…

TSN: The Boston Bruins are reportedly closing in on a new deal for left wing Taylor Hall. Darren Dreger expects it’ll be a four-year contract worth close to $24 million in total.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not a surprise. Most of the speculation about Hall’s negotiations with the Bruins suggested a three-to-four year contract worth around $6 million annually.

SPORTSNET: Mike Smith is reportedly returning to the Edmonton Oilers. The 39-year-old goaltender is expected to ink a two-year deal worth around $2 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not a bad cap hit but it’s still a bit of a gamble to invest more than one year into a goalie who turns 40 in March. It remains to be seen who will share the netminding duties with Smith. The Oilers are reportedly shopping Mikko Koskinen. He has a year left on his deal worth $4.5 million but they can’t find any takers. There are no immediate plans to buy him out.

Speaking of the Oilers, they’ve engaged in preliminary contract talks with Tyson Barrie after losing defenseman Adam Larsson to the Kraken in the expansion draft.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Sabres have started contract discussions with Rasmus Dahlin. The 21-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent after coming off his three-year entry-level contract.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens hired Trevor Letowski as an assistant coach. He spent the past 10 years coaching in the Ontario Hockey League, the last three as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2021

The Lightning face some tough decisions this summer, the latest Vladimir Tarasenko speculation and updates on the Flames, Islanders and Flyers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LIGHTNING FACE DIFFICULT OFFSEASON DECISIONS

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports the Tampa Bay Lightning could face some tough decisions this summer to become salary-cap compliant for next season. They’re sitting above the $81.5 million cap by $3.5 million.

The Lightning has several players (Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde) with market value. Sources say all of them will receive interest so moving one of them wouldn’t be a salary dump.

General manager Julien BriseBois said he’s had discussions with the Seattle Kraken about a side deal. He doesn’t intend to ask any of his players with no-movement clauses to waive them for the upcoming expansion draft.

BriseBois has no plans to buy out anyone. That includes Tyler Johnson, who won’t be easy to move with three years left on his contract and an annual average value of $5 million. He also admitted it’s possible forwards Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow depart via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning has 17 players under contract for next season. They could be looking at trying to clear over $10 million to leave enough wiggle room under the cap to fill out the rest of their lineup and still leave room for other moves if necessary during next season.

They’ll have to shed even more if they want to keep Coleman, Goodrow and fellow UFA David Savard. That doesn’t seem likely. Rumor has it the Bruins will push hard to sign Goodrow when the free-agent market opens.

Could the Tampa Bay Lightning ask Steven Stamkos to waive his NMC to accept a trade? (NHL Images)

Smith’s colleague Pierre LeBrun wondered if BriseBois might approach captain Steven Stamkos about waiving his no-movement clause for a trade. There was talk last fall Stamkos’ camp was approached but the answer was no. LeBrun thinks there could be another conversation about it but I don’t think Stamkos wants to consider it. He took less than market value to stay with the Lightning and could be determined to stay put for the duration.

BriseBois could attempt to find more cap flexibility by acquiring a player or two on permanent long-term injury reserve. That’s what he did last December by shipping Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette to the Ottawa Senators for the contracts of Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson.

LATEST TARASENKO SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Vegas Golden Knights, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers are believed on the list of trade destinations Vladimir Tarasenko provided to the St. Louis Blues.

The Lightning are believed to be Tarasenko’s top preference but they’re already well over the salary cap for next season. The Rangers are an option but GM Chris Drury might want to move Chris Kreider in the deal. That could prove difficult, in part because of the winger’s no-movement clause.

Rutherford thinks the Islanders could also be a possible landing spot. However, they might not be willing to part with defenseman Noah Dobson. The Bruins could be unwilling to give up a first-round pick while the Flyers might not give up prospect Morgan Frost. There’s also speculation about a one-for-one swap with the Capitals for Evgeny Kuznetsov but he’s had off-ice issues and carries a $7.8 million cap hit for four more seasons.

