NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 8, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 8, 2021

Elvis Merzlikins talks about his offseason and his plans for the coming season, the Senators re-sign GM Pierre Dorion plus updates on Charlie McAvoy, Gustav Nyquist, Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: In an interview with Aaron Portzline, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins spoke about the tragic death of teammate and close friend Matiss Kivlinieks and the birth of his son Knox Matiss Merzlikins during the offseason. Kivlinieks’ loss has given Merzlkins motivation to win the Vezina Trophy.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (NHL Images).

I don’t want to make any promise, but I can tell you, Aaron…my plan is to win a Vezina Trophy. I’m gonna win a f*****g Vezina for him.”

Merzlikins credits Kivlinieks with saving the life of his family when his late friend was struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar on July 4.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Merzlikins will be jockeying for the starter’s job with Joonas Korpisalo. He said he and Korpisalo have a good relationship and understood the duo could split the playing time this season. A Vezina-worthy performance by Merzlikins, however, will ensure he gets the bulk of the starts and could help the Blue Jackets rebound from a lousy performance last season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed general manager Pierre Dorion to a three-year contract extension through 2024-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion has done a good job handling the Senators’ rebuild. He drafted young core talent such as Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Drake Batherson and acquired Josh Norris. Promising prospects such as Jake Sanderson, Tyler Boucher, Shane Pinto and Jacob Bernard-Docker are also in their pipeline.

The Senators showed real signs of improvement last season. They’ll attempt to build on that with those youngsters playing key roles.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy and his agent aren’t concerned over the lack of contract extension talks. “I’m just really excited for the year, just worrying about this summer, being in the best spot to be ready for camp,” said McAvoy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McAvoy is a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. Both sides are probably willing to wait and see how this season pans out before engaging in serious contract discussions. Given how much defensemen such as Colorado’s Cale Makar, Chicago’s Seth Jones, and Edmonton’s Darnell got this summer, I daresay McAvoy’s next contract will average over $9 million per season.

NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist is looking forward to the coming season after missing the entire 2020-21 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery.

THE PROVINCE: Former Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen signed a one-year contract with KHL club Spartak Moscow. The Canucks released the 25-year-old forward this summer following an allegation of sexual misconduct against the former first-round pick.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks hired John MacLean as an assistant coach. He replaces Rocky Thompson, who stepped down last week due to medical reasons preventing him from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

THE ATHLETIC: The Seattle Kraken signed defenseman Dennis Cholowski to a one-year, two-way contract worth $900K at the NHL level.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Simon Gagne, Paul Holmgren, Bob Kelly, Lou Nolan, Mark Recchi and Rick Tocchet are the six finalists for inductions into the Flyers Hall of Fame. A voting committee will make the final selection and the induction ceremony will be held during a game this season.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 1, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 1, 2021

Check out the latest on Tomas Hertl, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Kirill Kaprizov in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD HERTL AND THE SHARKS PART COMPANY THIS SEASON?

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz suggests it might be wise for Tomas Hertl and the San Jose Sharks to wait a little while before engaging in contract discussions. The 27-year-old winger is entering the final season of a four-year, $22.5 million contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer.

San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl (NHL Images).

Kurz feels the direction of the Sharks could determine Hertl’s future in San Jose. This isn’t a “go-for-it” year as the club is attempting to remain competitive while restocking the roster with youth. Shopping Hertl and his expiring contract could help to accelerate that reset if general manager Doug Wilson seeks more draft picks and prospects.

Hertl could seek a deal comparable to the eight-year, $62 million deal Sean Couturier recently signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite his obvious talent, he’s also been sidelined by multiple knee injuries throughout his career. With the Sharks already carrying several hefty contracts, adding another could be risky.

