NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

The Blue Jackets sign Dubois, the Blues ink Vince Dunn, plus the latest on Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Nico Hischier, Micheal Ferland and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of 2021.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10 million contract. A restricted free agent before the signing, the 22-year-old center will earn $3.35 million this season and $6.65 million in 2021-22. The annual average value is $5 million.

Pierre-Luc Dubois yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A skilled two-way player, Dubois enters this season as the Jackets’ No. 1 center. Coming off his entry-level contract, Dubois had little leverage other than to stage a contract holdout or demand a trade. It’s an affordable short-term deal for the Blue Jackets and a reasonable raise for the young center, but he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he has arbitration rights.

Before the signing, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported there were “rumblings” from a few clubs around the league that Dubois wanted a “change of scenery.” I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday signed restricted free agent Vince Dunn to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. Like Dubois, the 24-year-old defenseman was coming off an entry-level deal and lacked sufficient leverage to seek a better deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn deserves more than that but the Blues are pressed for cap space this year. While they’ll place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR for this season, they need to ensure sufficient space for the latter’s anticipated return in March.

The Blues also have winger Mike Hoffman in training camp on a tryout offer and must ensure sufficient cap room to sign him to a one-year deal. I daresay Dunn can expect a much better deal next year when he has arbitration rights and the Blues have more cap room.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders had yet to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal but general manager Lou Lamoriello said the RFA center is in New York and contract discussions are ongoing. Lamoriello also revealed the Isles have signed winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening for last season’s 24 playoff clubs on Sunday, Jan. 3, don’t be surprised if Barzal and the Isles reach an agreement on a new contract as soon as today. No details yet on the new deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider but they’re probably affordable one-year contracts.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revealed the club wanted him back for this season but in a reduced role as they transitioned toward younger defensemen. He also said the Bruins made him a contract offer months ago. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals earlier this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the Bruins envisioned Chara filling the role of a seventh defenseman, meaning he wouldn’t see anywhere near as much playing time as he’s used to. He admitted he’s got no guarantees with the Capitals but he’ll have the opportunity to compete.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns spent part of the offseason making a guest appearance in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series “Vikings”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns does look like a modern-day Viking so he’d be a natural for a bit part in that series. His most recent acting gig was a commercial during the 2020 playoffs for Kit Kat Chunky.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is listed as week-to-week with an injured foot. While it’s not considered serious and doesn’t require surgery, the injury could sideline the 21-year-old center for the start of the season on Jan. 13.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland won’t be in Vancouver on Sunday for his training camp physical and is expected to undergo testing remotely with team doctors. Ferland’s agent revealed his client is still attempting to recover from post-concussion symptoms suffered last season. If the winger fails his physical, the Canucks are expected to place him on long-term injury reserve for this season.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are attempting to turn oft-injured defenseman Samuel Morin into a left winger for the coming season. Morin, who said he’s “fighting for his career”, approves of the move. He could become part of the Flyers’ taxi squad for the upcoming season.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly hired former NHL defenseman Dan Girardi in a player development role.

TSN: Players on Canada’s seven NHL teams will be exempt from the country’s 14-day quarantine rule. The Canadian government has approved of the teams’ training-camp plans to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 but all teams must operate within provincial guidelines for regular-season play. Alberta is the first province to approve NHL regular-season games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams are able to stage training camps in their respective cities. If the other provinces don’t approve regular-season games, the Canadian clubs could start the season playing their games in a hub city like Edmonton. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently reiterated the league believes it has clearance to play in all seven Canadian cities.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2020

Another updated list of the top UFAs, including the latest on Mike Hoffman, Zdeno Chara and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Forwards Mike Hoffman, Erik Haula and Corey Perry top TSN’s listing of the best remaining unrestricted free agents. Winger Mikael Granlund and defenseman Sami Vatanen round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes Hoffman could be a fit with the St. Louis Blues. With Alexander Steen’s playing days ended by a back injury, LeBrun speculated they could put his $5.75 million on long-term injury reserve and use the savings to sign Hoffman.

