NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 8, 2020

The Lightning crush the Islanders to open the Eastern Conference Final, Bobby Ryan wins the Masterton Trophy, plus updates on Sean Couturier, Mikael Granlund and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning thumped the New York Islanders 8-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov each collected five points while Victor Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk each had three points. Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy replied for the Islanders, who pulled goalie Thomas Greiss in the first period after he gave up three goals on nine shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning dominated the Islanders from the opening faceoff to the final whistle. Whatever the reason – lack of time to prepare following their Game 7 win over the Flyers on Saturday, the travel day between games – the Isles were flat in this contest. The Bolts aren’t expecting further lopsided wins in this series as their opponent is expected to put up a better effort in Game 2 on Wednesday.

Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan is this year’s winner of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance. He took an extended leave of absence in November to receive treatment for alcohol abuse. Ryan returned in February and tallied a hat trick in his second game back.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Ryan and best wishes in his ongoing recovery.

THE SCORE: The NHL recorded its seventh consecutive week of zero positive COVID-19 tests among its players and staff participating in the return-to-play plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once again, the league and the NHLPA deserve praise for how they’ve pulled this off. None of the doom-and-gloom forecasts from some observers came to pass.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers center Sean Couturier played through a sprained MCL during Game 7 against the Islanders.

THE ATHLETIC: Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund intends to test this year’s unrestricted free agent market.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 14, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 14, 2020

Is it time for the Jets to rebuild? Should the Oilers trade a top-four defenseman? Are changes coming for the Predators? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE JETS REBUILD?

WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen believes Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has spun his wheels since his club reached the Western Conference Final two years ago, suggesting the club is heading in the wrong direction.

Friesen acknowledged Dustin Byfuglien’s unexpected departure and an injury-ravaged roster contributed to the club’s struggles this season. Nevertheless, the Jets lack depth on defense and the forward lines. He feels it’s time for Cheveldayoff to make a big move for a second-line center and a top-four defenseman.

With several teams affected by the flat salary cap and the Jets carrying additional cap room after Byfuglien’s contract termination, Friesen believes Cheveldayoff has the cap flexibility to address his roster issues.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes Cheveldayoff will feel the pressure during the off-season to reverse the Jets’ fortunes. He wonders how much rope the club’s ownership is willing to give their GM before deciding they need to go in a different direction. McIntyre feels Cheveldayoff will have to make a big move via the off-season trade or free-agent markets.

Could the Winnipeg Jets pursue Alex Pietrangelo in the free-agent market? (NHL Images)

If sidelined center Bryan Little (eardrum surgery, post-concussion symptoms) cannot play next season, they can place him on long-term injury reserve, potentially freeing up his $5.29-million cap hit for next season. Trading or buying out Mathieu Perreault could clear some more salary from their books. McIntyre considers fixing the blueline to be Cheveldayoff’s priority.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe suggests Andrew Copp could be the internal solution to replace Little if the latter remains sidelined. External options could include Montreal’s Max Domi or Philadelphia’s Nolan Patrick as both could use a change of scenery. Wiebe also pondered the possibility of Cheveldayoff pursuing a big-ticket player like St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Jets have over $65.9 million invested in 13 players. All their core players are under contract, so Cheveldayoff could re-sign his RFAs to affordable, short-term deals. Still, he might need a little more cap space if he intends to land a big-ticket player, especially via the UFA market. He can send some salary the other way if he’s acquiring a player via trade.

Domi’s status has been a hot topic in the Montreal media throughout this season. That chatter recently intensified with Domi currently seeing fourth-line minutes in the postseason. Patrick, however, has been sidelined this season by a migraine disorder, which (as Wiebe also noted) would make him a risky acquisition.

Pietrangelo would be a big catch for the Jets, but that’s assuming the Blues captain wants to play in Winnipeg if he tests the UFA market. If he doesn’t, Cheveldayoff would have to look elsewhere, and the pickings for top defensemen are slim beyond Pietrangelo and Boston’s Torey Krug.

