NHL Rumor Mill – February 28, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – February 28, 2022

Should the Leafs make a pitch for Marc-Andre Fleury? Which depth players could be the missing piece for Stanley Cup contenders? Could the Rangers add a Sabres defenseman by the trade deadline? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD FLEURY RESOLVE LEAFS GOALIE WOES?

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the Maple Leafs could be among several clubs (Edmonton, Boston, Washington, Colorado) lining up looking to acquire Marc-Andre Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks. The 37-year-old goaltender wouldn’t mind getting traded to a contending team.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images)

Simmons expressed concern over Leafs starter Jack Campbell’s recent struggles between the pipes. He’s also dismissive of Petr Mrazek being ready to go if Campbell cannot regain his dominant first-half form, calling him a “bottom-half NHL goalie” who the Carolina Hurricanes let walk for nothing last summer.

Fleury carries an expensive $7 million cap hit this season. The Leafs placed defenseman Jake Muzzin on long-term injury reserve but they’d have to do some maneuvering to bring in the Blackhawks goalie. Nevertheless, Simmons doesn’t see any better alternatives.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury would bring stability and plenty of playoff experience to the Leafs; crease. However, he has a 10-team no-trade clause and it’s possible the Leafs are on it.

If they’re not, it’ll take considerable salary-cap gymnastics by Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas to land Fleury. Dubas reportedly won’t hold Muzzin out of the lineup if he’s healthy enough to return to the Leafs’ lineup before the end of the season.

WHO COULD BE THE MISSING PIECE FOR STANLEY CUP CONTENDERS

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli recently listed five depth players who could help a club win the Stanley Cup as Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow did for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Montreal Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen topped the list, followed by Chicago’s Brandon Hagel, Columbus’ Alexandre Texier, Arizona’s Lawson Crouse and San Jose’s Noah Gregor.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens don’t have to move Lehkonen by the March 21 trade deadline as he’s a restricted free agent this summer. However, he has arbitration rights and is a year away from becoming eligible for unrestricted free agent status. If he’s only seeking a one-year extension, the Canadiens could ship him out for the right offer by the deadline.

Hagel’s drawn lots of interest because of his age (23), two-way play and affordable $1.5 million annual cap hit over the next two seasons. It’s those factors, however, that could keep him with the Blackhawks, especially if they intend to rebuild after this season. I don’t doubt they’re getting offers for Hagel but it could take a significant one to tempt them into moving him.

Texier’s trade value could be hampered by a recent report indicating he’s still several weeks away from returning from an injured finger. Meanwhile, GOPHNX.com’s Craig Morgan has Crouse on his “no-trade list”, citing his size, two-way play, strong skating and he’s on career highs in almost every statistical category.

Gregor could be available though he hasn’t surfaced in many trade rumors regarding the Sharks. The 23-year-old winger is on a one-year, $750K contract and becomes a restricted free agent this summer.

COULD COLIN MILLER BECOME A RANGER?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggested Colin Miller as a possible blueline depth acquisition for the Rangers. The 29-year-old played two seasons under Rangers coach Gerard Gallant with the Vegas Golden Knights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those were also Miller’s best NHL seasons. He lacks no-trade protection and carries a $3.875 million cap hit for this season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 14, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 14, 2021

Check out the latest on Auston Matthews, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Ryan Kesler and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews explained why he waited until mid-August to undergo surgery for a nagging wrist injury. He said he wanted to see if it would heal following a period of rest. After ramping up his on-ice training, it still didn’t feel right and the decision to undergo the procedure was made following consultation with specialists and the Leafs’ medical staff.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

It’s nothing serious. So I’m happy we got it done,” said Matthews. The 2021 Richard Trophy Winner indicated he’s not worried about it and anticipates being fully recovered for the opening night of the season next month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Matthews won the goal-scoring crown while plagued by that injury during the 2020-21 campaign. He could be on pace for another Richard Trophy this season.

Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois admitted keeping quiet about his reasons for requesting a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets opened the door for false rumors last season. He still believes maintaining his silence on the matter was the mature thing to do. “Maybe one day, when I retire, maybe I’ll write a book,” he said.

Dubois also acknowledged he never felt comfortable last season because of the mental and physical roller coaster from the trade and subsequent injuries. He’s looking forward to turning the page and believes the adversity will help him in the long run.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois is entitled to this privacy but the lack of details over why he wanted out of Columbus was going to generate conjecture from fans and pundits. I anticipate he’ll be motivated for a strong bounce-back performance this season.

NHL.COM: Ryan Kesler acknowledged he’ll never play in the NHL again as he’s still recovering from resurfacing surgery on his left hip in February. He also underwent a similar procedure on his right hip in 2019. The 37-year-old center also admitted he was in so much pain during his final two NHL seasons that he hated playing the game.

Kesler and his family have moved back to Michigan. He was recently named a volunteer assistant coach with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kesler is entering the final year of his contract with the Anaheim Ducks. His last active NHL season was 2018-19 and he’s been on long-term injury reserve since then.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets have parted ways with assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre after he opted not to get a COVID-19 vaccine and will not be able to coach as a result. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen explained the NHL’s strict COVID-19 protocols are most stringent on those with direct access to the players. Lefebvre has been replaced by Steve McCarthy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report also indicates Kekalainen declined to reveal Lefebvre’s reason for not getting vaccinated. In a statement, he said the team respects Lefebvre’s decision as a personal one.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Colorado Eagles assistant coach Brett Clark has departed his job after he also declined to get vaccinated. The Eagles are the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. The NHL’s COVID protocols also extend to its AHL affiliates.

NHL.COM: The San Jose Sharks re-signed forward Noah Gregor to a one-year contract. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates it’s a two-way deal worth $750K at the NHL level.

TSN: An American advocacy group is calling upon the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USPOC) to suspend Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman from his role as GM of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team. Bowman faces allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of two former Blackhawks players by their former video coach.

NHL ALUMNI: announced the passing of former NHL right wing Jack “Smokey” Egers on Sep. 10 at age 72. Egers spent seven seasons with the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals from 1969-70 to 1975-76, tallying 64 goals and 133 points in 284 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Following his playing career, Egers moved back to Kitchener, Ontario, and became a firefighter, rising to the rank of captain. My condolences to his family, friends, former teammates and co-workers.