NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 8, 2023
A first-ever 16-game day features a key matchup between the Predators and Jets in the Western wild-card race while the Bruins attempt to tie the single-season wins record. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: For the first time in league history there will be a 16-game day involving all 32 NHL franchises on Saturday kicking off with the Carolina Hurricanes visiting the Buffalo Sabres at 12:30 pm ET.
The Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers and New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference and the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators in the Western Conference are jockeying for the three remaining wild-card berths.
A key matchup pits the Predators against the Jets in Winnipeg. The Jets are tied with the Flames for the final Western wild-card spot with 89 points while the Predators are one point behind them. The Jets and Predators have four games remaining in their schedule while the Flames have three games left.
Meanwhile, the league-leading Boston Bruins have an opportunity to tie the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning for the most wins (62) in a season as they face the New Jersey Devils. The Bruins are 61-12-5 with 127 points and four games remaining in their schedule.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: It’s a good news-bad news day for the Minnesota Wild. The good news is leading scorer Kirill Kaprizov returns to the lineup after missing a month with a lower-body injury. The bad news is two-way center Joel Eriksson Ek is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury that could sideline him for the start of the playoffs on April 17.
GOPHNX.COM: Craig Morgan highlights the impressive rookie campaign of Arizona Coyotes forward Matias Maccelli. Despite missing 16 games to a lower-body injury, the 22-year-old left wing leads this season’s rookie class with 36 assists and sits second with 46 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like emerging superstar Clayton Keller, Maccelli’s performance has been mostly overshadowed by the Coyotes’ ongoing arena issues, their continuing roster rebuild and their placement near the bottom of the standings. Maccelli probably won’t win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie but he should be among the top finalists.
DAILY FACEOFF: University of Michigan center Adam Fantilli is the 2023 winner of the Hobey Baker Award honoring the top player in men’s NCAA hockey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fantilli is considered the best prospect behind the Regina Pats’ Connor Bedard in this year’s draft. He is expected to be chosen second overall by whichever club ends up with that selection following next month’s NHL Draft Lottery.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Devon Levi’s US college career recently ended but he was named the winner of the Mike Richter Award as the top college goalie for an unprecedented second consecutive year. He was also named Hockey East Player of the Year for the second straight season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres got Levi in 2021 as part of the return from the Florida Panthers in the Sam Reinhart trade. That move could go down as one of the biggest in Sabres’ history if Levi turns into the franchise goalie he’s projected to become. He’s won two of his first three games for the Sabres thus far.
DAILY FACEOFF: St. Louis Blues goaltender Thomas Greiss will miss the remaining week of the regular season with a lower-body injury.
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports the NHL’s spending gap widened to record levels this season. The Tampa Bay Lightning spent at least $41 million more this season than the Arizona Coyotes in total player wage expenditure. Big-spending teams and bottom feeders have used long-term injury reserve (LTIR), front-loaded contracts and massive signing bonuses to game the salary-cap system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli also points out that this doesn’t always equate to success. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils are among this season’s high-spending playoff clubs. However, they share space with non-contenders like the Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals among the top-10 teams in salary expenditure.
LTIR has been a bone of contention for critics of the salary cap system for years. Nevertheless, most teams find it a necessary evil to get through seasons when they’re pressed for cap room. They had two opportunities to address it during the 2012-13 lockout and in 2020. The fact it still exists likely means it won’t be changed in the next round of collective bargaining in 2026.
The league previously cracked down on front-loaded contracts in the 2012-13 lockout and could attempt to tweak those rules in 2026. Signing bonuses are capped at 10 percent of a contract’s total salary compensation but I wouldn’t be shocked if that gets lowered too.