Canucks On The Brink Of Collapse
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos hits the ice for training camp, the Wild name Jared Spurgeon captain, an update on Joe Thornton, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: After missing all but one game of the 2020 playoffs to a core muscle injury, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he’ll be a full participant in training camp. He also expects to be ready for the start of the season on Jan 13.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthy Stamkos should help the defending Stanley Cup champions offset the absence of winger Nikita Kucherov, who’s expected to miss the regular season recovering from hip surgery.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild named Jared Spurgeon as their second full-time captain in franchise history. He replaces Mikko Koivu, who was their first full-time captain for 11 seasons until his departure via free agency in October.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spurgeon gets the nod over long-time Wild stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The 31-year-old defenseman has spent his entire NHL career with the Wild, becoming an underrated but invaluable part of their roster core.
TSN: Joe Thornton will begin Toronto Maple Leafs training camp playing left wing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how long that line stays together. There will be concerns over whether the 41-year-old Thornton can keep pace with his younger, faster linemates.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed Dylan Strome to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $3 million. The 23-year-old center is expected to take on a larger role this season with centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach sidelined by illness and injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks couldn’t afford to let Strome’s contract negotiations keep him out of training camp. With Toews and Dach on the shelf, they need all the help they can get at the center position.
Strome played well during his first season with the Blackhawks (51 points in 58 games during 2018-19) but his numbers tumbled to 38 points in the same number of games in 2019-20. This will be a golden opportunity for Strome to prove his worth to the Hawks and earn himself a more lucrative long-term deal in two years’ time.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman John Marino to a six-year contract extension beginning in 2021-22. The annual average value is $4.4 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marino, 23, enjoyed a promising NHL debut with the Penguins, netting 26 points in 56 games while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. This contract could be a bargain for the Pens if he blossoms into a full-time first-pairing defenseman.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders are downplaying Mathew Barzal’s absence from training camp as contract negotiations continue with the restricted free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in New York and it’s expected a new contract could be announced sometime this week.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland won’t be in training camp and his playing career could be in jeopardy as he continues to deal with post-concussion symptoms. He saw action in just 14 regular-season games last season. GM Jim Benning said Ferland is expected to miss the start of the upcoming season.
SPORTSNET: Benning also said the club intends to sign head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. Green has one year remaining on his current deal.
CBS SPORTS: The Calgary Flames signed defenseman Michael Stone to a professional tryout offer. Stone spent the last four seasons playing with the Flames
SPORTSNET: The province of British Columbia has become the second Canadian province to officially approve NHL games this season. Alberta last week also issued its approval for its NHL teams to stage games in Calgary and Edmonton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected the other three provinces with NHL franchises (Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) will follow suit this week.
The Hurricanes avoid arbitration with Warren Foegele, the Oilers sign Dominik Kahun, plus the updated arbitration list, the latest on Travis Green and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes avoided arbitration with winger Warren Foegele, reaching an agreement on a one-year, $2.15 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A reasonable short-term deal for Foegele, who tallied 13 goals and 30 points in 68 games last season. He’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. Cap Friendly indicates the Hurricanes have over $80.5 million invested in 22 players for 2020-21.
NHLPA.COM: Five players have arbitration hearings slated for this month. New York Rangers center Ryan Strome’s hearing is on Nov. 5, Rangers winger Brendan Lemieux and New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock are on Nov. 6, Ottawa Senators defenseman Christian Jaros is set for Nov. 7, and Florida Panthers blueliner MacKenzie Weegar is on Nov. 8.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kahun spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, netting a respectable 68 points in 138 games. The 25-year-old winger is a boyhood friend and former childhood teammate of Oilers star Leon Draisaitl. They were frequent linemates for Germany in several international tournaments, including the World Championships. It remains to be seen if they’ll get skating together with the Oilers.
THE PROVINCE: The effects of COVID-19 upon NHL revenue are affecting the Vancouver Canucks efforts to sign head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. Green has a year remaining on his current contract. “We’ll continue to work at it, but everybody is really in a holding pattern and we’re not the only team,” said GM Jim Benning.
