Middling Wild’s Awful Start to NHL Season Could Be a Turning Point
Patrick Maroon signs with the Lightning, plus updates on Taylor Hall, Bruce Boudreau, and Lars Eller in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TAMPA BAY TIMES/STLTODAY.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning signed former St. Louis Blues winger Patrick Maroon to a one-year, $900K contract. Maroon, 31, joined the Blues last summer on a one-year contract, helping his hometown club win its first Stanley Cup.
“He brings size and physicality to our group as well as significant playoff experience,” Lightning vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois said. “We expect Pat to be a great addition to the roster.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was speculation earlier this summer suggesting it could cost over $2 million annually on a two-year deal to sign Maroon. The Lightning got him for considerably less. With no state tax in Florida, that $900K will go further for Maroon than it would’ve in St. Louis.
Maroon also joins a Cup contender in the Lightning. Despite their early playoff exit following a dominant performance last season, the Bolts lead the pack for this season’s Cup favorites. Maroon’s size and experience could help them win the big mug next spring.
THE SCORE: New Jersey Devils winger Taylor Hall expects to be fully recovered from last February’s arthroscopic knee surgery when training camp opens next month.
“I haven’t had any issues with the knee so far since I’ve been skating, and it’s been a really good process, so hopefully that can continue into (training) camp,” said Hall. He only skated in 33 games last season after winning the Hart Trophy in 2017-18.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthy Hall will be crucial to the Devils’ playoff hopes this season. If he returns to form and new additions P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev, and Jack Hughes also play well, the Devils could be a serious playoff contender.
NHL.COM: Don’t expect Bill Guerin, the Minnesota Wild’s new general manager, to make a coaching change before the upcoming season. Guerin said he has “full confidence” in current Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“I talked to (coach) Bruce (Boudreau) for a while (Thursday) morning, and he’s got training camp under control, so next week we’re just going to dive in and just go over and see what everybody’s got,” said Guerin. He claimed he and Boudreau had a “great conversation”, assuring the Wild bench boss that he was behind him 100 percent.
NBC SPORTS: Despite aggravating a lower-body injury at this spring’s World Championships, Washington Capitals center Lars Eller claims he’s good to go for training camp next month. “I’m over that,” Eller told NBC Sports Washington. “Taken good care of that and it’s not an issue right now.”
Latest on the Wild, Stars, Rangers, and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW WILD GM GUERIN FACES IMPORTANT DECISIONS
THE HOCKEY NEWS: With Bill Guerin the Minnesota Wild’s new general manager, Jared Clinton believes his first order of business is determining which direction to take the franchise. He could continue to build around the veteran core or use the opportunity to at least undertake a roster reset. He points out the Wild are thin on prospect depth.
Clinton feels Guerin must also decide if Jason Zucker has a future with the Wild. Earlier this year, the 27-year-old winger was nearly traded twice by Guerin’s predecessor. Trading him, however, would hurt their top-six forward depth.
Clinton advocates shopping defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who’s a year away from unrestricted free agent status. He feels Matt Dumba is a ready-made replacement for Spurgeon, who could fetch a significant return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what Guerin has in store for the Wild. A roster rebuild could be in the cards. Guerin could take this season to evaluate the Wild’s performance before deciding if a significant shakeup is necessary. If an overhaul is required, Zucker and Spurgeon could be his best trade chips.
HONKA IN LIMBO WITH THE STARS
THE ATHLETIC: Sean Shapiro recently reported defenseman Julius Honka doesn’t know if he’ll be playing with the Dallas Stars this season. A restricted free agent, he skated in just 29 games last season and was a frequent healthy scratch.
Stars GM Jim Nill discussed trading the former first-round pick (2014) during this year’s NHL draft. He’s since constructed a blueline that will be almost impossible for Honka to crack.
Shapiro believes Honka could thrive in a third-pairing role with another NHL club. He would also be affordable, costing perhaps less than $1 million annually to sign. However, he remains in limbo until the top unsigned RFAs are signed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Honka, 23, could be a cost-effective one-year gamble for a club looking for blueline depth. That being said, he could be waiting a while before someone comes calling with an offer.
UPDATE ON THE RANGERS’ REMAINING RFAS
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reported Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux face limited options in their contract standoffs with the Rangers. If they don’t accept the club’s qualifying offers (one-year, $874K), they could either withhold their services or attempt to attract an offer sheet from a rival club. The two aren’t in prime position to cash in that way but the compensation return for players of their pay grade is light and the Blueshirts have limited salary-cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With both coming off entry-level deals lacking arbitration rights, DeAngelo and Lemieux have little leverage here. A rival club could try signing them to an offer sheet but I don’t consider that likely. The Rangers could attempt to trade one or both if they don’t re-sign. Ultimately, I expect both will accept their qualifying offers.
LATEST ON GOLDOBIN
VANCOUVER SUN: Ben Kuzma reports Canucks forward Nikolay Goldobin is expected to sign a short-term contract extension. He has no leverage, arbitration rights, or even a guaranteed roster spot because of the Canucks glut of wingers. GM Jim Benning expects to get something done soon.
Kuzma suggests they’re “either dangling yet another motivational carrot in front of Goldobin or perhaps they’re pondering a sign-and-trade scenario to free up cap space and a roster spot.” Once winger Antoine Roussel returns in December from knee surgery, Goldobin could be placed on waivers.
The Wild hire Bill Guerin as their new general manager, the Senators re-sign Colin White, the Islanders sign Derick Brassard and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild yesterday named Bill Guerin as their new general manager. Guerin spent 18 seasons as an NHL player and the past decade as an executive with the Pittsburgh Penguins, including the past five years as assistant GM.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild hope Guerin, a proven winner as a player and in management, can right the ship and change the culture after they missed the playoffs last season. He didn’t waste any time getting started, re-signing forward Joel Eriksson Ek to a two-year, $2.975-million contract.
