The preseason schedule is released plus the latest on Jaden Schwartz, David Krejci, Henrik Lundqvist and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The 2021-22 preseason schedule was released on Monday. It begins on Saturday, Sept. 25 as the Montreal Canadiens travel to Toronto to meet the Maple Leafs for an afternoon contest. The Minnesota Wild will face off against the St. Louis Blues in an evening contest.
The following day features the Seattle Kraken hosting the Vancouver Canucks at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The schedule concludes with 11 games on Saturday, Oct. 9.
THE ATHLETIC: Jaden Schwartz revealed he almost didn’t play with the St. Louis Blues last season following the sudden death of his father. It was the relationships within the organization and the memory of his dad that convinced him to play. Now signed with the Seattle Kraken, he’s looking forward to a new chapter in his life and career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Schwartz was hampered by an oblique injury last season but the loss of his father also affected his performance. He’ll be expected to play a leadership role with the Kraken in their upcoming inaugural campaign.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Former Bruins center David Krejci was formally introduced yesterday as the latest member of the Czech Republic club HC Olomouc. While the Bruins have left the door open for Krejci to return later this season, the 35-year-old center appears intent on playing back home.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Krejci plays one game in the Czech Republic he’d have to clear waivers to return to the Bruins or any other NHL club this season.
NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist is looking forward to having his No. 30 raised to the rafters of Madison Square Garden by the New York Rangers at some point in the coming season. He played 15 seasons with the Blueshirts, winning a franchise-record 459 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This report came out before Sunday’s news of the passing of Rangers legend Rob Gilbert. Lundqvist tweeted out his condolences on Monday.
TSN: Former NHL forward Jimmy Hayes died Monday at age 31. The older brother of Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes, Jimmy spent seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils from 2011-12 to 2017-18, totaling 54 goals and 109 points in 334 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Hayes’ family, friends and former teammates.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins and his wife Aleksandra recently welcomed son Knox Matiss Merzlikins into their family. His middle name honors the memory of Merzlkins’ friend and teammate Matiss Kivlenieks, who died last month during a fireworks incident.
Check out the latest on Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Mark Giordano and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tracey Myers reports the Boston Bruins have discussed a contract extension with Patrice Bergeron. The 36-year-old Bruins captain has one year remaining on his current deal with an annual cap hit of $6.875 million.
Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergeron’s eight-year contract turned into a long-term bargain for the Bruins. He won two of his four Selke Trophies during the term of that deal and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. Despite his age, Bergeron remains among the best two-way centers in the league. He won’t get another long-term deal but I expect he’ll sign a short-term extension for perhaps $6 million annually.
Speaking of the Bruins, general manager Don Sweeney said there’s a possibility for David Krejci to return. The 35-year-old center recently announced he intends to finish his playing career in his native Czech Republic “We’ll see if somewhere down the road Krejci opens the door back up,” said Sweeney. He indicated it would be a family decision and there’s no timeline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krejci could return to the Bruins this season if he signs before the trade deadline. According to Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy, he’d have to sign before Dec. 15 to avoid passing through waivers.
TSN: Salim Valji reports Mark Giordano is adjusting to his new team after being selected by the Seattle Kraken in last month’s expansion draft. The former Flames defenseman said he’s turned the page on his time in Calgary and looks forward to taking on a leadership role with the Kraken.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: How well things go for Giordano with the Kraken will determine how long he plays in Seattle. The 37-year-old blueliner is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
THE SCORE: Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall has full confidence in his goaltenders heading into next season, especially in Tristan Jarry. He expects the 26-year-old Jarry will bounce back from last season’s inconsistent performance in his first campaign as the Penguins’ full-time starter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was plenty of speculation the Penguins would pursue a more reliable starter via trade or free agency this summer. Perhaps they would’ve if not for salary-cap constraints. A recent change in goalie coaches could help Jarry regain his form. If he struggles again, however, Hextall could end up shopping for help before the trade deadline.
CITYNEWS 1130: Player agent Kevin Epp released a statement on behalf of client Jake Virtanen questioning why the complainant who accused the former Vancouver Canucks winger of sexual assault chose to file a civil lawsuit over criminal charges.
Epp said the way the accusation unfolded was “unusual and troubling.” He added Virtanen learned of the accusation via anonymous social media postings, claiming it led to a negative impact upon his client’s career and family.
Kyla Lee, a criminal lawyer at Acumen Law Corporation, said it’s not unusual for a person claiming to be a victim of sexual assault to file a civil suit without contacting the police. She cites the long process of a criminal charge often boils down to a “he said she said” situation making the pursuit of criminal charges challenging. There’s also the perception allegations won’t be taken seriously which prevents victims from reporting the sexual assault to police.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers signed Brendan Perlini to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level. Perlini last played in the NHL in 2019-20 with the Detroit Red Wings.
