NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 22, 2020

Hart Trophy Finalists revealed, plus the latest on Tuukka Rask, Jonathan Toews, Carter Hart, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

2020 NHL AWARDS UPDATE

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, and New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin are this season’s finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded by the Professional Hockey Writers Association to the player adjudged most valuable to his team.

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl is among the finalists for the Hart Trophy (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These three are also the finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award honoring the most valuable player as voted by the NHL Players Association membership.

LATEST NOTABLE PHASE 3 TRAINING CAMP NEWS

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has a small fracture in one of the fingers on his left hand but he doesn’t believe that will impede his play. He said the injury happened several weeks ago and it’s feeling much better.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nevertheless, you can bet opposing players will test that hand by firing more shots to his glove hand wherever possible.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews left practice early on Monday and was out for Tuesday’s scrimmages. Coach Jeremy Colliton said Toews was “unfit to participate”, citing league protocols.

Meanwhile, Corey Crawford’s chances of returning to the ice before the Blackhawks head to Edmonton on Sunday appear to be dwindling. Teams are allowed to bring 31 players to the upcoming playoff tournament. The club isn’t ruling out saving a roster spot for Crawford.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford hasn’t participated in Phase 3 training, sparking speculation he’s nursing an injury. Without their starting goaltender, the Blackhawks could face long odds of upsetting the favored Edmonton Oilers in their qualifying round tournament.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers goaltender Carter Hart left the ice during the first period of a three-period scrimmage yesterday and didn’t return. Because of league injury protocols, the Flyers provided no details for Hart’s departure. Local broadcaster Colby Cohen said he was told Hart experienced minor back spasms and could return in a day or two.

CBS SPORTS: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman returned to the ice Tuesday after missing a pair of practices to a leg injury suffered when he blocked a shot on Friday.

TSN: St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester won’t be traveling with the club to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament. He’s been sidelined since suffering a cardiac incident on Feb. 11 during a game with the Anaheim Ducks.

Speaking of the Blues, STLTODAY.COM reports Ivan Barbashev will miss one or two round-robin games and the start of the opening round of the playoffs to attend the birth of his child. He’ll have to test negative for COVID-19 four times in four days before he can rejoin his teammates in Edmonton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Washington Capitals forward Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin will also be departing the quarantine bubble in Toronto to be with their wives when they give birth. They’ll have to go through the same testing before rejoining the Capitals.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports every player traveling to the bubble cities in Edmonton and Toronto for the upcoming playoff tournament must have three negative COVID-19 tests within a 48-hour period.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 20, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 20, 2020

Check out the latest on Sidney Crosby, Cale Makar, Johnny Gaudreau, Jakub Voracek, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

TRIBLIVE.COM: Sidney Crosby was absent from Pittsburgh Penguins practice yesterday after leaving the ice during Saturday’s scrimmage. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan declined to comment, citing the NHL’s new rules withholding player medical information during the coronavirus pandemic. However, a team source said Crosby’s departure was a precautionary measure for an undisclosed ailment.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (Photo via NHL Images).

NHL.COM’s Rick Sadowski reports Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar skipped practice yesterday after leaving the ice on Saturday. Coach Jared Bednar couldn’t comment on Makar’s status citing the league’s new injury protocols.

NEW YORK POST: Pavel Buchnevich’s absence from Rangers practice since Saturday is not expected to be long-term. The winger is suffering from an undisclosed ailment not related to COVID-19. Coach David Quinn doesn’t expect Buchnevich to miss the start of the Rangers’ upcoming qualifying-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the league’s cone of silence on a player’s health during the pandemic, we’ll have to get used to deciphering clues over whether they’ve tested positive for the coronavirus or dealing with something else. It’ll get easier when the games begin. A good indicator a player absence isn’t COVID-related is if he leaves the ice limping or clutching an arm or a shoulder.

CALGARY SUN: Johnny Gaudreau was reunited with linemates Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm yesterday. It’s the first time the winger has skated at his usual spot on the Flames’ top line since training camp opened last week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames tried to downplay Gaudreau’s situation, but it sparked whispers among fans and pundits over everything from contracting the coronavirus to concerns about his conditioning to questions about his future in Calgary.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger Jakub Voracek returned to practice yesterday after being “unable to participate” on Saturday.

“I feel good,” said Voracek. “Why are you asking? You guys panic so much it’s not even funny, holy f—. You guys are making it sound like I’m dying or something. Everything’s fine.”