Kurz indicates Multiple sources say he’s among the Sharks players unhappy over how the club handled Evander Kane’s poor conduct last season. Hertl might not want to stick around if the Sharks don’t improve their team culture but Kurz said there’s no sign he’s on the trade block.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hertl’s popped up in internet speculation linking him to the Ottawa Senators but the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch was told there was nothing to that conjecture. Nevertheless, the versatile Sharks center could start appearing more frequently in this season’s rumor mill if his club is out of the playoff chase by this season’s NHL trade deadline.

LATEST ON THE KOTKANIEMI OFFER SHEET DRAMA

TVA SPORTS: Louis Jean doubts the Montreal Canadiens will match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed on Saturday with the Carolina Hurricanes. He believes the Canadiens already have a strategy and a really good idea of what they intend to do but will keep the Hurricanes waiting until the last minute.

Renaud Lavoie concurred with Jean while Felix Seguin considers that offer way too much for a player like Kotkaniemi. It feels it would be unreasonable for the Canadiens to match it.

Lavoie feels this is a difficult decision for the Canadiens but also wonders how nervous the Hurricanes front office feels. He said the Canes offer was a joke and believes they were 100 percent certain the Habs would match it.

Jean, meanwhile, believes Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and his staff are still considering their options. They need to see what kind of return they could get for the compensatory draft picks (the Hurricanes’ first and third-rounders in next year’s draft) if they don’t match the offer.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien examined the Canadiens’ options. Among them is using that compensatory package to acquire a replacement for Kotkaniemi via the trade market.

O’Brien cited recent speculation floated by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Eric Engels suggesting Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak as a possible target. He also proposed hanging onto to those picks and use them to select some quality talent in what’s expected to be a deep draft next year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Bergevin is exploring all his options, including swapping those Hurricanes picks for a potential immediate upgrade over Kotkaniemi. I think he’s also trying to make the Canes sweat a little by waiting until the last minute to make his decision.

Bergevin could also keep those picks and sign a short-term replacement like Eric Staal or Tyler Bozak to fill in this season as a third-line center. The Habs GM could also decide to match the offer though it would blow his salary-cap structure to pieces for this season and next when Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov and Jake Evans are restricted free agents.

Lavoie’s comment about the Hurricanes is interesting. Most of the coverage of their side of this story played up the revenge angle for the Aho offer sheet two years ago or praising the clever scamps in their PR department for trolling the Canadiens on Twitter when this signing was announced.

Some reports speculated Kotkaniemi signed this offer sheet with the understanding he would ink a longer-term deal with the Hurricanes next summer for an annual average value lower than $6.1 million. But what if that’s not the case? What if the Canes believed the Habs would match and it doesn’t happen?

It would be an interesting twist. We’ll just have to wait until the end of this week to see how this all plays out.

UPDATE ON KAPRIZOV

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports the KHL season is underway in Russia with no indication Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov will sign a one-year deal with CSKA Moscow as rumored earlier this summer. He played with them for several years before joining the Wild last season. In recent days, CSKA Moscov indicated they don’t intend to bring Kaprizov back.

The Wild continue to hope that’s the case as they continue contract discussions with the Kaprizov camp. The Wild have come down from their desire to sign the 2021 Calder Trophy winner to a seven- or eight-year deal while the 24-year-old winger is willing to consider a deal longer than three years.

There’s no indication a deal between the two sides is close. Russo speculates the two sides could hammer out an agreement for five years with an annual average value of around $9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The KHL contract threat seems to be Kaprizov’s agent attempt to use what little leverage he has to extract a shorter-term deal from the Wild. Most observers dismissed it as a bluff.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2021

What’s the latest on Kirill Kaprizov’s contract talks? Do the Blue Jackets still have roster needs to address? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TWINCITIES.COM: John Shipley reports Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin isn’t concerned about the possibility of Kirill Kaprizov signing with KHL team CSKA Moscow. “It’s not my decision, it doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. Asked of the report of the 24-year-old winger signing a one-year, “eight-figure” deal with the Russian club was true, Guerin said he couldn’t tell if it was true or not.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov (NHL Images).

