NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2021

Canucks closing in on new contracts for Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, the Leafs sign Sheldon Keefe to a contract extension, plus the latest on Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Vrana, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reported yesterday evening the Vancouver Canucks appear to be closing in on new contracts for restricted free agents Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. It’s believed Hughes could receive a six-year contract while Pettersson would get a three-year deal.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Satiar Shah reports Hughes’ could earn an annual average value of $7.75 million. The Athletic’s Rick Dhaliwal hears Pettersson could get a $7.7 million AAV. That would be a combined $15.45 million annually against the Canucks cap.

Cap Friendly indicates the Canuck have $13.7 million in projected cap space but they would be allowed to exceed the $81.5 million cap by $3.5 million by placing sidelined winger Micheal Ferland on long-term injury reserve. They could also get $3 million in cap relief if defenseman Travis Hamonic opts out of playing this season by today’s deadline.

No surprise if Hughes and Pettersson get those annual average values on their new contracts. Hughes is their top defenseman while Pettersson is their first-line center. They’re going to be paid as such. They’re also young players who’ve yet to reach their full potential. If you think their new contracts are expensive, wait until you see how much they get once those contracts expire.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs yesterday confirmed they’ve signed head coach Sheldon Keefe to a two-year contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs management still has confidence in Keefe to guide this club to a Stanley Cup despite not having won a playoff round during his short tenure behind their bench. This extension should quell speculation that Keefe could lose his job if the Leafs fall short again. Of course, that could depend on whether there’s a front-office purge next spring if this club makes another early postseason exit.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Leafs, winger Wayne Simmonds spoke out yesterday against racism in the game after HK Kremenchuk’s Andrei Deniskin received a mild suspension by the Ukrainian Hockey League for the racial taunting of HC Donbass defenseman Jalen Smereck during a recent UHL game. Smereck, an African-American, has taken leave from Donbass, which has called for stiffer punishment for Deniskin.

Simmonds has also encountered racial taunts throughout his playing career. “I’ve faced a lot of these things myself, and I don’t even know if I’d want my kids playing hockey to be quite honest.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hockey, at every level, is supposed to be for everyone. There should be no place for racism in the sport regardless of where it’s played.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana is expected to miss the next four months following shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a blow to the Wings’ offense. Acquired at last season’s trade deadline, Vrana had an immediate positive effect. He was expected to play a major role for the rebuilding Wings this season as they attempt to take the next step toward playoff contention.

THE ATHLETIC: Zac Rinaldo’s anti-vaccination stance likely means his tenure with the Columbus Blue Jackets is over before it began. Sources say he will not play a game for the Jackets or their AHL affiliate this season. The club placed him on waivers yesterday.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Bell Centre in Montreal is expected to return to full capacity when the 2021-22 season opens next month as the Quebec government lifts some of its COVID-19 restrictions.

ESPN.COM: The Arizona Coyotes are the only NHL club to relax its game-day dress code for players this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators have plans to allow their players to wear team-issued tracksuits to games this season.

Several clubs have done away with the tie requirement though suits must still be worn. The Seattle Kraken has adopted a business casual policy.

The NHLPA has been pushing behind the scenes for a league-wide change. The PA believes it will help players build their individual brands and grow the game.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2021

Could Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas or Sheldon Keefe lose their jobs following another early playoff exit by the Leafs? Could the Florida Panthers try to acquire Penguins center Evgeni Malkin? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN/THE ATHLETIC: Lance Hornby and Jonas Siegel wondered if heads will roll in the Maple Leafs’ front office or among the coaching staff following the club’s early playoff exit.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas (NHL.com).

Brendan Shanahan’s in his seventh season as team president but the club’s postseason woes continue. General manager Kyle Dubas has been in the role three years and head coach Sheldon Keefe completed his second season.

Hornby and Siegel raised some questions about several of the moves made by the franchise in recent years and the overall performance. However, they don’t expect Shanahan, Dubas or Keefe to lose their jobs. They instead anticipate an assistant coach such as Manny Malhotra, Dave Hakstol or Paul MacLean or goalie coach Steve Briere could become a sacrificial firing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sun’s Steve Simmons also doesn’t expect Shanahan, Dubas or Keefe to be fired. One or two of the assistant coaches could be replaced. The Leafs’ struggling power play could cost Malhotra his job.

Hornby wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs see which goaltenders are available in the summer’s trade and free-agent markets. If nothing’s worthwhile there, he suggests returning with Jack Campbell and either David Rittich or a goalie from within their system. He doesn’t expect Frederik Andersen will be re-signed.

Of the Leafs’ other unrestricted free agents, Hornby feels Zach Hyman, Jason Spezza and perhaps Alex Galchenyuk should be signed. Siegel thinks restricted free agent Travis Dermott will be an affordable re-signing.

