NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2021

The Wild sign Kirill Kaprizov, the Blues Jackets re-up Elvis Merzlikins and the Blues ink Robert Thomas. Check out the details of these signings plus the latest PTO contracts and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed winger Kirill Kaprizov to a five-year, $45 million contract on Tuesday night. The annual average value of the deal is $9 million. This comes on the eve of the Wild opening training camp today.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report adds Kaprizov is in North America, will travel to Minnesota today and will be in training camp tomorrow. The 24-year-old winger’s one NHL season has raised questions over whether he’s worth that type of contract.

The Wild, however, had no choice. Kaprizov may have a short body of work but he won the Calder Memorial Trophy last season, becoming the most exciting offensive star they’ve had since Marian Gaborik was in his heyday 15 years ago. Cap Friendly indicates they’re also facing a short-term cap crunch over the next three seasons. They needed certainty over how much he’ll cost them per season, especially when the salary cap begins rising again.

Kaprizov now faces the pressure of justifying that hefty raise and building on his promising NHL debut. If he does, the Wild should remain a legitimate playoff contender despite their upcoming salary-cap issues. If not, things could get ugly very quickly for him and for general manager Bill Guerin.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year, $27 million contract extension. The annual average value is $5.4 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing cements Merzlikins as the Blue Jackets’ starting goaltender. It also means Joonas Korpisalo could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent unless he’s moved before the March trade deadline if the Jackets are out of playoff contention.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues inked center Robert Thomas to a two-year, $5.6 million contract with an annual average value of $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s the same deal teammate Jordan Kyrou recently signed but there was speculation Thomas would get less than that because of his struggles last season. The signing pushes the Blues above the cap by around $1.3 million but it’s expected they’ll offset that by placing sidelined forward Oskar Sundqvist (knee injury) and his $2.75 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve to start the season.

The Blues must become cap compliant when Sundqvist returns to action. That could come about via demoting or trading a lower-salaried player or perhaps they’ll find a trade partner for Vladimir Tarasenko by then.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed Bobby Ryan to a professional tryout offer. The 34-year-old winger played for the Wings last season.

TSN: Alexander Galchenyuk signed a PTO with the Arizona Coyotes. The 27-year-old forward last played for the Coyotes in 2018-19.

NHL.COM’s Brian Compton tweets the New York Islanders signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a PTO, inked goaltender Cory Schneider to a two-way contract and signed Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle.

Freelancer Ken Campbell reports Edmonton Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith is still quarantining after receiving his second COVID-19 vaccination. He’s expected to miss the first week of training camp.

TSN: The Philadelphia Flyers announced center Kevin Hayes underwent abdominal surgery and will be sidelined four to six weeks and defenseman Samuel Morin will be out six to eight weeks recovering from knee surgery. Forward Wade Allison is out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ll feel Hayes’ absence for the opening weeks of this season. His spot as second-line center could be filled by Morgan Frost.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have barred forward Zac Rinaldo from attending training camp due to his unvaccinated status. He’s on a one-year, two-way contract and has been vocal in his stance against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. He’ll instead attend the training camp of their AHL affiliate in Cleveland later this month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinaldo can forget about getting called up by the Jackets. The club is taking a firm stance on ensuring all its players are fully vaccinated, operating under the NHL’s COVID protocols for this season.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Motte remains sidelined by an undisclosed injury suffered on April 29 in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll miss the start of training camp and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

SPORTSNET: After 42 years in broadcasting, Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Jim Hughson has retired. He called his first game on radio in 1979 and become the main play-by-play for the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and national broadcasts on HniC.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hughson and his family for a happy retirement.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 21, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 21, 2021

Updates on the notable unsigned restricted free agents as training camps approach in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, Ottawa Senators left winger Brady Tkachuk and Minnesota Wild right winger Kirill Kaprizov are among the notable restricted free agents still without contracts as training camps open later this week. Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlen and St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas are also among those without contracts.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

  THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports Canucks fans probably won’t see Pettersson and Hughes when training camp begins on Thursday in Abbotsford, BC. General manager Jim Benning maintains they’re continuing to have good dialogue and hopes to get something done sooner rather than later. Kuzma wonders if bridge deals for the young stars might be palatable for both parties.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal cited sources in Pettersson’s camp saying the young center has departed Vancouver and flown to Michigan to be with Hughes. Both are close friends and represented by agents Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry. They will remain in Michigan preparing for the upcoming season while awaiting a resolution in negotiations.

