Dallas Stars Stumbling At Quarter-Point Of The NHL Season
The NHL postpones the 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, the latest notable contract signings and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The league postponed the 2021 Winter Classic and the All-Star Weekend for this season. The Winter Classic was slated for Jan. 1, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis featuring the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. The Florida Panthers were to host the 2021 All-Star Weekend at BB&T Center in Sunrise from Jan. 29-31.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those events could be pushed ahead to the same locations for next season. There’s talk the league still hopes to begin the 2020-21 season sometime in January. These postponements indicate that’s not going to happen. At the very least, it won’t happen with fans in the arenas in the early going.
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the status of the developmental leagues like the AHL and the Major Juniors will be a pressing issue at today’s meeting of NHL general managers. However, the league’s high-level executives aren’t going to be able to provide answers for their GMs.
Pierre LeBrun reports of a constant dialogue between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and their chief lieutenants regarding plans for next season. He added there’s a bigger appetite among team owners, general managers and players to have a greater voice on those plans because there’s so much at stake. LeBrun also said whatever the season looks like when it begins likely won’t be what it’ll look like toward the end.
Frank Seravalli reported one of the biggest conversations is a cost-benefit analysis for the NHL. It would be problematic for the league if revenue for next season is lower than the total salaries owed to the players. The players will also be getting paid on Oct 31 for the first time since April, receiving 8.1 percent of the salaries to tide them over for whenever the season begins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be very difficult for NHL prospects to get suitable playing time considering the difficulties their development leagues face to stage their respective seasons. As for what the NHL season will look like, the league has indicated it could begin without fans in the arenas but they could gradually allow fans into the stands over the course of the schedule depending on local health and safety protocols. That will ultimately determine what the league’s revenue looks like by season’s end and its potential effect upon player salaries.
Speaking of next season, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons reports the Canadian government is looking at a pilot COVID-19 testing program that would replace the current 14-day quarantine period for people entering the country with rapid testings at airports and border entry crossings. If those prove successful, it could open up travel for NHL teams between the two countries.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators avoided arbitration with Connor Brown by signing him to a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $3.6 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fair deal for both sides. Brown quickly established himself as a key player for the Senators after joining them in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He finished second in team scoring, netting career-highs in assists (27) and points (43) in 71 games last season.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed winger Denis Gurianov to a two-year contract worth $2.55 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gurianov led the Stars in goals last season (20) and finished second in playoff goals with nine. This new contract will be a bargain for the Stars if the 23-year-old winger continues to develop as a goal scorer. Cap Friendly indicates they have $77.4 million invested in 21 players with Roope Hintz left to re-sign.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks avoided arbitration with Jake Virtanen by signing the winger to a two-year contract worth an AAV of $2.55 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen had a career-best performance (18 goals, 36 points in 69 games) last season but followed up with a disappointing effort (two goals, three points in 16 games) in the playoffs. He’ll be under pressure to step up and improve his overall game next season. The Canucks are $1.5 million over the $81.5 million salary cap but could get relief by placing winger MIcheal Ferland on long-term injury reserve if he’s unable to play next season.
NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a one-year, $1.15 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils needed experienced depth on the blueline. This is a cost-effective short-term deal they hope will help to address that issue.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Dominik Simon to a one-year, $700K contract.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche’s home arena is changing its name from the Pepsi Center to Ball Arena.
The Dallas Stars are the Western Conference champions, plus updates on the Lightning, Islanders and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: For the first time in 20 years, the Dallas Stars are Western Conference champions and headed to the Stanley Cup Final. Denis Gurianov tallied an overtime power-play goal as the Stars overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.
The Golden Knights held a 2-0 lead until Jamie Benn scored at 9:54 of the third period. Joel Kiviranta scored the tying goal on the power play at 16:13, setting the stage for Gurianov’s series winner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This series looked like it was heading to Game 6 when Reilly Smith made it 2-0 early in the third for the Golden Knights. Benn’s goal, however, shifted the game’s momentum. He finished this series with three goals and five points. This was the second straight series where Gurianov scored the series winner. He leads the Stars with nine goals in this postseason.
Penalties proved costly for the Golden Knights as the Stars tallied the tying and winning goals with the man advantage. The second one was a heartbreaker as rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud was called for delay of game after he inadvertently clearing the puck over the boards.
The Golden Knights head into the offseason with some issues to address. You can read about them in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was on the ice with half of his teammates for yesterday’s optional practice. He’s still not ready to play or participate in full practices but the club still hasn’t ruled out a possible return in the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps Stamkos might return if the Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup Final against Dallas. The Bolts hold a 3-1 series lead over the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final with Game 5 tonight.
NEW YORK POST: Islanders head coach Barry Trotz could shake up his top line for Game 5 by making Brock Nelson the first-line center and moving Mathew Barzal into the second-line spot. He could also elevate winger Derick Brassard or center Jean-Gabriel Pageau to a top-six role.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll find out tonight what changes, if any, Trotz has in store for his roster. He must do something to counter the Lightning’s top line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.
THE SCORE: The NHL has recorded no positive COVID-19 tests for the eighth straight week.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames have made interim coach Geoff Ward their full-time head coach.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise there given the support Flames general manager Brad Treliving gave Ward throughout this season.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports NHL teams have until 5 pm ET on Oct. 7 to submit qualifying offers to their respective restricted free agents. The RFAs can begin signing them at noon ET on Oct. 9. Those offers expire at 5 pm ET on Oct. 18.
US HOCKEY HALL OF FAME: Former NHL star and current University of Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato has been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He joins Dean Blais, Jenny Potter and Jerry York among the class of 2020.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to all of this year’s inductees.
The Stars and Islanders advance to the second round, Matt Niskanen gets a one-game suspension for a cross-check that fractured Brendan Gallagher’s jaw and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Denis Gurianov scored four times as the Dallas Stars overcame a 3-0 deficit with seven unanswered goals to crush the Calgary Flames 7-3, winning their opening-round series four games to two. Five of those goals came in the second period. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen had a goal and three assists while teammate Joe Pavelski tallied one goal and set up two others.
— Spector’s Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) August 21, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-deserved victory for the Stars in this game and in this series. They’ll face the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. I was very impressed with Heiskanen’s performance in this series. The 21-year-old NHL sophomore is rapidly blossoming into an elite defenseman. Pavelski, meanwhile, continues to prove at 36 he’s still a reliable postseason performer. As for the Flames, some big changes could be coming after this meltdown.
Anthony Beauvillier scored twice, including the game-winner, as the New York Islanders blanked the Washington Capitals 4-0 to take their first-round series four games to one. Semyon Varlamov made 21 saves for the shutout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A dominant performance by the Islanders, shutting down the league’s second-best offensive team. It was a master class by Isles bench boss Barry Trotz as he outcoached the Capitals’ Todd Reirden in this series. Two years following the Caps’ Stanley Cup championship, some changes could be in store for the roster and behind the bench.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The NHL Department of Player Safety handed a one-game suspension to Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen for cross-checking Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher in the face during Game 5 of their first-round series.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Niskanen’s cross-check fractured Gallagher’s jaw, sidelining the Canadiens winger for the remainder of this series and possibly longer should the Habs advance to the second round.
CBS SPORTS: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers suffered a slightly separated shoulder. He’ll be sidelined for the remainder of the Canucks’ series with the St. Louis Blues. Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli (lower-body injury) could be in the lineup for Game 6 tonight.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Former NHL coach Bill Peters has tested positive for COVID-19. The head coach of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, Peters is reportedly asymptomatic.