Jack Eichel’s agents issue a statement critical of Sabres management, David Krejci will finish his playing career in the Czech Republic, and surgeries for Alex Tuch and Paul Byron top today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
WGR 550: The agents for Jack Eichel released a statement yesterday expressing their displeasure over the Buffalo Sabres’ handling of their client’s medical treatment for a herniated disc in his neck. Eichel prefers surgery but his representatives accused the Sabres medical staff of preventing him from undergoing the procedure. “This process is stopping Jack from playing in the NHL and is not working,” they conclude.
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This statement was released in response to a recent press conference by Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams where he said he’s not feeling pressure to trade Eichel. It’s apparent they intend to turn up the heat on Adams to speed up the “process”. Time will tell if it has the desired effect but it’s apparent the pending divorce between Eichel and the Sabres is growing acrimonious.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: David Krejci brought his 15-season NHL career to a close yesterday. The long-time Bruins center issued a statement indicating he was finishing his playing career back home in the Czech Republic.
Krejci, 35, spent his entire NHL career with the Bruins, playing in 962 career games and scoring 215 goals, 515 assists and 730 points. He helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reach the Cup Final in 2013 and 2019.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krejci was sometimes overshadowed by teammates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand but was an invaluable part of their success during most of his tenure in Boston. He ranks among their all-time leaders in games played, assists and points.
His departure leaves a big hole in their second-line center position that could prove difficult to fill in the short term. Best wishes to Krejci over the remainder of his playing career and beyond.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch will be sidelined for six months after undergoing shoulder surgery last week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The earliest he could return to the lineup is late January. This could explain their acquisition of Evgeni Dadonov from the Ottawa Senators this week.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron underwent hip surgery this week and is expected to be out for five months. He could be out until January.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could explain their signing of Mathieu Perreault this week to a one-year, $950K contract.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues re-signed forward Ivan Barbashev to a two-year, $4.5 million contract.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed forward Tyson Jost to a two-year, $4 million contract.
NHL NETWORK‘s Kevin Weekes reports the New York Rangers signed recently acquired winger Ryan Reaves to a one-year, $1.75 million contract extension.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed winger Ondrej Kase to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings acquired forward Mitchell Stephens from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2022.
TSN: The Montreal Canadiens hired Eric Raymond as their new goalie coach.
Catching up on some notable late trades and free-agent signings, including the Avalanche acquiring Darcy Kuemper, plus a look at the notable free-agents still available in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes traded goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Conor Timmins, a first-round pick in 2022 and a conditional third-round pick in 2024.
Arizona Coyotes trade goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Colorado Avalanche (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche needed a suitable replacement for Philipp Grubauer after he signed with the Seattle Kraken yesterday. They had to move quickly as several teams had some interest in Kuemper. That’s why Avs general manager Joe Sakic paid such a steep price to get him.
In the short term, the 31-year-old Kuemper should offset Grubauer’s absence provided he can stay healthy. He’s been sidelined in recent seasons by a variety of injuries and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong, meanwhile, is doing a superb job trimming payroll while laying the groundwork to restock his prospect pipeline. Timmins is a promising young defenseman who could be a good fit on this rebuilding team. The Coyotes now have two first-round picks and five second-rounders in next year’s draft. They could get more when Armstrong starts shopping some of his pending unrestricted free agents at next year’s trade deadline.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals reacquired goaltender Vitek Vanecek from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Kraken selected Vanecek during last week’s expansion draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting back Vanecek maintains the Capitals’ goalie tandem from last season. His reacquisition spares them from shopping for a backup goalie that would’ve cost more than Vanecek’s $716, 667 salary-cap hit.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins traded goaltender Dan Vladar to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 third-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The signing of Linus Ullmark and the emergence of Jeremy Swayman made Vladar the odd man out among the Bruins goaltenders, especially if they bring back Tuukka Rask next year following his recovery from hip surgery.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed veteran goaltenders Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell to one-year contracts.
SPORTSNET: The Sabres also acquired defenseman Will Butcher and a 2022 fifth-round pick from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for future considerations.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: David Krejci, Kyle Palmieri and Brandon Saad are among the best players still available in the free-agent market. Others include Tomas Tatar and Zach Parise.
THE SCORE: Josh Wegman ranks the winners and losers from the opening day of free agency.
