NHL Rumor Mill – February 25, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 25, 2021

Could the Flyers pursue Mattias Ekholm? What’s the latest Bruins speculation? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD FLYERS PURSUE EKHOLM?

PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi recently suggested Mattias Ekholm might be a fit on the Philadelphia Flyers’ blueline. He considered the 30-year-old Nashville Predators blueliner as “the most interesting veteran defenseman who might be on the market.”

Would Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm be a good fit with the Philadelphia Flyers? (NHL Images)

Carchidi observed the 6’4”, 215-pound Ekholm can be a first- or second-pairing defender with an affordable $3.75 million cap hit and can log over 21 minutes per game. The downside is he’s a left-shot rearguard, acquiring him could interfere with the Flyers’ protection list for this summer’s expansion draft and it would probably take a high draft pick and quality prospect to acquire him.

THE ATHLETIC: Charlie O’Connor and Adam Vingan pointed out colleague Pierre LeBrun included the Flyers on his list of four possible landing spots for Ekholm, with the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals as the others.

Despite being a left-hand shot, Ekholm played on the right side last season when Predators’ d-man Ryan Ellis was sidelined. One reason the Predators could trade him is to protect Ellis, Roman Josi and Dante Fabbro in the expansion draft. O’Connor believes the Flyers might prefer acquiring a rental defenseman on an expiring contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm would be a good fit with any of those four teams suggested by LeBrun. The Bruins might be the best one as they’ve been using younger players on the left side of their defense corps this season. It’s going well so far but injuries to Matt Grzelcyk and Jeremy Lauzon could have them considering an experienced, affordable short-term addition.

Speaking of the Bruins…

LATEST ON THE BRUINS

THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa recently examined the Boston Bruins’ options if long-time center David Krejci departs this summer via free agency. He suggested there would be “turbulence” if Charlie Coyle, Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic slot in at center behind Patrice Bergeron as rival clubs would attack those centers just as they’ve done this season with the Bruins’ young defensemen. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney tends not to re-sign pending UFAs.

In a recent mailbag segment, Shinzawa dismissed the notion of the Bruins using their cap space next season to take on a bad contract to gain extra draft picks and/or prospects. He also believes they’ll attempt to shore up their depth at center over the next couple of years via the draft and perhaps the trade market.

Bruins management and coaching staff might share the fans’ frustration over Jake DeBrusk’s development thus far but Shinawa feels the 24-year-old winger still has too much to toss aside, citing the risk he might blossom elsewhere. He also believes they’d be selling low at this point. He sees the Bruins’ signing goaltender Tuukka Rask to a contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s going to be interesting to see what the Bruins do with Krejci. If he’s willing to take a pay cut on a short-term deal they’ll keep him. The question is whether he thinks he can get a better deal in a free-agent market where the salary cap is expected to remain flattened. I have my doubts that he wants to move on from the only NHL team he’s ever played for.

DeBrusk’s name has floated in the rumor mill for some time. However, if he had suitable value that would help the Bruins he would’ve been traded by now.

Most speculation I’ve read and heard suggests they would want a good NHL player in return and not a draft pick/prospect package. There was some talk of a DeBrusk-for-Jake Virtanen swap with Vancouver but I don’t see that happening. Virtanen wouldn’t be an improvement over DeBrusk.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 19, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action, another Stars game postponed, the league’s COVID-19 numbers are dropping, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Ottawa Senators 7-3. Matthews leads the league with 16 goals while his points streak has stretched to 15 games. Mitch Marner has a goal and three assists while Joe Thornton a goal and two assists. Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle had a goal and an assist. Senators’ defenseman Thomas Chabot missed the game with an upper-body injury while Leafs forward Zach Hyman was listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is making an early case for the Hart Trophy this season.

Kyle Palmieri scored twice as the New Jersey Devils held on for a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pavel Zacha scored what proved to be the game-winner while Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made 25 saves. Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak replied for the Bruins, who lost center David Krejci to a lower-body injury.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin’s shootout goal gave his club a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Kevin Hayes collected two assists for the Flyers, who were playing their first game since Feb. 7 due to COVID-19. They will also play their upcoming outdoor game against the Bruins with six regulars (Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun) sidelined because of the NHL’s COVID protocols.

The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped the New York Islanders’ eight-game points streak with a 4-1 victory. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry made 31 saves while Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust each had a goal and an assist while Evgeni Malkin collected two assists.

A 32-save shutout performance by Elvis Merzlikins gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Cam Atkinson, Max Domi and Eric Robinson were the goal scorers. The Predators have dropped five of their last six contests.

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom scored to extend his points streak to five games as his club downed the Buffalo Sabres 3-1, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen remains sidelined as he works on his conditioning after being sidelined for two weeks by COVID-19.

