NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2021

The Jets down the Leafs in their final regular-season game, Conference championship trophies won’t be awarded this season, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Ondrej Kase and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets ended their regular season on a high note by doubling up the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. Kyle Connor scored twice to finish the season with a team-leading 26 goals. The Leafs’ Auston Matthews was held pointless, finishing the season with a league-leading 41 goals.

Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs will have several days off before they begin their respective first-round series. The Jets face off against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday while the Leafs meet the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski reports the NHL won’t be handing out the Prince of Wales Trophy or the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to the conference champions this season. The Prince of Wales Trophy is usually awarded to the Eastern Conference champion while the Campbell Bowl is awarded to the Western Conference champion.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bright side is we won’t have to listen to any of the superstitious nonsense over whether the winning teams will touch those respective trophies. Because, of course, everyone knows touching those awards could determine the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final (end sarcasm mode).

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The lack of a new contract for Alex Ovechkin isn’t bothering Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. He said he and Ovechkin are focused on the upcoming playoffs.

Alex knows that if he plays five more years, 10 more years, whatever it is, we’ve got his back,” Leonsis said, adding the team’s commitment to his captain is to continue to have great teams. “We’ll spend to the cap, we’ll try to win championships. And that’s what he’s focused on because that’ll be his legacy.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is completing a 13-year, $124 million contract. He and Leonsis agreed at the start of this season to put aside contract discussions until after the playoffs are over. Based on Leonsis’ comments, it sounds like Ovechkin won’t be going anywhere.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase won’t be playing in Game 1 of his club’s opening-round series against the Washington Capitals tonight. Kase suffered an upper-body injury unrelated to the suspected concussion that sidelined him for all but three games this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever the issue, it sounds like Kase could miss more than just Game 1.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins backup goaltender Casey DeSmith left Friday’s practice early to receive medical treatment after making a routine save. It’s suspected to be a lower-body injury. The Penguins open their first-round series against the New York Islanders on Sunday.

TSN: Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman was fined $5,000.00 for a dangerous trip on St. Louis Blues forward Sammy Blais on Thursday.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed defenseman Artem Zub to a two-year, $5 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zub, 25, joined the Senators as a free agent from the KHL and played well in his first NHL season. He finished with 14 points in 47 games and a plus-minus of plus-4 while logging over 18 minutes of ice time per game.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Senators, team owner Eugene Melnyk declined to comment about lawsuits filed against five defendants by his traveling companions related to his Caribbean vacation last Christmas.

THE SCORE: cites a report by The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun indicating Alain Vigneault will return as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers next season.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Speaking of returning coaches, Stars general manager Jim Nill confirmed Rick Bowness will be back behind the bench with his club next season. Nill also said forward Roope Hintz will undergo surgery next week in New York to repair a groin injury.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 26, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action, Jeff Skinner’s status with the Sabres concerns his agent, updates on Auston Matthews and Henrik Lundqvist, some notable injury news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders tallied five unanswered third-period goals to upset the Boston Bruins 7-2. Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves while teammates Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders. The Bruins have dropped three of their last four games.

Three straight third-period goals lifted the Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller each had a goal and an assist. Tom Wilson tallied the game-winner and also received a two-minute minor penalty for injuring Penguins forward Mark Jankowski with a late hit in the first period. Earlier in the day, the Penguins placed winger Jason Zucker (lower body) on injured reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a history of questionable hits but it doesn’t appear as though he’ll receive supplemental discipline for this one.

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored twice in the third period in a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Yanni Gourde netted the game-winner as the Lightning won their third straight over the Hurricanes, moving into second place in the Discover Central Division with 27 points.

A three-goal third-period rallied the Florida Panthers over the Dallas Stars 3-2. Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves while Aleksander Barkov, Anton Stralman and Frank Vatrano tallied for the Panthers, who sit atop the Discover Central Division with 28 points. Stars forward Roope Hintz missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is playing his way into the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation (NHL Images).

Patrick Kane tallied his 399th career goal and Malcolm Subban made 26 saves for his first shutout with the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-0 blanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carl Soderberg also scored for the Hawks, who sit third in the Central with 26 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks keep finding ways to win thanks in part to Kane’s production and leadership. He’s moved into a tie with Toronto’s Auston Matthews (31 points) for third place in the NHL scoring race and continues to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy.

The Ottawa Senators are on their first three-game win streak of the season after upsetting the Calgary Flames 6-1. Matt Murray made 29 saves, Colin White scored twice and Drake Batherson scored for the fourth straight game.