TSN: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is hopeful of returning to action in 2021-22 once he receives medical clearance to do so. The 39-year-old goaltender signed last season with the Washington Capitals but heart surgery sidelined him for the entire campaign.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There will be interest in Lundqvist if he’s cleared to resume playing. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a contract with a playoff contender.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed head coach D.J. Smith to a two-year contract extension.
On the eve of the free-agent market, the Avalanche re-sign Gabriel Landeskog, the Lightning trade Tyler Johnson to the Blackhawks and the Canucks ship Nate Schmidt to the Jets. Get the details plus other signings and trades in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed Gabriel Landeskog to an eight-year, $56 million contract. The annual average value is $7 million.
The Colorado Avalanche re-sign captain Gabriel Landeskog (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big name off the market just hours before free agency begins at noon ET today. The cap hit isn’t too bad but the term is lengthy for a forward turning 29 in November. Still, it should be worthwhile during the first half of the deal if Landeskog’s performance doesn’t decline during that period. It could get costly over the latter half of the contract if his skills deteriorate.
Landeskog is the Avs’ captain and their first-line left-winger. They need his skill and leadership to remain a Stanley Cup contender over the next four years. His cap hit, however, leaves the Avs with $12.3 million in cap space for 2021-22. That could make it difficult to re-sign goaltender Philipp Grubauer and to fill out the remaining roster spots.
TAMPA BAY TIMES/NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Tampa Bay Lightning trade winger Tyler Johnson to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Brent Seabrook’s contract and a second-round pick in 2023.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning were expected to trade Johnson this summer to free up salary-cap space. By taking on the permanently sidelined Seabrook’s contract, they’ll free up around $5 million in cap space by placing him on long-term injury reserve. That contract is worth an annual average value of $6.875 million through 2023-24.
Johnson’s contract also expires in ’23-’24 and he carries a $5 million annual cap hit. The Blackhawks now have around $2.5 million in cap room, though they can get $3.9 million more if necessary by placing permanently sidelined forward Andrew Shaw on LTIR.
THE PROVINCE/WINNIPEG SUN: The Vancouver Canucks trade defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a third-round pick in 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A salary dump by the Canucks, shedding $5.95 million through 2024-25 from their books. With over $26 million in cap space, they have sufficient room to re-sign young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. It should also allow them to fend off any offer sheet attempts for Pettersson.
The Jets, meanwhile, add their second defenseman in as many days after acquiring Brenden Dillon from the Washington Capitals. A lack of depth among their top-four blueliners was an area of concern last season. Schmidt and Dillon should help them address that issue.
THE ATHLETIC: The Seattle Kraken are expected to sign winger Jaden Schwartz when the free-agent market opens at noon ET today.
SPORTSNET: Patrik Laine is accepting the Columbus Blue Jackets’ $7.5 million qualifying offer for 2021-22.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins are reportedly closing in on a new contract for center David Krejci.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins have re-signed defenseman Mike Reilly to a three-year deal worth $3 million per season.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens re-signed forward Joel Armia to a four-year, $13.6 million contract. The annual average value is $3.4 million.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers are reportedly re-signing defenseman Brandon Montour to a three-year deal worth $3.5 million per season.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are expected to sign defenseman Keith Yandle to a one-year, $900K contract. Yandle was bought out of his former contract by the Florida Panthers.
NEW YORK POST: The Carolina Hurricanes are expected to sign former Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo.
WGR550.COM: The Buffalo Sabres re-signed forward Drake Caggiula to a one-year, $750K contract.
TSN: The Winnipeg Jets re-signed goaltender Eric Comrie to a one-year, $750K deal.
THE PROVINCE: The Canucks bought out the final season of goaltender Braden Holtby’s contract.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks bought out the remaining three years of goaltender Martin Jones’ contract.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers bought out the remaining two years of winger James Neal’s contract. They’re also believed to be working on a four-year contract extension for defenseman Darnell Nurse.
THE DENVER POST: The Avalanche acquired defenseman Kurtis MacDermid from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a 2023 fourth-rounder.
A look at what could be ahead for the Avalanche in the offseason, more Bruins speculation and the latest on Jack Eichel in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE AVALANCHE?
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski observes the Colorado Avalanche face some big free-agent decisions in the offseason. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer, and winger Brandon Saad are among those slated to become unrestricted free agents. Defenseman Cale Makar, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent in line for a significant pay raise coming off his entry-level contract.
Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog (NHL Images).
The Avs also risk losing a good defenseman to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft. Even if sidelined Erik Johnson agrees to waive his no-movement clause, someone like Ryan Graves or Jacob MacDonald could be left exposed if they opt to protect three defensemen.