Guerin must also re-sign restricted free agent winger Kevin Fiala. He must decide if defenseman Jared Spurgeon still has a future with the Wild as he enters the final season of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: White is considered a core player for the rebuilding Senators. The 22-year-old played 23 games between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Last season was his first full NHL campaign and he didn’t disappointed, tallying 41 points in 71 games to finish fifth among NHL rookies.
A swift, versatile two-way forward, White should prove worthy of his new contract over the next six years. Given his upside, this deal could turn into a bargain for the Sens.
NEW YORK POST: The New York Islanders yesterday signed center Derick Brassard to a one-year, $1.2-million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So much for recent speculation claiming Brassard was on the verge of joining the Edmonton Oilers. The Isles hope the 31-year-old will provide some much-needed depth at center on their bottom-six.
MILE HIGH HOCKEY: (stick tap to Shawn Lamba) cites a report out of Finland indicating Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen “is set to travel to Hamar, Norway next week to begin training with Storhamar of the GET league.” Rantanen reportedly intends to keep his options open if a new contract with the Avalanche isn’t in place when training camp opens next month. Meanwhile, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston believes a new contract with the Avs isn’t far off.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The site reports Rantanen is believed seeking an annual average value in the range of $10 million. There’s also speculation he could get a four-year deal worth around $9 million per season. We’ll find out soon enough when Rantanen is signed and for how much for how long.
TSN: cites The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reporting Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski seeks a three-year contract with an annual salary-cap hit around $5 million.
Hedger also said he’s heard Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Ivan Provorov’s camp has asked for $10 million per season, likely on a long-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Werenski probably thinks he’s not going to get more than Seth Jones’ $5.4 million AAV as Jones is a better all-around rearguard. As for Provorov, I’ll be stunned if the Flyers pay him $10 million annually. He’s a talented defenseman yet to reach his full potential but he’s not worth that much.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes are still awaiting word from winger Justin Williams if he’ll return for another season. GM Don Waddell said he doesn’t want to set a deadline for Williams to reach a decision but noted time is getting short. Williams, meanwhile, is visiting family in Northern Ontario and has “nothing to report.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wouldn’t surprise me if Williams makes his decision following the Labor Day weekend.
TSN: Former Washington Capitals winger Dmitrij Jaskin is expected to sign with the KHL’s Moscow Dynamo.
SPORTING NEWS: Mark Pavelich, a member of the 1980 USA “Miracle on Ice” team and a former NHL player, was arrested Monday for reportedly attacking a neighbor with a metal pole following a fishing trip.
The charges include “second- and third-degree assault, possession of an illegal shotgun and possessing a gun with a scratched off serial number.” Pavelich was ordered by a Minnesota judge to undergo a mental evaluation before standing trial.
The latest on Mikko Rantanen, William Nylander, Sebastian Aho, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic remains hopeful of getting Mikko Rantanen re-signed before training camp opens on Sept. 11. The 22-year-old winger is among a half-dozen high-end restricted free agents coming off their entry-level contracts.
Sakic said he recently called Rantanen in Finland to discuss the terms of a new contract and how his summer was going. The two sides are interested in a long-term deal taking the winger up to unrestricted free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It doesn’t sound like there have been any serious contract discussions between Sakic and Rantanen. I expect that will change as the start of training camp approaches. With over $16 million in salary-cap space, the Avs can afford a big raise for Rantanen, perhaps something between $8.5 – $9.5 million per season.
SPORTSNET: William Nylander is looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 22-year-old winger missed the opening two months of the season to a contract dispute and finished with just 27 points in 54 games. “Now I’m ready to dominate this year,” said Nylander.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering the Leafs are paying Nylander over $6.9 million annually through 2023-24 (stick tap to Cap Friendly), he’d better dominate this season. Another sub-par effort like last season’s and the calls from his critics in Leafs Nation will only get louder.
Missing training camp and the first 28 games of the regular season hurt Nylander’s performance. I expect we’ll see at least a return to form this season.
NHL.COM: Sebastian Aho has no regrets about signing an offer sheet with the Montreal Canadiens but insists he’s happy the Carolina Hurricanes matched it. “I did sign an offer sheet with Montreal and I’m thankful for them to offer me that contract, but I’m happy to be in Carolina,” Aho said it wasn’t an easy decision at the time, claiming he had less than a day to think about it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Aho’s name surfaced in the rumor mill leading up to July 1. Several reports claimed Hurricanes management was playing hardball with the young center’s representatives, sparking rumblings he could become an offer-sheet target. Aho might be happy with his new contract and to stay in Carolina, but I can’t help wondering if team owner Tom Dundon might hold it against the youngster down the road.
COURIER POST ONLINE: Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said he was dealing with a nagging left-leg injury that bothered him throughout last season. He feels he’s now fully recovered. Gostisbehere’s point total tumbled from 65 points in 2017-18 to just 37 last season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Gostisbehere is fully recovered we should see a significant rise in his stats this season.
THE ATHLETIC: Pittsburgh Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin could be emerging as the front-runner for the Minnesota Wild’s GM job. Sources claim Guerin recently had a second interview with the Wild. Former Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall and New Jersey Devils assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald are also believed among the candidates.
NHL.COM: Speaking of the Wild, Kevin Fiala is waiting for the Wild to find a new GM before continuing contract discussions. The RFA was in negotiations with Paul Fenton before his firing.
CBS SPORTS: Ivan Barbashev could play in Europe this season if there’s no new deal soon with the St. Louis Blues.