Earlier in the day, the Senators placed center Derek Stepan on injured reserve among reports he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. They also placed little-used forward Filip Chlapik on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. Meanwhile, the Flames placed goaltender Jacob Markstrom (upper body) on injured reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators’ improvement throughout February is due in part to giving more ice time to their younger players. They still have more rebuilding to do but they’ve served notice in recent weeks that they’re no longer an easy two points. The Flames, meanwhile, have dropped five of their last six.

An overtime goal by Pavel Zacha lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The Sabres made winger Jeff Skinner a healthy scratch for the third straight game, prompting his agent to contact general manager Kevyn Adams to express his concern over his client’s status. Sabres captain Jack Eichel was a late scratch with a lower-body injury while goalie Linus Ullmark left the game following the first period with an undisclosed injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s poor production this season is cause for concern for the Sabres but critics question if he’s being properly utilized by head coach Ralph Krueger. It’s yet another issue for a team whose playoff hopes are fading while raising questions about Eichel’s future in Buffalo.

Sam Gagner tallied his third career hat trick as the Detroit Red Wings downed the Nashville Predators 5-2. Jonathan Bernier made 37 saves for the win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The mounting losses for the Predators continue to stoke speculation they’ll become sellers at the Apr.12 trade deadline. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor section.

Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists while Kyle Connor scored twice as the Winnipeg Jets overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3. The Habs dropped their fourth straight, spoiling the debut of interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game in the first period after an apparent slew foot by Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo. He’ll undergo more tests but Ducharme said his injury isn’t considered to be too serious.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme declared a clean slate for his players before this game. What he got was a strong start undone by more shaky goaltending from Carey Price, sloppy defensive play and a collapse of confidence as the game rolled along. The Habs (22 points) still hold a playoff spot in the Scotia North Division only because the Flames and Vancouver Canucks are playing worse than they are. Speaking of the Canucks…

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith turned in a 32-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Canucks. Alex Chiasson, Jesse Puljujarvi and Connor McDavid were the goal scorers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have only two victories in 13 games this month.

HEADLINES

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said center Auston Matthews has been dealing with a wrist injury for most of this season. Matthews appeared to aggravate the injury during Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Flames but Keefe feels it hasn’t gotten worse.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews was scoring at a goal-per-game pace prior to Wednesday. He has a shot at becoming the first player since Brett Hull in 1991-92 to score 50 goals in 50 games.

NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist returned to the ice earlier this week after undergoing open-heart surgery seven weeks ago. However, the 39-year-old goaltender said it will be months before he can reach a decision on whether he’ll continue his playing career.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Saturday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will continue as scheduled after the Sharks announced no new positive COVID-19 tests. Thursday’s game between the two clubs was postponed after Sharks forward Tomas Hertl tested positive. He’s expected to miss some time as he remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

TSN: The number of players on the league’s protocol list shrunk to seven players with three of those being members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets are preparing to increase the number of fans attending their home games after Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced indoor sports and entertainment events in the state to 25 percent capacity. The Jackets currently have a plan approved by the state that allows 10 percent capacity.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins will soon welcome fans back to TD Garden as the state of Massachusetts will allow 12 percent capacity starting on March 22.










Dallas Stars Stumbling At Quarter-Point Of The NHL Season

Dallas Stars Stumbling At Quarter-Point Of The NHL Season

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 10, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 10, 2020

The latest on the league’s plans for the 2020-21 season, the Stars re-sign Roope Hintz, the Panthers hire Ulf Samuelsson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the NHL’s board of governors could get a glimpse of the league’s plans for 2020-21 during an expected conference call on Thursday. While the league’s goal remains opening on Jan. 1, there’s speculation the season won’t begin until early February. Ice has been placed back in half of the NHL arenas and players are starting to return to their home cities in anticipation of a new season.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the leadership of the NHL and NHL Players Association have been in “very regular contact” regarding next season. The players he’s spoken to are keen to find out what the dates will be.

Dallas Stars forward Roope Hintz (NHL Images).

The idea of starting on Jan. 1 faces several roadblocks, including breaking for the 2020 Christmas holidays.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I weighed in yesterday on the hurdles facing the league regarding a Jan. 1 season opener. They’re starting to run out of time to reach that deadline. Starting up in February seems more realistic depending on the course of the pandemic.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed Roope Hintz to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.15 million. The 23-year-old forward was the last of the Stars’ restricted free agents to sign a new deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hintz enjoyed a solid sophomore campaign in 2019-20, tallying 19 goals and 33 points in 60 games. This is an affordable bridge deal for the Stars. Hintz will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights when this contract expires. Given his development, he’ll be in line for a significant raise on his next deal.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Ulf Samuelsson as an assistant coach. A former NHL defenseman, he was head coach of Leksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League last season, scouted for the expansion Seattle Kraken, and was a former assistant coach with the Arizona Coyotes, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Justin Abdelkader wrote about his love of playing for the Detroit Red Wings in a recent article in the Players Tribune. A second-round pick of the Wings in the 2005 NHL Draft, the 33-year-old winger played spent 13 seasons with the club until he was recently bought out of his contract.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed 2020 first-round pick Cole Perfetti to an entry-level contract. Perfetti was selected 10th overall.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: A sneak peek of the Bruins retro jersey for 2020-21 may have been leaked yesterday.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 4, 2020

