A brief look at the top remaining unrestricted free agents, Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim is off the trade block and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
DAILY FACEOFF: Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Kane and Matt Dumba top Frank Seravalli’s list of this summer’s top remaining unrestricted free agents.
Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko is said to be mulling over half-a-dozen offers and has been linked to the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators. He’s reportedly close to reaching a decision that could come before the end of this week.
Kane is rehabbing from a hip resurfacing procedure and is expected to be sidelined for four to six months. It could be weeks before he signs with a new club, perhaps before training camp opens in September.
As for Dumba, the Arizona Coyotes are reportedly pursuing the 28-year-old defenseman. They’ve had a busy couple of weeks stocking up with veterans, signing forwards Jason Zucker, Alex Kerfoot and Nick Bjugstad and acquiring blueliner Sean Durzi from the Los Angeles Kings.
Jonathan Toews is another notable still available.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After 15 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Toews is reportedly taking his time considering his future before deciding whether he’ll return to action or retire. He’s been battling health issues for the past three seasons.
Other noteworthy UFAs include Max Comtois, Tomas Tatar, Oskar Sundqvist, Jaroslav Halak, Paul Stastny and Phil Kessel.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers general manager Daniel Briere said he’s received calls from clubs expressing interest in Travis Sanheim. However, he doesn’t think he’ll be moving the 27-year-old defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sanheim’s contract is likely the reason why Briere doubts he’ll be moving the blueliner. Signed last October, the eight-year, $50 million deal kicked in on July 1 with a full no-trade clause. Unless Sanheim waives it, he’s not going anywhere.
WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: The Capitals signed defenseman Martin Fehervary to a three-year contract with an average annual value of $2.675 million.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators are bringing back Travis Hamonic for two more years. The 32-year-old defenseman’s new contract carries an AAV of $1.1 million.
TSN: The Anaheim Ducks signed defenseman Robert Hagg to a one-year contract worth $775K.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Filip Zadina cleared waivers yesterday and will be staying with the Red Wings. At the 23-year-old winger’s request, GM Steve Yzerman tried moving him to a new club via trade but couldn’t find any takers.
The Buffalo Sabres are Kane’s childhood team and already have some quality talent on their rebuilding roster. They also have plenty of salary-cap space and have a stockpile of prospects to tempt the Blackhawks.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If there is a mutual interest in Kane and the Sabres, I think the latter would prefer waiting until next summer to sign him as an unrestricted free agent. They wouldn’t have to part with any players or prospects to get him and the annual cap hit would be lower than his current $10.5 million.
Stephens also suggested the Toronto Maple Leafs as a destination. He acknowledged it would take some financial wizardry for the cap-strapped Leafs to pull it off. Adding Kane would give the Leafs a formidable top-six formation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has proven adept at salary-cap wizardry in the past. Adding Kane, however, could prove beyond his powers. It would require shedding considerable salary while requiring the Blackhawks to retain half of his average annual value. A three-team trade would significantly reduce the Leafs’ share of his AAV but finding a team willing to do it is easier said than done.
The Detroit Red Wings are another club with promising prospects that could be attractive trade bait. They would have to free up a bit of cap room but it wouldn’t be a daunting task. Kane alongside Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond would be a tantalizing combination.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has avoided pursuing big-ticket talent, preferring to acquire depth veterans to augment his rising young stars. He could surprise us with a major move by acquiring someone like Kane, but I don’t
Stephens thinks the Colorado Avalanche adding Kane would be the kind of move we’d expect them to make. Adding the 33-year-old winger would push the defending Stanley Cup champions back to the top of the heap. It would require the difficult task of trying to shed Erik Johnson’s $6 million cap hit plus the Avs only have four total picks in the next two drafts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche management has shown creativity before landing quality talent. However, their lack of draft picks and Johnson’s cap hit could put acquiring Kane out of reach.
THE ATHLETIC: Marc Antoine Godin examined how the Montreal Canadiens could acquire a right-side defenseman. They’ll garner salary-cap flexibility with Carey Price expected to be on long-term injury reserve this season, plus they have depth in forwards to dangle as trade bait.
