Dallas Stars Stumbling At Quarter-Point Of The NHL Season
Check out the latest on the Bruins, Wild and Stars in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SHOULD THE BRUINS PURSUE EKHOLM?
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss’ belief the Bruins should make acquiring a defenseman a trade-deadline priority was among his five takeaways of the club’s performance at the quarter-point of the season.
Goss expressed some concern about the Bruins’ scoring depth but felt they still need more experience and physicality on the blue line. He also pointed out Charlie McAvoy is the only Bruins’ rearguard with more than three points, suggesting they could use a blueliner who can generate some offense.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy took note of TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reporting Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm could be available. With Matt Grzelcyk in and out of the lineup due to injuries, Murphy wonders if Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will try to fill that second-pairing left slot with Ekholm. Murphy also noted the Bruins’ offseason interest in Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm is a solid all-around defenseman carrying an affordable $3.75 million salary-cap hit through 2021-22. He could be a good addition to the Bruins or any other NHL roster.
The Bruins have over $4 million in projected cap space so there’s room for Ekholm’s cap hit, though it would be a tight squeeze. Depending on the Predators’ asking price, the Bruins could send them a player to free up some cap room. Winger Anders Bjork ($1.6 million annual average value) often comes up in Bruins’ trade chatter. Maybe the Predators would be interested in the 24-year-old winger if they decide to get younger.
SOME RECENT WILD SPECULATION
Russo acknowledged the Wild’s need for depth at center. Stepan’s $6 million cap hit, however, would be a concern, as would Bennett’s arbitration number this summer. The Wild have limited salary-cap space and the Flames or Senators would have to take a contract in return. Bennett’s inconsistency was also a concern for Russo.
Asked about Matt Dumba’s trade status, Russo feels the defenseman’s performance over the remainder of the season will make him more or less likely to be moved. His $6 million cap hit, his play last season and the fact that the acquiring club might have to alter their expansion draft protection list plans could make the 26-year-old blueliner difficult to move. Asked if Dumba might be a fit with the Vancouver Canucks, Russo said he got the impression the Canucks’ interest in him was nil.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As with most capped-out NHL teams, the Wild probably won’t make a major move before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. They could swing a minor deal or two if necessary provided they can make the dollars fit. Otherwise, what you see is what you get with the Wild this season. Any significant moves on their part (Dumba?) could take place in the offseason before the July expansion draft.
DON’T EXPECT BIG MOVES BY THE STARS
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Matthew DeFranks was asked if the Dallas Stars should use Esa Lindell or John Klingberg as trade bait for draft picks and prospects to restock their system as they haven’t seemed to develop any real NHL level talent recently. DeFranks disagreed with that premise and doesn’t believe they should shop Lindell or Klingberg. If they were to move either defenseman, he felt the package would be around NHL talent with the Stars championship window currently open.
DeFranks was also asked if the Stars would be a player in this year’s trade market. If they do become active it won’t be a big move. He also pointed out center Tyler Seguin and goaltender Ben Bishop will be returning to the lineup from offseason surgeries later this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars have struggled to score and kill penalties in recent weeks. I daresay those would be the areas they would address if they decide to test the trade market.
Lindell and Klingberg are their top-pairing defense. They’re not going anywhere.
Recaps of Thursday’s action, Pierre-Luc Dubois benched, an update on the four Capitals sidelined under COVID-19 protocols, and a lengthy list of injuries in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tyler Toffoli scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens thumped the Vancouver Canucks 7-3 in the second game of their three-game series. With the score tied 2-2 following the first period, the Canadiens blew the game open with four unanswered second-period goals.
Montreal winger Joel Armia also scored twice but suffered a concussion late in the third period from a blindside hit by Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers, who received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Habs forward Paul Byron also left in the third after being struck in the leg by a shot from teammate Shea Weber. Canucks defensemen Travis Hamonic and Alexander Edler missed the game with upper-body injuries, while blueliner Jalen Chatfield suffered a first-period upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli now has five goals in two games against his former club this season. It’s uncertain if Myers will receive supplemental discipline for his cheap shot on Armia. The Canadiens and Canucks will play the final game of this series on Saturday, with the Habs unbeaten in regulation (3-0-2) thus far.
