NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 21, 2021

Henrik Lundqvist announces his retirement, the Blues to retire Chris Pronger’s number, legendary Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret to call it a career following this season, the viability of moving the Coyotes to Houston, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist officially announced his retirement yesterday after 15 seasons with the New York Rangers and four with Frolunda in Sweden before that. A heart condition has ended his playing career at age 39.

Former New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has retired (NHL Images).

Lundqvist is the sixth winningest goaltender in NHL history with a record of 459-310-96, a 2.43 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and 64 shutouts, along with 61 wins and 10 shutouts in the playoffs. The Rangers immediately retired Lundqvist’s No. 30 and will stage a retirement ceremony later this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lundqvist was one of the great goaltenders of his generation and the best in Rangers history. “King Henrik” is their all-time leader in wins, save percentage, shutouts, and game-played by a goalie (887). He’s a shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

A First Team All-Star in 2011-12 and a Second Team All-Star the following season, Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy in 2012 and was also a four-time Vezina finalist. He backstopped the Rangers to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and won Olympic gold for his home country of Sweden in 2006.

Best wishes to Lundqvist and his family in their future endeavors.

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues announced they will retire Chris Pronger’s No. 44 on Jan. 17 before a game against the Nashville Predators. The former Blues captain is among their franchise leaders in games played (598), assists (272) and points (356).

A four-time All-Star, Pronger’s best season was 1999-2000, becoming just the second defenseman in NHL history to win the Hart Memorial Trophy and the James Norris Memorial Trophy. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.

WGR 550: Long-time Buffalo Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret will retire at the end of the 2021-22 season. This will be his 51st season behind the mike for the Sabres.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jeanneret is one of the best in the business. His iconic call of Brad May’s series-winning overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in the 1993 playoffs is among my favorites.

THE ATHLETIC: News of the Arizona Coyotes’ lease agreement with Gila River Arena ending next year prompted some observers to suggest relocating the franchise to Houston. However, Dallas Stars CEO Brad Alberts told Saad Yousef he doesn’t think that’s a possibility, saying there’s been no discussion at the league level about putting a team in that city.

Alberts said he’s heard rumors that Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta wants an NHL franchise in his city but doesn’t know for certain if he does. He acknowledged things can change but doesn’t believe the league intends to abandon Phoenix.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I said yesterday, the league will do everything it can to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. If that’s not possible, moving to a new city requires a wealthy owner with a viable NHL arena. Fertitta was keen to do so two years ago but that was before the pandemic disrupted normal life. He might not be so enthusiastic now.

TSN: The Calgary Flames avoided salary arbitration with Nikita Zadorov by signing the 26-year-old defenseman to a one-year, $3.75 million contract. They also signed blueliner Juuso Valimaki to a two-year, $3.1 million deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That leaves Philadelphia Flyers rearguard Travis Sanheim as the only player still scheduled for arbitration. His hearing is slated for Aug. 26 but he’ll probably be signed before then.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 11, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 11, 2018

The latest on Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Taylor Hall, Pavel Zacha, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: cites The Athletic’s Rob Rossi reporting multiple sources claim Evgeni Malkin asked the Pittsburgh Penguins to trade him if the club kept Phil Kessel. On June 30, the Penguins shipped Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes.

Malkin denied this, insisting his friendship with Kessel was real. Rossi’s sources, however, say the Russian center was tired of being caught in the ongoing conflict between his former linemate and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.

Was Evgeni Malkin the reason behind the Pittsburgh Penguins trading Phil Kessel? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever the reason behind Kessel’s trade, it’s now up to Malkin to bounce-back from a sub-par performance last season. If he doesn’t, Kessel isn’t around to be the scapegoat.

NHL.COM: New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero said he’ll continue to discuss a contract extension with Taylor Hall and his agent. The 27-year-old left-winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.