Head coach Jared Bednar could be under the microscope after failing to get the Avs past the second round. He has a year remaining on his contract and could return to finish that season.
THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic needs to build a tougher roster and replace Bednar as head coach, citing the latter’s inability to make strategic roster adjustments against the Vegas Golden Knights during their second-round series. “The Avs are pretty, not gritty,” opined Kiszla among his colorful descriptions of their lack of postseason toughness.
Ryan O’Halloran agreed with Kiszla in less hyperbolic terms. He feels the Avs aren’t in the same depths as the early-era Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals. Nevertheless, he believes “they need to get bigger on defense and deeper at center” to beat the Golden Knights next season.
THE ATHLETIC: Peter Baugh believes the Avalanche must address how long and for much they’re willing to sign Landeskog for. He also thinks paying Makar $10 million annually is worthwhile and considers it too risky to let Grubauer walk via free agency. He also recommends they explore creating cap space through trades and add some low-cost veterans.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic did a fine job building the current roster. He must now figure out how to get this team to the next level without the salary-cap flexibility he enjoyed in recent years.
Yes, the Avalanche needs more depth at center and size on defense. Yes, they need to get tougher. However, Sakic and his staff must avoid overreacting as the 2010 version of the Capitals did following their first-round upset by the Montreal Canadiens. Those missteps set the Caps back several seasons before they finally won the Stanley Cup in 2018.
Landeskog, 28, will seek a substantial pay raise over his current $5.57 million cap hit. Some might scoff at Makar earning $10 million annually but his rise to Norris Trophy finalist in just three seasons provides his camp with sufficient grounds to seek that much. Sakic could try to go the bridge deal route but that seems unlikely given Makar’s talent. Grubauer’s Vezina nod this season also works in his favor as he pursues a big bump over his $3.33 million AAV.
Sakic has shown in the past a willingness to make bold moves to improve his roster. We should expect he’ll do the same this summer as he attempts to retain his core free agents and address his roster needs.
He could use one of the defensemen he risks losing in the expansion draft as a trade chip. Perhaps he’ll move a skilled blueliner like Samuel Girard for a bigger physical rearguard. Maybe he shops center Nazem Kadri to free up cap space to add a tough, cool-headed two-way replacement.
His optimistic forecast regarding Tuukka Rask has the goaltender signing a short-term deal between $5 million and $6 million, undergoing whatever offseason surgery he requires and gradually returning to the lineup next season. He also suggests signing Taylor Hall to a five-year deal worth $6 million annually and David Krejci for a year at around $5 million. The latter would give the Bruins time to determine if Jack Studnicka or Charlie Coyle can play at second-line center or if they need to bring in someone for that role.
Porter also speculates Jake DeBrusk could be shopped for a helpful secondary player. The lack of quality left-side defense options via free agency could see them bring back Mike Reilly if another club doesn’t offer to double his $1.5 million cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss suggests the Bruins should transition Jeremy Swayman to the starter’s job but bring back Rask on a one-year deal worth between $3 million and $5 million. It’s a sensible suggestion but that depends on whether Rask is prepared to accept the backup/mentor role with the Bruins or look elsewhere for a starter’s job.
Hall was a good fit with the Bruins and he really wants to stay but that depends on how much he wants on his next deal and for how long. I think Krejci’s open to returning for another year or two for a lesser cap hit, perhaps around $5 million.
The Bruins were reportedly reluctant to trade DeBrusk this season over fear he’d regain his scoring touch elsewhere. However, I think they should explore the trade market while he still has some decent trade value. It’ll be interesting to see if Reilly is willing to stick in Boston for perhaps a little less than market value.
LATEST ON JACK EICHEL
WGR550: Franklin Heinzmann cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s recent appearance on “The Instigators” discussing possible trade interest in Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel.
Friedman believes the Sabres want to move on from their captain. He said the teams around the league with interest in Eichel are trying to convince GM Kevyn Adams to move the unhappy center sooner rather than later. Friedman feels Adams should set the marketplace himself rather than be influenced by those clubs.
The Sabres GM could try to play the interested clubs against each other to drive up Eichel’s trade value. Some teams, however, are pointing to the center’s neck injury to suggest Adams isn’t dealing from a position of strength.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman didn’t indicate which teams could be calling the Sabres. I’ve posted up a list of potential teams in my latest column for The Hockey News, including several suggested by Friedman last month.
If the Sabres trade Eichel during the offseason it’ll likely happen just before or during the opening day of this year’s NHL draft on July 23. Adams will use the next several weeks to evaluate the clubs with the most interest while also gauging Eichel’s ongoing treatment.