Jake DeBrusk tallied the only goal in a shootout to give the Boston Bruins a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Nick Ritchie had a goal and an assist while David Krejci collected two assists. James van Riemsdyk tallied twice and Jakub Voracek collected three assists for the Flyers, who gave up 43 shots in this contest. The Flyers played without forward Morgan Frost (dislocated shoulder, injured reserve) and defenseman Philippe Myers (fractured rib, week-to-week).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a big win for the Bruins, who entered this game sitting dead-last in goals for per game (1.00). A porous defense saw the Flyers blow 2-0 and 3-2 leads in this game. The injuries are piling up for the Flyers, who were also playing without Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their third straight win by edging the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on an overtime goal by Brayden Point. Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois was benched for almost the entire game, seeing less than four minutes of ice time in the first period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts victory was overshadowed by Dubois’ benching. This is ramping up speculation over the 22-year-old center’s future with the Blue Jackets and his relationship with head coach John Tortorella. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.
New York Islanders winger Jordan Eberle tallied twice in a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Isles center Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists. Josh Bailey returned to the Isles lineup after spending one day on the club’s COVID-19 absence list. The Devils were without starting goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who was placed on the club’s COVID list, though that doesn’t mean he’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and an assist to lead the Winnipeg Jets over the Ottawa Senators 4-1. The Jets took control of the game with three unanswered second-period goals. Jets winger Patrik Laine missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury.
The Los Angeles Kings got their first win of the season by doubling up the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. The Kings overcame a 2-0 deficit with Adrian Kempe netting the game-winner in the third period. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had a goal and an assist for the Avs.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov has tested positive for COVID-19. Samsonov, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov were placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol-related absence list on Wednesday. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov will miss at least four games while Samsonov could be sidelined longer. It remains to be seen if the other three tested positive.
Samsonov’s positive test triggered contact testing within the Capitals dressing room, leading to the NHL discovering the four players spent time socializing in the team hotel without facial coverings on multiple occasions. The league fined the Capitals $100K.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits and fans questioned the NHL’s protocols when this story broke on Wednesday. The bottom line is the Capitals, and every other team in the league knew what the protocols were before this season started. The NHLPA voted for them. Every player had the opportunity to opt-out of playing this season. The players involved in this incident broke those rules and must now suffer the consequences.
The NHL’s COVID protocols were based on CDC and Health Canada guidelines enabling the 31 NHL teams to stage this season in their home arenas. They must also follow local guidelines.
Those rules have had an effect upon this season. A ban on non-essential travel at the Canada-US border has limited Canadian teams to playing among themselves during the regular season. The San Jose Sharks started this season on the road because Santa Clara County has prohibited all sports activities due to high local COVID levels.
The NHL has already postponed games involving the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes because of COVID outbreaks. They cannot risk further spread jeopardizing the season because some players won’t adhere to the rules.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola will each be sidelined several weeks with undisclosed injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could have Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford shopping for help. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
SPORTSNET: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson is sidelined for six weeks with an oblique muscle injury.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman John Klingberg (medical reasons) is questionable for his club’s season-opener on Friday against the Nashville Predators.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews left practice early yesterday as he wasn’t feeling great, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe. His status will be updated today. Forward Joe Thornton is expected to miss some games with an upper-body injury.
CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Dillon Dube is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
WGR550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton will miss at least two games with a head injury. Sabres starter Linus Ullmark revealed he missed Monday’s game against Philadelphia as he was grieving the death of his father in Sweden. Ullmark returned to practice and is slated to travel with the club for their upcoming two-game series against Washington.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Ullmark during this difficult time.
The Lightning take a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, the Senators intend to buy out Bobby Ryan, the Canadiens re-sign Jeff Petry, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Kevin Shattenkirk scored in overtime as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Dallas Stars 5-4 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final to take 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Shattenkirk’s goal came on a power play after Stars captain Jamie Benn was whistled off for tripping Lightning forward Tyler Johnson. Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point and Dallas’ Joe Pavelski each scored twice.
Several milestones were reached in this game by four Stars. Pavelski tied Joe Mullen’s NHL record for most playoff goals by an American-born player with 60. He also holds the record for most goals scored in one postseason (12) by a player 36-or-older.
Meanwhile, teammates Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg are only the second pair of defensemen on the same team to each reach 20 points in one postseason. Paul Coffey and Charlie Huddy were the first to do so with the 1985 Edmonton Oilers.