The latest on the notable restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox examined the latest regarding the remaining notable NHL restricted free agents.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello reportedly hopes to sign center Mathew Barzal to around $7.5 million per season. The young center’s camp would prefer a higher figure. Fox feels it’s highly unlikely a rival club will sign Barzal to an offer sheet worth $10.9 million or more per season as the compensation to the Isles would be four first-round picks.

Speaking of the Isles, Fox considers it a no-brainer they’ll sign defenseman Ryan Pulock after trading Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche in a cost-cutting move last month. Pulock’s arbitration hearing is on Nov. 6.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An offer sheet for Barzal remains possible but increasingly unlikely. With Cap Friendly indicating 23 of the Isles rivals have less than $10 million in cap space (22 of those with less than $7 million), the possibility of an offer sheet remains remote.

Whatever Pulock gets on his contract will put a big bite into the Isles’ $8.9 million cap space. They’re allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason but must be cap compliant when next season begins. Lamoriello must shed some salary to sign Barzal and ensure he’s under the cap.

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue having difficulty freeing up salary-cap space to sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. GM Julien BriseBois has attempted to move veteran winger Tyler Johnson but his difficulties doing so indicate how hard it is to shed salary under the current economic conditions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois will have to package Johnson with a good draft pick or a quality prospect as a sweetener. Even then, he might have to pick up part of his $5 million salary-cap hit. He could find it easier trading Alex Killorn but could still be squeezed to add a pick or prospect in the deal.

Contract talks between the Columbus Blue Jackets and center Pierre-Luc Dubois have stalled but GM Jarmo Kekalainen remains unconcerned. He pointed out Zach Werenski didn’t sign last year until just before training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois is coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The Jackets also have over $12 million in cap space as a sufficient offer-sheet deterrent. No wonder Kekalainen isn’t worried.

Contract talks between the New Jersey Devils and Mackenzie Blackwood are expected to pick up shortly. The Devils bought out Cory Schneider and brought in a suitable mentor for Blackwood in Corey Crawford. Fox speculates he could seek a deal comparable to the two-year, $8 million contract of Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins. He also doesn’t expect the Devils will have much difficulty signing winger Jesper Bratt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have over $17 million in cap space. Even if they don’t spend to the cap, they’ve got enough for Blackwood and Bratt.

Fox thinks second-line winger Jake DeBrusk’s contract talks have taken a back seat to the Boston Bruins’ attempts to reshape their blueline after losing Torey Krug to free agency. That’s led to DeBrusk popping up in the trade rumor mill. With over $6 million in cap space, the Bruins have room to sign him but they’re also poking around the UFA market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk lacks arbitration rights so the Bruins could ink him to an affordable bridge contract. That would leave enough cap room to add a defenseman via the UFA market.

Ryan Strome’s upcoming arbitration case could be worth watching. Fox cited the New York Post’s Larry Brooks back in April speculating the Rangers would prefer signing the center to a one-year contract without going through arbitration. The Rangers had debated not qualifying Strome’s rights before doing so.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks reported Strome filed for a one-year contract worth $5.7 million with an arbitrator while the Rangers countered with $3.6 million. He speculated they could walk away if the arbiter awards Strome over $4.538 million.

Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar surfaced in trade speculation but GM Bill Zito insisted he remains a member of the Panthers. The blueliner is slated for arbitration on Nov. 8. Fox speculates Weegar could use Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk’s four-year, $14.75 million contract ($3.687 million AAV) as a comparable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weegar’s situation could also bear watching if it takes arbitration to settle his contract. Perhaps Zito attempts to trade the rearguard if an arbiter-awarded salary is more than the Panthers are willing to pay.

Fox suggests St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn could end up with an affordable bridge contract. The 23-year-old is coming off his entry-level deal. The same goes for Edmonton Oilers blueliner Ethan Bear.