Godin suggests a trade before the start of the season targeting clubs that could be willing to swap a defenseman for a forward (such as Joel Armia) whose contract runs into 2024-25 when the salary cap is expected to significantly rise. The Edmonton Oilers’ Tyson Barrie or the Winnipeg Jets’ Dylan DeMelo could be options under that scenario.
Another could be using their cap flexibility for a temporary short-term fix. Godin suggested the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Justin Holl or the Ottawa Senators’ Travis Hamonic. He also thinks it would be worthwhile keeping an eye on the Carolina Hurricanes, who have five right-side defensemen.
Godin also suggested they could keep an eye on the waiver wire or sign an unrestricted free agent such as Anton Stralman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind that Godin is merely making suggestions here. He’s not saying the Canadiens are targeting those defensemen. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if Habs GM Kent Hughes were to land one of those blueliners or another right-shot rearguard. He’s done a good job thus far addressing his rebuilding club’s needs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said he wouldn’t part with a first-round pick or a top prospect for a rental player. He got himself an excellent top-four defenseman with Giordano without having to sacrifice too much in return.
Seattle Kraken trade defenseman Mark Giordano to the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL Images).
The Leafs needed a top-four blueliner with Jake Muzzin still sidelined indefinitely by a head injury. Giordano isn’t a physical shutdown rearguard like Muzzin but his mobility, two-way skills and leadership should prove a welcome addition as a playoff rental to their defense corps.
Winner of the Norris Trophy in 2019, the 38-year-old Giordano put up a respectable 23 points in 55 games with the low-scoring Kraken. His puck-moving skills should prove a good fit with the Leafs’ potent offense.
Blackwell, 28, can play center or wing and is also slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has a decent scoring touch, netting 12 goals and 22 points in 47 games last season with the New York Ranger. Blackwell’s versatility gives the Leafs some flexibility to slot him into a variety of roles should injuries strike.
To free up some additional salary cap room, the Leafs traded defenseman Travis Dermott to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for the Canucks’ third-round pick in 2022.
The Kraken reportedly sought a first-round pick for Giordano but the number of potential trade partners was shrinking with Hampus Lindholm acquired by the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers dealing for Ben Chiarot. Getting two seconds should help them select a pair of promising youngsters to stock up their prospect pipeline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamonic is in the first year of a two-year deal with an annual average value of $3 million. A physical two-way defenseman, the 31-year-old has been sidelined in recent years dealing with injuries and personal matters.
The Canucks wanted to shed salary to garner some cap flexibility heading into the offseason. It remains to be seen if this move is to clear room to re-sign restricted free agent Brock Boeser or the first of other cost-cutting deals.
The Canucks used their recently reacquired pick to bring in Travis Dermott from the Leafs. He’ll get a great opportunity for more playing time in Vancouver. He’s signed through 2022-23 with a $1.5 million cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers blueliner Aaron Ekblad is expected to be placed on long-term injury reserve with a lower-body injury for the remainder of the regular season. That provides the Panthers with some cap flexibility to add more depth to their lineup for the postseason. Hagg, 27, is a stay-at-home rearguard with an affordable $1.6 million cap hit.
Brady Tkachuk reaches a milestone, Ben Bishop’s career is over, more details emerge regarding Olympic quarantine rules, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brady Tkachuk tallied his first career NHL hat trick while Anton Forsberg made 25 saves for his first career NHL shutout as the Ottawa Senators upset the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0. Drake Batherson had three assists and Thomas Chabot collected two helpers.
Sebastian Aho scored two goals and collected an assist to lead the Carolina Hurricanes over the Edmonton Oilers 3-1. Aho has netted multiple points in five straight games. The Hurricanes have won four straight while the Oilers’ losing skid has reached five straight. The Oilers played without defenseman Kris Russell (upper body), who was placed on injured reserve on Friday.
The New York Islanders finally picked up their first home win at UBS Arena by doubling up the New Jersey Devils 4-2. Zach Parise scored his first of the season while Mathew Barzal, Oliver Wahlstrom and Jean-Gabriel Pageau each had two points. Devils center Nico Hischier and defenseman Ryan Graves missed the game after being placed in COVID protocol yesterday.
Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark kicked out 40 shots in a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames, handing the latter their fourth straight defeat. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each had two points. The Flames also honored winger Milan Lucic for his 1,000th career NHL game. He reached that milestone in April but the Flames wanted to honor him during a game against the Bruins, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
A late goal by David Kampf gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, who had overcome a 4-1 deficit. William Nylander had a goal and two assists while Auston Matthews and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist. Leafs goalie Petr Mrazek made 31 saves in his first game since being sidelined by a groin injury in October.
James van Riemsdyk scored two goals as the Philadelphia Flyers dropped the Arizona Coyotes 5-3, winning two straight games for the first time since October. Travis Konecny picked up two assists. Arizona defenseman Jakub Chychrun and forward Ryan Dzingel missed this game as both are day-to-day with injuries. The Coyotes have lost five straight.
T.J. Oshie’s shootout goal lifted the Washington Capitals over the Buffalo Sabres 3-2, extending the latter’s losing skid to seven games. Capitals defenseman Martin Fehervary returned from injury and scored the tying goal to force overtime and the shootout.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got a 33-save shutout from Casey DeSmith to blank the Anaheim Ducks 1-0. Brock McGinn tallied the only goal. Ducks goalie John Gibson left the game following the second period with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
An overtime goal by Jake Bean gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Kraken, who scored three unanswered third-period goals to force the extra frame. Max Domi had two goals and an assist for the Jackets. The Kraken were without Yanni Gourde and Riley Sheahan after they and assistant coach Jay Leach were placed in COVID protocol.
The Minnesota Wild’s eight-game winning streak came to an end as they fell 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings. Brendan Lemieux snapped a 1-1 tie during the third period in his first game since serving a five-game suspension for biting the Senators’ Brady Tkachuk. Kings defenseman Alexander Edler left the game early in the first period with an injured left leg following a hit by Wild forward Brandon Duhaime. Kings coach Todd McLellan said Edler could be out “long term”.
Erik Karlsson scored what proved to be the game-winner as the San Jose Sharks held off the Dallas Stars 2-1. Sharks center Tomas Hertl scored in his fourth straight game while James Reimer made 34 saves for the win in his 400th career NHL contest. San Jose forward Kevin Labanc left the game following his first shift after being hit by the Stars’ Jani Hakanpaa.
The St. Louis Blues got a goal and an assist from Pavel Buchnevich to beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1, spoiling netminder Jake Allen’s return to St. Louis for the first time since he was traded to Montreal in 2020. Former Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren picked up the win with 22 stops. Before the game, the Canadiens announced Tyler Toffoli would be sidelined eight weeks following surgery on an injured hand while Jake Evans is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars general manager Jim Nill said Ben Bishop’s playing days are over after the 35-year-old goaltender spent over 14 times attempting to rehabiliate a degenerative knee injury. The news comes after Bishop allowed eight goals on 34 shots during a game on Thursday while with the club’s AHL affiliate on a conditioning stint. He was recalled by the Stars yesterday and placed on long-term injury reserve. He will speak with the media on Tuesday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a sad ending for a terrific, albeit injury-hampered career. The 6’7”, 210-pound Bishop was among the league’s elite goaltenders when healthy, winning 222 of 397 starts with a career goals-against average of 2.32, a .921 save percentage and 33 shutouts. “Big Ben” was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2014 and 2016 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and in 2019 with the Stars. He was also a Second Team All-Star in 2016 and 2019.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets are still awaiting word on the condition of captain Blake Wheeler after he left Friday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks with a possible knee injury. Jets coach Paul Maurice suspects Wheeler could be sidelined for a while.
SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Canucks, they placed defenseman Travis Hamonic (lower body) on injured reserve on Friday.
TSN: Chris Johnston reported the International Olympic Committee confirmed any confirmed positive COVID-19 test at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics must produce two subsequent negative tests 24 hours apart. Otherwise, the quarantine period could last from three to five weeks according to Chinese law.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be troublesome for NHL players participating in the Games if they should contract COVID while in China. Johnston indicated there will be a call between the IOC, the International Ice Hockey Federation, NHL and the NHL Players Association medical personnel soon to review these matters.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he’d leave it up to the players to decide before the Jan. 10 opt-out deadline if they’ll still participate. The possibility of spending up to five weeks in China under quarantine could give participants a reason to reconsider taking part in the Games.