Cap Friendly indicates the Blues are over the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.175 million, with restricted free agent Vince Dunn to be signed. That might not leave enough to land Hoffman, who’s open to a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. They could get more flexibility by placing Vladimir Taransenko (shoulder surgery) and his $7.5 million cap hit on LTIR, but they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns later in the season.

Will Zdeno Chara return with the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Carl Soderberg, blueliner Travis Hamonic and winger Ilya Kovalchuk round out the top 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston reports Chara’s agent said the Bruins have been “very communicative” with them over how they see things going forward. Team president Cam Neely said his club was still trying to flush out where things stand with their former captain. Neely said they still respect Chara but couldn’t say where the 43-year-old would fit on their blueline.

Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now pointed out the Bruins’ unsuccessful attempt to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson earlier in the offseason. He also reported they’ve been linked to Calgary’s Noah Hanifin in the rumor mill.

If the Bruins don’t sign Chara, perhaps they’ll swing a trade to address their lack of skilled depth on the left side of their blueline. Revisiting an Ekman-Larsson deal seems unlikely. The Hanifin speculation originated with a reporter suggesting he’d be a good fit with the Bruins but there’s no indication the two clubs have discussed it.

Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with KHL club Avangard Omsk because he couldn’t find any takers in the NHL. Maybe that changes now that we know the start date for this season.

Wingers Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson and defenseman Mirco Mueller rank from 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin is believed to have a one-year deal with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once they re-sign RFA center Mathew Barzal. Wilson seems to be transitioning from his playing career after recently revealing his treatments for OCD and nagging hip injuries.

Forwards Melker Karlsson and Trevor Lewis, defensemen Ben Hutton and Andy Greene and goaltender Ryan Miller fill slots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson recently signed for the season with a Swedish club and isn’t expected to return to the NHL. Like Martin, Greene is said to have a deal with the Isles pending their signing of Barzal. With teams allowed to carry a third goalie this season on their “taxi squad”, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders if this could improve the value of unsigned goalies such as Miller.

Defensemen Ron Hainsey, Michael Del Zotto, Madison Bowey, and Jan Rutta and forward Brian Boyle come in from 21 to 26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drake Caggiula was also among this group but he signed yesterday with the Arizona Coyotes.

Defenseman Karl Alzner, forwards Michael Grabner, Fredrik Gauthier and Riley Sheahan and goalies Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson round out the rest of the list.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

An update on Mathew Barzal and some recent Sabres speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello’s efforts to re-sign Mathew Barzal got easier with defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s playing career coming to an end. Boychuk will be placed on long-term injury reserve for the final two years of his contract, giving the Isles $6 million in potential salary-cap relief per season.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

That cap flexibility will be placed toward signing Barzal. The 23-year-old center is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. Gross doubts he’ll receive an offer sheet from a rival club. Industry expectations suggest he’ll sign a two- or three-year bridge deal from the Islanders worth an annual average value of around $7 million.

The Islanders still have to announce its deals with unrestricted free agents Matt Martin, Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. Gross expects Schneider will most likely try to resurrect his career with the Isles AHL farm team in Bridgeport.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have $3.9 million in cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR allows them to exceed the cap by the equivalent of his $6 million AAV. Lamoriello could be waiting to find out when the season will begin before finalizing the Barzal contract and formally announcing the deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider.

An offer sheet for Barzal is possible but unlikely given the few teams with sufficient salary-cap space to make a significant offer. Lamoriello informed his rivals he would match any offer. I don’t see any of them trying to call his bluff.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined potential trade options for the Buffalo Sabres if they once again find themselves outside the playoff picture during 2020-21.

Winger Taylor Hall could be a valuable trade chip if the Sabres are out of contention by the trade deadline. He has a no-movement clause in his one-year contract but could approve a deal if the Sabres sink in the standings. Veteran center Eric Staal is also under contract for the coming season. His affordable $3.25 million cap hit could make him enticing in the trade market.