David Perron scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2. Brayden Schenn scored the tying goal for the Blues late in the third period, setting the stage for the winning goal by Perron, who had a three-point performance. Torey Krug and Marco Scandella returned to the Blues roster from injuries but Colton Parayko missed the game with a nagging undisclosed injury. Earlier in the day, the Sharks announced defenseman Erik Karlsson would miss at least the next two games with a groin injury.

The Los Angeles Kings nipped the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 on a shootout goal by Gabriel Vilardi. The Coyotes overcame a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and the shootout.

Kevin Fiala scored what proved to be the winning goal as the Minnesota Wild beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. It was the Wild’s first win since Jan. 31 when their schedule was paused because of COVID-19 protocols.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Dallas Stars’ Saturday game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was postponed due to power outages related to recent storms in Texas. It’s the fourth straight Stars game postponed this week and the eighth of the season. They face potentially playing 44 games in 78 days if the NHL mandates the Stars must play all their remaining games if the regular season ends on May 10 as scheduled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will also depend on where the Stars are in the standings later in the season. The league could cancel some of their remaining games if they’re out of playoff contention within the final couple of weeks in the season. No point in having them play a pointless game against another non-contender.

ESPN.COM: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list continues to shrink, dropping to 13 players yesterday. The drop coincides with enhanced health and safety measures implemented by the NHL within the past two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The outbreaks earlier this month may have also served as a wake-up call for players and staff, making them more vigilant and adhering more closely to the league’s protocols.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets claimed well-traveled goaltender Eric Comrie off waivers from the New Jersey Devils. It’s the second straight season the Jets have lost Comrie off waivers only to claim him back again later in the year.

AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez hopes to have an opportunity to play a game in Mexico City in an effort to expand the NHL’s brand. He’s also hopeful the Coyotes will one day take part in an outdoor game with one of their rivals.










Bruins Struggle Through Scoring Drought to Open NHL Season

Bruins Struggle Through Scoring Drought to Open NHL Season

 










NHL Rumor Mill – December 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 4, 2020

Some recent speculation on the Bruins, Wild and Oilers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently pondered moves by the Boston Bruins if they should struggle during the 2020-21 season. He points to their weakness on the left side of their blueline as well as the possibility of star forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak missing the start of the schedule recovering from offseason surgeries.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (NHL Images)

O’Brien feels management won’t need to blow things up but they could consider moving a handful of veterans at the trade deadline. Goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak and center David Krejci are unrestricted free agents next summer. Perhaps the Bruins could get something of value for one of them. He also wondered if they might try to move a supporting cast member like Charlie Coyle or Jake DeBrusk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the Bruins perform in a shortened season without Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara on the blueline and their two leading scorers possibly sidelined for the opening weeks. General manager Don Sweeney could consider selling a couple of veterans at the trade deadline if his club is struggling to stay in playoff contention by then. For now, of course, it’s all hypothetical.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Joe Haggerty was asked if defenseman Zdeno Chara would return for another season. He predicted Chara wouldn’t return, speculating the big blueliner would reject relegation to a third-pairing role. Haggerty has the feeling the Bruins are ready to move on to a younger, more mobile defense corps.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL.com’s Amelie Benjamin, who covered her fair share of Bruins games with the Boston Globe, believes Chara will return for another season, though she acknowledged it’s not a certainty. Chara’s agent said his client was waiting to see what the format for the 2020-21 season would look like before deciding where he’ll play.

NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti wondered if the Minnesota Wild would trade defenseman Matt Dumba before the season is over. He notes the club intends to start the season with Dumba as part of their top-four blueliners.

Gulitti suggested the Wild might not be able to protect the 26-year-old Dumba in next summer’s expansion draft with Jonas Brodin recently signing a seven-year contract extension while Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon each have five years remaining on their deals. The Wild could try to move him before the trade deadline or wait until the offseason and do so before the expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba, who has three years left on his contract, is the only one of those four lacking no-movement protection in the 2021 expansion draft. The Wild could protect all four but they’d have to expose an extra forward. General manager Bill Guerin could swing a deal with Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis to ensure Dumba isn’t selected in that draft.

Guerin could see Dumba as a trade chip to bring in a first-line center. He could try to move the blueliner for the right offer before the expansion draft.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins recently reported hearing something needs to give on the Oilers’ roster before the club returns to play. However, he doesn’t expect it to happen until the middle of January when training camp might be underway.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A rather cryptic take by Leavins. Is he referring to their goaltending? Perhaps a short-term replacement for Oscar Klefbom if (when) he’s placed on long-term injury reserve as he recovers from treatment for his injured shoulder? An additional scoring winger? What say you, Oilers fans?










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 22, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 22, 2020

Check out the latest Bruins speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty reports Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy intends to take a firmer hand in coaching more offense from his defense. Some of his attention is due to the younger blueliners in the lineup, but also upon how to replace the production lost by Torey Krug’s recent departure to St. Louis.