NJ.COM: Shero also re-signed Pavel Zacha to a three-year contract worth $6.75 million. The annual average value is $2.25 million. The signing comes just a day after reports claimed Zacha inked a one-year contract with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zacha got the contract he wanted, now he’ll have to earn it. Thus far, he’s struggled with his consistency but showed some improvement last season.

SPORTSNET’S Rick Dhaliwal reports the Vancouver Canucks and winger Brock Boeser remain far apart on a new contract. Boeser won’t report to training camp unless there’s a deal in place.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly reports the Canucks have only $4.1 million in salary-cap space. The Boeser camp could be seeking around $7 million annually on a new deal.

THE ATHLETIC: Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin said he’s made a “fair offer” to Kevin Fiala. The restricted free agent winger is reportedly mulling it over. Guerin hopes to have Fiala under contract before training camp opens later this week.

SPORTSNET: Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta still hopes to bring an NHL franchise to Houston one day. “There’s not a month that goes by that we don’t have some type of talks about the NHL,” he said in a recent interview.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the league soon to reach 32 franchise with an expansion club in Seattle starting in 2021-22, Fertitta could be waiting a while for a franchise of his own. If an existing club has to relocate, Houston could be a preferred destination. So far, there’s no indication of that happening anytime soon.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 12, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 12, 2018

Game recaps, speculation over the Coyotes relocating to Houston, injury updates and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Brad Marchand scored twice in a four-goal second period for the Boston Bruins as they edged the Arizona Coyotes 4-3. Bruins forward David Backes needed several stitches after being accidentally clipped on the nose by the skate of Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson but returned to the game in the second period.

Speaking of the Coyotes, a Fox 26 Sports (Arizona) report cites NHL sources claiming “Houston Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta has met with National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and had preliminary talks about buying and relocating the Arizona Coyotes to Houston.” At this point, it appears nothing further has come from those conversations. Fertitta and Rockets chief executive officer Tad Brown declined to comment.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For weeks, there have been rumblings among the NHL punditry linking the Coyotes to Houston. That speculation increased during the league’s process of awarding an expansion franchise to Seattle. It’s believed the Coyotes are currently seeking new owners but no indication they or the league are considering relocation. It’ll be interesting to see what reaction this report generates from the Coyotes’ current ownership or league headquarters. 

Jeff Skinner’s overtime goal capped a three-goal rally for the Buffalo Sabres as they squeaked past the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 to snap a five-game losing skid.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander collected his first two points (both assists) of the season as his club downed the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That should soothe the jangled nerves of Leafs superfan Steve Dangle, who had an entertaining meltdown following his club’s recent 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Washington Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick powered his club to a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings (Photo via NHL Images)

A three-goal third period powered the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Canucks rookie sensation Elias Pettersson had a goal and an assist.

Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick gave the Washington Capitals a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Ovechkin has a league-leading 25 goals and extended his personal points streak to 12 games. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom collected four assists and T.J. Oshie returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a concussion.

A four-goal third period enabled the St. Louis Blues to edge the Florida Panthers 4-3. David Perron tallied twice for the Blues, who played without defenseman Joel Edmundson, who injured his hand in the Blues’ previous game.

Pekka Rinne’s 25-save performance gave the Nashville Predators a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

The Minnesota Wild went four-for-four on the power play in a 7-1 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens. Matt Dumba scored twice while Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund each collected three points. Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi was in net for all seven Wild goals.

Kyle Connor scored twice and Dustin Byfuglien collected three assists as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3, handing the latter their eighth straight loss. Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook became the seventh set of teammates in NHL history to play 1,000 games together.

The Edmonton Oilers picked up their fourth straight win by beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4. Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had three points for the Oilers, who also lost defenseman Oscar Klefbom for what could be weeks with a hand injury. Avalanche wingers Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen each had four points.

LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS: Anaheim Ducks backup goaltender Ryan Miller will be sidelined up to six weeks with a sprained knee ligament. In response, the Ducks claimed goalie Chad Johnson off waivers from the St. Louis Blues. 

