NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 16, 2020

The Calder Trophy and Adams Award finalists revealed, plus the latest on David Pastrnak, Shea Weber, Patrik Laine, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

2020 NHL AWARDS UPDATE

NHL.COM: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, Chicago Blackhawks winger Dominik Kubalik and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar are the finalists for the 2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy honoring this season’s rookie-of-the-year.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kubalik was a pleasant surprise for the Blackhawks this season, become the leading goal-scorer (30) among this season’s rookie class, but he will be overshadowed by Hughes and Makar. During the first half of this season, Makar seemed a lock for the Calder, but Hughes steadily came on throughout the season. The Canucks blueliner leads this season’s rookies in assists (45), points (53), and power-play points (25) while sitting second in ice time, averaging 21:53 per game.

Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, and Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault are this season’s finalists for the Jack Adams Award honoring the league’s top head coach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cassidy’s Bruins were the NHL’s top team during the regular season. Tortorella’s efforts helped his injury-ravaged Blue Jackets remain a playoff contender. Vigneault guided the Flyers to their first best performance (second in the Metropolitan Division) since 2010-11. Tortorella is a two-time winner (2003-04, 2016-17) of the Adams Award while Vigneault took home the award in 2006-07.

NHL TRAINING CAMP NOTES

THE SCORE: Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine admits he’s not quite up to speed following his lengthy layoff. “Still kind of far away,” he told reporters yesterday. “It’s kind of hard to see myself playing playoff hockey in two weeks.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine won’t be the only NHL player trying to shake off the rust and return to game shape following a four-month layoff. He said he’s trying to make the most of it and hopes to be game-ready when the puck drops.

TRIBLIVE.COM: There are mixed reports regarding Matt Murray’s performance in the opening three days of Pittsburgh Penguins’ training camp. Mark Madden cites sources claiming  Tristan Jarry is outplaying Murray, but Seth Rorabaugh (who’s covering the Penguins’ training camp) said he’d seen no difference in play between the two. Rorabaugh observed Murray is more often between the pipes when facing some of the Penguins’ top players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray’s restricted free agent status at season’s end ensures he’ll be closely watched in practice and the upcoming playoff tournament. He’s been the subject of frequent trade speculation this season. His performance will determine his future with the Penguins.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak joined his teammates for his first practice since completing his mandatory quarantine period after returning from the Czech Republic.

CBS SPORTS: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to make his training camp debut before the weekend. He’s been sidelined with an undisclosed issue.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber returned to full practice Wednesday. He’d spent Tuesday doing drills on his own.  

CANES COUNTRY: Sami Vatanen is healthy and looking forward to making an impact with the Carolina Hurricanes in the upcoming playoff tournament. The Hurricanes acquired the 29-year-old defenseman near the trade deadline, but an injury prevented him from suiting up with his new team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Dougie Hamilton recovered from a broken leg, he and Vatanen will provide a much-needed boost to the Hurricanes’ defense corps, especially if Brett Pesce (shoulder surgery) remains unable to participate.

NBC SPORTS: The pause in the schedule proved to be a silver lining for a banged-up Columbus Blue Jackets lineup, allowing sidelined players such as Seth Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Cam Atkinson an opportunity to recover.

CALGARY SUN: Flames bench boss Geoff Ward denies he’s split up some of his roster over fitness-related issues. Johnny Gaudreau’s removal from the Flames’ top line raised eyebrows this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league’s clampdown on the players’ medical status only stokes speculation over the motivation behind such moves.

SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs were told to stop using on-ice officials during their practices following complaints from rival clubs.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks officially signed defenseman Ian Mitchell to a three-year, entry-level contract beginning next season. He would’ve had the first year of his ELC burned off if he’d joined his teammates for Phase 3 training camp.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Former Carolina Hurricanes TV announcer John Forslund will be freelancing for NBC Sports during the upcoming playoff tournament. His status with the Hurricanes remains uncertain since his contract expired last month.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2020

Check out recent speculation on the Blackhawks, Ducks, and Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus report Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has stayed in touch with his pending free agents. However, he hasn’t spoken much about their pending free agency.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (Photo via NHL Images).