While Guerin had nothing new to report on Kaprizov’s contract talks, he believes things are going well. “We still have lots of time. There’s no rush or panic. I’m in constant communication with Kirill’s agent, and we continue to move forward.”

Guerin reached an agreement yesterday with winger Kevin Fiala on a one-year contract. He indicated Kaprizov’s deal will be longer.

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports the Wild have been rebuffed in his attempts to sign Kaprizov to seven- or eight-year contracts in the range of $9 million per season. They’re now willing to discuss a mid-range deal lasting four, five or six years.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz points out a lucrative deal for Kaprizov could complicate efforts to re-sign Fiala to a long-term deal starting next season when the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter start eating up a big chunk of cap space over the following three years.

Gretz suggests embracing a rebuild, perhaps by shopping Kaprizov for a big return. While it wouldn’t be the best PR move, he felt it would be the best long-term option. He also recommended shopping Fiala if they’re not sold on the winger. It might also be too cost-prohibitive to retain defenseman Matt Dumba, who’s earning $6 million annually through 2022-23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guerin is calling Kaprizov’s bluff, confident the young forward will return to the Wild. The winger has little leverage except to threaten to return to the KHL. Most observers doubt he’ll follow through. A four-year deal worth between $8 million and $9 million seems likely.

Guerin’s bold decision to buy out Parise and Suter will cost the Wild over $12 million in dead cap space in 2022-23, and over $14 million in each of the following two seasons. Big new contracts for Kaprizov and Fiala will make it difficult to re-sign future free agents like Dumba, Cam Talbot, and Jordan Greenway. It will also be tough to add new players over that period.

A rebuild suggested by Gretz seems unlikely at this stage. A lot will depend upon the club’s performance this season, especially with the younger players already on the roster and those who could crack the lineup this season. Affordable youth stepping up could provide Guerin the room to navigate through his difficult salary-cap situation after this season.

NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti believes the Columbus Blue Jackets need a right-shot defenseman and perhaps a center with Max Domi sidelined until November by offseason shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The pickings are slim in the free-agent market. Right-hand shot blueliners include Jason Demers, Sami Vatanen and Erik Gudbranson. Centers include Eric Staal, Tyler Bozak, Artem Anisimov, Travis Zajac and Casey Cizikas, though the latter two could already be under contract with the New York Islanders.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 12, 2021

The latest on Evander Kane and Kirill Kaprizov in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz reports Evander Kane was a problem for the San Jose Sharks during last season. Sources indicate several players spoke to general manager Doug Wilson about the winger throughout 2020-21, telling him they didn’t want to be part of the Sharks going forward if Kane was still on the team.

San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane (NHL Images).

Kane is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings and is also under league investigation over allegations by his estranged wife that he bet on NHL games. However, the players’ displeasure had to do with his disrespect for team rules. One source claimed Kane nearly came to blows with assistant coach Rocky Thompson during an argument over where he’d play on the power play.

Kurz indicates Kane had to answer to respected veterans on previous Sharks teams like Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. That’s no longer the case with those players gone. During a season-ending media interview, head coach Bob Boughner seemed to express regret over not holding all his players to the same standard during the club’s failed effort to secure a playoff spot.

Wilson attempted to trade Kane earlier this summer. However, he couldn’t find any takers for a winger with an expensive contract and a long history of being disruptive in the dressing room.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks also cannot buy out Kane because this summer’s second and last buyout window is closed. Kurz suggests they could void his contract if it is proven he bet on NHL games. Otherwise, they’re stuck with the winger unless they can find someone willing to take him off their hands in a trade.

FULL PRESS HOCKEY’s Aivis Kalnins isn’t buying the possibility of Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov signing a one-year deal with KHL club CSKA Moscow.

He agrees with Bally Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland’s view that the threatened signing is nothing but a bluff. Strickland pointed out CSKA Moscow can’t afford an eight-figure contract for Kaprizov. Most of their budget for the coming season is already spent plus there’s a salary cap of around $12 million USD.