SPORTSNET: Broadcasting legend Bob Cole’s final NHL game will be the regular season finale on Hockey Night in Canada. between the Leafs and Canadiens on April 6. He will be retiring at the end of this season after 50 years in the CBC broadcast booth. 

COURIER-POST: The Philadelphia Flyers have hired former Minnesota Wild executive Brent Flahr as assistant general manager. Flahr worked for years with Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher during their years with the Wild. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 9, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 9, 2018

Game recaps, stars of the week plus injury updates on James van Riemsdyk, Roberto Luongo, Joe Thornton and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Patrice Bergeron tallied a hat trick, David Pastrnak scored twice and Brad Marchand collected three assists as the Boston Bruins doubled up the Ottawa Senators 6-3. Ryan Dzingel scored twice in a losing cause for the Senators.

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron tallied a hat trick in a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins’ top line has wasted little time picking up where they left off last season. However, the club’s production drops sharply beyond Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak. 

In his season debut with the New York Islanders, goaltender Robin Lehner turned in a 35-save shutout performance backstopping his club to a 4-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks. The Isles got the win in front of just 8,790 fans at Barclays Center.

Earlier in the day, the Sharks revealed the swelling in the surgically repaired right knee of center Joe Thornton was due to an infection and not to any structural damage to the knee.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton’s condition is being treated with antibiotics and he’s not expected to be sidelined for long. 

The Anaheim Ducks won their third straight game with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Troy Terry tallied the winning goal. The Wings were playing without Trevor Daley, who suffered an upper-body injury during Sunday’s game against the LA Kings.

Jack Eichel scored twice and Carter Hutton kicked out 35 shots to give the Buffalo Sabres a 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews and Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Oct. 7.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk will be sidelined five-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: A knee injury has put Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo on the shelf for two-to-four weeks. The Panthers will turn to backup James Reimer and call-up Michael Hutchinson between the pipes.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky was placed on injured reserve and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a strained oblique.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog (lower body) could miss tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets.

THE SCORE: Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs believes Houston would be a great market for an NHL franchise. Jacobs is the chairman of the league’s executive committee.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL hasn’t indicated if it intends to expand beyond 32 franchises once Seattle’s expansion bid is formally approved in December. Perhaps Houston will become a destination for a relocated franchise, though there’s no indication any current club could be on the move anytime soon.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 27, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 27, 2018

Game recaps, three stars of the week plus updates on Nick Foligno, Rick Nash, Johnny Gaudreau and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

William Karlsson tallied his 40th goal of the season as his Vegas Golden Knights beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 (Photo via NHL Images)

 NHL.COM: William Karlsson tallied his 40th goal of the season as the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-1, becoming the fifth NHL club to clinch a playoff spot this season. The Golden Knights (103 points) sit atop the Pacific Division.

Alex Ovechkin tallied his 45th goal of the season as the Washington Capitals doubled up the New York Rangers 4-2. With 97 points, the Capitals widened their lead atop the Metropolitan Division by five points over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The San Jose Sharks picked up their eighth consecutive win by edging the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on shootout goals by Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc. The Sharks (97 points) hold a six-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for second place in the Pacific Division.

Jonathan Quick turned in a 23-save shutout effort backstopping the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames, officially eliminating the latter from playoff contention. Anze Kopitar and Dion Phaneuf each had a goal and an assist for the Kings (91 points), who hold the first-wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Avs (90 points) sit in the second wild-card spot, one point up on the St. Louis Blues. The Flames, meanwhile, were playing without winger Johnny Gaudreau. He’s in New Jersey with his father, who’s recovering from a heart attack. 

The Florida Panthers (85 points) moved to within a point of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference by blanking the New York Islanders 3-0. James Reimer made 32 saves while teammates Keith Yandle and Evgenii Dadonov each had two points. With the loss, the Islanders are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Islanders forward Casey Cizikas missed the game with an upper-body injury.

