Top 10 NHL 2020-21 Calder Trophy Candidates
The latest on Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner, Canucks acquire Nate Schmidt, the Islanders sign Cory Schneider and trade Devon Toews to the Avalanche, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said he will be keeping his goaltending tandem intact for next season and won’t be trading Marc-Andre Fleury. He also indicated Robin Lehner will undergo shoulder surgery but will recover in time for training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury was the subject of trade speculation after Lehner got the bulk of the starts in the playoffs and signed a contract extension earlier this month. There was talk they were trying to move Fleury by getting a third team involved who would absorb part of his $7 million salary-cap hit. It was assumed he’d be moved to clear salary-cap space to sign Alex Pietrangelo, but the Golden Knights made another move (see below) to address that issue.
The coming season could be Fleury’s last in Vegas. He lacks a full no-movement clause and will likely be left unprotected in next year’s expansion draft.
THE PROVINCE: The Golden Knights found another way to shed some cap payroll after signing Pietrangelo yesterday, trading Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick in 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights shed Schmidt’s $5.95 million cap hit. They’re still above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $974K but that’s within the 10 percent allowable offseason cap overage.
The Canucks, meanwhile, find a suitable replacement for Chris Tanev, who signed with Calgary as a free agent. Schmidt is a good puck-moving defenseman who can log over 21 minutes per game and skate on the left or right side of the blueline. He’s got five years remaining on his contract, which could become a cap headache in the latter years, but he should be a welcome addition to the Canucks defense corps in the short term.
TSN: The New York Islanders signed goaltender Cory Schneider to a one-year, $700K contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles are expected to go with Semyon Varlamov and promising Ilya Sorokin as their goalie tandem next season. Schneider is an affordable insurance move in case Sorokin struggles to adjust at the NHL level.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche acquired defenseman Devon Toews from the Islanders in exchange for a second-round pick in 2021 and a second-rounder in 2022. They also re-signed defenseman Ryan Graves to a three-year, $9.5 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs were looking for a defenseman after shipping Nikita Zadorov to Chicago for Brandon Saad over the weekend. Toews, 26, is a fine replacement. Colorado GM Joe Sakic sang his praises as “a smart, two-way puck-moving defenseman” who logs over 20 minutes per game and is “excellent in transition”.
Graves’ new contract is worth an annual average value of $3.16 million. That’s a considerable raise over the $735K of his previous deal. He earned it with a career-best 26-point performance and a league-leading plus-minus of plus-40.
Speaking of the Avalanche, The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark took to Twitter reporting preliminary contract talks have begun with captain Gabriel Landeskog. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $3-million contract.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks signed center Mattias Janmark to a one-year, $2.25-million contract and center Lucas Wallmark to a one-year deal worth $950K.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild re-signed goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen to a two-year, $1.45-million contract.
NEW YORK POST: Alexis Lafreniere signed a three-year entry-level contract with the New York Rangers. The 19-year-old left-winger was the first-overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.
THE ATHLETIC: Bill Shea reports talks are ongoing to extend the NHL’s 10-year, $2-billion broadcast rights contract with NBC Sports that expires at the end of next season. While the league’s playoff ratings were down due to the pandemic, it still helped NBCSN have one of its best-ever third quarters. ESPN, Fox Sports and Turner Sports are also interested in the NHL’s TV and streaming business.
The latest on the Sharks and Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHICH UFAS WILL THE SHARKS RE-SIGN?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz recently examined which San Jose Sharks’ unrestricted free agents could be re-signed and those who have likely played their final games in teal.
He feels it would make sense to bring back Joe Thornton if the long-time Sharks center accepts a $1 million or less salary to provide the club with salary-cap flexibility. He’s leaning toward Thorton’s return but doesn’t consider it a certainty.
Kurz wouldn’t be surprised if the Sharks re-signed Melker Karlsson but could also see him move on to another club. Having traded away a penalty killer in Barclay Goodrow, it might be worthwhile to re-sign Karlsson if he accepts a pay cut.
Backup goalie Aaron Dell won’t be back unless the Sharks can trade starter Martin Jones, but his contract makes him nearly impossible to move. Stefan Noesen will likely get an affordable one- or two-year deal. Unless the Sharks trade Brent Burns, Kurz expects the Sharks will part ways with Tim Heed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve singled out the more notable of the Sharks’ UFAs. I can see Thornton, Karlsson, and Noesen being re-signed if they’re willing to accept cost-effective deals.
Cap Friendly indicates the Sharks have over $66 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. General manager Doug Wilson indicated he believes his club can make a quick turnaround from this season’s disappointing performance. To do so, he’ll need those aforementioned free agents to accept affordable one-year contracts or watch them depart via free agency.
UPDATE ON THE WILD
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo recently reported the league’s proposed roster expansion to 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goaltenders would allow the Minnesota Wild to use Kaapo Kahkonen in the 24-team playoff tournament.
Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock are the Wild’s current goalie tandem. However, coach Dean Evason isn’t ruling out the possibility of the AHL goalie of the year becoming their starter in the tournament if he plays well in training camp. “Whoever is in there that we deem is going to play well for us in whatever position, I’m sure everybody will support him and we will go forward,” said Evason.