I have no clue why people are buying it and why people are reporting KHL as a possible challenger for Kaprizov,” Kalnins tweeted. In another tweet, he said he’s heard the 24-year-old winger “still intends and wants to remain with Minnesota.” A source told him the KHL offer had been on the table for “a long while” and it’s merely being considered an “emergency offer.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kaprizov’s camp may have overplayed their hand. They hope to get a short-term contract (three years or less) from the Wild taking the winger up to age 27, when he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status. The Wild, of course, prefer a long-term deal and were reportedly offering seven and eight-year deals worth $9 million annually.

It’s now said the Wild are willing to consider mid-range offers of five and six years. I can see a compromise where the two sides agree on a four-year deal for between $8 million and $9 million annually.

That’s still a lot of money for a player with just 55 games of NHL experience. but Kaprizov is the most talented offensive player to join the Wild’s ranks in years. As last season’s Calder Trophy winner, he’s poised for what should be a successful NHL career. The Wild will do what they can to ensure most of that is spent in Minnesota.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 10, 2021

Could the contract standoff between Kirill Kaprizov and the Wild lead to a trade? Are the Oilers in the market for a defenseman? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo examined the latest development in the contract standoff between the Minnesota Wild and Kirill Kaprizov. The 24-year-old winger reportedly has a tentative agreement with KHL team CSKA Moscow on a one-year deal said to be worth at least $10 million in US dollars beginning September 1.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov (NHL Images).

The Wild have reportedly had offers of seven and eight years on the table for Kaprizov worth $9 million annually. That would be the richest annual contract in franchise history for the 2021 Calder Trophy winner.

Wild general manager Bill Guerin is willing to sign Kaprizov to a five- or six-year contract. However, he doesn’t want a deal for less than three years because the winger would become an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

Kaprizov lacks arbitration rights and isn’t eligible to receive an offer sheet from a rival NHL club. Russo reports both sides have stayed in constant contact but appeared to have reached a stalemate. He wonders if Guerin will make further offers to Kaprizov or call his bluff. He also raised the possibility of trading the winger’s rights but consider it hard to imagine the Wild GM going that route.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kaprizov has limited NHL experience but, as Russo points out, the Russian winger is a rising star and already considered one of the most talented players in Wild history. His agent is trying to use that to his side’s advantage.

Given Kaprizov’s current contract status, using the KHL contract is the only bargaining chip he’s got. His camp wants the short-term deal so they can leverage his UFA eligibility in 2024 into a massive raise from the Wild or another NHL club via free agency in three year’s time.

Some observers are dismissive of this tactic by Kaprizov. It’ll be interesting to see if Guerin shares that view. While he could attempt to trade the winger’s rights, I doubt he’ll go that far. If he does, there might not be many teams willing to take him off his hands if he’s not under contract.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins expects the Oilers will add at least one more veteran depth defenseman before training camp opens next month. They’re looking for someone around $950K. Two primary names worth watching are Slater Koekkoek and Jordie Benn.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2020

Mike Hoffman joining the Blues and two significant trades by the Senators highlights this roundup of the notable Christmas holiday weekend news in the NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports the St. Louis Blues signed free agent Mike Hoffman to a professional tryout offer. Hoffman can negotiate with other clubs while training with the Blues. However, Rutherford believes the two sides have in place a one-year deal worth between $3.5 million and $4.5 million, and they’re waiting to officially announce it because of salary-cap implications.

Mike Hoffman joins the St. Louis Blues on a professional tryout offer (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubted the Blues would sign Hoffman unless he was willing to reduce his rumored asking price of between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. He’s apparently done so to join a Stanley Cup contender.

Hoffman will provide some much-needed short-term offense with sniper Vladimir Tarasenko sidelined by offseason shoulder surgery. A solid performance could improve Hoffman’s chances of a more lucrative deal in next year’s UFA market.

Cap Friendly shows the Blues with $1.175 million in cap space with Vince Dunn to be signed. They will get cap relief by placing Alexander Steen and his $5.75 million annual average value on long-term injury reserve at the start of the season.

