NHL Rumor Mill – July 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 2, 2021

Are the Oilers interested in Duncan Keith? What’s the status of Oilers’ blueliners Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie and Oscar Klefbom? Could July become a busy month for Leafs GM Kyle Dubas? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins believes the Oilers are front-runners for Duncan Keith after reports emerged indicated the Chicago Blackhawks were exploring a trade for the 37-year-old defenseman.

Are the Edmonton Oilers interested in Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith? (NHL Images)

Leavins suggests they need a solid, reliable blueliner in case sidelined Oscar Klefbom misses next season. He thinks there’s mutual interest between the Oilers and Keith’s camp. The longtime Blackhawks rearguard apparently wants to be traded to a club close to his offseason home in Penticton, BC to be near his son.

Despite the decline in Keith’s performance in recent years, Leavins feels he has enough left to slot in behind Darnell Nurse on the right side. He also carries a reasonable $5.538 million annual average value for two more seasons.

The Blackhawks’ asking price, however, could be a sticking point. If they won’t retain part of Keith’s cap hit, he wondered if they’d take back a contract they can buy out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leavins colleague David Staples believes Keith’s cap hit is a steep price for the Oilers to pay for an aging defenseman on his last NHL legs unless the Blackhawks take a contract like James Neal or Mikko Koskinen in return.

Neal has two years left on his deal at $5.75 million per season. Koskinen might be preferable with one year at $4.5 million remaining on his deal, provided Chicago’s on his list of agreeable trade destinations.

That’s assuming, of course, the Blackhawks would buy out that contract. As Leavins observed, they’re shopping for a top-level defenseman. While they’ll have nearly $11 million in long-term injury reserve cap space to draw upon if necessary, they still must manage their dollars carefully.

THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Nugent-Bowman expects the Oilers could reach an agreement on a new contract with Adam Larsson perhaps as soon as next week. He cited Larsson’s agent J.P. Barry saying they’re making progress toward a deal. Talks are expected to resume next week.

A new contract for Larsson means Tyson Barrie’s tenure in Edmonton will end after just one season despite the uncertainty over Klefbom’s status.

Klefbom missed all of last season to a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. His agent doesn’t expect clarity as to the status of his recovery until the fall. He could be left exposed in the upcoming expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers were happy with Barrie’s performance but GM Ken Holland has made re-signing Larsson the priority. Barrie seeks a long-term deal and that’s something the Oilers can’t afford.

Recent speculation suggested the Philadelphia Flyers were closely watching Larsson’s contract negotiations. They’ll have to shift their focus elsewhere if the Oilers get the 29-year-old shutdown defenseman under contract before July 28.

BUSY MONTH AHEAD FOR LEAFS GM DUBAS

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan expected Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas faces the busiest month for shaping next season’s roster. If Dubas won’t part with an expensive forward like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares or William Nylander, he’ll have to follow the same plan as last offseason to address his roster depth issues.

Koshan expects pending UFA winger Zach Hyman will be too expensive to re-sign unless Dubas can clear some cap space. There’s interest in re-signing defenseman Zach Bogosian and goalie Frederik Andersen. Koshan also advocated bringing back a healthy Nick Foligno for the right price.

The Leafs will lose a player to the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming expansion draft. Center Alex Kerfoot or a defenseman like Travis Dermott or Justin Holl could be joining the Kraken.

Given the Leafs’ limited cap space, Dubas could end up signing some veterans to one-year contracts as he did in last year’s UFA market. He could make a big splash in the trade market, perhaps for a winger like Arizona’s Conor Garland. Koshan doesn’t think it makes sense to peddle blueliner Morgan Rielly a year out from his UFA eligibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas has been creative over the past couple of years in attempting to address his roster needs with limited cap room. He could, as Koshan suggested, sign some veterans to affordable one-year contracts again. Perhaps he’ll acquire a player on permanent LTIR to get some extra wiggle room for other additions. Maybe he swings a side deal with the Kraken. He could pull off a one-for-one swap of players with comparable contracts.

Whether those moves pan out remains to be seen. They won’t make the Leafs a club that can go deep into the playoffs if the past two offseasons are any indication. As long as Dubas keeps his “Big Four” forwards and doesn’t shop Rielly, the limited cap room will hinder his efforts.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2021

Are the Oilers making progress in Nugent-Hopkins’ contract talks? Will they trade or buy out Mikko Koskinen or James Neal? Could Oscar Klefbom be exposed in the expansion draft? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes Oilers general manager Jim Matheson faces a long to-do list this summer. Topping that list is signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a new contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (NHL Images).

Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay but Matheson wondered if Holland will go higher than $6 million per season or $5.5 million and over five years. He also feels the Oilers see him now as a top-six left-winger rather than a center and want to pay him as such.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson’s colleague David Staples cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman claiming Nugent-Hopkins contract talks haven’t gone well and his status remains uncertain. They were apparently close to a deal before the season began but things fell apart at the last minute.

Plenty of time for the two sides to work things out. I’d get concerned, however, if they haven’t gotten any closer when the calendar flips to July. Nugent-Hopkins will draw plenty of interest around the league if he goes to market on July 28. Someone will pay him what he wants.

The Oilers intend to bring back 39-year-old goaltender Mike Smith. As for Mikko Koskinen, Matheson believes his return is less than 50-50. They might not buy out Koskinen but Matheson wondered if they’d absorb part of the goalie’s $4.5 million cap hit to facilitate a trade or include a player or draft pick to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staples noted Friedman said buying out Koskinen was a possibility. He also cited NHL insider Brian Lawton telling Oilers Now show host Bob Stauffer the Oilers shouldn’t bring Koskinen back. However, Staples suggests finding a suitable replacement this summer won’t be easy.

Koskinen, 32, struggled at times this season and wasn’t a reliable backup for Smith. He has just one year left on his contract. I think Holland will try to trade him, even if it means eating some of his salary. Failing that, he’ll probably go the buyout route at a cap hit of $1.5 million for 2021-22 and 2022-23 as per Cap Friendly.

Turning to the blueline, Matheson wondered if Holland will leave Oscar Klefbom unprotected in the expansion draft. He’d be taking a chance on the Kraken being scared off by the defenseman’s season-long absence with a shoulder injury.

Pending UFA blueliner Tyson Barrie is looking at a long-term deal and will see what’s out there. Matheson expected Holland will re-sign Adam Larsson, perhaps around the same $4.1 million range of his current deal. The question is whether it’s three or four years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland must also ensure he’ll have sufficient long-term cap space to sign Darnell Nurse to a contract extension. He’s slated to become a UFA next summer but contact talks can begin this summer. If Klefbom is selected by the Kraken in the expansion draft it’ll free up $4.1 million from their cap payroll, giving Holland extra room to sign Nurse or make other moves.

Matheson considers it likely Holland will buy out veteran winger James Neal. Doing so would free up $3.83 million in each of the next two seasons to target an unrestricted free agent winger such as Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman or Toronto’s Zach Hyman. If Neal is bought out, Matheson sees him returning to Pittsburgh where he had his best seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Mark Spector believes Holland should buy out Neal, considering him dead cap space already at $5.75 million annually and barely playing. It would count as $1.92 million over the next four years against the Oilers cap.

He also suggests Holland should explore trading Neal, absorbing half his salary for the final two years of his contract to make it work. However, he feels there would have to be something else included in the deal.

A trade is possible. A buyout is more likely. And no, he won’t be returning to Pittsburgh even if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin like him. He’s a fading star who won’t address the Penguins’ need for a better starting goalie and more skilled toughness in their lineup.

Matheson also suggested St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Vegas Golden Knights versatile forward Mattias Janmark and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth as possible free-agent targets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland would have better luck landing Janmark and/or Nemeth than Schwartz. The Blues hope to re-sign him. Failing that, he’ll draw considerable interest in the free-agent market. The Oilers might not win a bidding war for his services.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 30, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 30, 2021

Another look at how this summer expansion draft could affect several teams in the NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently looked at several teams that could be faced with a tough loss or an interesting decision to make in this summer’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Ryan S. Clark previously did a feature examining six clubs that could make side deals with the Seattle Kraken to protect key players. Boylen is examining nine teams.

The Colorado Avalanche needs Erik Johnson to waive his no-movement clause. If he does, they’ll have to decide if they’ll protect eight skaters or seven forwards and three defensemen. Under the former, they could lose a forward like Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Tyson Jost or Valeri Nichushkin. Under the latter, Ryan Graves could be left unprotected. If Johnson doesn’t waive his clause, they’ll have to go the eight skaters option, leaving the Seattle Kraken the choice of Graves or one of those forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Ryan S.Clark reported Johnson is expected to waive his NMC. The Kraken will likely pass on him given his age (33), injury history and his $6 million annual average value through 2022-23. He also reported the Avs are willing to trade one of their forwards for something decent in return and are open to discussing their needs with the Kraken

The status of sidelined defenseman Oscar Klefbom and how general manager Ken Holland handles pending unrestricted free agents like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie could affect the Edmonton Oilers’ plans. If Klefbom is healthy and Larsson or Barrie is re-signed before the draft, the Oilers could lose a defenseman like Ethan Bear. Caleb Jones could be protected only if the UFA blueliners aren’t re-signed and Klefbom is exposed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klefbom’s status remains uncertain. Holland could wait until after the expansion draft to re-sign Larsson and/or Barrie. That depends, of course, on whether the Kraken have interest in either blueliner during their exclusive free-agent interview window from July 18-21.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (NHL Images)

Five members of the Minnesota Wild (Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin) have no-movement clauses. If none of them waive their clauses, the Wild could be forced to make a side deal with the Kraken or risk losing defenseman Matt Dumba if they protect just three defensemen or risk losing a forward by protecting eight skaters. If they’re faced with leaving Dumba unprotected they could attempt to trade him before the protected lists are due.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Clark reported Wild management could have discussions with those five players about waiving their NMCs. Having Parise, Suter and Zuccarello waive would be the best scenario. They’re aging players carrying hefty salary-cap hits for at least three more seasons who likely won’t be enticing to the Kraken.

If Dumba becomes the odd man out, I expect they’ll try to trade him rather than lose him for nothing in the expansion draft. Boylen also suggested they could make a side deal with the Kraken by sending them a player to ensure they take someone other than Dumba in the draft.

The Kraken could make a push for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton if he’s left unsigned and unprotected. If he’s re-signed, he’ll have to be protected and that would leave blueliner Jake Bean available. The Kraken could also have a shot at goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic if pending UFA Petr Mrazek is re-signed before the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculated the Hurricanes could hold off on signing Hamilton in order to protect Bean, leaving Brady Skjei exposed. They could do the same with Mrazek to protect Nedeljkovic. There’s a chance Hamilton or Mrazek could sign with the Kraken but their priority could be staying in Carolina.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn could be left exposed if they protect Torey Krug, Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk. If they go the eight-skaters route, they risk losing a forward like Jaden Schwartz, David Perron or Robert Thomas. Dunn was a fixture in the rumor mill this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn could be traded to another club or the Blues could try to work out a side deal sending the Kraken another player to ensure Dunn isn’t selected in the expansion draft.

The Nashville Predators are expected to protect eight skaters to ensure defensemen Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro aren’t available. Forwards Luke Kunin or Mikael Granlund (if signed before the draft) could be protected. Boylen wonders if Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene could be exposed, though the Kraken probably won’t take one of those high-priced forwards without a sufficient sweetener.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll take quite an offer to convince Kraken GM Ron Francis to take on Johansen or Duchene. Both are underachieving forwards carrying $8 million cap hits for several more years.

Travis Dermott is expected to be the odd man out for the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, contract negotiations with pending UFA winger Zach Hyman could affect which players they end up protecting. If Hyman is re-signed, they’ll have to protect seven forwards, leaving an extra defenseman exposed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under that scenario they’ll protect Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie, leaving Justin Holl exposed. They could take the chance on Hyman re-signing after the expansion draft to protect four blueliners and leave Dermott exposed. If they sign Hyman, they could try to work out a deal with the Kraken to ensure Holl isn’t taken.

Boylen expects Calgary Flames winger Milan Lucic will waive his no-movement clause to allow the club to protect a younger forward like Dillon Dube or Glenn Gawdin. He also wondered if the Kraken would take defenseman Mark Giordano if left exposed. The 38-year-old Flames captain has a year remaining on his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boylen observed that big changes could be coming to the Flames roster following this season. Those, however, could occur following the expansion draft. As for Giordano, the Kraken could prefer players who fit into their long-term plans.

The Dallas Stars could go the eight-skater option to protect four defensemen if Jamie Oleksiak is re-signed. That could leave a forward such as Radek Faksa, Denis Gurianov or Joe Pavelski exposed. Boylen feels it could be easier for the Stars if Oleksiak isn’t protected or a side deal is worked out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wait until after the draft to re-sign Oleksiak and take the chance that the Kraken will pass on him or else talk trade to ensure he’s not taken in the draft if they opt to protect seven forwards and three blueliners.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 26, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 26, 2021

A look at several teams that could make side deals this summer with the Kraken in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun and Ryan S. Clark recently listed the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild and Tampa Bay Lightning as six clubs that could be in play to make side deals with the Seattle Kraken.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images)

LeBrun doesn’t expect much to happen with the Hurricanes if defenseman Dougie Hamilton, a pending unrestricted free agent, isn’t signed before the July 21 expansion draft. The Hurricanes would then have a week before the free-agent market opens on July 28 to re-sign Hamilton. However, it’s possible the Kraken could sign Hamilton during their exclusive free-agent interview window (July 18-21), making the blueliner part of their expansion draft selections.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun thinks they’ll hold off on signing Hamilton until after the expansion draft in order to protect Jake Bean as well as Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. He also speculated the Kraken could take Brady Skjei in that scenario but could balk at his $5.25 million cap hit.

Clark pointed out the Avalanche could lose Ryan Graves to the Kraken if they protect just three defensemen or blueliner Jacob MacDonald if they protect eight skaters. It’s expected veteran Erik Johnson will be asked to waive his no-movement clause to be exposed in the draft. The Avs could explore trading one of their forwards if they can get something substantial in return and are open to discussing their needs with the Kraken.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson waiving his NMC would give the Avs some flexibility over which defensemen to protect. If they opt to protect eight skaters to hand onto four defensemen, however, they’ll lose a decent forward to the Kraken. Avs general manager Joe Sakic will probably be talking trade with Kraken GM Ron Francis in the days leading up to July 21.

Clark indicated the Oilers’ plans will depend upon the health of sidelined defenseman Oscar Klefbom. A recovering Klefbom could be exposed in the draft because the Kraken won’t select an injured player with a $4.167 million cap hit. However, the Oilers could make a side deal if Klefbom is healthy and they re-sign pending UFAs Tyson Barrie and Adam Larsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports have Klefbom facing an uncertain future following his shoulder surgery. The Oilers could wait until after the expansion draft to sign Barrie and Larsson or they could sign one and take their chances with the other if Klefbom isn’t healthy by then.

LeBrun explored several scenarios if the Kraken were to covet Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger. They could have the Panthers re-sign the pending UFA goalie before the draft and select him as an exposed player, sign him during their free-agent interview period or attempt to sign him in the free-agent market on July 28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun thinks Panthers GM Bill Zito will approach Francis about the sign-and-select option, perhaps offering up an enticement like defenseman Markus Nutivaara in a side deal.

The Wild could have discussions with Jonas Brodin, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Mats Zuccarello about waiving their no-movement clauses. Getting at least two of them to waive their NMCs would make it possible to protect Matt Dumba and Jordan Greenway. Failing that, they risk losing Dumba if they protect three defensemen or Greenway if they protect eight skaters. Protecting Dumba and Greenway could also create a situation where the Kraken could select defenseman Carson Soucy or goaltender Cam Talbot, raising the possibility of a side deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Parise and Suter could provide the most flexibility for the Wild if they can be convinced to waive their NMCs. I doubt Francis would want an aging veteran carrying a $7.538 million cap hit on his books for the next four years.

The cap-strapped Lightning could try to sell the Kraken on selecting Spokane native Tyler Johnson but they’ll have to add a sweetener to convince them to take his $5 million cap hit off the Lightning’s books. LeBrun suggested the cost could be trading their 2022 first-round pick to the Kraken or shipping them winger Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat (if he waives his no-trade clause) defenseman Erik Cernak.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what the Lightning do in this situation. Bolts GM Julien BriseBois tried to waive and trade Johnson before the start of the season but couldn’t find any takers. He’ll have to package him with a good player or that first-round pick to convince Francis to take him.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 19, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 19, 2021

What could be in store this summer for the Oilers? Will the Blackhawks re-sign or trade Nikita Zadorov in the offseason? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Salary-cap limitations prevented Oilers GM Ken Holland from making big moves at the recent trade deadline. Terry Jones expects Holland could be able to do more in the offseason and next season once he’s out of salary-cap hell.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (NHL Images).

Holland told Jones he doesn’t know if top-pairing defenseman Oscar Klefbom has made a decision about continuing his career following shoulder surgery. He intends to speak with the blueliner in June and July as they get closer to the expansion draft and free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klefbom has two more seasons left on his contract worth an annual average value of $4.167 million. Getting him back healthy for next season will certainly help his defense core.

If Klefbom’s career is over he’ll go on permanent long-term injury reserve if necessary, giving the Oilers GM some cap relief to perhaps put toward re-signing an unrestricted free agent such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson or Tyson Barrie, or perhaps to find one of their replacements.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Following last Monday’s NHL trade deadline, Ben Pope suggested Nikita Zadorov has the remainder of this season to prove to the Chicago Blackhawks he still belongs in their future. Pope wrote the Blackhawks set a high asking price for the big 26-year-old blueliner before the trade deadline but decided to keep him when no one met that price.

Zadorov becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. It’ll cost $3.2 million to qualify his rights but it’s expected he’ll seek more than that on his next contract. Pope speculated Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman could trade Zadorov this summer if he fails to solidify his role as their shutdown defenseman.

Mental mistakes and turnovers have proven costly for Zadorov. He faces a competitor for his job in Riley Stillman, who was recently acquired from the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks shipped winger Brandon Saad to the Colorado Avalanche for Zadorov and Anton Lindholm, the latter spending this season on their taxi squad. The big blueliner could be shopped in the offseason or perhaps left exposed in the expansion draft if he fails to make a positive impression over the remainder of this season.

Bowman will probably prefer to trade Zadorov rather than lose him for nothing to the Seattle Kraken. The decline in his stock, however, means he might only fetch a mid-range draft pick or a prospect.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 26, 2021

Mika Zibanejad lights up the Flyers again, Sidney Crosby reaches another career milestone, the Canadian government will reportedly loosen quarantine rules for players, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: An overtime goal by Anthony Beauvillier lifted the New York Islanders over the Boston Bruins 4-3. The Isles overcame a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead until Boston’s Anders Bjork tied it late in the third. Beauvillier finished with two points while teammate Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a goal and two assists. Bruins backup Jaroslav Halak made 17 saves in relief of Tuukka Rask, who left the game following the first period with an upper-body injury. With 48 points, the Islanders hold a two-point lead over the Washington Capitals for first place in the MassMutual East Division. The Bruins (37 points) hold a three-point lead over the New York Rangers for fourth place.

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (NHL Images).

Mika Zibanejad enjoyed a six-point game, including a natural hat trick, as the Rangers thumped the Philadelphia Flyers 8-3. Zibanejad set an NHL record with consecutive six-point performances against the same opponent. Adam Fox collected five assists, Ryan Strome had a goal and three assists and Pavel Buchnevich scored twice. The Rangers (34 points) surged past the Flyers into fifth place in the MassMutual East Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carter Hart was shelled for five goals before getting the hook from the Flyers net. The 22-year-old goaltender looks nothing like last season’s promising starter when he out-dueled Montreal’s Carey Price in the playoffs. His confidence is completely shot and he hasn’t received much help from his defense. The Rangers, meanwhile, have played their way into the playoff race in the East Division, though the Bruins have three games in hand.

The Washington Capitals picked up their eighth win in their last nine contests by edging the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied twice while Alex Ovechkin scored his 721st career goal. The Capitals (46 points) hold a two-point lead over the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the East Division.