SHOULD THE OILERS SHOP A TOP-FOUR DEFENSEMAN?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites Bob Stauffer’s recent interview with Brian Burke in which the Sportsnet analyst suggested the Oilers trade a defenseman like Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, or Oscar Klefbom.

Burke felt the Oilers defense didn’t play well enough, believing one or two of their blueliners might need a change of scenery. He acknowledged such moves might be difficult given the Oilers’ limited cap space for next season.

The former NHL GM agreed with Stauffer’s suggestion the Toronto Maple Leafs might be a trading partner, proposing a swap of Larsson for a winger like Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson.

Former NHL GM turned analyst Brian Lawton agreed there could be some changes to the top four. He expressed concern over Klefbom’s injury history. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, meanwhile, believes Larsson could be the likely trade candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those three Oilers defenseman, Nurse could fetch the best return. The 25-year-old is two years younger than Klefbom and Larsson and his style would make him attractive for clubs seeking a mobile, physical rearguard. Klefbom’s injury history could hurt his trade value, while Larsson’s UFA eligibility next summer could be a deal-breaker for some clubs.

Staples feels the Oilers should try and move out Kris Russell. He’s also a year away from UFA eligibility, but his 15-team no-trade clause could make that difficult.

LATEST ON THE PREDATORS

THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina reports Nashville Predators GM David Poile pulled no punches assessing his club’s performance this season. “This is unacceptable”, he said. “This is how we have to view this result is that we have to be better and it’s not acceptable.”

Poile indicated the club’s direction in the last two years made it “clear to me that we need to make some changes.” While the Preds GM said “everything is on the table,” Skrbina doesn’t expect a complete roster overhaul.

Pending UFAs Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith might not be back. The Predators could look in-house to address some of their needs, perhaps promoting Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino. Skrbina also speculates Poile could try again to trade center Kyle Turris or buy him out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $72.2 million invested in 17 players, Poile will have to cut some salary if he intends to look to the trade or free-agent markets for help. Trading Turris could mean absorbing part of his $6 million annual salary or packaging him with a top draft pick or prospect. A contract buyout will leave them with $2 million annually in dead cap space to 2028.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 9, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 9, 2020

Check out the latest on the Penguins, Wild, and Predators in this Sunday’s NHL rumor roundup.

PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel examined several pressing questions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wake of their elimination from the playoff qualifying round.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (NHL Images).

He wondered if Matt Murray will return, believing it’ll come down to how much the restricted free agent will seek on his new contract. Backup Tristan Jarry is also an RFA and showed potential as a starting goalie this season.

Murray was also on Vensel’s list of Penguins who might not return next season. Unrestricted free agents such as Patrick Marleau and Justin Schultz probably skate away, while Conor Sheary will have to accept a bargain-basement deal to stay.

Vensel suggests Nick Bjugstad and Jack Johnson as cost-cutting trade options, though moving the latter could prove difficult. He also proposed shopping Kris Letang after the emergence of John Marino.

The Pens must find two new defensemen to plug into their top-six, with promising Pierre-Olivier Joseph as an option. They also need to sort out their third-line center position and their bottom-six forwards.

It’s unlikely they’ll consider trading Evgeni Malkin unless he asked to be traded. So far, he’s given no indication he wants to move on.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Penguins have over $68.2 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Unless Murray’s taking a hometown discount for a year or two with the promise of bigger bucks down the road, or the Penguins shed salary to make room for his new contract, I don’t see how they can afford to keep him and Jarry.

Unless Malkin wants out, he’ll be back with the Penguins next year. So will Johnson, who’s earning an annual average value of $3.25 million through 2022-23 and isn’t capable of being a decent third-pairing defenseman anymore. They’ll have to package him with a sweetener to make him palatable, but his age (33) and the remaining years on that contract are serious sticking points.

Bjugstad has a year remaining at $4.1 million. If he hasn’t recovered from spinal surgery they could place him on long-term injury reserve to start next season. They can’t buy him out as long as he’s still recovering from surgery.

As I noted yesterday, trading Letang won’t be easy. He has an 18-team list of preferred trade destinations, but the oft-injured rearguard is 33 and carries a $7.25 million AAV through 2021-22.

