The latest on Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Russell, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Dustin Byfuglien understands the club suspended him for not reporting to training camp was “absolutely procedural” and he was fully aware of it. The club made the move to protect their roster and salary-cap flexibility while Byfuglien’s on his leave of absence pondering his future.
Dustin Byfuglien was aware the Winnipeg Jets would suspend him and the reasons why (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bang goes the theory that this move would drive a wedge between Byfuglien and the Jets.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Kris Russell has been cleared to participate in training camp after spending the last two weeks in concussion protocol. He was injured following an accidental collision with a teammate during a pre-camp skate.
TSN: The Dallas Stars released Scottie Upshall from his professional tryout offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Upshall reportedly had a good training camp but the Stars are tight on contracts. Perhaps he’ll land with another club seeking forward depth before the start of the season.
CALGARY SUN: Tobias Rieder is looking for a fresh start with the Flames. He’s currently on a professional tryout offer.
THE SCORE: Former NHL defenseman Eric Gryba has announced his retirement after 289 games over seven seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers, and New Jersey Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Gryba in his future endeavors.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators demoted Eeli Tolvanen to their AHL affiliate yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tolvanen was considered among the Predators’ top prospects, but the 20-year-old winger has had difficulty cracking their roster.
Kailer Yamamoto is in Bakersfield and will continue his rehab post wrist surgery. Logan Day (hand) will require surgery. #Oilers
Flames sign James Neal, an update on Henrik Zetterberg, Ryan McDonagh’s new contract, plus a roundup of other free agent signings and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPECTOR NOTE: Following this link for yesterday’s list of notable free-agent signings and this link for my analysis of the more noteworthy signings.
TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the Calgary Flames have signed winger James Neal to a five-year deal worth an annual average value of roughly $5.75-million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Neal’s tallied 20-plus goals in each of his 10 NHL seasons and played a leadership role in the Vegas Golden Knights’ record-breaking inaugural campaign. His experience, physical style and leadership could make him a solid addition for the Flames. However, his production decreased over the past two seasons with Nashville and Vegas respectively. His physical style has also taken a toll, as he’s played over 71 games just one in the past five seasons. With Neal turning 31 in September, this new contract could become more costly over the final two years for the Flames.
Detroit Red Wings management unsure if Henrik Zetterberg will be healthy enough to play next season (Photo via NHL Images)
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland isn’t certain if captain Henrik Zetterberg will be able to play next season. Holland said the last time he spoke to Zetterberg, the 37-year-old center said he’s planning on playing. However, his health will determine if he returns to action.
Zetterberg has a history of back injuries and underwent major surgery in 2014. Holland said he’ll remain in touch with his captain throughout the summer.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning yesterday re-signed defenseman Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year extension worth $47 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDonagh will be 30 when his new contract kicks in next summer. He’s a solid all-around defenseman but that deal could become a millstone for the Lightning over the latter years of the deal. McDonagh’s style of play takes a toll upon his body, one that could hamper his effectiveness as he ages. He also seemed to struggle at times against swifter opponents during the 2018 playoffs.
THE ATHLETIC: Defenseman Jack Johnson found himself in hot water with Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella over his comment that he was happy to join a team with a winning culture during his press conference yesterday to announce his signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tortorella blasted the former Jackets defenseman, calling those remarks a slap in the face after all the organization had done to support him. Johnson said his misspoke, never intended any insult and called Jackets president John Davidson to apologize.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: The Rangers re-signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year deal worth $4 million per season and inked former Ottawa Senators defenseman Fredrik Claesson to a one-year, $700,000 deal.
Islanders hire Trotz as head coach, NHL releases schedule and salary-cap limits for 2018-19. Details and more in your morning coffee headlines.
NEWSDAY: The New York Islanders yesterday named former Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz as their new bench boss. Trotz recently stepped down as the Capitals head coach just over a week after guiding them to their first Stanley Cup title.
New York Islanders name Barry Trotz as their new general manager (Photo via NHL.com)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Terrific hire by the Islanders, as new president of hockey operations/general manager Lou Lamoriello continues to overhaul the staff. Trotz’s hiring should significantly improve the Islanders, as well as serving as yet another incentive for pending free agent star John Tavares to re-sign.
WASHINGTON POST: Speaking of the Capitals, they’ll be interviewing associate coach Todd Reirden as Trotz’s replacement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They could interview other potential candidates but Reirden appears the front-runner for this job. He’s been on the staff for four years and has a good relationship with the players.