With defenseman Morgan Rielly a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility, Siegel believes the Leafs must decide on his future this year. Trading Rielly would fetch assets and clear cap space but the move would also leave a big hole on their blueline.

As for shopping a core player such as Mitch Marner or William Nylander, Siegel preaches caution here. Making change for change’s sake could set the Leafs back several years, pointing to the Boston Bruins’ trading Tyler Seguin in 2013 and the Edmonton Oilers trading Taylor Hall in 2016.

Both pundits believe the Leafs could lose Dermott or Alex Kerfoot in the expansion draft unless the Leafs cut a side deal with the Seattle Kraken.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have to tread carefully as Siegel suggests. Nevertheless, they must fully evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to determine what moves are necessary and what’s available to address their needs.

They’ve still handcuffed themselves with those big contracts for Marner, Nylander, John Tavares and Auston Matthews. The latter two, of course, aren’t going anywhere. Tavares has a full no-movement clause while Matthews is coming off a Richard Trophy performance despite his lack of production in the series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Marner, Nylander or Rielly are the prime trade candidates if they wish to shake up the core. Each would fetch significant returns in the trade market. By moving one of them, however, they must ensure they’re not creating one problem by trying to fix another.

Losing Rielly could hurt the Leafs the most as it could prove difficult to replace him on the blueline. If they’re going to trade him they better be sure they’ve got a suitable replacement lined up.

Their depth at center suffered against the Canadiens when Tavares and Nick Foligno were injured. They’ll have to address that issue if Foligno isn’t re-signed and they lose Kerfoot to the Kraken. Finding a suitable goaltender to split the duties with Campbell is a must. So is replacing Hyman if he departs via free agency.

The Leafs sacrificed speed for experienced grit this year. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have physical players in their lineup but they can’t be the slowfooted kind.

They could also end up pursuing bargain players via trades or free agency if they don’t make a significant cost-cutting move. Cap Friendly shows them with nearly $69 million tied up in 14 players. They will get some relief depending on which player they lose in the expansion draft, but not enough to make an impact addition.

THE LATEST PANTHERS SPECULATION

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards shot down a recent report in the New York Post speculating Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville could head to the Seattle Kraken. “No one is taking it too seriously,” said Richards, pointing out Quenneville is among the NHL’s highest-paid coaches and appears very happy in his current job.

Richards wondered what the Panthers will do with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and defenseman Keith Yandle. They’re the club’s highest-paid players with a combined annual average value of $16 million. However, both were healthy scratches during the Panthers’ final game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round series.

Both players have no-movement clauses plus Bobrovsky has a lot of years left on his contract. After seeing GM Bill Zito trade Mike Matheson and his contract last year, Richards doesn’t rule out the possibility of trading Bobrovsky or Yandle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Richards considers it important for the Panthers to free up some salary to re-sign pending free agents such as Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Montour. They’ll also have to consider long-term cap space to sign Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to contract extensions over the next couple of years.

Zito didn’t sign Bobrovsky and Yandle to those contracts. He inherited them from his predecessor. Moving Matheson was easier because he lacked no-trade protection and had a more affordable $4.875 million cap hit. Trading those other two presents a bigger challenge for Zito.

Yandle could be easier to move than Bobrovsky. The 34-year-old blueliner’s got two years left on his deal with an annual average value of $6.35 million. It will require some creativity, perhaps a third-party broker and it could cost the Panthers a couple of draft picks or prospects to make happen in a package deal. Still, they’d have a better chance at moving Yandle than Bobrovsky’s $10 million AAV for the next five years.

Jimmy Murphy reported there have been numerous rumors over the last two years linking Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin to the Panthers. Malkin lives in Florida with his family during the offseason.

Murphy cited an NHL source with direct knowledge of the situation saying he believes there is and has been mutual interest there. However, they’re stuck with Bobrovsky’s big contract plus they’re planning to sign Barkov to an expensive new contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers’ rumored interest in Malkin first surfaced when Dale Tallon was the general manager. I doubt that’s the case now under Bill Zito. Even if he found a way to shed Bobrovsky’s salary, I don’t think he’ll use the savings to acquire an aging Malkin.










NHL ProteauType: Leafs’ Collapse Another Sign Andersen May Be On His Way Out

NHL ProteauType: Leafs’ Collapse Another Sign Andersen May Be On His Way Out

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2019

The Islanders set a franchise-record points streak, Sheldon Keefe gets his first win as the Leafs’ coach, Claude Giroux has a four-point game, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders extended their points streak to a franchise-record 16 games (15-0-1) with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brock Nelson scored twice (including his second straight overtime tally) while teammate Mathew Barzal collected three assists. Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist scored in his return from injury. Earlier in the day, the Penguins announced Justin Schultz (lower body) and Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery) will be sidelined for a while. Bjugstad could be out for eight weeks.

