NHL Playoffs: Expect Fireworks in Bruins-Lightning Series
Is Dustin Byfuglien done for the season? Should the Bruins trade David Krejci? What’s the latest on Kaspari Kapanen, Mikael Granlund, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Andreas Athanasiou? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
BYFUGLIEN DONE FOR THE SEASON?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Dustin Byfuglien could be out for the remainder of the season. The Winnipeg Jets defenseman has missed the entire campaign to date, first after being suspended for failing to report to training camp and then following ankle surgery. Friedman said he’s yet to resume skating.
If the 34-year-old Byfuglien doesn’t return, it could provide the Jets with much-needed salary-cap flexibility. They’ve had to hold his $7.6-million annual average salary until his situation was sorted out. Friedman also said Byfuglien’s future could be revisited during the summer.
WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck weighed in on Friedman’s report, pointing out the Jets were said to be in the market for a top-four defenseman. If Byfuglien’s out of the season, that will free up cap room before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman and Billeck indicate, the Jets have been handcuffed cap-wise by uncertainty over Byfuglien’s status. If he’s done for the season, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can either keep him suspended without pay or place him on LTIR. That would give Cheveldayoff considerably more room to work with before the trade deadline.
SHOULD THE BRUINS TRADE KREJCI?
BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont suggests the Bruins should consider trading center David Krejci. He points out Krejci’s line has been inconsistent this season. The veteran center is 33 and has a year left on his contract with an annual average salary of $7.25 million. Nevertheless, Dupont thinks Krejci could be one of the Bruins’ most tradeable assets. He has a 15-team trade list, which could put him in play if GM Don Sweeney wants him there.
Moving Krejci would also free up salary-cap space to re-sign defenseman Torey Krug. Dupont believes Charlie Coyle could take over the second-line center role, with either Par Lindholm or Jack Studnicka taking over the third-line center position.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Krejci before the deadline would be a bold move by Sweeney, but I doubt he’ll do it. Krejci’s playoff experience will be invaluable to their pursuit of the Stanley Cup this spring. Perhaps that move happens in the off-season.
UPDATE ON KAPANEN
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said winger Kaspari Kapanen was a healthy scratch from Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators for “internal accountability.” Keefe said it was a one-time issue and the winger would address it on Monday. Kapanen has surfaced in recent trade rumors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to find out what this “internal accountability” stems from. Perhaps Keefe is unhappy over Kapanen’s overall performance. The 23-year-old winger is on pace for a 45-point performance but was held pointless in his last five contests.
There’s speculation Kapanen could be used as trade bait to add a top-four defenseman. This incident could dampen his trade value a little.
LATEST ON GRANLUND, KOVALCHUK, AND ATHANASIOU
THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan reported winger Mikael Granlund’s offense has improved since John Hynes took over last month as head coach of the Nashville Predators. Granlund will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Vingan wondered if the Predators will retain him to push for a playoff spot, or shop him before the trade deadline if they know they can’t re-sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the deadline just over three weeks away, Predators GM David Poile could take the next couple of weeks to evaluate Granlund’s performance and that of his club before reaching a decision. If he keeps playing well and the Predators get back into the playoff chase, he could keep the winger as an own rental. Otherwise, Granlund could be playing for another club by Feb. 24.
Belief from some teams that the price to rent out Ilya Kovalchuk from Mtl is no less than a 2nd RD pick; also hearing Habs have discussed merits of keeping him b/c of his positive impact both on ice/in the room. Still 3 weeks to go before Feb. 24 but might be 11th hour decision.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 1, 2020
You can bet Ken Holland would trade rights to Puljujarvi for Athanasiou but Wings might want a draft pick too. Maybe OK, as long as it’s not a second-rounder? Fourth or higher? Fine — Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) February 1, 2020
More scoring milestones for Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews leads the Blackhawks over the Leafs, another solid performance by Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin tallied his second straight hat trick as the Washington Capitals overcame a 4-1 deficit to beat the New York Islanders 6-4. With 692 career goals, Ovechkin passed Mario Lemieux (690) for 10th on the all-time goal-scoring list and is tied for ninth place with Steve Yzerman. He’s also just the third player to score consecutive hat tricks three times, tying Wayne Gretzky for second place behind leader Joe Malone with four. Ovechkin is just two goals behind Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak (36) for the league lead. Devon Toews had a goal and two assists for the Islanders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin just keeps passing milestones on his way to 700 career goals. He needs just three goals to pass Mark Messier (694) for eighth place and should reach seventh-place Mike Gartner’s 708 before season’s end. Toews, meanwhile, poked the bear by mimicking Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov bird-dance goal celebration.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored twice and set up two others to lead his club over the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2. Hawks rookie winger Dominik Kubalik scored twice to reach 20 goals on the season, while Patrick Kane picked up his 999th career point. The loss drops the Leafs (57 points) to 10th overall in the Eastern Conference, one point out of the final wild-card spot. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, move to within five points of the final Western Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Give the Blackhawks credit, they’re not giving up on this season. The Leafs, meanwhile, are starting to look like they did before they changed coaches two months ago. Perhaps a trade is necessary to bolster the lineup or shake them up.