The league also revealed next season’s salary-cap limits. The upper limit is set at $79.5 million, up $4.5 million from $75 million. The lower limit is $58.8 million. The league also announced the final escrow taken from players’ salaries is eight percent, down from 11.5 percent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHLPA likely voted to keep maintain the salary-cap inflator at the same rate (1.35 percent) as last season to ensure a lower rate of escrow claw backs next season. That would explain why the cap ceiling didn’t reach $80 million or more. Still, the new rate is the largest in four years and will provide cap-strapped teams with much-need wiggle room for signings or additions via trades.
WGR 550: cites TSN’s Bob McKenzie reporting the Buffalo Sabres are not expected to tender a qualifying offer to restricted free agent goaltender Robin Lehner. The due date for qualifying offers is June 25, making Lehner an unrestricted free agent after that date.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a surprising development, indicating the Sabres will be in the market for someone to share the goaltending duties with promising Linus Ullmark. Lehner posted decent numbers in three seasons playing for lousy Sabres’ rosters, but he has an injury history and his performance tends to be streaky. There are several other NHL clubs in need of goaltending help (including the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders) who could pursue Lehner via free agency on July 1.
TSN: The Edmonton Oilers yesterday placed defenseman Eric Gryba on waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. He had a year remaining on his deal worth $900K.
Game recaps plus updates on Filip Forsberg, Artem Anisimov, Michael Frolik and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: In his NHL debut, 32-year-old netminder Jeff Glass made 42 saves backstopping the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers. Patrick Kane collected two points, including the winning goal. Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a three-point game.
Earlier in the day, the Oilers activated defenseman Oscar Klefbom off injured reserve and placed blueliner Eric Gryba on waivers. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks placed center Artem Anisimov (upper body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After years of kicking around the minors and the KHL, Glass finally makes his NHL debut. He was part of Canada’s 2005 World Junior Hockey championship roster that featured future superstars such as Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron, Corey Perry and Shea Weber. Of course, this is only temporary as he’ll be backing up Anton Forsberg until starter Corey Crawford returns from injury. Still, if he plays well perhaps he can attract interest from another NHL club in need of goaltending depth.
Devan Dubnyk made 41 saves in his return after missing six games to a lower-body injury while Mikael Granlund netted a hat trick as the Minnesota Wild downed the Nashville Predators 4-2. Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau needed a few stitches after being struck on the head by a puck later in the third period. Predators winger Filip Forsberg left the game in the third period with an unspecified “problem”. An update is expected today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boudreau’s a former player so I doubt this phased him very much. No word yet if Forsberg’s problem was injury related.
A 42-save performance by Connor Hellebuyck carried the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders. Jets forwards Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Adam Lowry each had two points, while Anders Lee scored both Isles goals.
Cam Ward made 27 saves for his 305th career victory as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1. The Canes have won four straight for the first time this season and seven of their last eight.
The Philadelphia Flyers ended the Tampa Bay Lightning’s home winning streak at eight games with a 5-3 victory. Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux each collected three points.
Alexander Radulov scored twice, including the game winner, to give a Dallas Stars a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. Stars captain Jamie Benn had a goal and an assist.
Rickard Rakell had a two-point game as the Anaheim Ducks squeaked past the Calgary Flames 2-1. The Flames were playing without winger Michael Frolik, who’s listed as week-to-week with a fractured jaw.
Two goals by Jack Eichel set the stage for Rasmus Ristolainen’s overtime winner as the Buffalo Sabres overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the New Jersey Devils 4-3, handing the latter their first loss in six games.
J.T. Compher scored in overtime as the Colorado Avalanche edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3. Nathan MacKinnon scored twice for Colorado, spoiling the return of former Avs goalie Calvin Pickard, who made 24 saves. The Leafs were playing without center Nazem Kadri, who missed the game with an upper-body injury.
The Ottawa Senators rallied from a 3-1 deficit with four straight goals and held on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4. Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone and Dion Phaneuf all collected two points for the Sens while Sonny Milano scored twice for the Jackets.
Jimmy Howard’s 37-save performance helped the Detroit Red Wings snap a three-game losing skid by edging the New York Rangers 3-2 in a shootout. Frans Nielsen picked up the winner with the only goal in the shootout.
