Potential NHL 50-Goal Scorers in 2019-20
Check out the latest noteworthy NHL headlines from Dec. 24 to Dec. 27, 2018. Game recaps will return on Dec. 29.
NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, and Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov were the NHL stars for the week ending Dec. 23, 2018.
NHL fans elected Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (Pacific), Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (Metropolitan), Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (Atlantic), and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (Central) as captains of their respective divisions in the 2019 NHL All-Star Game in San Jose.
Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (61 points) took over the lead in the NHL scoring race with a four-point performance in a 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. He also set a franchise record for most points (26) in one calendar month.
TSN: The St. Louis Blues will host the 2020 NHL All-Star Game.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price will miss the club’s upcoming three-game road trip with a lower-body injury. The Canadiens also recalled defenseman Karl Alzner from the AHL and placed David Schlemko on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word yet as to the seriousness of Price’s injury. He was previously sidelined by groin and knee injuries in 2015-16 and last season.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed winger Jake Guentzel to a five-year, $30-million contract extension. The annual average value is $6 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guentzel, 24, is on pace for a career-best 35-goal, 75-point campaign this season. He’s also proven himself a clutch playoff performer, tallying 13 goals and 21 points during their 2017 championship run and netting 21 points in just twelve contests last spring. It’s a heck of a pay raise for Guentzel. Considering how well he’s fit on Sidney Crosby’s line, Penguins management felt he was worth it.
His new cap hit, however, pushes the Penguins’ 2019-20 cap payroll to over $73 million invested in 14 players. Assuming the salary cap rises to $83 million next summer, general manager Jim Rutherford won’t have much room to fill out the rest of the roster. It means kissing UFAs like Derick Brassard goodbye this summer. Rutherford might also consider shedding some payroll once the playoffs are over.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba will miss at least three months recovering from chest-muscle surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild will miss Dumba’s production from the blueline. Heading into Dec. 27, his 12 goals this season placed him second among NHL defensemen.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators goaltender Craig Anderson suffered a concussion on Dec. 21. He won’t accompany the club on their next two games (Thursday and Saturday).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Anderson’s bloated goals-against average (3.58) and average save percentage (.905) this season, he’s stolen several wins for the Senators this season. Indeed, his stats reflect the porous defense in front of him this season. If he’s out for a lengthy period it’ll crush any hopes they have of climbing back into the playoff chase.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators activated defenseman P.K. Subban and winger Viktor Arvidsson off injured reserve.
NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins defensemen Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller and winger Jake DeBrusk all returned from injuries for Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
A big night for Patrik Laine tops today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: A five-goal outburst by Patrik Laine powered the Winnipeg Jets to an 8-4 win over the St. Louis Blues. With 19 goals (11 in the last four games), Laine has taken over the lead among NHL goal scorers. Jets winger Kyle Connor collected four assists. Winnipeg forward Andrew Copp missed the game with a concussion and is sidelined indefinitely.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine can be a streaky scorer but when he goes on an offensive tear there are few better in the league right now. With seven career hat tricks, he’s second to Wayne Gretzky (12) for the most hat tricks by an NHL player before age 21.
A first-period hat trick by Andreas Johnsson carried the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 6-0 drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers. Leafs goalie Garret Sparks kicked out 34 shots for the shutout.
Jake Guentzel tallied a hat trick as the Pittsburgh Penguins doubled up the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Jackets winger Cam Atkinson extended his goal-scoring streak to seven games. The Penguins played without winger Patric Hornqvist, who’s sidelined by a concussion suffered during Friday’s loss to the Boston Bruins.
Sam Reinhart’s shootout goal extended the Buffalo Sabres’ winning streak to nine games as they edged the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. Reinhart’s teammate Jeff Skinner tallied his 18th goal of the season.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his league-leading fifth shutout backstopping his club to a 6-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. Max Pacioretty scored twice for the Golden Knights. Sharks winger Evander Kane was ejected for “abuse of officials” following a questionable hit on Vegas forward Tomas Nosek.
The Washington Capitals picked up their fifth straight victory by defeating the New York Rangers 5-3. John Carlson collected three assists while Brett Connolly scored the game-winner.
Elias Pettersson’s tie-breaking goal in the third period helped the Vancouver Canucks snap an eight-game losing skid by downing the Los Angeles Kings 4-2. Pettersson leads all NHL rookies with 13 goals and 21 points. Earlier in the day, Canucks winger Antoine Roussel was fined $5,000.00 for biting San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the hand on Friday.
The Colorado Avalanche picked up their fourth straight win by edging the Dallas Stars 3-2. Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen scored a goal and set up another to remain atop the NHL’s leading scorer board with 38 points.
A costly double-minor penalty by Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin late in the third period led to John Moore’s power-play goal lifting the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 win.
Erik Gustafsson’s overtime goal completed a three-goal rally for the Chicago Blackhawks in their 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers, snapping the Blackhawks’ eight-game road losing skid.
Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist in the New York Islanders 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, ending the Hurricanes’ three-game winning streak. Hurricanes defenseman Haydn Fleury missed the game due to a concussion suffered during Friday’s game against the Florida Panthers.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: On the request of new head coach Ken Hitchcock, the Oilers recalled winger Jesse Puljujarvi from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Puljujarvi’s been a disappointment thus far for the Oilers. The recently hired Hitchcock believes he can help the young winger reach his potential, which could go a long way toward improving Edmonton’s fortunes.
SPORTSNET: Former NHL referee Mick McGeough passed away late Friday night after being taken off life support following a stroke, He was 62. McGeough officiated 1,083 regular-season games and another 63 playoff contests from 1987-88 to 2007-08.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to McGeough’s family, friends, and colleagues.