If things go south for the Sabres, O’Brien wondered if this could be the season they trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He also doesn’t rule out moving winger Sam Reinhart but considers it unlikely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sabres are a contender this season those players won’t be going anywhere even at the risk of losing Hall to free agency next summer. Another disappointing performance, however, will see them become sellers at the trade deadline.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 26, 2020

What next for the Lightning after re-signing Mikhail Sergachev? What effect will the end of Johnny Boychuk’s career have upon the Islanders’ cap space? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois remains confident he’ll get restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak under contract after re-signing defenseman Mikhail Sergachev yesterday.

Does Mikhail Sergachev’s new deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning signal a trade of Tyler Johnson is coming? (NHL Images)

Sergachev’s new contract puts the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.9 million. BriseBois acknowledged he’ll have to move players to free up sufficient cap space to sign Cirelli and Cernak. “There’s a lot of progress being made,” he said. “We’re working on a bunch of different fronts, there’s a lot of balls up in the air. Nothing has materialized yet.”

Smith believes the Sergachev signing suggests the Lightning GM has a move in place or in the works to clear cap space. Winger Tyler Johnson is the top trade candidate. He’s provided BriseBois with a list of eight or nine preferred trade destinations but Smith said things are quiet on the Johnson front.

Winger Alex Killorn could be another trade candidate. He’s got three years left on his contract with a $4.45 million annual average value and a modified no-trade clause.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz also listed Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat as Lightning trade options. They’ll have more trade value than Johnson and Killorn but they’re also better players. He also wonders if they’d consider moving Cirelli or another player with a big contract though neither option seems ideal.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy speculates BriseBois will likely have to package Johnson with another asset to move him and his $5 million AAV off their books.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois didn’t need to rush to sign Sergachev. Perhaps he got wind of another club thinking about signing the young blueliner to an offer sheet. That doesn’t seem to be the case if Sergachev’s comments about wanting to retire in Tampa are anything to go by.

The Lightning GM could indeed have a deal in the works to move Johnson or someone else like Killorn. I doubt he trades Gourde or Palat. He won’t want to take on additional salary in return so a sweetener like a high draft pick and/or top prospect will have to be packaged with Johnson.

It’s been a while since a notable trade was made. The last occurred on Oct. 12 when the Vegas Golden Knights shipped Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks. BriseBois could wait until confirmation for the start of this season is finally released by the league.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz looked at what’s ahead for the New York Islanders’ offseason after Johnny Boychuk announced his playing career is over because of an eye injury.

His decision clears the way for the Isles to signed restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal. The Isles have $3.9 million in cap space but can exceed the $81.5 million cap by the equivalent of Boychuk’s $6 million annual average value. It could also provide room for their rumored pending deals with winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.

The end of Boychuk’s career is a further blow to the Islanders defense corps after trading away Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche several weeks ago in a cost-cutting move. Gretz wonders if Isles GM Lou Lamoriello would’ve made that move had he known what would happen to Boychuk.

Bringing back Greene could help their blueline and promising Noah Dobson is waiting in the wings. UFA options include Zdeno Chara, Sami Vatanen, Ben Hutton or Slater Koekkoek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The priority is signing Barzal. As Gretz points out, however, his new contract will bite deeply into that additional cap space.

Lamoriello will try to keep that as low as possible. Gretz suggests $7 million annually for Barzal would be the low end but the Isles GM could try to push that down to $6 million on a short-term deal with the promise of a bigger payday down the road.

He’ll need to keep it at the low end if he’s already got contracts lined up for Martin, Greene and Schneider. Failing that, he’ll have to consider a cost-cutting trade or burying someone like Andrew Ladd in the minors.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 3, 2020

A look at the latest list of notable unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: updated their list of noteworthy unrestricted free agents as the calendar flipped to November. Winger Mike Hoffman, center Erik Haula, and wingers Corey Perry, Mikael Granlund, and Anthony Duclair fill out the top five.