SPORTSNET: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league won’t be drawn into any discussions over future Olympic participation until after the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
THE PROVINCE (VIA EDMONTON JOURNAL): Douglas Quan profiles former NHL enforcer Stephen Peat, whose struggles with substance abuse and concussion symptoms related to his playing career have left him estranged from his family and homeless in Surrey, BC. Peat is also part of a class-action lawsuit filed by former players in the United States alleging the league didn’t do enough to protect them from brain trauma.
San Jose Sharks veteran forwards (and pending UFAs) Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau attracting interest from rival clubs.
Updates on Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Jaromir Jagr and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
CSN BAY AREA: The Los Angeles Kings reportedly consider San Jose Sharks center a “priority” if he hits the unrestricted free agent market on July 1.
THE ATHLETIC.com’s Craig Custance reports “Toronto, Anaheim, NYR, SJ, Carolina, Nashville, LA ” are all in the mix for Sharks forward and pending UFA Patrick Marleau.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite their ages (37) it’s apparent Thornton and Marleau remain enticing to general managers from rival clubs. Neither player will get lucrative long-term offers but could receive two-year deals.
NBC SPORTS: The Florida Panthers want to bring back 45-year-old right wing Jaromir Jagr, but for slightly less than the $4 million he earned last season.
SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reports the Tampa Bay Lightning apparently expressed interest in former New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, who was bought out of his contract earlier this month.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reports hearing a dozen teams have reached out to Calgary Flames pending UFA winger Kris Versteeg. The Flames remain in discussions to bring him back.
SPORTSNET: Columbus Blue Jackets team president John Davidson acknowledged his club has interest in acquiring New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who is interested in returning to the NHL after spending the last four seasons in Russia.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once Kovalchuk signs a new contract on July 1, the Devils can trade him if they wish.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers re-signed Eric Gryba to a two-year deal worth $900K annually.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed highly-prized college free-agent prospect Spencer Foo, who was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
ARIZONA SPORTS/AZCENTRAL.COM: The Coyotes received permission to speak with former Edmonton Oilers coach Todd Nelson. They’ve also parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres development coach Randy Cunneyworth and scouts Jon Christiano and Kevin Prendergast.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed forward Patrick Brown to a one-year, two-way contract.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks allowed forward Dennis Rasmussen to depart via free agency.
Recent contract signings, waiver claims and more in this morning’s NHL headlines.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby expressed optimism over his recovery from his latest concussion, saying he’s taking things day-by-day. He denied rumors that he suffered the injury during the World Cup of Hockey tournament, insisting that it occurred during a Penguins practice last Friday. While Crosby has no timetable for his return, he’s confident his recovery won’t be as arduous as it was from his previous two concussions.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Sabres re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to a six-year, $32.4 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen’s annual cap hit ($5.4 million) makes him the Sabres highest-paid defenseman. This contract is similar to the one Seth Jones signed this summer with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 21-year-old Ristolainen certainly earned his new deal. blossoming into a big-minute (25:16 TOI), point-producing (41 last season) top-pairing blueliner. With his best seasons still ahead of him, this contract could turn into a real bargain for the Sabres.
NBC SPORTS: The Los Angeles Kings signed winger Devin Setoguchi to a one-year, two-way contract.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Winger Kris Versteeg passed on signing with the Edmonton Oilers and instead joined the Calgary Flames on a one-year, $950K contract, Versteeg was on a professional tryout with the Oilers during training camp. The Oilers signed defenseman Eric Gryba to a one-year, two-way deal.
TSN: Notable waiver-wire transactions yesterday saw the New Jersey Devils claim winger PA Parenteau from the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins claim goalie Mike Condon from the Montreal Canadiens, the Minnesota Wild pluck forwardTeemu Pulkkinen from the Detroit Red Wings, the Toronto Maple Leafs grab forward Seth Griffith from the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes claim defenseman Klas Dahlbeck from the Arizona Coyotes.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks will place winger Emerson Etem on waivers and intend to sign Jack Skille to a one-year, two-way deal.
NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes acquired forward Connor Brickley from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Brody Sutter.
NBC SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry will miss the club’s season opener.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins placed defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller on injured reserve.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Winger Rick Nash will join Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Derek Stepan as rotating alternate captains for the New York Rangers.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno and his wife Janelle donated $1 million to children’s hospitals in Columbus and Boston.
ESPN.COM/TSN: As the NHL enhances its concussion protocol by hiring a staff of concussion spotters, the United States Congress is calling on the league to explain how it cares for brain-injured players.