Voracek’s absence was due to a delay in the results of his COVID-19 test on Friday, which subsequently came back negative.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins forward Charlie Coyle was held out of practice on Saturday for precautionary reasons following an inconclusive COVID test. A follow-up test came back negative.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland revealed he’s dealing with an issue related to his vestibular system, which is an inner-ear sensory system tied to the brain dealing with balance, eye movement, and spatial transmission. It was originally suspected Ferland’s lengthy absence was related to a concussion suffered earlier this season. He’s attempting to play his way back into the Canucks lineup during Phase 3 training.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report noted Ferland’s play still needs improvement, but he managed to play a full scrimmage on Sunday.

TORONTO SUN: Zach Hyman was back on the ice Sunday taking shots on a couple of Maple Leafs’ reserve goaltenders. He missed practice Saturday after blocking a shot on Friday.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny is feeling better following the NHL’s four-month pause. He’d been struggling to regain his form following hamstring surgery in April 2019.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes posed for their annual team photo with everyone wearing masks.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 9, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 9, 2020

A look at the five teams affected the most by a flat salary cap in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin lists the Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Arizona Coyotes as the five clubs that will be most affected by a flat salary cap in 2020-21.

The Lightning has 15 players signed for next season with $5.33 million in projected cap space. That won’t be enough to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. Larkin suggests Yanni Gourde and Alex Killorn as trade candidates. Gourde has a no-trade clause but Larkin thinks he could waive it for a fresh start elsewhere after seeing a reduced role this season. Larkin’s no-trade clause becomes a partial listing of 16 no-trade destinations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Joe Smith (subscription required) considers Killorn the top trade candidate, in part because of the flexibility his modified no-trade provides the Lightning. He also suggests Tyler Johnson ($5 million AAV through 2023-24) might be willing to waive his no-trade clause if it’s for a destination where he’d have a top-six center role. Cedric Paquette ($1.65 million through next season) could also be a trade option.

I think there will be more interest in Killorn, who’s more affordable ($4.45 million annual average value through 2022-23) than Gourde ($5.16 million AAV through 2024-25) and has a better reputation as a two-way forward. There’s no certainty Johnson would agree to be moved and his lengthy contract could be a deal-breaker for some clubs during these uncertain times.

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen could become an off-season trade candidate (Photo via NHL Images).

The Blues have 20 players under contract for next season with a little over $2 million in cap space and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn to re-sign. Larkin speculates they’ll attempt to move out goaltender Jake Allen ($4.35 million AAV through 2020-21) and suggests keeping an eye on winger Jaden Schwartz ($5.35 million AAV through ’20-’21, 15-team no-trade list).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon wonders how other teams will view Allen’s cap hit. Center Tyler Bozak has come up in recent trade speculation, but Gordon considers Bozak’s $5 million AAV a luxury few teams can afford.

Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford considers moving Schwartz far-fetched while the Blues’ championship window remains open. They could buy out the final season of Alexander Steen’s contract ($5.75 million AAV) but they’ll only get $2.4 million in cap relief for next season.

If the Blues intend to re-sign Pietrangelo and Dunn, significant cost-cutting is in order. Any way you slice it, however, it means parting with a couple of meaningful players.

The Blackhawks have 18 players inked for next season with $7.35 million in projected cap space. Larkin believes they could get much-needed cap relief if Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million AAV through 2023-24) and Andrew Shaw ($3.9 million AAV through 2021-22) go on long-term injury reserve for next season. Seabrook however, is attempting to return for the upcoming playoff tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Larkin and The Athletic’s Scott Powers point out the Blackhawks lack sufficient cap space to re-sign goalie Corey Crawford and forwards Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome. Powers suggests they could buy out defenseman Olli Maatta ($4.083 million AAV through 2021-22) and center Zack Smith ($3.25 million through 2020-21). The combined savings (over $5.5 million) along with Shaw potentially remaining on LTIR would free up valuable cap room to re-sign those key players.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have 16 players signed for next season with $4.59 million in projected cap room. With Tyson Barrie expected to depart via free agency, Larkin believes they won’t have enough space to bring in one or two impactful right-shot defensemen. GM Kyle Dubas could attempt to shop a mid-tier forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot for a blueliner. He also wonders if Dubas might attempt to acquire more LTIR contracts with David Clarkson and Nathan Horton coming off the books in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran points out the cost of re-signing Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev could eat up most or all of that cap space. He also anticipates one of those mid-tier forwards could be shopped, including Zach Hyman among them. Unless the CBA extension prohibits clubs from acquiring the contracts of players on permanent LTIR, it wouldn’t be surprising if Dubas goes to that well again to gain some wiggle room.