EISHOCKEY NEWS: Korbinian Holzer has signed with KHL team Automobilist Yekaterinburg. He hasn’t ruled out returning to the NHL but would seek a role where he’d get plenty of ice time.
The 32-year-old defenseman said there are interested parties but everyone is being cautious.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holzer spent eight seasons since 2010-11 in the NHL, most of those with the Anaheim Ducks. He has 27 points in 206 NHL contests.
THE ATHLETIC: Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis believes a flat salary cap for 2021-22 could be beneficial for his club as they build their roster. He noted some cap-strapped teams used contract buyouts and trades to alleviate their situations during the current offseason. Francis also indicated his club will remain patient in naming their first head coach.
NHL.COM: The National Hockey League yesterday honored Val James, who became the first American-born black player to play in the NHL on Nov. 1, 1981. James, now 63, played 10 regular-season and playoff games with the Buffalo Sabres in 1981-82 and four games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1986-87. He also scored the goal that gave the Rochester Americans the 1983 Calder Cup. James credited the late coach John Brophy and former NHL coach Mike Keenan for believing in him and helping him during his playing career.
The Lightning crushed the Bruins, the Flyers edge the Islanders in overtime, and the Avalanche get a big win over the Stars. Meanwhile, the NHL faces criticism over its response to protests over the Jacob Blake shooting. The latest in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning thumped the Boston Bruins 7-1 to take a 2-1 lead in their second-round series. Nikita Kucherov scored a goal and set up three others while Alex Killorn tallied twice and added an assist. The Bolts chased Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak from the game after he gave up four goals on 16 shots. His replacement, rookie Dan Vladar, didn’t fare any better, allowing three goals on 15 shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This game was over in the second period as the Lightning scored four goals to take a 6-1 lead by period’s end. The Bruins were undisciplined and the Bolts made them pay with three power-play goals.
Philippe Myers scored in overtime as the Philadelphia Flyers edged the New York Islanders 4-3 to tie their series at a game apiece. Kevin Hayes scored twice for the Flyers, who blew a 3-0 lead as the Isles battled back to tie the game after replacing goalie Semyon Varlamov with backup Thomas Greiss.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 26, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers’ top forwards played significant roles in this game, with Hayes scoring twice, Sean Couturier potting his first of the playoffs and assisting on Myers’ game-winner, while Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny each collected an assist. Nevertheless, the Flyers also learned a three-goal lead isn’t safe against the determined Islanders.
The Colorado Avalanche scored three unanswered third-period goals to defeat the Dallas Stars 6-4 in Game 3 of their second-round series. The Stars lead the series two games to one and were on the verge of taking a 3-0 series lead after rallying from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead before the Avs’ staged their comeback. Nazem Kadri netted the winning goal, Cale Makar collected three assists, and Nathan MacKinnon added two helpers. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin tallied for the Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was an entertaining contest that see-sawed back and forth before the Avs rallied for the win. It wasn’t a shining moment for the goalies, as Colorado’s Pavel Francouz and Dallas’ Anton Khudobin looked shaky in this match.
SPORTSNET: The NHL opted not to postpone Wednesday’s games in the wake of the NBA’s decision to delay its games after players from several of its teams boycotted games in protest over the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The NHL instead staged a moment of reflection before the Tampa/Boston and Colorado/Dallas games.
The NHL’s decision prompted criticism from Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, who are among the members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance fighting racial injustice. Dumba called the move “disheartening” while Kane felt it was disappointing. Both men felt the NHL should do more to acknowledge the situation.
CBC SPORTS: Hockey analyst Kelly Hrudey shared those sentiments, saying he felt the NHL should’ve postponed those games to show support for their NBA peers and the Black Lives Matter movement. He felt the league was missing out on important discussions about racial injustice.
ESPN.COM: Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning players said they learned about the NBA players boycott just before their game and didn’t have sufficient time to discuss the matter.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara voiced his support for his peers in other sports who sat out yesterday’s games. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he would’ve supported his players had they opted not to play. Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson of the Dallas Stars and Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche also voiced support, adding boycotting games isn’t the only way to back the cause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what transpires for today’s NHL games between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders and the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks. The league could be forced to postpone those games if players from those teams opt not to participate in support of their NBA peers.