Fox also projected the next salary for forward Roope Hintz could come in around $3 million, which will fit within the Dallas Stars’ $4.1 million cap space. It’s expected the Philadelphia Flyers will sign defenseman Philippe Myers to a short-term deal but there could be some benefit to locking him up to a longer-term deal.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 31, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 31, 2020

More on the league’s potential plans for 2020-21, no Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2021, plus the latest on Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, Vince Dunn, Alexander Steen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league intends to take its time exploring its options for 2020-21 despite a tentative start date of Jan. 1. He also indicated it appears last season’s seven non-playoff clubs will get additional training camp time, though it hasn’t yet been finalized with the NHL Players Association.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (NHL.com).

Daly also dismissed the idea that the NHL must crown a Stanley Cup champion before the Tokyo Summer Olympics begin on July 22, 2021. He said there’s a lot to be played out on the Olympic front, adding the league has models that extend beyond the Olympic period.

Border restrictions between Canada and the United States will also factor in what the 2020-21 schedule looks like. If travel for NHL teams remains difficult between the two countries, it could result in what Daly called a possibility to “create competition within the league among the Canadian clubs.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s interesting to note that Daly isn’t rejecting the notion of the NHL schedule coinciding with the Summer Olympics. However, I don’t think that’s going to benefit the league if the playoffs are going on during the two weeks when their main US broadcaster is putting its focus on the Tokyo Games. If the Olympics are canceled or the dates changed, however, it wouldn’t affect the league’s US TV coverage.

For now, of course, this is all speculation. We don’t know yet how long the NHL season will be, let alone when the puck drops for certain.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports Bruins defenseman and NHLPA representative Brandon Carlo said the PA and its members remain committed to staging a full 82-games schedule for 2020-21.

Murphy believes one reason behind the 82-game push is to avoid the possibility of the league looking to amend the new collective bargaining agreement to prorate player salaries if the season is shortened by COVID-19.

Carlo also suggested there would be some hesitancy among the players to play under quarantine bubbles again, though they are open to ideas. However, they would be reluctant to be separated from their families as they were during the 2020 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: One possibility recently raised is starting next season in several hub cities where the teams play for two weeks, followed by a week back in their home cities to practice and reunite with their families. That scenario could be acceptable to the PA membership.

SPORTSNET: The Hockey Hall of Fame announced it is postponing the induction ceremony for the Class of 2020 to next year and will not name a new class for 2021.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The induction weekend is a significant event that involves a Hall of Fame game in Toronto on the Saturday prior to the actual induction ceremony gala, which takes place in the Hall with family, friends and former teammates of the inductees, as well as NHL executives and established Hall of Famers in attendance. The pandemic makes it impossible to safely stage those events.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars forward Tyler Seguin is expected to undergo hip surgery next week. His recovery period could take four months.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seguin labored through that injury (and a lingering knee injury) during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, during which he got some flak from fans and pundits for what they considered a sub-par performance on his part, with calls that he should “step up his play”. Once again, it’s worth remembering that an NHL player performing below expectations in the postseason could be nursing an injury that adversely affects their game.

Stars general manager Jim Nill said he hopes to have a new deal for Roope Hintz within the next week or two. The 23-year-old forward is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. Nill said he’s had great discussions with Hintz’s agent. The Stars have about $4 million in cap space. Hintz’s new contract could carry an annual cap hit of between $2.5 million and $3 million.

The Stars also signed Julius Honka to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700K at the NHL level. The 24-year-old defenseman spent last season playing in Finland and had asked for a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Honka is well down the Stars’ blueline depth chart and faces a daunting challenge cracking the lineup. He must also clear waivers to be demoted to their AHL affiliate.

STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong isn’t concerned over Vince Dunn remaining unsigned, indicating the 24-year-old defenseman is still part of their plans for next season. He pointed out it’s not unusual for restricted free agents to wait until training camp to sign contracts.

The Blues are about $1.1 million over the $81.5 million salary cap. However, Armstrong pointed out they’ll have “an abundance of cap space” given the Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen “situations”. Tarasenko will miss the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. Armstrong’s comments are a strong indicator Steen could miss the start of the season with an undisclosed injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly lists Tarasenko and Steen on injured reserve. Their combined salaries ($13.25 million) provides the Blues with ample room to re-sign Dunn. It could also provide sufficient room to make a short-term addition to their roster if necessary.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed restricted free agent forward Joey Anderson to a three-year contract (two-way in the first two seasons) worth an annual average value of $750K. They also signed unrestricted free agent goalie Michael Hutchinson to a two-year, two-way contract worth $750K annually.

SPORTSNET: The Ontario government reaffirmed its stance that bodychecking and deliberate physical contact will not take place during sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) indicates it will follow scientific studies in crafting its return-to-play plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Bob McKenzie raises some important questions about the Ontario government’s plan: