NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 31, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 31, 2019

Chris Kunitz retires, the Lightning ship Ryan Callahan to the Senators, fallout from the Wild firing GM Paul Fenton, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: After 15 NHL seasons, winger Chris Kunitz is hanging up his skates and will become a player development advisor for the Chicago Blackhawks. He played for the Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Blackhawks. 

Kunitz won four Stanley Cups, one with the Ducks and three with the Penguins, amassing 268 goals and 619 points in 1,022 games. He was also a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning men’s hockey team at the 2014 Winter Olympics. 

Chris Kunitz retires to join the Chicago Blackhawks front office (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Kunitz in his new job. 

OTTAWA SUN/TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday traded winger Ryan Callahan and a fifth-round pick in 2020 to the Ottawa Senators for goaltender Mike Condon and a sixth-rounder in 2020. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a straightforward salary dump by the Lightning. Callahan has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.8 million. A degenerative back injury has brought about the end of his playing career.

Rather than go through the salary-cap complications of placing Callahan on long-term injury reserve, the Bolts ship out his cap hit and give themselves over $11 million in salary-cap space. That should be enough to re-sign restricted free agents Brayden Point and Adam Erne to new contracts. However, the Bolts now have to address a logjam between the crease. I’ll have more on that in the Rumors section.

The Senators, meanwhile, can afford to take on Callahan’s cap hit. Thanks to insurance, they’ll only pay over $940K.

THE SCORE: cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman saying the Minnesota Wild are believed to have sought permission from the Philadelphia Flyers to speak with Ron Hextall regarding their now-vacant role of general manager. The Wild yesterday relieved GM Paul Fenton of his duties and are seeking a full-time replacement. Hextall was the Flyers GM from 2014 to 2018. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall probably isn’t the only former NHL general manager the Wild could be interested in. It’ll be interesting to see how many they interview and how long it takes to announce Fenton’s replacement. 

VANCOUVER SUN: Canucks winger Brock Boeser’s father is once again battling lung cancer. He was previously diagnosed in 2017. The cancer returned six weeks ago and has spread to his liver and bones. A blood clot triggered heart failure on Monday, placing him into intensive care in critical condition. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Boeser’s dad makes a full recovery. 

SPORTSNET: As expected, Calgary’s city council approved a 35-year arena deal with the Flames to replace the 36-year-old Saddledome.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed forward Vladislav Kamenev to a one-year, $750K contract. 

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes announced Patrick Dwyer is the new assistant coach of their AHL affiliate in Charlotte.

THE DENVER POST: Former NHL defenseman Mike Christie passed away on July 11 of kidney disease at age 69. A standout defenseman with the University of Denver.

Christie spent seven seasons in the NHL from 1974-75 to 1980-81 with the California Golden Seals, Cleveland Barons, Colorado Rockies, and Vancouver Canucks. He netted 116 points in 412 games and was captain of the Rockies in 1979-80.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Christie’s family, friends, and former teammates. 

Flyers Fire GM Hextall

Flyers Fire GM Hextall

The Philadelphia Flyers fired general manager Ron Hextall. Team president Paul Holmgren is overseeing the search for Hextall’s replacement.

The Philadelphia Flyers relieved general manager Ron Hextall of his duties. (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Didn’t see this coming. I expected head coach Dave Hakstol was on the hot seat, given the Flyers’ ongoing inconsistency.  Hextall’s replacement could quickly relieve Hakstol of his duties and bring in his own man behind the bench.

Hired as Flyers GM in May 2014, Hextall took a different approach than predecessors like Holmgren and Bob Clarke. Gone were the days of big trades and expensive free-agent signings.

Hextall instead freed up salary-cap space by shipping out the contracts of sidelined or aging veterans such as Chris Pronger and Vincent Lecavalier while restocking the Flyers’ farm system. Promising youngsters such as Ivan Provorov, Travis Konency, and Nolan Patrick were Hextall draft picks.

Hextall preached patience as he attempted to rebuild his roster, and for a while, Flyers fans bought into his program. At times, the club showed promise but inconsistency plagued them. Like his predecessors, Hextall couldn’t find a reliable starting goaltender, turning instead to affordable, injury-prone or inconsistent options like Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, and Brian Elliott. He also raised eyebrows with his hiring of Hakstol, a successful NCAA coach who lacked prior NHL experience.

This season, Hextall drew criticism for his ongoing inability to address the Flyers’ creaky goaltending and sloppy defensive play, especially on the penalty kill. As the club continued to blow hot and cold, Hextall’s calls for patience wore thin amid calls for change from frustrated Flyers’ followers. With the club in danger of tumbling to the bottom of the standings, the front office obviously felt a change in direction was needed. 

No word yet as to who becomes Hextall’s replacement. Whoever gets the job will be expected to make moves that provide more immediate and positive results.