Sebastian Aho’s overtime goal gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton extended his assist streak to 13 games while Blue Jackets rearguard Seth Jones collected three helpers. The Hurricanes (47 points) sit three points behind the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Discover Central Division while the Blue Jackets (34 points) are three back of the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks.

The Toronto Maple Leafs nipped the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on an overtime goal by Justin Holl. Senators netminder Anton Forsberg made 38 saves in his first start in a year. The Leafs (44 points) move into sole possession of first place in the Scotia North Division, two points up on the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers.

Sidney Crosby collected three assists to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Buffalo Sabres 4-0, handing the latter their 16th straight defeat. Crosby became the eighth-fastest player to reach 1,300 career points. Casey DeSmith kicked out 36 shots for the shutout while rookie Radim Zohorna’s first NHL goal proved to be the game-winner. Before the game, the Penguins announced winger Kasperi Kapanen is sidelined week-to-week with an undisclosed injury. With 44 points, the Penguins sit in third place in the East Division. Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams took over his club’s coaching duties after interim head coach Don Granato and assistant Matt Ellis went onto the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list two hours before game time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: What happened to Granato and Ellis is just the latest blow in a season that represents the nadir of a decade of suck for the once-proud Sabres.

A 37-save shutout by Cam Talbot carried the Minnesota Wild to a 2-0 blanking of the St. Louis Blues. Marcus Johansson and Kirill Kaprizov were the goal scorers as the Wild (43 points) picked up their 11th straight home win and sit two points behind the second-place Colorado Avalanche in the Honda West Division. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba returned to action after missing three games with a lower-body injury. The fourth-place Blues (37 points) sits six points back of the Wild.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Kevin Lankinen kicked out 41 shots in a 3-0 shutout of the Florida Panthers. Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks (37 points), who hold a three-point lead over the Blue Jackets for fourth in the Central Division. Panthers winger Patric Hornqvist left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury following a hard hit by Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zadorov. He’s listed as day-to-day as the Panthers (44 points) sit three points behind the second-place Hurricanes in the Central.

The Colorado Avalanche scored five unanswered goals in a 5-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar each had a goal and an assist as the Avalanche moved into a tie with the first-place Golden Knights (45 points), though the latter holds a game in hand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche have won eight of their last 10 and picked up points in all but one of those games.

A late third-period goal by Roope Hintz lifted the Dallas Stars over the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. Hintz and Joe Pavelski each had a goal and two assists. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy saw his winning streak end at 12 games. The Bolts remain atop the NHL’s overall standings with 50 points.

The Nashville Predators moved to within four points of the fourth-place Blackhawks in the Central Division by crushing the Detroit Red Wings 7-1. Rocco Grimaldi scored four goals, including three in a span of 2:34 as the Predators have won five of their last six contests.

HEADLINES

TSN: The Canadian government is reportedly poised to approve reducing the 14-day quarantine on NHL players crossing the border from the United States into Canada to seven days.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This would allow the Canadian general managers who could be buyers more time to make moves in the days leading up to the April 12 trade deadline. Under the 14-day quarantine, a player acquired by a Canadian team acquired at the April 12 trade deadline would be unable to join the roster until April 27. A seven-day quarantine means they can join the roster more quickly.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said one of his two players on their COVID-19 protocol list tested positive for one of the coronavirus variants. He wouldn’t say who the player was but indicated he was feeling ok. No other Habs have tested positive. The Canadiens had four games postponed by the league but could return to action early next week. Bergevin also suggested his club’s season could last a little longer to make up those games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The regular season is slated to end on May 8 and the playoffs begin on May 11. The Habs could play on May 9 and 10, or the league could extend the start date of the playoffs by a couple of days to accommodate teams with postponed games to be played.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Four Anaheim Ducks players (Danton Heinen, Ben Hutton, Jacob Larsson and Anthony Stolarz) are off the COVID-19 protocol list due to false-positive tests. Alexander Volkov goes on the list for seven days as per league protocols for traded players.

SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom underwent successful shoulder surgery on Thursday and is on track to return to action next season.

CBS SPORTS: Arizona Coyotes forward Tyler Pitlick was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.