The Arizona Coyotes have 16 players signed with just $1.51 million available, though they’ll gain some cap relief with Marian Hossa ($5.75 million) on permanent LTIR. They need more than that if they hope to re-sign pending UFA winger Taylor Hall. Larkin suggests packaging center Derek Stepan ($6.5 million through next season) with a sweetener to free up more room.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could take one helluva sweetener to tempt a rival club with more cap space into taking Stepan’s contract.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2020

The Buffalo Sabres shake up their management and scouting departments, the Canadian government is open to a hub city, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SABRES SHAKE UP THEIR FRONT OFFICE

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres yesterday fired general manager Jason Botterill and replaced him with Senior VP of Business Administration Kevyn Adams. The move came three weeks after Botterill received a vote of confidence from team owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

Kevyn Adams is the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres (Photo via NHL.com)

The club relieved assistant GMs Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley of their duties and fired the entire coaching staff of AHL affiliate Rochester Americans.

SPORTSNET: The Sabres also fired director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski and reportedly 12 of their 21 scouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This front-office bloodletting is seen as cost-cutting by a club that will be sitting idle until perhaps January. Kim Pegula claimed the change of heart with Botterill was due to the 2020 NHL Draft being pushed to this fall, giving Adams time to familiarize himself with his new role. Putting Adams, who has no management experience, into that role is also being seen as the Pegulas injecting themselves directly into management decisions affecting the on-ice product.

Botterill leaves with more misses than hits during his tenure. He got very little back from trading Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis and Evander Kane to San Jose. While he didn’t give up much to acquire Jeff Skinner from Carolina, he was criticized for re-signing the winger to an eight-year extension worth $9 million annually. On the plus side, he drafted Rasmus Dahlin and acquired blueliner Brandon Montour.

Yesterday’s moves left many observers pondering the fate of head coach Ralph Krueger. So far, it appears his job is safe, but the same was said of Botterill three weeks ago.

Considering the Sabres’ lousy record since the Pegulas took over in 2011 – a nine-year playoff drought, three management changes, and six different head coaches – their fans can be forgiven any skepticism over yesterday’s moves.

The patience of team captain and franchise players Jack Eichel will be tested if the Sabres fail to improve. Yesterday could become the beginning of the end of Eichel’s tenure in Buffalo.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

TSN: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said his government is comfortable with the NHL having a host city for its playoff tournament in Canada, provided the league follows local health protocols. Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the 10 teams in the running.

“Obviously the decision has to be made by the NHL and the cities and the provinces in the jurisdiction, but Canada is open to it as long as it is okayed by the local health authorities”, said Trudeau.”

Bob McKenzie reports there was some talk of Toronto as a front-runner but all three Canadian cities are very much in the mix. He feels Trudeau’s announcement opens the door for one of them to become a hub for the playoff tournament.

Pierre LeBrun believes we’ll get more clarity on the two hub cities next week. Las Vegas remains a lock. If the three Canadian cities don’t work out there are some people who favor Chicago.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Toronto Maple Leafs player rep Zach Hyman said he doesn’t have much clarity yet about how restrictive the NHL’s return-to-play protocol will be. He believes there could be some leniencies in place allowing players some access to their families during the tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league and the NHLPA are in ongoing negotiations regarding those return-to-play restrictions. It’s expected more will be revealed when the league moves to Phase 3 as training camps open on July 10.

AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes center Brad Richardson said he was in contact with the team staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Richardson said he subsequently tested negative for the virus.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will difficult for teams to protect their players from the coronavirus as they prepare for training camp, especially in areas like Arizona where reported cases are on the rise. The Phase 3 training-camp period will determine if Phase 4 – the playoff tournament – goes off. 

NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy isn’t ruling out resting some of his regulars during the round-robin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You’re probably thinking, “They’ve had months to rest and recover from any nagging injuries so why rest them in a three-game round-robin before the playoffs?” I doubt Cassidy’s going to do that for all of his stars. They’re going to need those games to get into game shape. This could be done on a game-by-game basis depending on the player’s needs.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has resumed skating with several teammates at Pepsi Center in Denver.