It’s expected the Canucks will sign Pettersson first because Hughes isn’t eligible to receive an offer sheet. While the threat of an offer sheet is remote the club doesn’t want to take any chances. Of the two, Hughes could be the more likely to ink a long-term deal. The Canucks have up to $16 million in cap space if necessary to sign both but would ideally prefer $14.5 – $15 million.

There’s also speculation whatever Kaprizov gets with the Minnesota Wild will affect how much Pettersson receives from the Canucks. However, that’s considered remote within the industry. The Wild face a unique salary-cap crunch in the near term so inking Kaprizov to a bridge deal has little benefit for them.

The comparables for Pettersson could be the bridge deals signed by Tampa Lightning center Brayden Point ($6.75 million annual average value) and the New York Islanders Mathew Barzal ($7 million AAV).

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the lines of communication remain open between the Senators and Tkachuk but the two sides remain at a stalemate. While things can change with one phone call, it’s expected the Senators will open training camp tomorrow without the 22-year-old left winger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of these players could be under contract by tomorrow morning. Then again, negotiations could drag on through the opening days of their respective camps.

The Canucks probably won’t get Pettersson and Hughes under contract for less than a combined $14 million. Pettersson could come in at $7.5 million and Hughes close to $7 million. By the sound of things, Pettersson could end up with a bridge deal.

It’s been reported the Senators have an eight-year deal worth $8 million annually on the table for Tkachuk. Maybe his representatives are pushing for $9 million or perhaps they seek a shorter term in hope of cashing in on a more lucrative deal in three or four years’ time.

Kaprizov will miss the opening week of training camp. Even if signed today, he would reportedly face a seven-day quarantine period before joining his Wild teammates. His side wants a short-term deal in order to qualify for UFA status as soon as possible while the Wild prefer between five and eight years. It’s believed he’ll eventually get a five-year deal worth an annual average value of $9 million.

Not much to report on Dahlin and Thomas. Talks are said to be ongoing between the Sabres and the 21-year-old blueliner but no word on possible contract terms. Thomas, meanwhile, took part in the Blues’ development camp sessions last week. He’s said to be seeking more than teammate Jordan Kyrou’s $2.8 million AAV on a two-year deal.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2021

The latest on Brady Tkachuk, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Morgan Rielly in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Brady Tkachuk has yet to join his Senators teammates in Ottawa in preparation for the start of training camp on Sep. 22. He’s still back home in St. Louis as his agent and Senators management continues to work on a new contract for the 22-year-old left wing.

Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk (NHL Images).

Garrioch cited TSN’s Gord Miller recently saying he felt a deal between the two sides could come quickly. It’s believed the Senators offered up an eight-year deal worth an annual average value of $8 million. The two sides could fall back to a three-year deal if a long-term agreement cannot be hammered out in time.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma took note of the apparent lack of progress in contract talks between the Vancouver Canucks and young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. He feels the negotiation pressure point of missing the start of training camp next Thursday could adversely affect their regular-season performance.

Kuzma also speculates the Canucks could be forced to shed some salary if Pettersson and Hughes each pocked $8 million annually on their new deals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the start of training camp fast approaching, most of the focus in the rumor mill will be on the contract talks of notable restricted free agents such as Tkachuk, Pettersson, Hughes and the Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov.

Plenty of time remains for those players to be signed before their respective training camps open but the clock is ticking. It may be more pressing for the Wild and Kaprizov, as the latter reportedly requires a work visa and would have to spend a week self-isolating from his teammates once he arrives in Minnesota.

Cap Friendly shows the Canucks with a projected $10.6 million in cap space. Signing Pettersson and Hughes would push them over the cap. If necessary, they can get an additional $3.5 million in cap relief by placing sidelined winger Micheal Ferland (post-concussion symptoms) on long-term injury reserve. As Kuzma points out, however, they would have to free up more room depending on what their combined cap hit turns out to be.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes the Maple Leafs shouldn’t trade Morgan Rielly this season. He acknowledged the 27-year-old defenseman is due for a big raise next summer. However, he feels they shouldn’t move their annual leader in ice time unless they’re certain of getting equal or greater value in return. “And that’s not going to happen,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Koshan was responding to recent reports speculating over Rielly’s future with the Leafs because of his unrestricted free agent status next summer and the club’s limited cap space.

