Matthew Tkachuk is ready to start the season, Josh Bailey bids farewell to the Islanders and their fans, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk has recovered from the fractured sternum suffered during the 2023 Stanley Cup Final and is looking forward to the start of training camp. “I am feeling great,” said Tkachuk.
Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk (NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s good news for the Panthers, who will be starting the season with top two defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour sidelined by offseason shoulder surgeries. Tkachuk can’t help them defensively but the two-time 100-point winger and 2023 playoff hero will be a key cog in their offensive attack.
NYI HOCKEY NOW: Former long-time Islanders winger Josh Bailey bid farewell to the club and its fans in a letter posted on The Players’ Tribune.
“I want to thank not just this great fan base, but the people of Long Island as a whole,” wrote Bailey. He indicated that Long Island will always be home for himself and his family.
A first-round pick (ninth overall) by the Islanders in the 2008 NHL Draft, the 33-year-old Bailey spent 15 seasons with the club. He was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in June, who bought out the final season of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent decline in Bailey’s production led to his trade and contract buyout. The unrestricted free agent faces an uncertain future as he’s yet to land with another NHL club as training camp approaches.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The paint job on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov’s new mask resembles that of former Leafs netminder Curtis Joseph.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Samsonov can channel prime “CuJo” the Leafs will be in good shape between the pipes this season.
NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: Speaking of goaltending, the Devils brought back Keith Kinkaid on a one-year, two-way contract worth $775K at the NHL level.
ESPN.COM: The NHL is considering making changes to their digital ad boards following complaints from fans regarding technical glitches and other issues that were found distracting to ongoing play. The league considers the criticism as coming from a “vocal minority”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The ads haven’t bothered me but I have noticed some glitches at times. That’s to be expected from this type of technology and will likely be corrected over time. Some critics on social media want the ads to be removed. Judging by the league’s tone, that’s not going to happen.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes majority owner Alex Meruelo is looking to buy out the minority stake in the club from Andrew Barroway, who owns five percent of the club. Barroway took over majority ownership of the club in 2014 until Meruelo acquired the controlling interest in the club in 2019.
Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark scores in his 30th win of the season, the Sharks retire Patrick Marleau’s number, the Jets acquire Nino Niederreiter, the Blues claim Kasperi Kapanen off waivers, and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark celebrated his 30th win of the season by scoring an empty-net goal in a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Ullmark had 26 saves while Hampus Lindholm and Brad Marchand also scored for the 45-8-5 Bruins, who opened a nine-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the overall standings with 95 points. Brock Boeser scored for Vancouver as they dropped to 23-31-5 on the season. Canucks defenseman Ethan Bear left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury.
Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier in the day, the Canucks acquired winger Vitali Kravtsov from the New York Rangers in exchange for winger Will Lockwood and a seventh-round pick in 2026. The 23-year-old Kravtsov was the ninth overall pick in the 2018 draft but struggled to establish himself with the Rangers. He becomes an affordable reclamation project for the rebuilding Canucks. The Rangers, meanwhile, shed some cap space ($875K) for perhaps another move at the March 3 trade deadline.
Speaking of the Hurricanes, their five-game winning streak ended after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Anaheim Ducks. John Gibson kicked out 51 shots while Trevor Zegras and Ryan Strome each collected two assists for the 19-34-7 Ducks. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jesper Fast replied for the Hurricanes (39-11-8) as they sit second in the overall standings with 86 points.
As for the Rangers, their winless skid stretched for four games (0-3-1) after falling 6-3 to the Washington Capitals. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice and collected two assists while T.J. Oshie also tallied twice for the 29-26-6 Capitals as they sit one point out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 64 points. Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad each had two points for 33-17-9 Rangers as they sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 75 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren left the game in the first period with an injured left shoulder following a hit into the boards by Oshie. Earlier in the day, they also placed forward Jake Leschyshyn on waivers in what’s expected to be a cost-cutting move for the upcoming trade deadline.
The Pittsburgh Penguins reclaimed that final Eastern wild-card spot with a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on an overtime goal by Bryan Rust to snap their four-game losing skid. Rust, Evgeni Malkin and Marcus Pettersson each had a goal and an assist as the Penguins (65 points) improved to 28-21-9. Jordan Binnington made 45 saves for the Blues as they fell to 26-28-5.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before this game, the Blues claimed winger Kasperi Kapanen off waivers from the Penguins. The 26-year-old winger did not play in this game. The Blues did the Penguins a favor as this move cleared Kapanen’s $3.2 million cap hit through 2023-24 off their books, providing some cap flexibility to perhaps make a move before the trade deadline.
A four-point performance by Connor McDavid couldn’t prevent the Edmonton Oilers from falling 6-5 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. McDavid scored twice and set up two other goals as his Oilers overcame a 4-0 deficit to tie the game but Columbus rallied with two more goals and held on for the win. Jack Roslovic also had two goals and two assists as the Blue Jackets improved to 19-35-5. The Oilers (32-20-8) sit third in the Pacific Division with 72 points.
New Jersey Devils goalie Akira Schmid made 23 saves for his first NHL shutout in a 7-0 drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers. Jonas Siegenthaler had a goal and two assists while Dawson Mercer scored to extend his goal streak to six games for the Devils (39-15-5) as they sit three points back of the Hurricanes with 83 points. The 23-28-10 Flyers played without winger Travis Konecny (upper body) as he was placed on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk didn’t play in this game. Head coach John Tortorella claimed he was “a little banged-up.” The 33-year-old van Riemsdyk is expected to be moved by the March 3 trade deadline.
The Dallas Stars ended a five-game losing streak by nipping the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on shootout goals by Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz, who also tallied the game-tying goal with 38 seconds remaining in regulation. Jake Oettinger stopped 41 shots for the 31-16-12 Stars as they hold a three-point lead over the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Central Division with 74 points. Jack Eichel netted his 20th goal of the season for the Golden Knights (35-18-6) as they sit atop the Western Conference standings with 76 points.
Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy made 45 saves to blank the Detroit Red Wings 3-0. Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn were the goal scorers as the Lightning improved to 37-17-4 and sit two points behind the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division with 78 points. Detroit (28-22-8) sits one point out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 64 points. Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury.
The Colorado Avalanche beat the Calgary Flames 4-1. Mikko Rantanen scored for the fourth straight game while Alexandar Georgiev made 28 saves as the Avalanche (33-19-5) moved past the Winnipeg Jets into second place in the Central Division with 71 points. Tyler Toffoli scored his 25th goal of the season as his Flames fell to 27-21-12 and four points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 66 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche also acquired minor-league goaltender Keith Kinkaid from the Bruins in exchange for forward Shane Bowers. Bringing in Kinkaid could be an insurance move as Pavel Francouz remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.
The Ottawa Senators swept their season series with the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 win. Derick Brassard had a goal and an assist while Mads Sogaard stopped 30 shots as the Senators improved to 28-26-4 to sit five points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot with 60 points. Nick Suzuki tallied his 20th goal of the season for the 25-30-4 Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens also announced defenseman Arber Xhekaj will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. Center Kirby Dach is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury while forward Joel Armia is day-to-day with an upper respiratory infection.
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Petr Mrazek turned aside 45 shots in a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on a shootout goal by Philipp Kurashev. The Blackhawks improved to 21-32-5 while San Jose sank to 18-30-12. Before the game, the Sharks retired Patrick Marleau’s No. 12 in a pregame ceremony.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marleau is the Sharks’ all-time leader with 1,607 games played, 522 goals and 1,111 points. He’s also second in assists with 589. Marleau is the first player in franchise history to have his number retired.
IN OTHER NEWS…
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets acquired winger Nino Niederreiter from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2024 second-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A nice pickup by the Jets to bolster their scoring depth. The 30-year-old Niederreiter is a big-bodied winger who is on pace (18 goals) to reach the 20-goal plateau for the sixth time in his career. He’s not a rental player as he carries a $4 million annual cap hit through 2023-24. The Jets might not be done making moves as Cap Friendly shows they’ve got over $5.4 million in projected trade deadline cap space.
SPORTSNET: The Buffalo Sabres placed winger Alex Tuch on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a big blow to the Sabres’ playoff hopes. Tuch is second in scoring with 28 goals and 62 points. This could prompt management to shop for a replacement if he’s sidelined for a long period.
TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs will send a second-round pick in 2025 to the Arizona Coyotes to complete last February’s trade that sent forward Nick Ritchie to the Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin and forward Ryan Dzingel.