​Re-signing Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik, and Dylan Strome are on Bowman’s to-do list but he can’t get into negotiations until he knows what next season’s salary cap will be.

In a mailbag segment, Lazerus was asked who he felt would be the Blackhawks’ starting goalie next season. He still believes it will be Crawford, who badly wants to remain in Chicago and is coming off a strong season.

Making the money work will be difficult, especially with Kubalik and Strome to re-sign. Nevertheless, Crawford would be a better option than most of this year’s pending UFA goalies and not as expensive as Braden Holtby or Robin Lehner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks don’t have much choice but to re-sign Crawford. They don’t have anyone in their system ready to step in as their full-time starter. Finding a suitable replacement will be expensive. Perhaps Bowman inks the 35-year-old Crawford to a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a base salary of $4 million.

Asked if the Blackhawks should trade Strome, Lazerus believes it would be a mistake to move the 23-year-old center. He envisions Strome becoming the Hawks No. 2 center behind Kirby Dach in four or five years while Jonathan Toews moves into the third-line center role.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strome’s production dropped this season (38 points in 58 games) after tallying 51 points in the same number of games with the Hawks last season. Lazerus suggests he’s still scarred by his experience with the Arizona Coyotes and could take a little less to stay where he’s happy and getting lots of playing time.

Strome is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Bowman will likely use that to leverage an affordable short-term bridge deal.

UPDATES ON THE DUCKS AND SHARKS

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently did his postmortems of the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.

Larkin doesn’t expect the rebuilding Ducks will be adding any expensive veterans, especially with their limited salary-cap space for 2020-21. He anticipates they’ll keep trying to shed salary and make room for younger players.

The Sharks, meanwhile, could see around one-third of their roughly $15 million in salary-cap space go toward re-signing Kevin Labanc to a make-good contract after he took a one-year bargain-basement deal last summer. They’ll also have to decide if they’ll bring back Joe Thornton for one more year. If they re-sign the 41-year-old center, it won’t leave much room to chase higher-end UFAs, especially a No. 2 goaltender. Larkin also wondered if they might consider buying out starting goalie Martin Jones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Labanc has arbitration rights this time around, so GM Doug Wilson must either pay him a suitable raise or trade him. Labanc’s stats declined this season but that could be tied to the Sharks’ overall poor performance.

The cap hit for buying out Jones is $2.875 million for 2020-21, $1.875 million for 2021-22, $2.375 million in 2022-23, and $2.875 million for 2023-24 before dropping to $1.625 million annually through 2027-28. While it’s not expensive, it’s still a long time to be carrying that much dead cap space.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 19, 2020

The NHL schedule may be paused, but that hasn’t stopped speculation over potential off-season moves. Check out the latest on the Blues and Blackhawks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE LATEST ON THE BLUES

STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat, Tom Timmermann was asked if St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong should pay between $8.5 million to $9 million annually over six years to re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo. Timmermann feels it’s worthwhile if he keeps the Blues’ Stanley Cup window open. He also wondered how many teams (Vegas? Tampa Bay?) might get into bidding for Pietrangelo if he hits the open market.

Can the St. Louis Blues afford to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo under a flat salary cap? (Photo via NHL Images)

In another live chat, Jim Thomas was asked about Alexander Steen‘s future with the Blues. He feels Steen remains a valuable third- or fourth-line forward, but his annual cap hit ($5.75 million through 2020-21) could be a problem for a club pressed for cap space. Thomas doubts the veteran forward has much trade value at this stage in his career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo could command over $9 million annually on the open market. If the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, however, it will hamper his efforts to attract expensive bids from rival clubs. It might work in the Blues favor but it’ll still be expensive, perhaps between $8 million and $8.5 million per season.

With over $73 million committed to 17 players, re-signing Pietrangelo will eat up their remaining cap space. They’ll have to consider cost-cutting options. Shopping Steen is one, but I concur with Thomas regarding his trade value. He must also waive his no-trade clause. A contract buyout is another, though that will come with some penalty.