I daresay management has no intention of moving him this season unless they’re well out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline. That’s assuming, of course, they have no desire to re-sign him or he plans to test the market in July.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2021

Can the Leafs afford to re-sign Morgan Rielly? What’s the latest on Kirill Kaprizov and Brady Tkachuk? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO STAR: Chris Johnston recently suggested the large contracts signed this summer by several notable NHL defensemen could make it difficult for the Maple Leafs to sign Morgan Rielly to a contract extension. Chicago’s Seth Jones, Columbus’ Zach Werenski, Colorado’s Cale Makar and New Jersey’s Dougie Hamilton inked multi-year deals worth an annual average value of $9 million or more.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images)

Johnston doubts Rielly’s next contract will come in lower than $8 million per season. He and Dallas’ John Klingberg would become next summer’s top unrestricted free agent defensemen if they opt to test the market. Rielly’s averaged roughly the same point percentage as Hamilton and Washington’s John Carlson over nearly the same number of games.

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas could take a wait-and-see approach to this season before engaging in contract discussions with Rielly. He could also take the same approach as he did last season with Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen by treating the blueliner as an “own rental” for this season and letting him skate away next summer. Johnston points out, however, those players weren’t as valuable as Rielly.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston also noted the Leafs’ limited salary-cap space for 2022-23. Cap Friendly shows them with a projected $67.78 million invested in 14 players. Goaltender Jack Campbell is also slated to become a UFA while promising defenseman Rasmus Sandin is a restricted free agent.

Considering how much those blueliners Johnston mentioned received this summer, we can forget about Rielly accepting a “hometown discount” to stay in Toronto. While the salary cap is expected to rise by just $1 million to $82.5 million for ’22-’23, there will be teams prepared to sign him to a long-term deal worth $9 million annually or more. The Leafs won’t be among them unless they shed some salary first.

The Leafs could trade Rielly but that’s not going to happen unless they’re hopelessly out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline. The front office still believes their current roster can stage a deep playoff run and contend for the Stanley Cup but they can’t do it without their best defenseman.

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin admits some obstacles remain in his quest to get Kirill Kaprizov signed before the start of training camp. Part of it involves getting a work visa to travel to the United States, get tested for COVID-19 and undergoing a seven-day quarantine as per NHL protocols before joining the Wild.

Russo believes Guerin and the Kaprizov camp have once again reached a stalemate. Sources say the Wild has offered a variety of terms with an annual average value of $9 million. Guerin doesn’t believe they’re very far apart but acknowledged negotiations can take a while. Nevertheless, he said his club has made “a very fair offer, and that’s just where we are.”

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports talks are continuing between the Senators and Brady Tkachuk’s representatives. While discussions have been cordial they could increase in intensity as the start of training camp on Sep 23 approaches. It’s believed the Senators have offered up an eight-year, $64 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have a better chance of getting Tkachuk into training camp than the Wild with Kaprizov given the number of hurdles the latter would have to clear. Russo speculated the Wild’s unwillingness to include signing bonuses in their contracts could be a sticking point.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2021

Updates on the notable remaining restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined where things stand with the NHL’s notable restricted free agents.

Term could be a sticking point between the Vancouver Canucks and defenseman Quinn Hughes. His camp sought a deal beyond five years, perhaps comparable to contracts signed this summer by Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen and Colorado’s Cale Makar. Pat Brisson, one of Hughes’ agents, said there was no animosity as discussions continue.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

Teammate Elias Pettersson shares the same representatives as Hughes. They were considering a shorter team for the 22-year-old center. Pettersson wants assurances the Canucks are as committed to winning as he is. It could cost a combined $14 million to get both youngsters under contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks were said to be nervous about Pettersson getting an offer sheet after the Carolina Hurricanes successfully signed away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens. That’s a remote possibility given the high cost of compensation to the Canucks and salary for Pettersson.

Talks between the Minnesota Wild and winger Kirill Kaprizov continue. Speculation the 24-year-old winger could sign a one-year deal with KHL club CSKA Moscow came to nothing. The Wild hoped to sign Kaprizov to a seven or eight-year deal but the winger’s camp wanted a three-year contract to bring him up to his eligibility age for unrestricted free agent status. Wild general manager Bill Guerin is reportedly willing to consider a five-year deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent conjecture suggests the two sides could agree to a five-year contract worth around $9 million per season. Yes, that annual average value is high for a player with just one NHL season under his belt, but he won the Calder Memorial Trophy during that campaign, becoming the first Wild player to receive that honor.