Corey Perry also scored in this game, making him the third player in NHL history to go at least 13 years between Stanley Cup Final goals, joining Mark Recchi (15 years) and Dino Ciccarelli (14).
The Lightning were without captain Steven Stamkos. After scoring a goal during a brief appearance in Game 3, Stamkos was unfit to play in Game 4.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the most entertaining game of this series. The Stars took 2-0 and 3-2 leads only to see the Lightning battled back to tie the game. The Bolts took their first lead when Alex Killorn made it 4-3 in the third period but Pavelski tied it with his second of the game.
Benn’s penalty sparked criticism from the Stars but it was an obvious infraction the officials couldn’t ignore. Besides, the Stars had a great opportunity earlier in the extra frame with the man advantage after Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was called for holding Tyler Seguin but they failed to capitalize.
Both clubs have little time to dwell on this one. Game 5 goes tonight at 8 pm ET with the Lightning just one win away from becoming Stanley Cup champions and the Stars desperate to keep their Cup hopes alive.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators yesterday placed winger Bobby Ryan on waivers with the intention of buying out the final two years of his contract. Cap Friendly indicates the Senators will be tagged with a $3.58 million salary-cap hit for the next two seasons, followed by about $1.83 million annually for the last two seasons. Ryan won the Masterton Trophy this season for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a bit of a surprise but one the Senators made for business reasons. The 33-year-old Ryan is not the scorer he used to be and his $7.25 million annual average value was more than the rebuilding Sens were willing to keep paying. This move allows Ryan an opportunity to have a fresh start with a playoff contender at a more affordable price.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports the Columbus Blue Jackets are considering a contract buyout of center Alexander Wennberg. The move would save the Jackets over $10 million over the next three years. Wennberg is 26, but because he was 25 in June, as per the CBA the buyout will be at one-third the remaining value, rather than two-thirds.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Portzline reports neither Wennberg or his agent have heard anything about a buyout from the Jackets, while GM Jarmo Kekalainen declined to comment. His annual average value is $4.9 million for the next three seasons.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers won’t be buying out James Neal or any other players this year.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens yesterday re-signed defenseman Jeff Petry to a four-year, $25 million contract extension. The annual average value is $6.25 million. His new deal also includes a no-movement clause and a 15-team no-trade list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This deal provides Petry a slight raise over his current $5.5 million AAV, but otherwise isn’t much different from the final three years of his present contract in terms of movement and no-trade clauses. It’s a good move by the Habs to ensure veteran stability on the right side of their blueline. Petry’s been a reliable, sometimes underrated member of the Canadiens core. The move won’t affect their 2020-21 salary-cap payroll.
NBC SPORTS: The Philadelphia Flyers re-signed goaltender Alex Lyon to a one-year, one-way contract worth $700K.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs added Paul MacLean to their coaching staff.
One little nugget from my #mnwild GM Bill Guerin interview this morning: BG says the Wild aren’t buying out Victor Rask, that he’s been treated unfairly & scored big goals for them when he played.
My gut: He’d trade him if he could, … but no buyout (which we’ve suspected).
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) September 24, 2020
In today’s NHL morning coffee headlines, recaps of Wednesday’s games plus the latest on Jake Muzzin, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Micheal Ferland, and more.
NHL.COM: Jeff Petry scored his second game-winning goal as the Montreal Canadiens overcame a 3-1 deficit to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3, taking a 2-1 lead in their qualifying-round series. Habs captain Shea Weber led the way with a goal and two assists.
Jeff Petry snipes from a bad angle pic.twitter.com/RY3oVCvFzd
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) August 6, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens seemed done like dinner midway through the second period. They’re now poised to eliminate the Penguins in Game 4 on Friday. And speaking of potential upsets…
The Chicago Blackhawks got two unanswered third-period goals by Matthew Highmore and Jonathan Toews to nip the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 and take a 2-1 lead in their qualifier. Toews finished the game with two goals while teammate Corey Crawford made 25 saves to become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to record his 50th career playoff win. Leon Draisaitl scored twice and set up another for the Oilers. Edmonton defenseman Adam Larsson was unfit to play while Oilers winger Tyler Ennis left the game in the second period with an apparent leg injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bounces went the Blackhawks’ way as Highmore’s goal was a deflection from a point shot while Toews’ deflected shot bounced in off an Oilers’ defenseman. They’re now poised to eliminate the Oilers if they win Game 4 on Friday.
