The San Jose Sharks Facing Glum Future
Recaps of Thursday’s action, another Stars game postponed, the league’s COVID-19 numbers are dropping, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Ottawa Senators 7-3. Matthews leads the league with 16 goals while his points streak has stretched to 15 games. Mitch Marner has a goal and three assists while Joe Thornton a goal and two assists. Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle had a goal and an assist. Senators’ defenseman Thomas Chabot missed the game with an upper-body injury while Leafs forward Zach Hyman was listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is making an early case for the Hart Trophy this season.
Kyle Palmieri scored twice as the New Jersey Devils held on for a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pavel Zacha scored what proved to be the game-winner while Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made 25 saves. Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak replied for the Bruins, who lost center David Krejci to a lower-body injury.
New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin’s shootout goal gave his club a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Kevin Hayes collected two assists for the Flyers, who were playing their first game since Feb. 7 due to COVID-19. They will also play their upcoming outdoor game against the Bruins with six regulars (Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun) sidelined because of the NHL’s COVID protocols.
The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped the New York Islanders’ eight-game points streak with a 4-1 victory. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry made 31 saves while Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust each had a goal and an assist while Evgeni Malkin collected two assists.
A 32-save shutout performance by Elvis Merzlikins gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Cam Atkinson, Max Domi and Eric Robinson were the goal scorers. The Predators have dropped five of their last six contests.
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom scored to extend his points streak to five games as his club downed the Buffalo Sabres 3-1, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen remains sidelined as he works on his conditioning after being sidelined for two weeks by COVID-19.
David Perron scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2. Brayden Schenn scored the tying goal for the Blues late in the third period, setting the stage for the winning goal by Perron, who had a three-point performance. Torey Krug and Marco Scandella returned to the Blues roster from injuries but Colton Parayko missed the game with a nagging undisclosed injury. Earlier in the day, the Sharks announced defenseman Erik Karlsson would miss at least the next two games with a groin injury.
The Los Angeles Kings nipped the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 on a shootout goal by Gabriel Vilardi. The Coyotes overcame a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and the shootout.
Kevin Fiala scored what proved to be the winning goal as the Minnesota Wild beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. It was the Wild’s first win since Jan. 31 when their schedule was paused because of COVID-19 protocols.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Dallas Stars’ Saturday game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was postponed due to power outages related to recent storms in Texas. It’s the fourth straight Stars game postponed this week and the eighth of the season. They face potentially playing 44 games in 78 days if the NHL mandates the Stars must play all their remaining games if the regular season ends on May 10 as scheduled.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will also depend on where the Stars are in the standings later in the season. The league could cancel some of their remaining games if they’re out of playoff contention within the final couple of weeks in the season. No point in having them play a pointless game against another non-contender.
ESPN.COM: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list continues to shrink, dropping to 13 players yesterday. The drop coincides with enhanced health and safety measures implemented by the NHL within the past two weeks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The outbreaks earlier this month may have also served as a wake-up call for players and staff, making them more vigilant and adhering more closely to the league’s protocols.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets claimed well-traveled goaltender Eric Comrie off waivers from the New Jersey Devils. It’s the second straight season the Jets have lost Comrie off waivers only to claim him back again later in the year.
AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez hopes to have an opportunity to play a game in Mexico City in an effort to expand the NHL’s brand. He’s also hopeful the Coyotes will one day take part in an outdoor game with one of their rivals.
Recaps from Saturday’s action, the Senators send Paquette and Galchenyuk to the Hurricanes for Dzingel, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brady Tkachuk scored in the dying seconds of the third period to lift the Ottawa Senators over the Winnipeg Jets 2-1. Evgenii Dadonov scored the game-tying in the second period. Mark Scheifele tallied for the Jets. The Senators snapped a four-game losing skid.
Earlier in the day, the Senators traded forwards Cedric Paquette and Alex Galchenyuk to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for winger Ryan Dzingel.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Paquette was the prize for the Hurricanes as they sought to add more grit and playoff experience to their forward lines. He’d won a Stanley Cup last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning before they shipped him to the Senators in an offseason cost-cutting move.
The Senators hope to boost their anemic scoring punch by reacquiring Dzingel, whose best seasons were in Ottawa before he was traded in 2019 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He signed later that year with the Hurricanes but struggled to regain his scoring touch. The 28-year-old winger is in the final year of his contract so the Sens won’t be on the hook for long if he doesn’t pan out.
Galchenyuk is now on his sixth team since 2017-18. His production has steadily deteriorated and was a frequent healthy scratch with the Sens this season.
Speaking of the Hurricanes, they downed the Dallas Stars 4-3 on a shootout goal by Vincent Trocheck. The Stars have dropped their last five games.