It’s believed the Blues have an interest in Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk. However, the Flames aren’t on Tarasenko’s list. The Flames aren’t looking to move Tkachuk this summer but Rutherford speculates they might be forced to next summer if he doesn’t want to sign a long-term deal with the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of interesting stuff here. The Rangers’ focus could be more on Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel. The Islanders have limited cap space and are trying to free up room to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin. Not saying they couldn’t use a scorer like Tarasenko but they’ll have to make room by perhaps moving out a forward such as Jordan Eberle.

The Golden Knights are more interested in shoring up their depth at center. The Bruins’ focus is on improving the left side of their blueline and re-signing Taylor Hall and perhaps Tuukka Rask and David Krejci. The Flyers are focused on adding a top-pairing right-side defenseman such as Columbus’ Seth Jones or Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton.

It’ll take quite a display of salary-cap gymnastics by the Lightning to squeeze Tarasenko into their limited payroll for next season. Kuznetsov’s personal baggage and cap hit screams “buyer, beware!” The Panthers could use a reliable right-side scorer but GM Bill Zito might prefer the Blues retain some salary in a Tarasenko deal.

I’m not suggesting Tarasenko won’t be traded. However, his injury history and $7.5 million AAV for the next two seasons make it tough to find a suitable deal.

UPDATES ON THE FLAMES, ISLANDERS AND FLYERS

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis reports Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving quashed a recent rumor suggesting winger Matthew Tkachuk wanted out of Calgary. “There’s nothing to it,” said Treliving. He’s also touched base with other clubs to gauge interest in several of his players coming off disappointing seasons.

Contract extension talks have begun between Treliving and the agent for Johnny Gaudreau. The winger’s limited no-trade clause kicks in on July 28, prompting some to suggest he’d have to be moved before then if a new deal cannot be reached.

Team captain Mark Giordano appears a prime candidate to be snapped up by the Seattle Kraken in next week’s expansion draft. The Flames could leave him unprotected. Discussions between Giordano and Treliving on the subject are continuing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Giordano, 37, has a year remaining on his contract. He could be exposed if Treliving opts to protect just three defensemen as expected. Perhaps Treliving is working on a side deal with the Kraken to have them pass over Giordano for someone else on the Flames’ unprotected list.

DAILY FACEOFF: Cam Lewis cited The Athletic’s Arthur Staple recently reporting two league sources said the New York Islanders are shopping Nick Leddy. They’re hoping to get something for the 30-year-old defenseman rather than lose him in next week’s expansion draft to the Kraken for nothing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leddy still has some value as a second-pairing defenseman. His cap hit ($5.5 million), however, could make it difficult to find a suitable trade partner.

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Sam Carchidi reports Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is willing to trade his first-round pick (13th overall) in this year’s draft if it’ll fetch a player who can help the club over the long term.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 8, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 8, 2021

Vladimir Tarasenko requests a trade, looking ahead to the offseason for the Lightning and Canadiens, plus updates on Duncan Keith and Taylor Hall in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TARASENKO WANTS OUT OF ST. LOUIS

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports Vladimir Tarasenko has requested a trade from the St. Louis Blues and the club is working on moving him. The 29-year-old winger made the request earlier in the offseason.

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

Sources said Tarasenko was unhappy over how the Blues’ medical staff handled two of his three shoulder surgeries and he no longer trusts the club. His third surgery was performed by doctors outside the organization, who discovered the ligament damage wasn’t sufficiently addressed during the previous two operations. He also felt the club waiting too long to conduct further testing when he complained about discomfort in his shoulder prior to joining the club for last summer’s playoffs in Edmonton.

Rutherford cites several unnamed NHL general managers saying Blues GM Doug Armstrong has been quietly shopping Tarasenko. The winger has a no-trade clause but sources say he provided Blues management with a list of 10 trade destinations.

Tarasenko has two seasons remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $7.5 million but an actual salary for 2021-22 of $9.5 million. It drops to $5.5 million for 2022-23.

It’s believed Tarasenko wants to be traded to a contender. Rutherford said the New York Islanders and New York Rangers have been mentioned as possible fits.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There were rumors in recent weeks suggesting Tarasenko was unhappy with the Blues. One linked him to the Calgary Flames for St. Louis native Matthew Tkachuk but that was firmly denied by the Flames.