The Boston Bruins won’t be the top seed in the 2020 playoffs after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning in round-robin play. Tyler Johnson tallied the winning goal late in the third period. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 32 saves in his return to action after being unfit to play in their first round-robin game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the first time in NHL history the season’s Presidents’ Trophy winner won’t be the top seed in the playoffs. The Bruins are 0-2 in round-robin play. While they are guaranteed a playoff spot, they risk drawing a tougher first-round opponent the lower they sink in the round-robin seedings.
The Florida Panthers avoided elimination by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders. Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman and Brian Boyle broke a 1-1 tie while Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves for the win. A rare penalty by Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov for playing the puck beyond the trapezoid behind his net led to Hoffman’s power-play goal. The Isles hold a 2-1 series lead.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the Panthers’ first postseason victory since the 2016 playoffs. It certainly came at the right time. They also shook up their lineup yesterday, scratching Mike Matheson and Frank Vatrano after their disappointing performances in the first two games.
Three unanswered third-period goals by Conor Garland, Taylor Hall, and Carl Soderberg lifted the Arizona Coyotes over the Nashville Predators 4-1. The Coyotes hold a 2-1 series lead. Darcy Kuemper enjoyed a bounce-back effort in this contest with a 39-save performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes weathered the first-period onslaught from the Predators and opened the scoring on their first shot of the game. They finally got some productions from Hall and Garland, who’d been held goalless in the first two games.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz kicked out 27 shots to shut out the Dallas Stars 4-0 in round-robin action. Cale Makar tallied the game-winner while Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky each had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars were without starting goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman John Klingberg in this game. Both were declared unfit to play. Under league protocols, no reason was given for their absence, but it doesn’t appear as though it’s COVID-related.
HEADLINES TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin won’t be available for the remainder of his club’s qualifying-round series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was injured in Game 2 and taken to hospital with what appeared to be a head or neck injury. Muzzin was released yesterday and returned to the Leafs hotel within the safety zone and will remain in quarantine until cleared. Martin Marincin will replace him in the lineup for today’s match with the Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois won’t face supplemental discipline for the hit that sent Muzzin to hospital after colliding awkwardly with Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstand.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets aren’t ruling out Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine for Game 4 of their qualifier with the Calgary Flames later today. Both players have been sidelined since Game 1. The Flames hold a 2-1 series lead and could wrap it up with a win today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets need some help following a dispiriting loss in Game 3. They also need Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor to start cashing in or this series will be over later tonight.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland is out of action and has returned to his home in Brandon, Manitoba. He’s been declared “unfit to play”, raising speculation it’s tied to the concussion symptoms that sidelined him for most of this season.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals forward Lars Eller returned to Washington to be with his wife as she gives birth to their second child. He’ll rejoin his teammates following a period of quarantine and testing in the first round of the playoffs.
SPORTSNET: A report from a Swedish media outlet indicates winger Oskar Lindblom will be traveling to the Toronto bubble to join his Philadephia Flyers teammates. He missed the bulk of this season battling a rare form of bone cancer and finished his treatment on July 2. He could return to action in September if the Flyers are still in the playoffs by then.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Tomas Hertl has resumed skating for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury in January.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi has re-signed a one-year contract with Finland’s Karpat. It’s believed the deal contains an out-clause should Puljujarvi return to the Oilers next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports suggest the relationship between Puljujarvi and the Oilers has improved after he spent last season in Finland. With the NHL tentatively planning a full 82-game schedule in December, it makes sense for him to get in some meaningful playing time in Finland before NHL camps open in November.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The general managers of the seven non-playoff teams have submitted a proposal to the league allowing their clubs a two-week mini-camp before training camp for all clubs open in November.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like a reasonable proposal. Those teams haven’t played since the regular season was derailed in mid-March and they’re now amid an unusually long off-season.
This year’s arbitration team walk away # is believed to be $4,538,958 (up from $4.4M LY – based on avg salary). Teams can walk away from arb ruling higher than this. Just this year, if team walks away, player/team can agree to team’s arbitration offer.https://t.co/VnyDM0gocT — PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) August 5, 2020