If a flat cap raises a potential hardship for certain teams, perhaps the league and the NHLPA will consider a one-year amnesty buyout for each club. It would clear a salary without any penalty, though that player would have to be replaced in the lineup.

LATEST BLACKHAWKS SPECULATION

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope recently weighed in on the potential impact of the paused season upon the Blackhawks’ summer free-agency plans. Even if the league resumes action and finished the 2019-20 season, it will affect next season’s salary-cap numbers, which are tied to this season’s hockey-related revenue.

If the cap remains at $81.5 million, it’ll leave the Blackhawks only $8 million to re-sign Corey Crawford, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Drake Caggiula. It also won’t leave enough to fill out the rest of the roster, including the backup goaltender position. Pope believes Kubalik’s 30-goal rookie season and Crawford’s stellar campaign will boost their stock.

Pope suggested buying out defenseman Olli Maatta and center Zack Smith would free up an additional $5.5 million, but they would have to be replaced on the roster. It’s possible oft-concussed winger Andrew Shaw ($3.9 million annual average value) could end up on long-term injury reserve.

Speaking of Kubalik, Pope thinks the Blackhawks could go two routes re-signing the 24-year-old rookie winger. They could offer up a three- or four-year deal for between $3 million – $4 million annually, or do a one-year bridge deal for less money. The latter option, however, runs the risk of Kubalik commanding more money next summer if he has a strong sophomore performance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $73 million tied up in 17 players. They must shed salary to re-sign or replace Crawford, Kubalik, Strome, Caggiula and others. 

If the league and the PA don’t allow amnesty buyouts if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, the Blackhawks will have to look at cost-cutting trades or normal buyouts. That could spark more Brandon Saad trade rumors. He’s got a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $6 million. 










What Are Stan Bowman’s NHL Off-Season Plans For The Chicago Blackhawks

What Are Stan Bowman’s NHL Off-Season Plans For The Chicago Blackhawks

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 12, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 12, 2020

The NHL considers its options as the NBA suspends its season over coronavirus concerns, plus game recaps and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: The National Hockey League will provide an update on its season later today regarding coronavirus concerns. The league released a statement last night indicating its awareness of the National Basketball Association’s decision to suspend its season indefinitely after a player tested positive for the virus. NHL officials will continue to consult with medical officials and evaluating options. It is also in close contact with the NHL Players Association.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the league is expected to hold a conference call with all 31 clubs today.

SPORTSNET: While the league hasn’t yet decided on suspending its season, Chris Johnston believes it wouldn’t be surprising if it followed the NBA’s lead. “How can they reasonably play on with the virus spreading quickly in North America?”, asked Johnston. Even if the league held games in empty arenas, it might not be enough to guarantee the safety of the players and officials. Johnston also raised concern over whether the NHL can award a Stanley Cup champion this season, noting several European leagues have scrapped their seasons over COVID-19 concerns.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports playing games without fans would have consequences for league revenue this season, in turn affecting the salary cap for 2020-21. The NHL is the most gate-reliant for revenue among the four major North American sports leagues.

SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens have grounded their international scouts over COVID-19 concerns.

THE SCORE: Vegas Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith attempted to find some humor over the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. “I played in an empty building for a couple of years in Florida so I’m used to it,” he said.

Could the NHL suspend its season over COVID-19 concerns? (Image via NHL.com)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the league addresses this situation. The Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks already announced it would play several upcoming home games without fans. The league could go that route with all its clubs on a week-by-week basis, they could postpone the remaining schedule by two or three weeks or suspend it indefinitely.

Whatever the league decides, it will affect hockey-related revenue for this season. It’s probably safe to assume those rosy projections of the cap rising next season to between $84 million to $88 million can be scrapped.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Alex Pietrangelo scored twice to lead the St. Louis Blues over the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 to complete the game that was postponed last month after Blues defensemen Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac incident. With the win, the Blues (94 points) hold a two-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first overall in the Western Conference.

An overtime goal by J.T. Compher lifted the Avalanche to a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. Cale Makar collected three assists for the Avs in his return to the lineup following a five-game absence to an upper-body injury The Rangers (79 points) sit two points out of an Eastern Conference wild-card berth. Earlier in the day, the Avs announced center Nathan MacKinnon was sidelined one-two weeks with a lower-body injury.