The San Jose Sharks dropped their belated home opener 3-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights. Chandler Stephenson tallied a goal and collected an assist for the Golden Knights. The Sharks also lost defensemen Erik Karlsson (lower body) and Radim Simek (upper body) to injuries.
Third-period goals by Mathew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau carried the New York Islanders to a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins, snapping the latter’s 10-game points streak. Pageau had two goals for the Isles, including a short-handed tally.
Tyler Johnson scored twice as the Tampa Bay Lightning netted four first-period goals on route to a 6-1 drubbing of the Florida Panthers. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves for the Lightning, who also announced Anthony Cirelli was listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury suffered during Thursday’s game against the Panthers.
Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher tallied the tie-breaker as his club edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 to end the latter’s four-game win streak. Habs goaltender Carey Price made 21 saves. Leafs center Auston Matthews picked up an assist to extend his points streak to 12 games.
The St. Louis Blues nipped the Arizona Coyotes 5-4 on an overtime goal by Mike Hoffman. The Coyotes played without forward Johan Larsson as he’s serving a two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Blues forward Zach Sanford in their previous match.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the sixth straight game between the two clubs due to schedule changes brought on by COVID-19. They’ve each won three games with the final contest in this unexpected best-of-seven slated for Monday.
Alex DeBrincat’s overtime goal gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Patrick Kane collected two assists including one on the game-winner. Patrik Laine and Cam Atkinson replied for the Jackets.
The Detroit Red Wings doubled up the Nashville Predators 4-2. Wings forward Luke Glendening had a goal and two assists. The Predators pulled goalie Pekka Rinne after he gave up three goals on 21 shots.
Third-period goals by Tyler Myers and Brandon Sutter gave the Vancouver Canucks a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. The win ended a six-game losing skid by the Canucks. Jacob Markstrom made 43 saves for the Flames. Before the games, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini tweeted his “full confidence” in general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green. “Progression is not always a straight line,” tweeted Aquilini. “There is no easy fix, only patience, commitment and hard work.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will buy some time for Benning and Green but we’ll see if they still have Aquilini’s confidence by season’s end if the Canucks miss the playoffs.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE DENVER POST: Nathan MacKinnon has fully recovered from his lower-body injury and will be ready to suit up when the Colorado Avalanche face the Vegas Golden Knights today. It’ll be the Avs’ first game since their schedule was postponed by COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago.
NEW YORK POST: Former Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo took responsibility for the mistakes in his on-ice play during an interview with Larry Brooks on Friday. He also claimed he’s been misportrayed in the media. “I’m not a racist, I’m not an extremist and I’m not an insurrectionist”, said DeAngelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeAngelo remains sidelined by the Rangers as they attempt to trade him to another NHL club.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins have made requests to the governor and the state of Pennsylvania seeking permission to open their arena to spectators at 25 percent capacity.
TORONTO STAR: Long-time hockey writer Frank Orr passed away Saturday at age 84. Winner of numerous sportswriting honors, Orr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989. He rose to fame during the 1960s and 1970s with his NHL coverage, particularly the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also mentored countless sportswriters, many of whom still cover the NHL today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Orr’s family, friends and colleagues.
Another updated list of the top UFAs, including the latest on Mike Hoffman, Zdeno Chara and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Forwards Mike Hoffman, Erik Haula and Corey Perry top TSN’s listing of the best remaining unrestricted free agents. Winger Mikael Granlund and defenseman Sami Vatanen round out the top five.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes Hoffman could be a fit with the St. Louis Blues. With Alexander Steen’s playing days ended by a back injury, LeBrun speculated they could put his $5.75 million on long-term injury reserve and use the savings to sign Hoffman.
Cap Friendly indicates the Blues are over the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.175 million, with restricted free agent Vince Dunn to be signed. That might not leave enough to land Hoffman, who’s open to a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. They could get more flexibility by placing Vladimir Taransenko (shoulder surgery) and his $7.5 million cap hit on LTIR, but they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns later in the season.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Carl Soderberg, blueliner Travis Hamonic and winger Ilya Kovalchuk round out the top 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston reports Chara’s agent said the Bruins have been “very communicative” with them over how they see things going forward. Team president Cam Neely said his club was still trying to flush out where things stand with their former captain. Neely said they still respect Chara but couldn’t say where the 43-year-old would fit on their blueline.
Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now pointed out the Bruins’ unsuccessful attempt to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson earlier in the offseason. He also reported they’ve been linked to Calgary’s Noah Hanifin in the rumor mill.
If the Bruins don’t sign Chara, perhaps they’ll swing a trade to address their lack of skilled depth on the left side of their blueline. Revisiting an Ekman-Larsson deal seems unlikely. The Hanifin speculation originated with a reporter suggesting he’d be a good fit with the Bruins but there’s no indication the two clubs have discussed it.
Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with KHL club Avangard Omsk because he couldn’t find any takers in the NHL. Maybe that changes now that we know the start date for this season.