Latest William Nylander speculation plus an update on the Penguins in your NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the Toronto Maple Leafs’ priority is to re-sign restricted free agent winger William Nylander, but they’re considering their trade options in case they cannot get a deal done before the Dec. 1 deadline. He said Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddel remains interested in Nylander and will likely continue dialogue with Leafs GM Kyle Dubas over the course of this week. It’s believed the Hurricanes are willing to part with defenseman Brett Pesce but not Jaccob Slavin.
McKenzie also said the Minnesota Wild are interested but aren’t willing to part with a young defenseman. The Los Angeles Kings are another potential suitor but McKenzie doubts they have the salary-cap space and the trade pieces to land Nylander. He also speculates the Florida Panthers could “kick tires.”
Darren Dreger believes the Leafs’ asking price will be expensive, citing sources claiming it could be a top-four defenseman and a top-nine forward. McKenzie also points out most teams can’t afford the accelerated salary-cap hit in the first season of Nylander’s new contract if he’s signed before Dec. 1.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: During an appearance Tuesday on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960, Elliotte Friedman also speculated over possible trade destinations for Nylander. Like McKenzie, he believes the Hurricanes, Wild, and Kings have been involved. He also suggests the Philadelphia Flyers could be another, “though I can’t prove it.” He also said he wouldn’t be surprised if a struggling club such as the Pittsburgh Penguins looked into Nylander’s availability.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour has popped up in the Nylander trade-rumor chatter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Leafs willing to at least listen to trade offers, it’s not surprising we’re starting to hear of more teams getting linked to Nylander, especially with that Dec. 1 deadline drawing ever closer. If the Leafs are indeed seeking a top-four defenseman and a top-nine forward, most interested clubs could play the waiting game in hopes Dubas will grow desperate by late-November and more open to lesser offers. Unless someone makes a significant pitch now, I think the Leafs GM will use as much time as possible trying to get Nylander under contract before considering the trade option.
Of the teams mentioned, the Hurricanes still seem the most likely destination. They have the cap space and depth in defensemen to make a Nylander deal happen. If the Wild won’t part with a young defenseman (hello there, Matt Dumba), I don’t think they can win a possible bidding war. Cap Friendly indicates the Kings are handcuffed by limited cap space and few viable trade options.
The Panthers have limited cap room this season to take on a new contract for Nylander, so they’ll have to shed significant salary heading to Toronto to make this deal work. Same goes for the Ducks. As for the Flyers, the local media is skeptical, pointing out the cost of acquiring Nylander and the difficulty finding a suitable spot for him among their top-six forwards.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen lists Daniel Sprong, Carl Hagelin, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust as four players the Pittsburgh Penguins to shake up their struggling roster.
A healthy scratch of late, Sprong has just four points in 12 games. Hagelin has considerable speed and works well on the penalty kill but he’s not scoring.
After being taken off the Crosby line, Guentzel went goalless from Oct 25 until last night’s loss against the Devils. Rust has only one goal and four points in 15 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports out of Pittsburgh indicate Sprong is attracting interest but it remains to be seen if the Penguins received any firm offers. While there’s a risk Sprong could blossom elsewhere, GM Jim Rutherford could take that chance if he gets a return that provides immediate help.
Despite Guentzel’s recent scoring woes, he would still attract lots of interest in the trade market. I doubt Rutherford is willing to part with the 24-year-old winger, who appears to be snapping out of his funk with three points in his last two games. Hagelin or Rust could hit the trade block but they probably won’t fetch a return that helps the Penguins right away.
Capitals and Jets one win away from the Conference Finals plus updates on Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, Evander Kane and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Washington Capitals are one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference Final after downing the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 in Game 5 of their second-round series. Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov each collected three points (with Vrana tallying the game-winning goal) and Braden Holtby making 36 saves for the Capitals. With a 3-2 series lead, the Capitals can wrap things up in Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Monday.
It was a costly win for the Capitals, as center Nicklas Backstrom left the game in the third period with an upper-body injury and defenseman John Carlson missed the final minute of the third following a high hit from Penguins forward Jake Guentzel.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: More details about the status of Backstrom and Carlson could be released later today. It’s unclear how Backstrom was injured. Capitals coach Barry Trotz believed Guentzel deserves a suspension for his hit on Carlson but we’ll see if the league shares his view.
The Winnipeg Jets are one game away from advancing to the Western Conference Final after defeating the Nashville Predators 6-2 in Game 5 of their second-round series. Kyle Connor scored twice and made a nifty move to set up Mark Scheifele early in the third period.
While the Jets can eliminate the Predators back home in Game 6 on Monday, Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban is channeling Mark Messier by claiming his club will push this series to a seventh and deciding game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators will have to regain their tight-checking form that all but stymied the Jets in Game 4. Winnipeg blew the game open with a four-goal second period and put it away with two in the third.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruin defenseman Torey Krug (ankle injury) is sidelined for the remainder of their second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile, the league has informed the Bruins that it will no longer tolerate Brad Marchand licking opponents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yesterday was a rough day for the Bruin. They lose their top offensive blueliner and endure a scolding from the league for Marchand’s embarrassing behavior.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning hold a 3-1 series lead and can eliminate Boston with a victory today. However, they aren’t taking their lead for granted.
THE ATHLETIC: Winger Evander Kane knows he must play better if the San Jose Sharks are to force a Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights forward William Carrier is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
NEW YORK POST: Today marks the 30th anniversary of the “Have another donut!” clash between former New Jersey Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld and former NHL referee Don Koharski.