Could Corey Perry sign with the Ottawa Senators? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been widely reported Hoffman seeks a one-year, $6 million contract and is willing to be patient to get the deal he wants. The Nashville Predators are rumored to be among his suitors.

There’s some recent speculation linking Haula to the Pittsburgh Penguins but they’ve got $80.1 million invested in 23 players. Unless they shed salary there’s no room for another UFA addition.

Perry’s been linked to the Ottawa Senators but I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to the Dallas Stars on a one-year deal. Nothing new on Granlund and Duclair, though that doesn’t mean there’s no interest in either winger.

Defensemen Sami Vatanen and Zdeno Chara, winger Andreas Athanasiou, center Carl Soderberg and blueliner Travis Hamonic round out the top ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nothing of note regarding Vatanen, Athanasiou, Soderberg and Hamonic but Chara’s future remains a topic of interest. It was assumed the long-time Bruins captain would return for another season in Boston. However, that’s no longer a certainty as he intends to take his time before reaching a decision.

Wingers Ilya Kovalchuk, Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson fill spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk is reportedly hoping to sign with a contender and is waiting for the right offer. There was talk earlier this year that the Montreal Canadiens might try to bring him back but their offseason acquisitions of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli make that unlikely.

The New York Islanders are working to bring back Martin. It’s rumored the San Jose Sharks have spoken with Sheary. Nothing new about Frolik while hip surgeries may have ended Wilson’s playing career.

Other notables on the list include Andy Greene and Karl Alzner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There speculation the Islanders could bring back Greene. Alzner, meanwhile, was recently linked to the Boston Bruins as insurance if Chara doesn’t return.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 21, 2020

The latest on the notable remaining unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Mike Hoffman remains atop the list of players still available in the 2020 unrestricted free agent market. The 30-year-old winger tallied 29 goals and 59 points in 69 games last season with the Florida Panthers.

Mike Hoffman remains atop the list of the best remaining NHL unrestricted free agents (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Adam Vingan reports Hoffman’s agent claims 13 teams are interested in his client, with five or six that he considers serious. However, he feels those clubs are paralyzed a bit by the flattened salary cap. He also said the winger has no issue signing a one-year contract.

Vingan speculates the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators could be among those suitors. He thinks Hoffman could draw a salary between $5 million and $8 million on a one-year deal.

NBC Sports’ James O’Brien, however, lists Hoffman among his “buyer beware” players. He suggests his offensive impact is overstated while he contributes little defensively.

Center Erik Haula and wingers Corey Perry, Mikael Granlund and Anthony Duclair round out the top five. Defensemen Sami Vatanen and Zdeno Chara, winger Andreas Athanasiou, center Carl Soderberg and defenseman Travis Hamonic complete the top-10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Brien also includes Duclair and Athanasiou in his “buyer beware” category, saying teams will be getting some offense at the expense of abysmal defense from those players. Granlund, however, is considered a safe free-agent bet.

Chara was expected to return for another season with the Bruins, but GM Don Sweeney seems to be leaving that up to the big blueliner, whose agent claims other clubs have expressed an interest in his client. No word on what’s going on with Perry but I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns for another season with the Stars.

The Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators have been suggested as destinations for Vatanen but there’s no indication he’s in discussions with those teams. Nothing of note regarding Hamonic, though the speculation linking him to the Winnipeg Jets hasn’t gone away.

Other notables still available include Ilya Kovalchuk, Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik, Colin Wilson, Alex Galchenyuk, Andy Greene and Drake Caggiula.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was speculation the Montreal Canadiens would bring back Kovalchuk but their acquisitions of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli probably puts an end to that idea. Martin is reportedly in talks with the New York Islanders, who’ve indicated Greene could also return next season.

Sheary, Wilson and Caggiula should land somewhere on inexpensive one-year deals. Frolik and Galchenyuk have declined in recent years and could have difficulty drumming up interest in their services around the NHL.