PREDATORS

THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina wondered what the Nashville Predators will look like next season following their qualifying-round elimination.

He suggested buying out Kyle Turris’ contract, though that would cost $2 million annually against their salary cap through 2027-28. They could also let Craig Smith and/or Mikael Granlund depart via free agency and replace them with prospects such as Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Rexrode advocates buying out Turris and bidding farewell to Granlund. However, the hard part is figuring out if a major trade is necessary to push the Preds back into relevance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Predators GM David Poile intends to make a big move, the question becomes which player hits the trade block? Not Filip Forsberg or defensemen Ryan Ellis and team captain Roman Josi. Rexrode doubts Poile will shop Matt Duchene only a year after signing him to a long-term contract. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson comprise the Predators’ best line alongside Forsberg, but there’s been some grumbling over Johansen’s reliability as a first-line center.

Poile has a history of making big moves that no one saw coming. If he considers going that route again, my guess is Johansen becomes the trade candidate, provide a taker can be found for his $8 million AAV through 2024-25.

WILD

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sara McLellan suggests Kirill Kaprizov could address some of the Minnesota Wild’s scoring woes. He’ll make his NHL debut next season, but other reinforcements might be necessary.

It remains to be seen what happens to captain (and pending UFA) Mikko Koivu. McLellan feels the Wild need better depth on defense and wonders about the status of their goaltending after Alex Stalock replaced Devan Dubnyk as their starter. Both are under contract for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have over $65 million tied up in 17 players. With Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin coming off entry-level contracts, GM Bill Guerin could ink them to affordable bridge deals to ensure sufficient space for other moves.

Unless Koivu’s willing to accept a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary, the 37-year-old probably played his final game for the Wild, or as an NHL player. They’ll probably stick with the Dubnyk-Stalock tandem and see how things shake out next season. Stalock’s signed through 2021-22 while Dubnyk is a UFA next year.










NHL Flat Cap Fallout – Central Division

NHL Flat Cap Fallout – Central Division

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2020

The latest on Taylor Hall, Semyon Varlamov, Mikael Granlund, Evgeni Malkin, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman believes the Arizona Coyotes offered Taylor Hall a five-year contract worth an annual average value of $7.25 million. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).

Friedman doesn’t think that’s their final offer. He also feels situation means as much to Hall as anything. He noted rumors are linking the Coyotes to former Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli but doesn’t see that happening while re-signing Hall is an option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s market value before the pandemic was considered between $9 – $10 million annually. The Coyotes’ offer could reflect the new economic landscape even if it is an opening pitch. Assuming they’re willing to pay much more, Hall must believe the Coyotes are poised to become a perennial playoff club before agreeing to sign. He’s appeared in only one post-season round during his career.

Chiarelli traded Hall to New Jersey in 2016. That move didn’t sit well at the time with the winger.

Friedman wondered if the Edmonton Oilers can find room to squeeze Andreas Athanasiou into their tight cap space. The winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the off-season. Athanasiou’s performance in the upcoming tournament could determine his number.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is earning $3 million AAV on his current contract. Even if the winger plays well, Oilers GM Ken Holland could try to convince him to accept a one-year deal for the same AAV with the promise of a better deal after next season.

New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss is a UFA at season’s end while Semyon Varlamov still has term on his contract. If Greiss outplays Varlamov in the upcoming tournament, Friedman wonders if the Isles might attempt to re-sign him to a friendlier deal and try to trade Varlamov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible, but Varlamov is seen as a mentor for promising young Ilya Sorokin, who recently signed an entry-level deal with the Isles. Despite their cap constraints, I think the Isles intend to go with Varlamov and Sorokin as their tandem next season.

Friedman wondered if Mikael Granlund can ramp up his value in the upcoming tournament. The Nashville Predators winger is a UFA at season’s end and is a talented player during a time of fiscal tightness.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund struggled after joining the Predators in a trade with Minnesota late last season. However, his play improved once John Hynes took over as head coach in January. A solid performance in the playoff tournament could bolster his free-agent value.

