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.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2020

Another updated list of the top UFAs, including the latest on Mike Hoffman, Zdeno Chara and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Forwards Mike Hoffman, Erik Haula and Corey Perry top TSN’s listing of the best remaining unrestricted free agents. Winger Mikael Granlund and defenseman Sami Vatanen round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes Hoffman could be a fit with the St. Louis Blues. With Alexander Steen’s playing days ended by a back injury, LeBrun speculated they could put his $5.75 million on long-term injury reserve and use the savings to sign Hoffman.

Cap Friendly indicates the Blues are over the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.175 million, with restricted free agent Vince Dunn to be signed. That might not leave enough to land Hoffman, who’s open to a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. They could get more flexibility by placing Vladimir Taransenko (shoulder surgery) and his $7.5 million cap hit on LTIR, but they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns later in the season.

Will Zdeno Chara return with the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Carl Soderberg, blueliner Travis Hamonic and winger Ilya Kovalchuk round out the top 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston reports Chara’s agent said the Bruins have been “very communicative” with them over how they see things going forward. Team president Cam Neely said his club was still trying to flush out where things stand with their former captain. Neely said they still respect Chara but couldn’t say where the 43-year-old would fit on their blueline.

Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now pointed out the Bruins’ unsuccessful attempt to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson earlier in the offseason. He also reported they’ve been linked to Calgary’s Noah Hanifin in the rumor mill.

If the Bruins don’t sign Chara, perhaps they’ll swing a trade to address their lack of skilled depth on the left side of their blueline. Revisiting an Ekman-Larsson deal seems unlikely. The Hanifin speculation originated with a reporter suggesting he’d be a good fit with the Bruins but there’s no indication the two clubs have discussed it.

Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with KHL club Avangard Omsk because he couldn’t find any takers in the NHL. Maybe that changes now that we know the start date for this season.

Wingers Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson and defenseman Mirco Mueller rank from 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin is believed to have a one-year deal with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once they re-sign RFA center Mathew Barzal. Wilson seems to be transitioning from his playing career after recently revealing his treatments for OCD and nagging hip injuries.

Forwards Melker Karlsson and Trevor Lewis, defensemen Ben Hutton and Andy Greene and goaltender Ryan Miller fill slots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson recently signed for the season with a Swedish club and isn’t expected to return to the NHL. Like Martin, Greene is said to have a deal with the Isles pending their signing of Barzal. With teams allowed to carry a third goalie this season on their “taxi squad”, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders if this could improve the value of unsigned goalies such as Miller.

Defensemen Ron Hainsey, Michael Del Zotto, Madison Bowey, and Jan Rutta and forward Brian Boyle come in from 21 to 26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drake Caggiula was also among this group but he signed yesterday with the Arizona Coyotes.

Defenseman Karl Alzner, forwards Michael Grabner, Fredrik Gauthier and Riley Sheahan and goalies Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson round out the rest of the list.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2020

More details emerge for the 2020-21 season plus the latest in Ilya Kovalchuk, Braden Holtby, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: With the NHL and NHLPA reaching a tentative agreement for the 2020-21 season, the league’s focus shifts toward negotiations with the five provincial health authorities for the seven Canadian franchises.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly (NHL.com).

The league hopes those clubs will play this season in an all-Canadian division with each team hosting games in their own arenas. Darren Dreger reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly is directly involved in ongoing negotiations with the provinces.

Frank Seravalli reports the league has drafted strict protocols for road games. Players and team staff will be limited to the practice rink, game rink and hotel. No outside facilities, bars, restaurants or shops. All meals will be in the team hotel. No guests, no use of hotel fitness facilities, no housekeeping. There will also be assigned seats on chartered buses and planes, with in-flight catering where possible.

Ryan Rishaug reported last night the British Columbia government at this point remains unwilling to allow NHL teams to travel into the province for games. That might change as discussions continue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli also indicated the NHL’s travel protocols continue to change based on input from the provincial health authorities. The league seems willing to do as much as possible to ensure the Canadian teams can stage their games in their own arenas.

Based on recent reports it appears the Vancouver Canucks could be the only club unable to start the season at home. That could change depending on the course of the league’s discussions with the province of British Columbia.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports a league executive said one solution could be having the Canucks play their games in Edmonton until the situation is resolved. That would make more sense than moving all seven into one Canadian hub city or having them play all their games in the United States.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL has scheduled a conference call for its Board of Governors for noon ET today and for the general managers at 2 pm ET.