THE SCORE: Sharks captain Logan Couture issued an apology after a tweet he made regarding American politics went viral. Couture claimed he was sucker-punched in Toronto after talking about voting for the Republican Party and mentioning US President Donald Trump. He added he didn’t explicitly say he’d vote for Trump but would vote Republican if he was an American citizen. Couture subsequently deleted those tweets after facing considerable criticism. The Sharks issued a statement condemning the use of violence toward Couture.
Vegas Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault issued an apology for lashing out at several fans on Instagram who criticized his play during his club’s 5-2 loss to Vancouver.
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko will undergo a third surgery on his left shoulder and will be sidelined for five months. Meanwhile, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong indicated one-fifth of his squad tested positive for COVID-19 at some point before they departed for Edmonton on July 19. None of those players were asymptomatic, but their fitness levels were affected because they couldn’t train while under quarantine.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Arizona Coyotes will forfeit its second-round pick in 2020 and its first-round pick in 2021 as punishment for violating the NHL’s combine scouting policy. The league prohibits teams from testing prospects’ fitness before its’ annual draft combine.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Claude Julien expects to return behind the Canadiens bench whenever next season begins. The Habs coach had to leave his club during their first-round series against Philadelphia after experiencing chest pains. He had a stent implanted in one of his arteries and is expected to make a full recovery.
NHL.COM: Defenseman Mike Green announced his retirement after 15 seasons with the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Edmonton Oilers. He netted 501 points in 880 career NHL games, as well as 37 points in 76 playoff contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Green’s best years were with the Capitals, including back-to-back 70-plus point campaigns in 2008-09 and 2009-10. He was a First Team All-Star and a finalist for the Norris Trophy in both those seasons. Injuries, however, would hamper his performance over the remainder of his career. Best wishes to Green and his family in their future endeavors.
Recaps of Saturday’s action, plus the latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves backstopping the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Bruins lead the series 2-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci each had two points for the Bruins.
Halak took over as the Bruins’ starter after Tuukka Rask released a statement before yesterday’s game indicating he was leaving the team and returning home for family reasons. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the club supported Rask’s decision.
It was a costly loss for the Hurricanes as first-line winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an injured leg after jostling in front of the Boston net with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 15, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That game had a surreal feeling, starting with the sudden news of Rask’s departure followed by Svechnikov’s injury. The latter prompted a crass, misinformed tweet by NESN’s play-by-play man Jack Edwards chiding the Hurricanes’ winger, in turn sparking an outpouring of criticism toward Edwards, including from several NHL TV analysts and pundits.
While Rask is expected to return to the Bruins next season, there is already speculation he may have played his final NHL game. I’ll have more on that later today in the Rumors section.
The Hurricanes could provide an update on Svechnikov’s status, but head coach Rod Brind’Amour suggested the injury looked “really bad” during his post-game presser. Losing their best winger would leave a big void in the Hurricanes’ lineup.
The Vegas Golden Knights have the Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes as they hung on for a 2-1 win in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start of this series for Vegas, turning in a 26-save performance. William Karlsson and Patrick Brown scored for Vegas while Olli Maatta replied for the Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks had several good scoring chances but failed to cash in. The Golden Knights can complete the sweep later today.
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper tied a career-high 49 saves carrying his club to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Avs lead the series 2-1. Taylor Hall tallied the game-winner late in the third period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have been outshot and outplayed through most of their games in this postseason but Kuemper’s made the difference. He stole this game for the Coyotes, keeping them from falling behind 3-0 to the powerful Avalanche.
Victor Hedman’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series. Lightning center Brayden Point also scored to extend his points streak to six games. Riley Nash had a goal and an assist for the Jackets, who were held to just seven shots in the second and third periods.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has been a low-scoring grinder of a series. Unlike last season’s opening-round series, this year’s rematch shows the Lightning are willing to play that type of game. The Jackets have relied on strong goaltender and defense to get this far, but they need more goal production if they hope to upset the Bolts for the second time.
RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden said Nicklas Backstrom participated in practice yesterday but was reluctant to commit to the center’s status for Game 3 today against the New York Islanders. Backstrom was sidelined following a late hit from Islanders captain Anders Lee in Game 1.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports Oilers defenseman Mike Green has retired.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No official word yet from Green or his representatives. It wouldn’t be surprising if the veteran blueliner has decided to hang up his skates. An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, the 34-year-old Green is coming to the end of his career. He opted out of return-to-play citing family reasons.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports there’s concern some of the top European prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft might not be permitted to play in the NHL in 2020-21 because of COVID-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the European prospects were probably going to remain overseas for next season anyway. I don’t think it’ll adversely affect their standing in this year’s draft.
Teams begin to announce their training-camp rosters, at least three Montreal Canadiens test positive for COVID-19, plus updates on Max Domi, Auston Matthews, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Multiple clubs revealed their training-camp rosters for Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan. They include the Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, Washington Capitals, and Winnipeg Jets.
The Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and St. Louis Blues have yet to announce their training-camp rosters.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can find the full rosters by following the link above. The other clubs will likely reveal their rosters later today.
TSN: Cites a report from The Athletic’s Arpon Basu stating at least three Montreal Canadiens players have tested positive for COVID-19. The team and the NHL declined to comment, citing the league’s COVID-19 disclosure policy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those three positives occurred during the league’s Phase 2 voluntary workout phase. We have no idea which players were involved and when those positive tests took place. We’ll likely get a better idea about the identity of those players when the Habs take to the ice today for mandatory training camp.
With over 700 players on 24 teams spread out in their respective home cities starting today for Phase 3, we could see an increase in positive tests over the next two weeks. How high that number rises could determine the fate of the playoff tournament under Phase 4.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens forward Max Domi will wait seven-to-10 days before deciding if he’ll join his teammates for training camp. As a type-1 diabetic with celiac disease, Domi is a greater risk for COVID-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t blame Domi for his caution, especially in the light of the news of three teammates testing positive. It’ll be understandable if he opts-out of participating in the return-to-play plan.
TVA SPORTS: Speaking of the Canadiens, young defenseman Alexander Romanov is expected to sign an entry-level contract with the club. He could practice and travel with the Habs, but cannot participate in the Phase 4 playoff tournament. It will also burn off the first year of his entry-level deal.
STARTRIBUNE.COM/NEW YORK POST: The Minnesota Wild are expected to sign winger Kirill Kaprisov and the New York Islanders to sign goaltender Ilya Sorokin to entry-level contracts. Like Romanov, they’ll be allowed to train and travel with their respective NHL clubs but cannot take part in the playoff tournament. They’ll also burn off the first year of their ELCs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The teams want those Russian players locked up to NHL contracts as soon as possible, even if it means they’re ineligible to skate in the upcoming playoffs and burns off the first year of their contracts. It avoids the risk of those three opting to stay in the KHL for next season and allows them the opportunity to ease into their new NHL rosters.
THE SCORE: Good news for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as center Auston Matthews is fit to play and will join his teammates in training camp today. Matthews reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in May and self-isolated at his off-season home in Arizona.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is the only player to be named in the media as testing positive, though the league and the Leafs declined to comment. It’ll be interesting to see if Matthews addresses the report with the press. I doubt he will give the league’s policy on players’ medical information.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins reserve defenseman Zach Trotman isn’t expected to participate in the return-to-play plan.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Because Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mike Green is opting out of participating in the return-to-play plan, the Detroit Red Wings will receive the Oilers’ fourth-round pick. It’s part of the deal that saw the Wings trade Green to the Oilers at the trade deadline in February.
NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes hired former NHL player Peter Harrold as a skills coach.
As was indicated in the NHL/NHLPA media avail yesterday, teams are being directed to use specific terminology in describing players absence. Beginning tomorrow, the NHL wants clubs to use the terms “not fit to play” or “unable to practice” to explain any player’s absence.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 12, 2020