Russo suggested it also makes sense for Wild general manager Bill Guerin to play Kahkonen to determine if the 23-year-old netminder is ready to become their No. 1 or No. 2 goalie next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s goaltending situation could get interesting in the off-season if Kahkonen outplays Dubnyk and Stalock in the proposed return-to-play tournament. Dubnyk has one season left on his contract with an annual average value of over $4.33 million and a 19-team trade list. Stalock has two years left at a cheap AAV of $785K. Should Kahkonen prove himself NHL-ready, Guerin could be tempted to use Dubnyk or Stalock as trade bait to address other roster needs.
Russo also reported Marcus Foligno hopes to sign a contract extension with the Minnesota Wild. The 28-year-old forward will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno’s become an effective third-line forward for the Wild. He carries a $2.875-million annual average value on his current contract. The Wild have over $39 million invested in just seven players for 2021-22, leaving plenty of space to re-sign Foligno if they choose.
Another milestone for Alex Ovechkin, Justin Williams returns to the Hurricanes, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin reached another scoring milestone in a 6-1 thumping of the Ottawa Senators. Ovechkin scored twice to tie Teemu Selanne (684 goals) for 11th on the all-time goal list. T.J. Oshie also scored two goals while defenseman John Carlson chipped in two assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin needs only 11 more goals to surpass Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and Mark Messier and move into eighth overall. Barring injury, he should pass those three before season’s end. He needs 25 more goals to pass Mike Gartner for seventh.
The Carolina Hurricanes edged the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 on an overtime goal by Dougie Hamilton. Sebastian Aho and Warren Foegele each had two points. The Flyers have lost four straight games. The Hurricanes also announced winger Justin Williams was returning to play on a one-year, bonus-laden contract with a base salary of $700K. Williams, 38, had stepped away from the game for several months. It remains to be seen where he’ll fit into the lineup or when he’ll play his first game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was speculation the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals might try to sign Williams before he inked his new deal with the Hurricanes. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes the veteran winger to round back into game shape and how effective he’ll be over the remainder of this season.
The St. Louis Blues snapped a three-game winless skid by holding off the San Jose Sharks 3-2. Sharks captain Logan Couture left the game in the second period with an apparent knee injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on Couture’s status could come later today. If he’s sidelined for a long period, it’ll be a significant setback to the Sharks’ playoff hopes.
Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Carter Verhaeghe tallied his first career NHL hat trick in a 9-2 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks. Brayden Point had a four-point performance and Steven Stamkos collected three points. Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh missed the game with an upper-body injury and could remain sidelined until Saturday. The Bolts have won eight straight.
The Boston Bruins spoiled John Hynes’ debut as the Nashville Predators new head coach by rolling to a 6-2 victory. Bruins forwards Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen each had a goal and an assist while David Pastrnak netted his league-leading 32nd goal.
Elias Lindholm celebrated his 500th career NHL game with two goals as the Calgary Flames squeaked past the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1. Blackhawks center Dylan Strome left the game with an injured right ankle in the second period.
Kris Letang and Dominik Kahun each picked up two points and Tristan Jarry made 31 stops in a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Penguins have won 12 of their last 16 while the Golden Knights’ four-game win streak came to an end. Jarry and Letang were named to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game as injury replacements.
The Columbus Blue Jackets extended their road points streak to nine games by edging the Anaheim Ducks 4-3. Zach Werenski scored two goals and Pierre-Luc Dubois collected three assists. With 50 points, the Jackets sit behind the Flyers (50 points) for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers hold a game in hand.
New York Rangers rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin made 29 saves (13 in the first period) for his first career NHL victory in a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Rangers winger Artemi Panarin scored and set up two others. The Avs have dropped seven of their last 10 games.
The Arizona Coyotes picked up their fourth straight win by downing the Florida Panthers 5-2. Taylor Hall tallied the game-winner, Phil Kessel collected three assists, and goalie Adin Hill made 37 saves.
Anders Lee’s overtime goal lifted the New York Islanders over the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri each had a goal and an assist in a losing cause for the Devils.
The Detroit Red Wings rallied to nip the Montreal Canadiens 4-3. Frans Nielsen scored twice and Filip Zadina tallied the winning goal. Ilya Kovalchuk picked up two assists for the Habs, who are winless in seven (0-6-1).
IN OTHER NEWS…
ESPN.COM: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is concerned over the recent trend of notable players skipping the annual All-Star Game. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury have opted out of this year’s game. Under league rules, a player named to the ASG who doesn’t attend faces a one-game suspension.
Daly believes the current punishment isn’t sufficient to discourage players from skipping the game, but the league might not attempt to stiffen the penalty through collective bargaining. “What we want to do is make sure everybody understands that it is an important event, not something that should be bypassed lightly. We’ll seek the help with the [NHLPA] in instilling that sentiment with the players,” said Daly.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the stick isn’t working, the league should try the carrot approach. Rather than punishment, perhaps they can entice the players by sweetening the $1 million prize for the winning team in the All-Star Game.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild recalled goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen as Devan Dubnyk will skip the club’s upcoming trip to Calgary. Dubnyk will be with his wife as she undergoes a medical procedure.
SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens traded former first-round pick Michael McCarron to the Nashville Predators for center Laurent Dauphin. McCarron was selected 25th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Canadiens don’t have the best record in managing their first-round assets in recent years:
#Habs 1st RD picks from 2009 to 2016
2009: Louis Leblanc – No QO
2010: Jarred Tinordi – Traded
2011: Nathan Beaulieu – Traded
2012: Alex Galchenyuk – Traded
2013: Michael McCarron – Traded
2014: Nikita Scherbak – Waived
2015: Noah Juulsen – (AHL)
2016: Mikhail Sergachev – Traded
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 7, 2020