Tarasenko’s contract and his shoulder surgeries could make it tough for Armstrong to find suitable trade partners. As per Cap Friendly, the Islanders have just $5.76 million in cap space with restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin to re-sign, as well as unrestricted free agents Kyle Palmieri, Casey Cizikas and Travis Zajac to replace or re-sign.

The Rangers have over $23 million with Pavel Buchnevich, Igor Shesterkin and Filip Chytil as their notable free agents. They can afford Tarasenko but must leave sufficient cap room available to re-sign or replace Mika Zibanejad before his UFA eligibility next summer. They could also have their sights elsewhere as rumors link them to Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LIGHTNING AND CANADIENS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports the Tampa Bay Lightning’s salary-cap constraints will force management into cost-cutting offseason trades. They’re currently sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $5 million.

The expansion draft could provide an opportunity if general manager Julien BriseBois is willing to make side deals with the Seattle Kraken. He could try again to trade Tyler Johnson ($5 million annual average value through 2023-24) but might have to buy out the winger if he can’t find any takers.

BriseBois will have to move some players under contract if he hopes to re-sign pending unrestricted free agents Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. Trade candidates could include Johnson, winger Alex Killorn ($4.45 million AAV through 2022-23), Ondrej Palat ($5.3 million through next season) or Yanni Gourde ($5.16 million through 2024-25).

Greg Wyshynski pointed out the Montreal Canadiens have over $10 million in cap space with Joel Armia, Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar, Eric Staal, Michael Frolik, Corey Perry, Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill slated to become unrestricted free agents. He wonders how many could be brought back.

Wyshynski also noted the Canadiens could lose a good player via the expansion draft. Jake Evans, Paul Byron, Artturi Lehkonen, Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Jake Allen and perhaps Jonathan Drouin could be left unprotected. He wondered if they’ll cut a side deal with the Kraken to ensure they don’t take someone the Habs want to retain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning are at greater risk of losing a couple of good players than the Canadiens. They must shed at least $10 million to have enough to fill out the rest of their roster and still be cap compliant when next season begins.

BriseBois has a well-earned reputation for cap management. He caught a break this season when Nikita Kucherov underwent hip surgery sidelining him throughout the regular season. That allowed the Bolts GM to place the high-priced ($9.5 million AAV) winger on long-term injury reserve, providing some welcome cap relief enabling him to keep his roster almost intact.

Unless another expensive player ends up on LTIR before next season, BriseBois will have to get creative to address his cap issues. Johnson, Killorn, Palat and Gourde have no-trade protection clauses in their contracts.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, could attempt to re-sign Danault, Armia and perhaps Perry. The rest will be cut loose. Danault reportedly turned down a six-year, $30 million offer earlier this season. It’ll be interesting to see if that offer remains on the table.

LATEST ON KEITH AND HALL

TSN: Darren Dreger reports trade discussions are ongoing between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks regarding Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith. He said there’s mutual interest in getting a deal done.

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wants to do right by Keith but he’s seeking a quality return. Dreger wonders which young defenseman from the Oilers needs to be included to make this happen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Caleb Jones has frequently come up in trade speculation. There’s also talk the Blackhawks could absorb part of Keith’s $5.538 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

Dreger also reports the Boston Bruins are engaged in contract extension talks with Taylor Hall’s camp. There’s outside interest in the 29-year-old left winger from other clubs, including the Toronto Maple Leafs if they’re unable to re-sign Zach Hyman. However, Hall’s preference is to stay in Boston.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers feel Hyman could get up to $6 million annually on the open market. If the Leafs can’t afford Hyman they probably can’t afford Hall. Then again, the latter is a more naturally talented winger than the hardworking Hyman. Perhaps they’d feel the Bruins winger would be worth it. We’ll see.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 26, 2021

The Lightning return to the Stanley Cup Final, the Cup Final schedule is released, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final. The defending champions beat the New York Islanders 1-0 in Game 7 of their semifinal series. Yanni Gourde scored shorthanded in the second period while goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in an 18-save shutout. Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov turned aside 30 shots.

Tampa Bay Lightning pose with Prince of Wales Trophy (NHL.com).

Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Erik Cernak returned from injuries for this contest. The Bolts also defied superstition for the second straight year by touching the Prince of Wales Trophy, traditionally awarded to the Eastern Conference champion.