Mark your calendars, NHL fans. The 2021 free-agent market is slated to open on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word yet as to a tentative date for the 2021 trade deadline. It’s usually held 40 days before the last day of the regular season. If that calculation remains in place for this season, March 29 would be trade deadline day.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the opt-out deadline to participate in this season for players on last year’s non-playoff teams is Dec. 24, with Dec. 27 for the others. Group II free agents (RFAs) must be signed by Feb. 11 to be eligible to play this season. Players on one-year contracts can extend on March 12.

THE SCORE: The San Jose Sharks will be hosting training camp and start the regular season in Arizona owing to COVID-19 restrictions in California’s Santa Clara County.

RDS.CA: A report out of Russia indicates Ilya Kovalchuk could return to the KHL for the coming season. The 37-year-old Kovalchuk reportedly hasn’t found any takers in the NHL free-agent market. He played in the KHL from 2012 to 2018 with St. Petersburg SKA. The report suggests he’ll sign with Avangard Omsk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A once-dominant scorer, Kovalchuk struggled with the Los Angeles Kings upon his return to the NHL in 2018 and was bought out of his contract last fall. He showed flashes of his high-scoring form during a brief tenure with the Montreal Canadiens until traded to the Washington Capitals, where he was pretty much invisible during the Capitals’ disappointing performance in the 2020 playoffs.

SPORTSNET: After the design for his new mask was criticized as cultural appropriation, Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby and his mask designer are collaborating with an Indigenous artist on a new design.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed defenseman Oliver Kylington to a one-year, two-way contract worth $787,500 at the NHL level.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Former Sabres defenseman Nathan Paetsch has retired after 17 professional seasons. Paetsch played the bulk of his career in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, Grand Rapids Griffins and Syracuse Crunch. He spent parts of five NHL seasons with the Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets.

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










NHL Rumor Mill – December 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 3, 2020

A look at the factors currently affecting the trade and free-agent markets in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance observes it’s been nearly eight weeks since an NHL trade was made and a month since the last unrestricted free agent signings (Dominik Kahun with the Edmonton Oilers). However, there’s still discussion and negotiation going on among general managers and player agents.

UFAs like Mike Hoffman could be waiting a while for new contracts (NHL Images).

Drance cites an NHL player agent saying those markets have slowed of late because of ongoing uncertainty over when the 2020-21 season will begin. “We want to see what develops out of this,” said the agent. “At this point, it doesn’t make sense to do something until we know what things look like.”

The agent, who represents one of the top UFAs, said teams remain interested in his client but some of them are waiting. Clarity on provisional rules, such as recalling players from the minors, could also affect UFA signings. There’s talk of allowing teams to use a so-called “taxi squad” of players this season who can be re-assigned and disappear from a team’s cap payroll, perhaps without having to pass through waivers.

Drance believes a second wave of trade and free-agent signings will begin once the league and NHLPA agree to a start date for the season. He notes there are five UFAs who produced at least 30 points last season (such as Mike Hoffman) as well as some decent depth forwards like Ilya Kovalchuk, Corey Perry and Andreas Athanasiou. Defense options include Zdeno Chara and Travis Hamonic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Drance on the factors currently affecting the trade and free-agent markets and when we can expect business to resume. There’s still enough decent UFA talent available, which also includes Mikael Granlund, Anthony Duclair, Sami Vatanen and Erik Haula, to draw interest among general managers. Most of those UFAs, however, could be forced to accept inexpensive one-year deals given the few teams with cap space to invest in the free-agent market.

Meanwhile, Drance’s colleague Rob Rossi reports Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is bracing for the possibility of limited trade activity during the 2020-21 season. He hopes to tweak his roster before the puck drops on the new season.

Rutherford, one of the league’s notable in-season wheeler-dealers, doesn’t know how the trade market could be affected by a shortened season or if there could be restrictions that limit player movement. He feels it might be best to get as many players in place before the season begins because it might not be as easy once the schedule is underway.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford said he doesn’t have any inside information for his opinion of what the coming season’s trade market could look like. He’s taking the same “wait-and-see” approach as the rest of his colleagues.

Drance noted trades will have to be made by some cap-strapped clubs before the season begins. We’ll likely see a flurry of deals before and during the training camp period as teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning attempt to shed salary to re-sign key players and/or to become cap compliant when the season opens.

There’s also usually plenty of activity leading up to the annual trade deadline. This season, however, could be different depending on what provisional rules are implemented and how much cap flexibility teams have as the deadline nears.