The Carolina Hurricanes kept their slim playoff hopes alive by downing the Ottawa Senators 4-1. With 79 points, the Hurricanes sit seven points out of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Clayton Keller set the Arizona Coyotes’ rookie goal scoring record by helping his club upset the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1. Keller had a goal and an assist, giving him 23 goals and 61 points this season.

Unanswered third-period goals by Casey Nelson and Jack Eichel lifted the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-2 upset of the Toronto Maple Leafs, snapping the latter’s 13-game home winning streak. Eichel collected two goals in this games.

Brendan Gallagher scored twice to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Gallagher reached the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his NHL career.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen and Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor were the NHL stars for the week ending March 25, 2018.

COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is sidelined two-to-four weeks with an upper-body injury. 

BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins remain mum on the status of winger Rick Nash, who is expected to miss his fifth straight game when his club meets the Winnipeg Jets tonight. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins gave up a lot to acquire Nash from the New York Rangers before last month’s NHL trade deadline. His ongoing absence is generating speculation over the severity of the injury and how long he could be sidelined. 

NJ.COM:  New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson had some harsh words for Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand. Johansson has only recently returned to practice after suffering a concussion from a blindside hit by Marchand on Jan. 23, called the Bruins winger’s actions “sad” and “stupid”.  “There was no hockey play there whatsoever. I think it’s sad to see that there’s still guys out there that are trying to hurt other guys. I think there’s nothing else to say about it.” He added that he hopes Marchand doesn’t end someone’s career. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marchand’s received several fines and suspensions over his career for his dirty play but nothing seems to deter him. Seems to be the case for elite players like him. If he was a marginally talented fourth liner, his punishments would likely be much worse. 

YAHOO SPORTS: Former NHL enforcer and current sports radio personality Georges Laraque has apologized for recent comments claiming the Edmonton Oilers traded winger Taylor Hall because he’d gone through a stint in rehab. “After further verifications I can say that this information was 100% wrong, I was wrong and apologize to Taylor for the mistake,” tweet Laraque.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laraque should’ve gotten that additional verification first before blurting it out during a radio interview. This makes him look very unprofessional and damages his credibility. 

CHATHAM DAILY NEWS: Former NHL forward Ken Houston died of cancer on March 10. He was 64. Houston spent nine seasons in the NHL from 1975-76 to 1983-84 with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings. Seven of those seasons were spent with the Flames. He exceeded the 20-goal plateau six times and finished with 328 points in 570 games. 

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


Rambling Thoughts on Future NHL Expansion

Rambling Thoughts on Future NHL Expansion

The National Hockey League’s decision to allow a prospective ownership group in Seattle to submit a bid for an expansion franchise could have considerable repercussions.

It’s no secret the league has had interest in putting a franchise in the American Pacific Northwest for some time. Seattle has a long hockey history and is the current home of the WHL’s Thunderbirds. A competitive NHL franchise in that city would be a natural rival with the Vancouver Canucks.

Expansion to Seattle would balance out the league’s two conferences, with 16 teams in each. It’ll also be another nice cash grab for the exisiting team owners, as the proposed expansion fee of $650 million would go directly into their pockets. That’s because it isn’t counted as hockey-related revenue under the current collective bargaining agreement, an apparent lack of foresight by the NHL Players Association during the last round of CBA talks that they’re probably still kicking themselves over on a daily basis.

While the PA will miss out on in those sweet expansion fees, its membership will reap the benefits of the 23 new jobs created for the players and the additional hockey-related revenue another new franchise will generate, including higher salary-cap hikes and potentially lower escrow clawbacks from their salaries. Maybe, just maybe, that might pave the way toward smoother future CBA talks, avoiding another unnecessary work stoppage that only serves to test the patience of the league’s fans.

Expansion into Seattle, however, dims the possibility of the NHL returning to Quebec City. Despite the presence of a sparkling new 18,000-seat venue in the capital of la belle province, it’s still not enough to woo a new NHL team.