The Winnipeg Jets picked up their fourth straight win by doubling up the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. Kyle Connor scored two goals for the Jets (80 points), moving two points ahead of the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Oilers (83 points) remain three points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division.

Chicago Blackhawks rookie Dominik Kubalik tallied his 30th goal of the season in a 6-2 win over the San Jose Sharks. Kubalik leads all NHL rookies in goals this season. Patrick Kane scored twice for the Hawks.

The Los Angeles Kings picked up their seventh straight win by edging the Ottawa Senators 3-2. The Kings have won 10 of their last 13 contests.

IN OTHER NEWS…

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Pacioretty leads the Golden Knights with 32 goals and 66 points.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens sophomore center Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s season is over following an injured spleen suffered on Friday playing for the Habs’ AHL affliate.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forward Filip Zadina’s attempt to return from an ankle injury has been delayed by a mid-body injury. The Wings are hoping it won’t be season-ending for the young winger.

PHILLY.COM: Flyers center Nate Thompson will be sidelined for two weeks with a sprained left knee.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 4, 2020

The latest on the Blackhawks and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope recently reported the Blackhawks will finish the season with Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban as their goalie tandem, but the future between the pipes appears murky. General manager Stan Bowman said his club will have a proven NHL goalie signed for next season, but didn’t shed light on who it’ll be.

Will the Chicago Blackhawks re-sign Corey Crawford? (Photo via NHL Images)

Pope doesn’t expect Subban fits into the Blackhawks’ future. All eyes will be upon Crawford, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and has a concussion history. If Crawford departs, Bowman’s options in the UFA market could include Brady Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Jaroslav Halak, Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Mike Smith, and former Blackhawk Robin Lehner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford is 35 now and his best seasons are behind him. Perhaps he’ll agree to a one- or two-year deal for less than his current $6-million annual average value. If he agrees, I can see the Hawks trying to land an affordable backup via trade or free agency.

If they part ways with Crawford, I doubt they can afford Holtby or Markstrom. Halak, Khudobin, and Greiss are experienced backups, but they’ll try to get the best deal possible if they hit the open market. Smith, 37, is in the twilight of his career. Lehner didn’t sound happy over his dealings with Blackhawks management this season and could seek a long-term deal elsewhere.

THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers speculates it could get expensive for the Blackhawks to re-sign Dominik Kubalik. The 24-year-old winger leads all rookies with 29 goals and is tied with Patrick Kane for the lead among Blackhawks scorers.

Kubalik’s completing a one-year contract worth $925K and will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. The Blackhawks’ limited salary cap space will be a factor.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks’ goaltending situation could also affect what they can comfortably afford for Kubalik. Powers said both sides sound like they don’t want to go the arbitration route. Perhaps a one-year deal around $3 million can be worked out, with the promise of a more lucrative contract if Kubalik builds upon his rookie season.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SABRES’ OFF-SEASON

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy examined potential off-season moves following another disappointing season for the Buffalo Sabres. Bolstering their offense could be the priority. The Sabres will free up a lot of salary-cap space if they allow Michael Frolik, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson to walk this summer. Wayne Simmonds might be worth retaining for toughness and leadership for the right price. Recent acquisition Dominik Kahun could be an affordable re-signing.

Kennedy feels they need to improve their penalty killing, suggesting Derek Grant and Vladislav Namestnikov as possible UFA targets. He advocates giving the starter’s job to Linus Ullmark but also suggests checking to see if Robin Lehner would be open to returning to Buffalo, or pursuing Jacob Markstrom if he doesn’t re-up with the Vancouver Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres currently have just over $47 million invested in 10 players. Part of their cap space will be taken up re-signing RFAs like Kahun, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Brandon Montour, and Lawrence Pilut. Nevertheless, they’ll have enough to address some of their needs via trades or free agency.

I anticipate GM Jason Botterill will be busy in both markets, with bringing in a top-six scorer (preferably a center) his priority. I daresay we’ll also see defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen resurface in the trade rumor mill.