A look at possible Canucks trade candidates plus the latest Stars speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
THE ATHLETIC: With trade rumors swirling about the Vancouver Canucks, Thomas Drance looked at which players are likely to become trade candidates if management decides to shake things up or being overhauling the roster.
Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (NHL Images).
Drance believes J.T. Miller’s competitive style, experience and versatility would interest clubs in “win-now” mode. He said there are teams monitoring the Canucks fortunes with Miller’s short-term future in mind, including the Minnesota Wild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller, 30, is also signed through 2022-23 with an annual cap hit of $5.25 million and lacking no-trade protection. However, his agent told Drance’s colleague Rick Dhaliwal they haven’t had any conversations with Canucks management about trades.
Drance also addressed recent speculation about Canucks winger Brock Boeser. While acknowledging the 24-year-old winger’s talent as a sniper, he felt Boeser’s $7.5 million in actual salary this season is too expensive for most clubs in a flat-cap era. He’s a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dhaliwal also reported Boeser’s agent said he doesn’t believe his client will be traded but he’s aware it could happen. He said Brock has faith in the Canucks team and his teammates to get through their struggles.
Players slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer, such as Jaroslav Halak and Tyler Motte, are the most likely to be moved if the Canucks become sellers by the March trade deadline.
Drance also suggested Micheal Ferland’s permanent long-term injury reserve status could have some value for cap-strapped clubs seeking creative solutions. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of moving players like Travis Hamonic, Jason Dickinson and Tanner Pearson who still have term on their contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could surprise by moving one of their talented core players. However, I think Drance’s assessment is spot on and I recommend reading the entire piece if you have a subscription to The Athletic.
A rival club could make an offer for someone like Miller or Boeser before the trade deadline that’s too good for general manager Jim Benning (or his replacement?) to pass up. Still, it could be difficult to put that type of deal together during the season.
With three goalies on the roster, the Stars don’t have enough cap space to call up any extra forwards or defensemen. DeFranks indicated they could trade Holtby ($2 million) or Khudobin ($3.33 million) but that would deplete depth between the pipes as sidelined starter Ben Bishop’s status remains unclear.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars signed Holtby not because they lacked confidence in Oettinger but rather they wanted him to get a little more seasoning in the AHL before bringing him into the roster on a full-time basis. His performance this season shows his effort in the shortened 2020-21 campaign was no fluke.
Oettinger remains waiver-exempt so the Stars can send him down to their AHL affiliate once Holtby returns from his lower-body injury. Trading Holtby or Khudobin, however, would be an easier way to address this. The uncertainty over Bishop, however, remains a nagging issue. He’s reportedly eligible to come off LTIR but still isn’t physically ready to play.
The Stars shouldn’t have much difficulty moving Holtby or Khudobin if they go that route later in the season. There are already some clubs (hello there, Buffalo Sabres) in need of experienced goalie depth who could come calling.
Stan Bowman steps aside as Blackhawks general manager as the Blackhawks make front office changes in the wake of an investigation into sexual assault allegations involving their former video coach. Details plus recaps of Tuesday’s game and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Chicago Blackhawks team president and general manager Stan Bowman stepped aside following the release of details of an independent investigation into sexual assault allegations made against former video coach Bradley Aldrich by a former player over a decade ago. Senior VP of hockey operations Al MacIsaac was also relieved of his duties. The news was announced in a virtual press briefing yesterday that included Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, CEO Danny Wirtz and Jenner & Block lead investigator Reid Schar.
Former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman (NHL.com).
In addition, the NHL has fined the Blackhawks $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response” in its handling of this matter. Aldrich left the Blackhawks following the 2009-10 season.
The investigation found Bowman and MacIsaac met with then-president and CEO John McDonough, executive VP Jay Blunk, assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, head coach Joel Quenneville and mental skills coach James Gary after the Blackhawks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in May 2010 to discuss the allegations. However, nothing was done until three weeks later after the Blackhawks won the Cup.