Wingers Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson and defenseman Mirco Mueller rank from 11 to 15.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin is believed to have a one-year deal with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once they re-sign RFA center Mathew Barzal. Wilson seems to be transitioning from his playing career after recently revealing his treatments for OCD and nagging hip injuries.
Forwards Melker Karlsson and Trevor Lewis, defensemen Ben Hutton and Andy Greene and goaltender Ryan Miller fill slots 16 to 20.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson recently signed for the season with a Swedish club and isn’t expected to return to the NHL. Like Martin, Greene is said to have a deal with the Isles pending their signing of Barzal. With teams allowed to carry a third goalie this season on their “taxi squad”, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders if this could improve the value of unsigned goalies such as Miller.
Defensemen Ron Hainsey, Michael Del Zotto, Madison Bowey, and Jan Rutta and forward Brian Boyle come in from 21 to 26.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drake Caggiula was also among this group but he signed yesterday with the Arizona Coyotes.
Defenseman Karl Alzner, forwards Michael Grabner, Fredrik Gauthier and Riley Sheahan and goalies Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson round out the rest of the list.
Updates on negotiations for the 2020-21 season, two people arrested for stealing Wayne Gretzky memorabilia, Mark Messier loses money on a cannabis investment deal, the latest on Oskar Lindblom and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Darren Dreger reports issues such as roster size and taxi squads are slowing down negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA aimed at starting the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13. Frank Seravalli said the effect on the salary cap of transferring a player between the roster and the taxi squad is also part of the discussion. At this point, it would be handled similar to the rules regarding a demotion to the AHL.
Pierre LeBrun points out teams are at the mercy of local health restrictions, especially in Canada. As of Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators each have over 30 players that have returned, while the Winnipeg Jets have nine, the Montreal Canadiens under 10, the Edmonton Oilers have 12 and the Calgary Flames 26.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those health restrictions vary from city to city and province to province. It’s affecting quarantine rules and use of training facilities, which could explain why the Jets and Canadiens have a low number of players in their respective cities.
Dreger reports the league is looking into allowing a limited number of fans to attend games in select markets depending on the restrictions of each city in each state. Seravalli points out that will be only if the league can open in all 31 of its cities. That remains in doubt as some teams, like the San Jose Sharks, are planning to open training camp in Arizona because of restrictions in their own market.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater reports sources are saying the concept of hub cities is no longer on the drawing board. He said each team will play their regular-season home games in their own buildings with travel limited only to games within a team’s division.
Because of the new COVID-19 vaccines, the NHL feels confident it can stage a regular season in which teams travel from city to city despite the strict protocols. The league remains adamant it will not attempt to jump the queue to obtain vaccinations ahead of others.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This NH season is going to open but the projected Jan. 13 start date could change. A vote approving the format for ’20-’21 needs a vote of approval by the league board of governors and the NHLPA’s 31-member executive. It’s required by the end of this week to meet the timeline for a Jan. 13 start. That date could be pushed into late January if more time is required to work out the details.
SPORTSNET: Two people were arrested by Brantford, Ontario police after Wayne Gretzky memorabilia was stolen from his father’s home. A three-month investigation involving searches of homes in Ontario and Alberta by police (including the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police) recovered several items with an estimated combined value of over $500K USD. The investigation is ongoing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walter Gretzky is the world’s most famous hockey dad and among the kindest people in hockey. Shame on those people for stealing from him.
YAHOO SPORTS: Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier is suing the CEO of an Alberta cannabis company after he allegedly lost his $500K investment. Messier claimed the company also used his celebrity to raise $30 million in funding.
THE SCORE: Philadelphia Flyers winger Oskar Lindblom is cancer-free just over a year after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He finished his treatments on July 2 and suited up with the Flyers in the 2020 playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Lindblom enjoys a long, cancer-free life.
TSN: cites The Athletic’s Michael Russo reporting the Minnesota Wild are close to signing free-agent goaltender Andrew Hammond. He speculates this could mean Wild backup Alex Stalock could be hurt entering training camp. Stalock reportedly hasn’t been on the ice.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Former San Jose Sharks forward Melker Karlsson has signed with Swedish club Skelleftea AIK for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication if Karlsson has an out-clause if he signs with an NHL club. The report indicating it’s for the remainder of the season suggests he didn’t get any NHL offers to his liking. The flattened salary cap for this season could be a factor, which doesn’t bode well for comparable players still available in the UFA market.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues have promoted Ryan Miller (no, not the NHL goaltender) as their new assistant general manager.
WHL.COM: The Western Hockey League has delayed the start of its 2020-21 season because of public health restrictions across Western Canada and the US Pacific Northwest. The board of governors will meet in January to discuss possible start dates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could affect the development of WHL players hoping to be selected in the 2021 NHL Draft.