Kaprizov’s also the most exciting offensive player the Wild have had since Marian Gaborik’s heyday from 2000 to 2008. They hope to build around this kid for at least the next five years. That’s why it could cost $9 million per season.

Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion described contract discussions with winger Brady Tkachuk’s representatives as positive and productive. The two sides are trying to work out a long-term deal. Tkachuk reportedly won’t travel to Ottawa for training camp until the paperwork is sorted out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tkachuk’s contract talks have garnered increased attention over the last couple of weeks. There have also been conflicting stories with Dorion saying things are going smoothly while other reports claim Tkachuk is growing frustrated it’s taking so long to get a deal done.

The Buffalo Sabres and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin began contract talks on July 21. A three-year bridge deal is possible but Fox wonders if they’ll work toward a long-term agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jack Eichel saga continues to overshadow Dahlin’s contract situation. There’s been no drama thus far but interest in his negotiations could increase as training camp approaches.

Fox also believes Nolan Patrick could get a bridge deal with the Vegas Golden Knights following his unhappy tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was traded to the Golden Knights from the Nashville Predators as part of a three-way deal. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers and representatives for winger Kailer Yamamoto are said to be grinding away toward a bridge deal.

St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas seeks more than the $2.8 million AAV signed by teammate Jordan Kyrou. He could miss the start of training camp if he’s not offered a suitable deal. The Blues have limited cap space and haven’t been able to unload Vladimir Tarasenko’s $7.5 million annual cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz recently suggested Yamamoto as an offer sheet possibility. He considers the 22-year-old winger a good young forward on a team whose cap situation would make it difficult to match a modest $4.1 million offer sheet. Thomas could also be another target, though his struggles last season hurt his chances of getting one.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 10, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, Brady Tkachuk, Elias Pettersson, Phil Kessel and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In a recent roundup of notable hockey news, Elliotte Friedman reports the Buffalo Sabres had an “introductory meeting” with Jack Eichel’s new representatives. Thus far, however, no indication of any resolution in the 24-year-old center’s impasse with the team. Friedman believes the club revisited discussions with interested teams to see where they stand.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The issues probably remain the same for those clubs. They’re unlikely to pay the Sabres’ hefty asking price for a talented but expensive player who’s yet to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.

The Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk’s representatives are still working on a long-term deal believed comparable to teammate Thomas Chabot’s eight-year, $8 million per season contract. Both sides hope to have a deal in place before training camp opens later this month.

Friedman feels the Vancouver Canucks have made more progress in contract talks with Quinn Hughes than with Elias Pettersson. He wonders if Pettersson might be waiting to see what Minnesota Wild winger Kiril Kaprizov gets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could end up digging deep to pay Pettersson. Kaprizov reportedly could get $9 million annually on a five-year deal from the Wild.

Sources say Toronto Maple Leafs winger Ilya Mikheyev asked to be traded following last season but the club doesn’t want to accommodate his request. The departures of Zach Hyman and Joe Thornton mean the Leafs envision a bigger role for Mikheyev this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Playing time was apparently the issue for Mikheyev. He should get much more of that this season, providing him a terrific opportunity to prove his worth to the Leafs.

Friedman rejected rumors suggesting the Arizona Coyotes could trade defenseman Jakob Chychrun. However, he thinks veteran winger Phil Kessel could draw a lot of attention if he has a hot start to this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan observed, the Coyotes see the 23-year-old Chychrun as a player they can build around. Kessel, on the other hand, becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer and no longer has a future in Arizona. While the Coyotes only carry $6.8 million of his $8 million AAV, it could still be difficult to find takers for that cap hit.

A couple of teams are awaiting Tyler Bozak’s decision on where he’ll play this season. Friedman wonders if the 35-year-old center might land in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the shelf to start the season.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas scuttled rumors linking his club to New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban. “I can definitively say that we have not thought a single thing about any player that is going to be a free agent a year from now,” said Dubas.

Koshan also reports Dubas did give some thought to trading one of his core players during the offseason. However, it didn’t sound like much serious thought was given to that idea.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s $9 million annual average value and the decline in his performance in recent years make him difficult to move right now.

I don’t doubt Dubas and the Leafs’ brain trust gave some thought to shake up their core but it was apparent during their season-ending press conference that they want to keep that group intact for this season. That could change next summer, however, if the Leafs fail again to advance past the opening round of the playoffs. Dubas might not even be part of that decision as another early postseason exit could cost him his job.