Elvis Merzlikins made 41 saves for his third shutout in four games backstopping the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils. Cam Atkinson scored twice and collected an assist. The Jackets (58 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Colorado Avalanche held off the St. Louis Blues 5-3, snapping the latter’s six-game win streak. Nathan MacKinnon and Andre Burakovsky each picked up a goal and an assist while Cale Makar set the Avalanche record for rookie defensemen with his 11th goal of the season.
Connor McDavid scored two goals, Riley Sheahan picked up four points and Josh Archibald three in the Edmonton Oilers’ 7-3 trouncing of the Arizona Coyotes. The Oilers have won five of their last six games. McDavid (76 points) holds a one-point lead over linemate Leon Draisaitl as the league’s leading scorer. Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta was pulled after giving up six goals in 18 shots. Meanwhile, there’s speculation the Oilers are closing in a four-year contract extension with winger Zack Kassian worth between $3.2-$3.5 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics will complain that’s too much money for too long for a player whose production is dependent upon his more talented linemates. Nevertheless, the Oilers consider him a faster, more affordable replacement for Milan Lucic, who was shipped to Calgary last summer. Given the steady increase in the salary cap, that projected contract isn’t that bad. However, it would push their 2020-21 salary-cap payroll to nearly $63 million invested in 13 players, with defensemen Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear in line for raises and veteran goalie Mike Smith to be re-signed or replaced.
The Vancouver Canucks sit atop the Pacific Division with 58 points following a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Tanner Pearson, Adam Gaudette, and Jake Virtanen each had two points for the Canucks, who’ve won 11 of their last 14 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks still have their work cut out for them holding a playoff berth in the tightly-contested Pacific. With each game, however, they’re looking more and more like a postseason contender.
The Montreal Canadiens kept their playoff hopes alive in a 5-4 squeaker over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Habs blew 3-0 and 4-2 leads before Ilya Kovalchuk and Tomas Tatar scored in the shootout. Nick Cousins scored twice for the Canadiens (51 points), who sit six behind the third-place Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division. Golden Knights center Paul Stastny had a goal and an assist before losing some teeth after catching an errant stick in the mouth.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves backstopping the Florida Panthers to a 4-1 win over the lowly Detroit Red Wings. The Panthers have won four in a row but played without netminder Chris Driedger, who’s expected to miss several weeks with a groin injury. Wings center Dylan Larkin tallied his 100th career goal.
Philadelphia Flyers winger Travis Konecny scored two goals and James van Riemsdyk had three points to defeat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Claude Giroux chipped in the two helpers for the Flyers (58 points), who hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
The Nashville Predators edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Craig Smith’s third-period goal. The Sabres win streak ended at three games while captain Jack Eichel’s points streak ended at nine games.
Jason Zucker had a goal and two assists and Alex Stalock had a 27-save shutout as the Minnesota Wild thumped the Dallas Stars 7-0. With 50 points, the Wild are seven points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth. Stars defenseman Stephen Johns returned to action following a 22-month absence dealing with post-concussion symptoms.
The Ottawa Senators picked up their first victory in 10 games by dousing the Calgary Flames 5-2. Senators goaltender Marcus Hogberg kicked out 40 shots while Brady Tkachuk had a goal and an assist. Brother Matthew was held scoreless by the Sens.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins center David Krejci (upper body) is expected to miss today’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Justin Williams is expected to return to the Carolina Hurricanes lineup today against the New York Islanders.