IN OTHER NEWS…

BLOOMBERG NEWS: The Nassau Coliseum will be shuttered indefinitely as its owner seeks new investors to take over operations and the remaining debt on the building. The New York Islanders were supposed to return to the Coliseum next season to play all of their home games there before moving into their new Belmont Park arena for 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The New York Post’s Larry Brooks wonders if Rangers owner James Dolan might swoop in and keep the Coliseum open next season to enable the Islanders to play there. If that doesn’t happen, the Isles might have to play one more season at Barclays Center before moving to their new arena.

TSN: The reopening of Seattle’s KeyArena has been pushed back by two months. However, it’s not expected to affect the city’s NHL expansion team from starting their inaugural season in 2021-22.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2019

The latest on Mark Scheifele, Zach Werenski, Marian Hossa, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele dismissed recent speculation suggesting there was discord among his teammates last season.

“People can claim whatever, but I know we have a tight-knit team,” he told NHL.com last week. “We have great guys in our room. And there’s no question in my mind about the character we have in our room, the unity that we have.” He went on to call the rumors “a bunch of baloney.”

Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele denies rumors of discord among his teammates last season (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether those rumors are true or not, it’ll be interesting to see how the departures of Jacob Trouba, Brandon Tanev, and Ben Chiarot affect the Jets’ performance this season. Trouba was traded to the New York Rangers last month while Chiarot and Tanev left via free agency earlier this month.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: There’s been little progress in contract negotiations between the Blue Jackets and Zach Werenski. The 22-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. The Jackets hope to re-sign Werenski to a long-term deal but it’s possible a contract standoff could carry over into training camp and preseason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The status of fellow RFAs like Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, and Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk overshadowed Werenski’s contract negotiations. Werenski skates on the Jackets’ top pairing alongside Seth Jones, who’s earning an annual average value of $5.4 million on a six-year deal (stick tap to Cap Friendly).

The Jackets could be hoping to re-sign Werenski to a similar deal but he could seek much more. With over $65 million invested in 21 players, the Jackets have sufficient cap room to re-sign him to a hefty raise. I’ll be surprised if he’s still unsigned when training camp opens in September.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman said he didn’t know he’d torn the ACL in his knee until after he and his teammates were eliminated from the opening round of the 2019 playoffs. He suffered the injury in Game 4 against the Boston Bruins but played the remaining three games in the series because the injury didn’t seem as severe as it was. He could return to action by late-October.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent interview with Scott Power, Chicago Blackhawks president John McDonagh said he feels Marian Hossa could one day return to a role within the organization. Hossa’s career was ended by a skin condition related to his hockey gear but remains under contract for the next two seasons. The Blackhawks last year traded his contract to the Arizona Coyotes.

NHL.COM: Former NHL defenseman Arnie Brown passed away on Saturday at age 77. He spent almost seven of his 12 NHL seasons with the New York Rangers (1964-65 to 1970-71). He also skated with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, and Atlanta Flames, as well as one season in the WHA before retiring in 1975.

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










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2018

Game recaps, injury updates, and Matthew Tkachuk’s next contract in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Taylor Hall scored twice and collected two assists while Kyle Palmieri had a three-point performance to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators, ending a three-game losing skid. Matt Duchene scored both goals for the Senators. Earlier in the day, the Devils announced forward Marcus Johansson (upper-body) was placed on injured reserve, while the Senators activated defenseman Dylan DeMelo (upper body) off IR. 

Taylor Hall’s four-point performance carried the New Jersey Devils to a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators (Photo via NHL Images)

The Washington Capitals edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 with Tom Wilson tallying the game-winner. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby made 36 saves for the win.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Collin Delia made a 35-save season debut backstopping his club to a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, giving the Hawks their first three-game win streak of the season.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba will undergo surgery to repair an upper-body injury. General manager Paul Fenton expects Dumba will miss “significant time”. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba leads all NHL defensemen in goals (12) this season. His absence is a big blow to the Wild’s offensive attack. 

THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Colton Sissons (foot ailment) joined teammates P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve. 

SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman will miss at least three weeks with a sprained ankle. 

TSN: Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving hopes to avoid a lengthy contract standoff with Matthew Tkachuk, saying the goal is to get the young winger re-signed before the start of next season. He called re-signing Tkachuk “priority one”. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tkachuk, 21, is completing the final season of his entry-level contract and is on pace for a career-high 90-point performance. No wonder Treliving considers re-signing him the Flames’ top priority. With over $67 million invested in 14 players for 2019-20 and notables such as goaltenders Mike Smith and Dave Rittich and forward Sam Bennett to re-sign, Tkachuk’s next contract could complicate efforts to get the others under contract.