Location, of course, is the problem. The NHL doesn’t want to widen the existing imbalance between the conferences by placing another team in the East. Quebec City’s market size also pales in comparison to Seattle. Yes, it may be more hockey-mad and would be fueled as well by the rekindling of the rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, but its media reach would be limited in scale. Factor in the lower value of the Canadian dollar in recent years, and Quebec City’s chances of landing an expansion franchise appears remote.

Or is it?

The city of Houston could be another potential location for an NHL expansion club. Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, last month met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss the potential of a pro hockey franchise in that Texas city.

Like Seattle, Houston has a long hockey history. It was home to the WHA Aeros of the 1970s and the IHL Aeros from 1994 to 2001. The city came close to landing an NHL team in 1997, when a group of local businessmen nearly succeeded in buying the Edmonton Oilers with the intent of relocating that franchise.

Should the Vegas Golden Knights build upon its current inaugural-season success and a franchise in Seattle follow suit, the NHL board of governors could be enticed to consider further expansion with new clubs in Houston and Quebec City. If potential owners in those cities are willing to pay the skyrocketing expansion fees and can prove those markets could sustain NHL clubs, it might not be a far-fetched idea.

Then again, maybe the league brain trust is keeping an eye on Houston and Quebec City as potential relocation cities for currently struggling franchises.

The impending sale of the Carolina Hurricanes to Dallas businessman Tom Dundon prompted some NHL followers to consider that club a relocation candidate. However, Bettman insists the Hurricanes aren’t moving. Besides, the earliest Dundon could move the team (if that’s what he wants) is 2024, when their arena lease expires. Trying to buy his way out of it would prove too costly.

Meanwhile, the future of the Arizona Coyotes has been in doubt for years. Bettman has stubbornly supported the franchise, currently in the midst of seeking a deal to build a new arena closer to downtown Phoenix. Should those efforts fall through, however, Houston could a tempting destination.

Should the New York Islanders’ bid to construct a new arena in Belmont Park fall through, their future in the New York area could be in question. With the Isles’ relationship with the owners of Barclays Center souring and Bettman insisting the club won’t be returning to Nassau Coliseum, Quebec City or Houston could become quick fallback plans, just as Winnipeg was in 2011 for the Atlanta Thrashers.

Houston could also be the future home of the Calgary Flames. Negotiations between the Flames ownership and the city of Calgary over a new arena are downright frosty right now, to the point where team co-owner Murray Edwards recently voiced his pessimism to his fellow league governors over the prospects of getting a deal done.

Edwards also said the Flames aren’t for sale. However, that doesn’t mean the current ownership won’t threaten to relocate if they can’t get the city of Calgary to bend to their demands over the distribution of the construction costs.

To the surprise of no one, the Flames want the city to pick up more of the tab than Mayor Naheed Nenshi is willing to spend. With Nenshi recently reelected to a four-year term, don’t be surprised if Murray and Bettman start ratcheting up the relocation threats.

Many NHL pundits doubt the Flames are going anywhere, suggesting it would be difficult for Edwards and Bettman to justify leaving a strong hockey market with a rich history. Don’t kid yourself. If the Calgary city council is unwilling to bend, the Flames will be in Houston before you can finish singing, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas.”

And they’ll justify it by painting Calgary’s municipal politicians as the bad guys for robbing the good folks of the Stampede City of their beloved hockey team, leaving the league no choice but to move to a friendlier city with a better arena.

Of course, this is merely all speculation. Seattle’s expansion bid could fall through. The league could decide that 32 franchises are quite enough. Maybe Quebec City will suffer the same fate as Hamilton, which built a big shiny arena over 30 years ago in the vain hope of attracting an NHL team. The Hurricanes could stay put in Raleigh, the Islanders could get their new home in Belmont Park, the Coyotes could get new digs in Phoenix and the Flames and the city of Calgary could eventually hammer out an arena deal.

Still, given the promise of the Vegas Golden Knights, the prospect of a successful franchise in the Pacific Northwest and the ongoing uncertainty facing several existing clubs in their current markets, the effects of a successful expansion bid in Seattle could be felt throughout the NHL over the next decade.