Could the Boston Bruins revisit efforts to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson? (NHL Images)

No one among the Bruins’ current defense corps has tallied more than 32 points in a season. Cassidy suggests Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk could be candidates to replace Krug’s offense, especially on the power play. He also didn’t rule out another move by the Bruins to address that issue.

Haggerty noted the Bruins’ attempt to acquire Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson last month. It sounds like Cassidy is advocating for the Bruins to pursue an Ekman-Larsson type of defenseman, but that won’t be easy given their limited salary-cap space.

Haggerty also wondered if the door was fully shut on acquiring Ekman-Larsson later in the season. The Coyotes’ efforts to move the 29-year-old blueliner ended when a deal couldn’t be reached before his deadline of Oct. 9.

In a recent interview, Ekman-Larsson expressed his desire to remain with the Coyotes. However, the club is currently facing difficult fiscal times. Ekman-Larsson explained why he chose the Bruins as one of the two clubs he’d accept being traded to, indicating they showed interest in him before he signed his current contract plus he spent time in Boston during the 2012-13 lockout.

Ekman-Larsson said he’d leave further trade situations up to Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong. Haggerty speculates that could create an opportunity to revisit a trade to the Bruins at some point during the 2020-21 season. He acknowledged the Bruins would have to shed salary and perhaps convince the Coyotes to absorb part of Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25 million annual average value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible but I doubt an Ekman-Larsson trade could be done during the regular season. Teams have limited cap room in-season during the best of times. There won’t be much space for the Bruins to swing this deal during a shortened campaign. Such a move would probably happen during the offseason when teams have more cap space to work as some contracts come off their books through free agency or trades.

Ekman-Larsson’s cap hit through 2026-27 is a huge sticking point now. The Coyotes would want a team to take on the entire $8.25 million, which would be a tough sell in better economic times. They’ll be reluctant to have part of it counting against their cap for the next seven seasons.

Everything hinges, of course, on Ekman-Larsson waiving his no-movement clause. He could agree if Coyotes management presses the issue but they’ll likely want him to expand his list of preferred destinations. His trade status could remain a topic of conjecture throughout the upcoming season.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently pondered David Krejci’s future with the Bruins. The 34-year-old center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and has no intention of retiring.

Krejci’s age could be a concern as his production and level of play will inevitably decline. The Bruins, meanwhile, have $45 million invested in 12 players for 2021-22 with restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk still to sign plus Brandon Carlo, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie slated for RFA status next summer. Goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak become unrestricted at the end of this season.

Gretz speculates a two- or three-year deal worth around $5.5 million annually seems reasonable for the Bruins given their circumstances. If Krejci wants more, however, he’ll have to test the market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After being the highest-paid Bruin for several years, Krejci probably anticipates having to accept a pay cut to stay in Boston. He could be receptive to a deal like the one suggested by Gretz. We’ll have to wait until next summer to find out if Bruins management is willing to offer up that much.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 11, 2020

A look at next year’s unrestricted free agent class in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary recently previewed the NHL’s 2021 unrestricted free agent class.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

The notable forwards include Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Montreal Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar, Boston Bruins center David Krejci, and Avalanche winger Brandon Saad.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin’s already signaled his intent to re-sign with the Capitals. Unless Getzlaf feels he’d like one more shot at a Stanley Cup run, I can see him staying with the Ducks on a short-term deal. The Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins are discussing a long-term contract extension. I doubt the Avalanche part ways with Landeskog and I don’t see the Blues letting Schwartz depart after losing Alex Pietrangelo to free agency this year.

Hall could stay with the Sabres if he develops strong chemistry with Jack Eichel and the club significantly improves. Otherwise, he’ll test the market again. Tatar’s inconsistency means the coming season is likely his last in Montreal. The Bruins could let Krejci go unless he accepts a significant pay cut. Saad could be a one-year rental unless the Avs fail to re-sign Landeskog.

Noteworthy defensemen on O’Leary’s list include the Carolina Hurricanes’ Dougie Hamilton, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ David Savard, the Oilers’ Adam Larsson, and the Vegas Golden Knights’ Alec Martinez.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All four could end up hitting the market next summer. Cap constraints could make it difficult for Hamilton, Larsson and Martinez to remain with their current clubs. Savard will turn 31 next October and the Jackets could be reluctant to invest too much in him for too long.

The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask, Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, the Blues’ Jordan Binnington, and the Avalanche’s Philipp Grubauer are among next year’s best UFA goaltenders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Bruins re-signing Rask to a short-term deal provided he doesn’t opt for retirement at the end of 2020-21. Andersen is likely a goner after next season.

The Blues parted ways with Jake Allen this year by trading him to the Montreal Canadiens. Things will really have to go sideways for them to let Binnington walk next summer. Grubauer’s future in Colorado could depend upon his performance in the coming season, especially during the playoffs.