The Lightning will face the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning defeated the Islanders at their own game in this contest. They played a suffocating defense that stymied their opponent’s offense. The defending champions’ depth made the difference against a team that pushed them to the limit.

It was a disappointing finish for the Islanders. but they served notice that last year’s run to the Eastern Conference Final was no fluke. They could remain among next season’s Cup contenders depending on what moves management makes this summer. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor Mill update.

The NHL released the full schedule for the 2021 Stanley Cup Final between the Lightning and Canadiens. Game 1 begins on Monday in Tampa Bay. Game 2 will be on June 30. There will be a two-day break between Game 3 (July 2) and Game 4 (July 5). Game 7 if necessary will be on July 11.

TSN: A lawyer representing a former player who alleges he and a teammate were sexually assaulted by the Chicago Blackhawks’ former video coach in 2010 has made a request for 31 requests for documents from the club related to the allegations. The player claims the Blackhawks covered up the incident instead of reporting it to the police.

The Blackhawks have filed a motion requesting the case be dismissed because it wasn’t filed within a limitation period. The club also said the former player’s complaint should’ve been made via a worker’s compensation claim. They have publicly declined to comment due to the ongoing lawsuit.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins re-signed forward Trent Frederic to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $1.05 million.

WINNIPEG SUN: Pascal Vincent, head coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, is leaving that position to become an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs hired Ryan Hardy as their Senior Director of Minor League Operations. He takes over as the GM of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 5, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 5, 2021

Could the Oilers target a Lightning winger in this summer’s trade market? Is this season the last for Matt Dumba and Zach Parise with the Wild? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD THE OILERS TARGET A LIGHTNING WINGER?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples believes the Oilers’ priority should be landing a veteran winger who’ll mesh well with center Connor McDavid. That’ll take on greater importance if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins departs via free agency next month.

The Tampa Bay Lightning would be an obvious place to start because of their limited cap space and forwards Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow are among their pending unrestricted free agents.

Could the Edmonton Oilers have interest in a Tampa Bay Lightning winger such as Alex Killorn? (NHL Images)

They could attempt to shed salary by trading a veteran forward at a bargain price. Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat or Yanni Gourde could become a trade candidate. Staples doubts Killorn will be available given his strong performance in this year’s playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $22 million in cap space (as per Cap Friendly), Oilers general manager Ken Holland should have sufficient cap room to acquire a top-six winger via trade or free agency even if he re-signs Nugent-Hopkins, Mike Smith and Adam Larsson. He could have more if he buys out James Neal and/or Mikko Koskinen and finds a trade partner to take Zack Kassian off his hands. Holland could be willing to talk trade with the Lightning depending on who they’re trying to offload this summer.

Something’s gotta give in Tampa Bay this summer. They could, as Staples suggested, buy out Tyler Johnson or hope the Seattle Kraken select him in the expansion draft. Even then, they could still trade another forward to get some additional wiggle room under the cap. That could force them to part with Palat, Gourde or Killorn.

Gourde’s full no-trade makes him the least likely of that trio to be moved. Killorn has a 16-team no-trade clause. Palat’s full no-trade becomes a modified no-trade next season in which he submits a 20-team list of preferred destinations.

Staples recently noted Oilers insider Bob Stauffer speculating the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers could have interest in Kassian. Some Oilers followers could be against trading Kassian because of his physical presence. However, he’s carrying a $3.2 million annual cap hit through 2023-24. Given the decline in his offensive production, the Oilers would be better off trading him and finding a more affordable option.

LATEST ON DUMBA AND PARISE

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sarah McLellan recently reported questions about Matt Dumba’s future with the Minnesota Wild have increased of late with the expansion draft on the horizon. With most teams tending to protect three defensemen and three Wild blueliners (Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin) carrying no-movement clauses, Dumba could be left exposed in the expansion draft or traded beforehand.

Dumba, however, said he hopes to remain with the Wild. He said he grew accustomed to his name surfacing in the rumor mill near the trade deadline.

TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Muzitani recently reported Zach Parise told reporters he wants to return with the Wild next season. Because of his hefty contract, finding a trade partner seems unlikely while the front office doesn’t seem interested in going the buyout route.

