NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2023
NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2023
The Stars advance to the Western Conference Finals, the notable highlights from the Leafs exit interviews with the media, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
STARS DEFEAT KRAKEN, ADVANCE TO THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars move on to the Western Conference Finals after nipping the Seattle Kraken 2-1 in Game 7 of their second-round series. Roope Hintz opened the scoring, Wyatt Johnston tallied the game-winner and Jake Oettinger stopped 22 shots for the Stars. Oliver Bjorkstand scored in the dying seconds of the third period and Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves for the Kraken.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars will face off again the Vegas Golden Knights when the Western Conference Finals begin on Friday, May 19. Another bounce-back performance in goal by Oettinger was crucial to the Stars’ victory in Game 7. Johnston, meanwhile, became the youngest player in NHL history to score a series-clinching goal in Game 7.
The Kraken’s first-ever NHL playoff appearance was a memorable one, upsetting the 2022 Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in seven games and pushing the Stars to the limit in this series. However, they looked like they were running out of gas in Game 7. If not for Grubauer’s goaltending the Stars’ margin of victory might’ve been higher. Still, this was a great experience for this second-year franchise, providing them with a solid foundation of experience to build on.
As noted above, the Western Conference Finals between the Stars and Golden Knights begins in Las Vegas on Friday, May 19 at 8:30 pm ET. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers will face off in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 1 in Raleigh on Thursday, May 18 at 8 pm ET.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE LEAFS EXIT INTERVIEWS
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Kyle Dubas will either return to the Toronto Maple Leafs as general manager or step away. During his club’s exit interviews with the media on Monday, Dubas indicated that he won’t entertain a front-office position with another club and intends to consult his family before reaching his decision.
Dubas is coming to the end of his five-year contract. He indicated that he will be meeting with team president Brendan Shanahan and the owners of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. However, the final say will be with his family, who endured what Dubas called a taxing year. He spent considerable time away from them as he attended nearly every one of the club’s home and road games this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent rumors had linked Dubas to the Pittsburgh Penguins as they’re in the market for a new general manager. Given his remarks, they’ll have to look elsewhere. The Pens have reportedly interviewed 10-12 candidates including former Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and Peter Chiarelli, the former GM of the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers.
THE SCORE: Dubas indicated that he would take nothing off the table in terms of his coaching staff and roster if he returns as Leafs general manager. “I would consider anything with our group here that would allow us a better chance to win the Stanley Cup,” he said.
THE ATHLETIC: Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted his fate with the club is out of his control. He has a year remaining on his contract and hopes to return behind the bench. Dubas indicated that there will a full evaluation of everything on the team this season, including Keefe’s performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have been a strong regular-season team with Keefe, including a franchise-record 115-point performance in 2021-22 and 111 points this season. However, they’ve only won one playoff series since he took over as head coach in 2019-20.
THE SCORE: Auston Matthews doesn’t intend on leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility but indicated his intention is to stay put. Matthews said signing an extension with the Leafs before next season is important to him and believes it “will work itself out in due time.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews’ willingness to ink an extension is good news for the Leafs and their fans. How long that deal will be and for how much will become hot topics of speculation in Toronto. There’s already media chatter suggesting that he might seek a four-year deal worth an average annual value of $16 million. A maximum eight-year deal could see him pull in an AAV of $13.5 million.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Forget about the scenario of John Tavares waiving his no-movement clause. Asked if he would do so as part of any trade, the Leafs captain expressed his love for the club and his teammates. “I made a commitment here for seven years to be a Leaf and I want to be here,” said Tavares, adding that he takes his role of team captain very seriously.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The theory about Tavares waiving his NMC came about because of the Leafs limited cap space due in part to his hefty $11 million cap hit through 2024-25. There was an assumption among some observers that he might do so if management approached him. Based on his reply, that’s not going to happen.
TSN: Michael Bunting said he’s had no contract extension talks with Leafs management this season. The 27-year-old winger is set to become a UFA on July 1. Trade-deadline acquisition Ryan O’Reilly is also due to become a UFA this summer and sounded more inclined to test the market than re-sign with the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t be surprised if Bunting and O’Reilly are playing elsewhere next season. The Leafs likely can’t afford to retain them even if they wanted to bring them back.
SPORTSNET: Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov revealed he suffered a neck injury in Game 3 against the Florida Panthers that sidelined him for the remainder of that series. A restricted free agent this summer, Samsonov indicated he hopes to re-sign with the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Samsonov is coming off a one-year, $1.8 million contract and has arbitration rights this summer. I expect he’ll be re-signed to a multi-year deal and share the goaltending duties next season with Joseph Woll, who’s signed through 2024-25 at a very affordable $766K.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Calgary Flames have reportedly sought permission from the Leafs to speak with assistant general manager Brandon Pridham. They’re on the hunt for a replacement for Brad Treliving, who stepped down as GM last month.
IN OTHER NEWS…
OTTAWA SUN: The bidding for the Senators is down to four binding offers ranging from $850 million to $1 billion. Toronto billionaires Jeffrey and Michael Kimel of the Harlo Capital Group, Michael Andlauer of ATS Healthcare Group, Toronto real estate magnate Steve Apostolopoulos and Los Angeles producer Neko Sparks entered their bids by Monday’s due date.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected one of them will receive preferred bidder status within the next couple of weeks.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen (hand injury) is moving one step closer to returning to the lineup. He shed his non-contact jersey for practice on Monday and is expected to return to action at some point in the Eastern Conference Finals.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko hopes to gain more playing time, including on the power play, under the club’s new coaching staff.