The Florida Panthers are expected to cut payroll next season. Friedman notes wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are due to become unrestricted free agents in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Their tournament play could determine whether they get re-signed by the Panthers. Even then, they might only attempt to keep one of them. How much they’re seeking on their next contracts will also be a factor.

Friedman will also be watching the goaltending situations in Pittsburgh and Calgary. Penguins goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are restricted free agents. GM Jim Rutherford hinted there are ways to move around some money to re-sign both goalies. Meanwhile, the play of Flames netminders David Rittich and Cam Talbot will determine whether management tries something bold between the pipes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford has proven he can make moves to free up sufficient cap room to acquire or retain key players and keep his Penguins among the Stanley Cup contenders. It’ll be interesting to see what he does under a flat cap this time around.

Rittich has yet to establish himself as a reliable NHL starter. Talbot is a UFA at the end of this season and could seek a starter’s role elsewhere if the Flames remain committed to Rittich.

Rutherford was also asked if there will be any trade rumors involving Evgeni Malkin this summer. “Only if somebody makes them up,” he replied.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ok, folks, let’s see your best Malkin trade rumor in the comments section. They can’t be any worse than some we’ve seen over the years.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2020

A look at how the expansion Seattle Kraken could build their roster and coaching staff, plus the latest Predators speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BUILDING THE KRAKEN

TSN: Following yesterday’s reveal of Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise as the Kraken, Darren Dreger examined how they could build their coaching staff and roster. He said Kraken general manager Ron Francis still intends to take his time finding the right bench boss.

Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis (NHL.com)

There’s speculation linking former Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant to the Seattle franchise. Dreger feels it’s safe to assume Gallant is in the mix.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallant’s performance during the Golden Knights’ record-breaking inaugural season earned him the Jack Adams Award as the 2017-18 NHL coach of the year. He’ll be a tempting option for Francis.

Dreger also believes a flat salary cap of $81.5 million could work in the Kraken’s favor when building their roster next year. Francis could take advantage of the tough decisions some cap-strapped teams could face heading into 2021-22.

Some of those clubs could try to interest Francis in taking a high-salaried player off their hands. He could also take advantage of arbitration cases where a team rejects the arbiter’s award or those that walk away from qualifying offers for their restricted free agents.

Dreger’s colleague Travis Yost believes the Vegas Golden Knights have provided the Kraken a blueprint for building a successful expansion roster. They got secure goaltending by selecting Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft, swung several trades to obtain key players such as Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and William Karlsson, and loaded up on promising young assets through the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis will have his own ideas for building his roster, but I don’t doubt he’ll also attempt to follow the Golden Knights’ template. The flat cap provides him with perhaps better opportunities to land quality talent through next summer’s expansion draft or via the trade and free-agent markets.

I’ve avoided the expansion draft guessing game some writers played during the interruption in the NHL schedule by COVID-19. A player that could be available today might be protected next year, while limited cap space could leave a supposed untouchable player unprotected. Still, it will be interesting to see what opportunities unfold for the Kraken come next summer.

COULD THE PREDATORS BUY OUT TURRIS?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked about the likelihood of the Nashville Predators buying out Kyle Turris’ contract to free salary cap space to re-sign Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith. The two forwards are slated to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

Buying out Turris would save the Predators $4 million annually through 2024. Vingan isn’t sure if they’ll do t but believes they should give it serious consideration. Even then, he feels the likelihood of re-signing both Granlund and Smith is low.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: PuckPedia indicates buying out Turris will also leave the Predators with $2 million in annual dead cap space through 2027-28. With the cap expected to be flat for perhaps the next two seasons and growth to be slow after that, it still might not be a bad idea to remove the bulk of Turris’ cap hit.

As per Cap Friendly, the Predators have over $72.2 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21. Buying out Turris would reduce that to $68.2 million, providing a little extra wiggle room to re-sign Granlund or Smith, or to perhaps consider more affordable options via trade or free agency.

Whether GM David Poile goes that route is another story. He could attempt to move Turris’ entire contract, but that could mean packaging the center with a high draft pick and/or a top prospect.