Parise’s future came into question as he was dropped to the fourth line this season and was a healthy scratch late in the season and during the first three games of their seven-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights. However, Parise played well when inserted into the lineup for the final four games of that series.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild could make Dumba unavailable in the expansion draft by opting to protect eight skaters. However, that puts them at risk of losing one of their good young forwards. Wild GM Bill Guerin will probably try to swing a side deal with the Seattle Kraken to ensure they don’t take Dumba if they leave him exposed. They could also try to convince Suter to waive his no-movement clause. The Kraken could be scared off by his expensive contract.

The Wild and Parise are stuck with each other until his contract expires in 2025. He’ll have to accept a lesser role with the club. As Muzitani observed, that’s something that will have to be worked out between Parise and head coach Dean Evason in the coming months.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 12, 2020

Check out some recent speculation on the Red Wings, Bruins and  Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.

KUKLA’S KORNER: cites The Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan listing several players the Red Wings could be interested in before the start of this season.

Could the Detroit Red Wings acquire Tampa Bay Lightning winger Tyler Johnson? (NHL Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde and Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty are Kulfan’s suggested trade options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Red Wings’ trading Dmytro Timashov to the New York Islanders yesterday, general manager Steve Yzerman could make another addition to his roster before the season begins. 

A swap between the Wings and Lightning has potential. The Lightning must shed salary to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. The Wings have plenty of cap space and general manager Steve Yzerman knows Killorn, Johnson and Gourde from his days as Lightning GM.

Killorn, however, has a modified no-trade list while Johnson and Gourde have full no-trade protection. If the Wings aren’t on their lists of preferred destinations they won’t be going to Detroit.

Pacioretty, meanwhile, has a 10-team no-trade list which could include the Wings. Besides, Yzerman might not be keen to invest in a 32-year-old winger carrying a $7 million annual average value for the next three seasons.

Unrestricted free agent targets could include Mike Hoffman, Mikael Granlund, Anthony Duclair, Sami Vatanen, Andy Greene and former Red Wing Andreas Athanasiou.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman is willing to accept a one-year contract worth between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. I don’t think Yzerman will go that high for him. Granlund or Duclair might be affordable options, with Granlund perhaps the better choice depending on his asking price.

Vatanen could be a good addition to the Wings’ defense corps on a reasonable short-term contract. Greene is believed to have a deal with the Islanders that will be made official once they get Mathew Barzal under contract. I doubt Yzerman will bring Athanasiou back to Detroit given his disappointing performance during his contract year.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Joe Haggerty was asked about the possibility of the Bruins bringing in a player on a professional tryout offer during training camp. He suggested former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner as one option. UFA like Anthony Duclair and Mikael Granlund could become PTO candidates but Haggerty feels they’ll eventually sign guaranteed contracts rather than tryouts for training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll likely be aging veterans like Alzner, Ron Hainsey, goaltenders such as Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson, and forwards like Justin Abdelkader and Michael Grabner could end up signing professional tryout options with the Bruins and other clubs.

Asked if the Bruins are done making moves, Haggerty speculates a trade is more likely than a free-agent signing. If they go the trade route, it’ll be for a top-four defenseman to plug the gap on the left side of their blueline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haggerty noted the Bruins’ efforts to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson before the blueliner’s Oct. 9 deadline brought that attempt to an end. GM Don Sweeney could attempt a trade for a left-side defender but it probably won’t be a move for someone like Ekman-Larsson at this stage.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined what could be a crucial season for the Calgary Flames. With two years remaining on the contracts of winger Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano, he feels the Flames are reaching a pivotal moment.

Another disappointing playoff performance could put pressure on general manager Brad Treliving to shake things up. Nevertheless, O’Brien feels blowing things up could make things worse.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The majority of Flames fans (and some Calgary pundits) were calling for change over the summer when the club was bounced from the first round of the 2020 playoffs. Defensemen T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic departed via free agency but general manager Brad Treliving ignored the cries for Gaudreau to be shopped following a disappointing postseason effort.

The Flames will face increased pressure this season to shake their recent reputation as a playoff underachiever. Another early exit could prompt a shakeup of the roster core.