TSN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman intends to meet personally with Cheveldayoff and Quenneville in the near future. Cheveldayoff is now the GM of the Winnipeg Jets and Quenneville is the head coach of the Florida Panthers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The full 107-page report, based on interviews with 139 people, has been released to the public (warning: contains graphic and disturbing details). It reveals the Blackhawks organization ultimately put winning a championship over pursuing prompt action against a sexual predator in their midst.
When they finally acted, they didn’t go to the police. Instead, Aldrich was given the choice of stepping down or being subjected to an internal investigation. He got severance pay, a playoff bonus, a day with the Cup and a complimentary reference letter from Quenneville. Nearly four years later, Aldrich was sentenced to nine months in jail and five years probation on criminal sexual conduct charges stemming from his alleged involvement with a high school player.
At every level, the Blackhawks failed to protect “John Doe”, who was also reportedly later ostracized and mocked by several teammates following his ordeal. They chose to cover it up for years, doing immeasurable harm to Aldrich’s victims and tarnishing a once-proud organization. The only positive to come out of this is “John Doe” finally received some measure of justice for his ordeal.
This story never would’ve seen the light of day without the determined reporting by TSN’s Rick Westhead and The Athletic’s Katie Strang. Their reports earlier this year led to the long-overdue investigation into the allegations.
The fallout from this story is ongoing and the aftermath will be felt by the Blackhawks, and the NHL, for a long time. We can only hope there will be lessons learned by the league to ensure victims of sexual assault at any level within its ranks never have to face what “John Doe” endured for the past decade.
NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken won its first home game in franchise history by downing the Montreal Canadiens 5-1. Brandon Tanev scored twice and Yanni Gourde collected a goal and an assist. The hapless Habs have lost five of their first six games this season. Earlier in the day, Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin said sidelined teammate Shea Weber is essentially retired though he hasn’t officially done so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drouin said out loud what everyone knows. Injuries have ended Weber’s career but he’s still under contract through 2025-26. He’ll remain on long-term injury reserve. If he officially retires, the Canadiens would only face a salary-cap recapture penalty of $200K per season until his contract expires. His former club, the Nashville Predators, would get hit with $6.1 million annually as they were the ones who matched his contract offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Nikolaj Ehlers scored the tying and winning goals 19 seconds apart in the third period to give the Winnipeg Jets a 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Andrew Copp also had a goal and two assists for the Jets. Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano had a goal and an assist for the Ducks.
The Calgary Flames picked up their fourth straight win by dropping the New Jersey Devils 5-3. Andrew Mangiapane scored two goals for the Flames. Pavel Zacha replied with two for the Devils.
A 28-save performance by Andrei Vasilevskiy gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the Lightning’s first regulation win of the season. Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonagh each had a goal and an assist.
The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their second win of the season by beating the Colorado Avalanche 3-1. Robin Lehner made 26 saves while Chandler Stephenson had a goal and an assist. Both clubs have 2-4-0 records.
Cam Talbot made 22 saves as the Minnesota Wild held off the Vancouver Canucks 3-2. Matt Dumba scored the eventual game-winner as the Wild have won five straight games. The Canucks announced defenseman Travis Hamonic has traveled to Vancouver and will join their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford. He did not report to the club in September and was placed on leave while dealing with a personal matter.
Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi had two assists and goaltender Juuse Saros kicked out 28 shots in a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund tallied for the Predators.
IN OTHER NEWS…
STLTODAY.COM: Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly was placed on the non-roster COVID-19 protocol list yesterday, joining winger Brandon Saad. They will be sidelined at least 10 days.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and center Henrik Borgstrom were placed on the club’s COVID protocol list.
ABC 6: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Dean Kukan will be sidelined eight weeks after fracturing his wrist in Monday’s game against the Dallas Stars.
AZCENTRAL.COM: Coyotes goaltender Carter Hutton is expected to miss two to four weeks with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Conor Timmins is out eight-to-12 weeks (lower body) while winger Ryan Dzingel has suffered an upper-body injury.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders signed forward Ross Johnston to a four-year contract extension. He’ll earn $1.1 million annually.