Sheldon Keefe picked up his first win as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs as they snapped a six-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside 30 shots while Auston Matthews netted his 15th goal of the season. Earlier in the day, the Leafs announced Keefe signed a new contract through 2022.

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux had a four-point performance in a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes (Photo via NHL Images).

Claude Giroux scored twice and set up two others leading the Philadelphia Flyers to a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, snapping a four-game winless skid. Travis Konecny collected three assists in the victory.

Jordan Binnington had a 40-save shutout and Zach Sanford enjoyed the first four-point performance of his NHL career in a 5-0 blanking of the Calgary Flames. Sanford had a goal and three assists while Oskar Sundqvist tallied two goals. The Flames are winless in their last six games.

The Boston Bruins extended their points streak to six games by edging the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Brad Marchand scored twice and goaltender Tuukka Rask made a highlight-reel save with his blocker hand. The Sabres have dropped three straight and have just one victory in their last 10 contests.

An overtime goal by Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad completed a five-goal rally as his club downed the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. Ekblad and Brett Connolly each scored two goals. Ondrej Kase had a goal and an assist for the Ducks. The Panthers have surged into fourth overall in the Eastern Conference.

Third-period goals by Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, and Eric Robinson powered the Columbus Blues Jackets over the Detroit Red Wings 5-4. The Jackets have won four of their last six contests. Tyler Bertuzzi scored twice for the Wings. The Jackets also announced Paul MacLean was joining their coaching staff.

The Vancouver Canucks netted five power-play goals on route to a 6-3 pasting of the Nashville Predators, extending the latter’s winless skid to six. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom kicked out 45 shots while teammates Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes each collected three points.

Jason Zucker netted the game-winner as the Minnesota Wild nipped the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. Cale Makar tallied twice for the Avs.

Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Curtis McElhinney made 32 saves as his club held on for a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos left the game with a lower-body injury. The Bolts were also playing without winger Nikita Kucherov, who remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.

The Dallas Stars blew a 3-0 lead but rallied to defeat the Winnipeg Jets 5-3. Jamie Benn tallied the game-winner and Corey Perry picked up three assists for the Stars, who’ve won five straight to sit fourth overall in the Western Conference.

The San Jose Sharks picked up their seventh victory in their last eight games by beating the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1. Logan Couture picked up the winner in overtime. Aaron Dell made 37 saves for the win.

Tyler Toffoli scored twice and Jeff Carter had a three-point night as the Los Angeles Kings thumped the Edmonton Oilers 5-1. Connor McDavid tallied the Oilers’ only goal. Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson returned to the lineup after being sidelined with a broken fibula since their season-opener.










Leafs GM Dubas Gets His Man With Keefe Hiring

Leafs GM Dubas Gets His Man With Keefe Hiring

 










Maple Leafs Fire Head Coach Mike Babcock

Maple Leafs Fire Head Coach Mike Babcock

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Mike Babcock. They’ve promoted Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe as Babcock’s replacement.

Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach Mike Babcock (Photo via NHL.com)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone’s surprised by this news. The Leafs were 9-10-4 this season. As more than one observer noted, they’ve hovered around .500 since January. That’s not what was expected when the Leafs entered this season as a projected Stanley Cup contender.

The Leafs hired Babcock in 2015, making him the highest-paid coach in the league. His contract runs through 2022-23, paying him $6.25 million annually. The deep-pocketed Leafs ownership can afford it, but that’s still a lot of money invested in a now unemployed coach.

Within two seasons, Babcock guided the Leafs to their first playoff appearance in four years and only their second since 2004. Under his tutelage, the Leafs enjoyed back-to-back seasons with 100-or-more points. However, they failed to advance past the opening round of the playoffs.

The Leafs seemed lackluster midway through 2018-19. That may have been an early warning sign that Babcock was losing the room. The malaise carried over into this season. For a team built around young scoring stars like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Babcock’s emphasis on two-way play appeared to stifle their offensive creativity.

Kyle Dubas inherited Babcock as coach when he took over as Leafs GM in 2018. There were rumors the two didn’t see eye-to-eye on personnel decisions. It was long assumed Dubas would eventually promote Keefe into the head-coaching position. 

It’ll be interesting to see what changes Keefe makes to get the Leafs back on a winning track. With Babcock gone, the focus now shifts to the players. If Keefe can’t get a better effort out of them, the next moves by Dubas could involve shaking up the roster, either during this season or next summer.