The rumors among pundits and fans over possible trades and free-agent signings will continue as they always do. However, we could see fewer significant moves this season compared to other years.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Updates on the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently updated the status of the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents. She noted the UFA market is at a standstill given the uncertainty over the season.

Mike Hoffman remains the top player available in the NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

Mike Hoffman still tops the list of available talent. Sadler noted the Nashville Predators were believed to have an interest in the winger. The Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils could use more scoring.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators, Jackets and Devils have the cap space to sign Hoffman to the one-year deal he’s seeking worth between $5.5 million and $6 million. If they are interested in him, however, they’re likely playing the waiting game hoping he’ll lower his asking price. Once we know when (if?) the season will begin, perhaps he’ll sign with one of them.

Sadler believes teams that fail to sign Hoffman could turn their focus toward winger Mikael Granlund. The annual average value on his previous contract was $5.75 million but he’ll have to accept less than that now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund will likely have to accept a lot less given the current economic situation and the decline in his production over the last two seasons. He could be looking at offers of $2.5 million on a one-year deal.

Travis Hamonic’s Manitoba roots, combined with the Jets’ need for blueline depth, makes Winnipeg a potential match. Sadler also suggested the Calgary Flames could use him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are above the salary cap by over $697K but could have the wiggle room to add Hamonic (if they wish) by placing Bryan Little and his $5.29 million cap hit on LTIR. I don’t think we’ll see a reunion between Hamonic and the Flames unless he agrees to a substantial pay cut.

Sadler pointed out winger Anthony Duclair is currently training in Arizona with such notables as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Matt Dumba and Jonathan Toews.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That might help Duclair’s value if he’s training with some of the league’s top stars. As Sadler points out, he appears determined to be at his best for the coming season.

Noting Ilya Kovalchuk’s brief but successful stint with the Canadiens, Sadler wonders if a return to Montreal is possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That ship sailed when the Habs acquired Josh Anderson and signed Tyler Toffoli last month.

The Vancouver Canucks could still be searching for a defenseman. Sadler suggested Sami Vatanen as a possible fit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are over the cap by $1.5 million but could get some relief if Micheal Ferland’s post-concussion issues put him on LTIR. His annual average value is $3.5 million, giving the Canucks some room to add Vatanen or another defenseman at an affordable price.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 9, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 9, 2020

The latest update on the notable unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler provided an updated list of the best remaining NHL unrestricted free agents.

Mike Hoffman remains the best player available in the 2020 UFA market (NHL Images).

Mike Hoffman remains atop the list, with Sadler reporting his agent recently indicated 13 clubs expressed an interest in his client since the market opened a month ago. The winger also isn’t opposed to accepting a one-year contract. The Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators are seeking scoring.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not really much new here on Hoffman or the others on this list. Nevertheless, I’ll point out some of the more noteworthy tidbits.

Nothing new to report on winger Mikael Granlund. He could be another candidate for a short-term deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund struggled during his brief tenure with the Nashville Predators but he had five seasons with 41-or-more points in six seasons with the Minnesota Wild. The 28-year-old could be a good addition for a club seeking an affordable playmaker.

Defenseman Travis Hamonic would prefer to remain in the Western Conference. Talks with the Vancouver Canucks broke off once they acquired Nate Schmidt. Sadler suggests Hamonic’s former team, the Calgary Flames, could really use a right-side stay-at-home blueliner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Cap Friendly indicates the Flames have just over $1 million in cap space. I doubt Hamonic returns to Calgary unless he accepts a substantial pay cut.

Sadler believes it’s still possible Ilya Kovalchuk could return with the Montreal Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never but the Canadiens’ recent acquisitions of wingers Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffolli makes Kovalchuk’s return to Montreal unlikely.

Early speculation had center Erik Haula reuniting with the Vegas Golden Knights, but they’re now above the cap ceiling after signing Alex Pietrangelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haula won’t be returning to Vegas unless the Golden Knights make a cost-cutting trade.

Clubs that lost out on signing T.J. Brodie and Tyson Barrie could have an interest in blueliner Sami Vatanen. Sadler suggested the Vancouver Canucks as a destination.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $1.5 million. They could get some wiggle room if winger Micheal Ferland ($3.5 million annual average value) goes on long-term injury reserve next season. That would give them room for Vatanen if he’s willing to accept a cost-effective one-year deal.

Gritty winger Matt Martin is still available but there are reports he and the New York Islanders were working on a new contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed Martin and the Isles have an agreement in place but the club is waiting until they’ve signed Mathew Barzal and shed another salary or two to officially announce the deal. The same goes for blueliner Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.