Rutherford points out having Hoffman on a PTO gives Blues general manager Doug Armstrong time to determine how much it’ll cost to re-sign Dunn. It could also allow time to make a cost-cutting trade, though they could also get some wiggle room if necessary by placing Tarasenko ($7.5 million AAV) on LTIR.

ARIZONA SPORTS/OTTAWA SUN: The Senators were busy in the trade market on Sunday. Their first move saw them ship a 2021 second-round draft pick (originally owned by the Columbus Blue Jackets) to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for center Derek Stepan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good move by both clubs. The Coyotes wanted to shed some salary and the rebuilding Senators sought some short-term experience and leadership at center.

PuckPedia pointed out this deal gives the Coyotes a projected $3.7 million in salary-cap space without having to place Marian Hossa on long-term injury reserve (LTIR). They can accrue cap space to put toward this season’s trade deadline and their performance bonuses earned won’t automatically carry over into next season. That extra second-rounder will offset their lack of a third-round pick in the ’21 draft.

Some folks wondered why the Senators took on Stepan when (in their minds) they could’ve pursued better options. One reason is Stepan will get more playing time with the Sens than he was getting with the Coyotes. Another is he lacked no-trade protection. His actual salary is another factor. While his annual average is $6.5 million annual average value for this season (the last of his contract), his actual salary is just $2 million.

Critics feel the Senators gave up too much for Stepan by parting with a second-round pick. This, however, was a move they could afford to make. They still have two second-round picks in the ‘21 draft and could land another second-round pick if they decide to peddle Stepan at the trade deadline. Failing that, they could get a third-rounder. Some will scoff at that notion but one must never underestimate the willingness of general managers to overpay at the deadline.

OTTAWA SUN/TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Senators’ second deal saw them send the contracts of winger Marian Gaborik and goaltender Anders Nilsson to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenseman Braydon Coburn, forward Cedric Paquette, and a second-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaborik hasn’t played since 2017-18 while Nilsson is expected to miss this season with concussion symptoms. The Lightning will place their combined salaries ($7.5 million) on LTIR, allowing the club to become cap compliant when this season begins.

Like Stepan, Coburn and Paquette will provide the Senators with short-term experience and leadership. Both will be unrestricted free agents next summer, though there’s a chance the Sens could sign the 27-year-old Paquette to an extension if he plays well this season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators also signed top prospect Tim Stuetzle yesterday to a three-year entry-level contract. He was given his release by Adler Mannheim in the German league Sunday in order to sign with the Sens.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: This signing isn’t surprising considering how well Stuetzle’s performed for the COVID-ravaged German squad thus far in the 2021 World Junior Championship. The 18-year-old winger is expected to finish the tournament with Germany and join the Senators’ training camp following a seven-day quarantine in Ottawa.

TSN: Ilya Kovalchuk has officially signed a two-year contract with KHL club Avangard Omsk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That should bring Kovalchuk’s second tenure in the NHL to a permanent close. He’s no longer the scoring threat he once was, bouncing last season from the Los Angeles Kings to the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed free-agent center Carl Soderberg to a one-year contract worth $1 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move comes after Blackhawks promising young center Kirby Dach suffered a fractured wrist last week playing for Canada at the World Juniors.

THE SCORE: The Capitals signed free-agent goaltender Craig Anderson to a professional tryout contract. This signing comes less than two weeks after Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined for the season by a heart condition.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed free-agent defenseman Slater Koekkoek to a one-year contract worth $850K.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed free-agent defenseman Michael Del Zotto to a professional tryout contract. He’ll compete for either a roster spot or a place with the Jackets’ taxi squad.

TSN: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Casey Nelson has opted out of playing the 2020-21 NHL season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The deadline for player opt-outs was Dec. 27.

THE SCORE: Forward Mark Letestu announced his retirement yesterday after 11 NHL seasons. He tallied 93 goals and 210 points in 567 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Letestu in his future endeavors.