Analysis of Notable NHL Free Agent Signings – July 1, 2017

Analysis of Notable NHL Free Agent Signings – July 1, 2017

Joe Thornton re-signed a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks on July 1, 2017.

As the opening day of the 2017 NHL free-agent market winds down, here’s a brief look at the day’s notable signings.

San Jose Sharks re-sign defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (eight years, $7 million annual average value) and goaltender Martin Jones (six years, $5.75 million AAV). Both contracts kick in on July 1, 2018. The Sharks also sign center Joe Thornton (reportedly one-year deal and around $6.5 million).

Vlasic’s an elite NHL defenseman and his new contract puts him among such notables as Drew Doughty of the LA Kings and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’d say he belongs there. He’s a crucial part of the Sharks defense corps.

Jones’ new salary places him around fifteenth among the highest-paid goalies. If the 27-year-old returns to his solid form of 2015-16, this could prove a bargain for the Sharks over the long run.

Despite all the speculation linking Thornton to other clubs leading up to July 1, it wasn’t surprising that he re-signed with the Sharks. He was seeking a three-year deal but apparently was willing to accept a one-year deal for a full $6.5 million salary.

It’s been reported Thornton’s future in San Jose was tied to long-time Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau. Thornton’s signing could signal Marleau’s return.

Anaheim Ducks re-sign defenseman Cam Fowler (eight years, $6.5 million AAV) and goaltender Ryan Miller (two years, $2 million AAV).

Like Vlasic’s and Jones’ new contract, Fowler’s kicks in next July. Though he was the subject of frequent trade speculation last summer, it’s apparent the Ducks consider him the key cog of their blueline. Th 25-year-old’s new contract is comparable to that of St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo.

As for Miller, his days as an elite netminder are in the past. He’ll take on a backup/mentor role for starter John Gibson.

New York Rangers sign defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (four years, $6.65 million AAV). The biggest name in this summer’s UFA market lands where he was always expected to go. He finished among last season’s leading scorers among blueliners though he’s earned criticism for his defensive game.

The 28-year-old will be skating on the right side of the Blueshirts top pairing with Ryan McDonagh. He’s being overpaid for his services but the Rangers at least didn’t lock him up for too long.

Pittsburgh Penguins re-sign defenseman Justin Schultz (three years, $5.5 million AAV). Schultz rejuvenated his NHL career with the Penguins, playing a role in their consecutive championships in 2016 and 2017. Tallying a career-high 51 points last season, he was among the league’s highest-scoring blueliners. That ensured the Pens would keep the mobile rearguard in the fold and give him a healthy raise to boot.

Montreal Canadiens sign defenseman Karl Alzner (five years, $4.65 million AAV). The Canadiens land themselves a quality replacement for Alexei Emelin, who was plucked away by Vegas in the expansion draft. The 28-year-old Alzner is a durable, physical shutdown defender. The Habs got him for a reasonable deal.

Dallas Stars sign center Martin Hanzal (three years, $4.75 million AAV). The 6’6”, 226-pounder brings size and two-way skills at center for the Stars. However, he also has a long injury history and only two 40-point seasons on his resume. The salary’s a little pricey but the Stars didn’t saddle themselves with a lengthy term.

Carolina Hurricanes sign right wing Justin Williams (two years, $4.5 million AAV). Williams, 35, returns to the team where he won his first Stanley Cup in 2006. He gets a nice pay raise over the $3.25 million per season of his previous two-year deal. Despite his age, he remains a reliable second-line right wing. The rebuilding Canes should benefit from his skills and leadership.

Nashville Predators sign center Nick Bonino (four years, $4.1 million AAV) and left wing Scott Hartnell (one year, $1 million AAV). Bonino’s two championship seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins bolstered his free-agent value. The Pred needed two-way depth at center and willingly ponied up for him. This move likely means they’re out of the bidding for Avalanche center Matt Duchene.

The Predators also shipped Colin Wilson to the Colorado Avalanche to make room for Hartnell, who was recently bought out by Columbus. He’s returning to the club where his NHL career began. While the 35-year-old is in decline, he could be a worthwhile checking-line depth addition for the Preds.

Winnipeg Jets sign goaltender Steve Mason (two years, $4.1 million AAV) and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (three years, $4.33 million AAV). Mason’s earning the same annual cap hit as he did on his previous three-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Jets needed an experienced goalie to carry the bulk of the workload until promising Connor Hellebuyck is ready for the full-time starter’s job. As with former Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec, however, consistency is an issue for Mason.

Kulikov, meanwhile, hopes to get his career back on track after a back injury hampered him during his brief tenure with the Buffalo Sabres. When healthy, he’s a mobile, big-minute defender. But if his back woes flare up again, this could become a costly error for the Jets.

Vancouver Canucks sign forward Sam Gagner (three years, $3.1 million AAV) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (two years, $3 million AAV). Gagner’s 50-point bounce-back performance last season with the Blue Jackets earns him a big raise over his one-year, $650K deal in 2016-17. If he can maintain his usual 40-point production, he could provide a decent boost to the Canucks offense.

Del Zotto, meanwhile, takes a bit of a pay cut for two seasons in Vancouver. He’ll provide the retooling Canucks with experienced puck-moving depth, buying time to allow their younger rearguards to develop.

Tampa Bay Lightning sign defenseman Dan Girardi (two years, $3 million AAV) and winger Chris Kunitz (one year, $2 million). The Bolts get older, but perhaps not necessarily better. They sought an experienced top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. However, the 33-year-old Girardi has a lot of miles on him and has lost a step or two. That’s one reason the Rangers bought him out.

Same goes for Kunitz, who’s also getting $1 million in bonus money. He helped the Penguins win three Stanley Cup titles since 2009 but saw his production decline over the past two years. Yzerman’s taking a couple of gambles here, but at least they’re affordable and only short term.

Toronto Maple Leafs sign defenseman Ron Hainsey (two years, $3 million AAV). Hainsey reached the playoffs last season for the first time in his career, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup. The Leafs expect he’ll bring experienced depth to their defense corps, but it remains to be seen how much the 36-year-old has left in the tank.

Philadelphia Flyers sign goaltender Brian Elliott (two years, $2.75 million AAV). After washing out with the Calgary Flames last season, the 32-year-old Elliott will try to get his career as an NHL starter back on track with the Flyers. His deal is a reasonable one, but he’s unlikely to end the Flyers’ seemingly never-ending carousel of mediocre goaltending.

Florida Panther sign right wing Radim Vrbata (one year, bonus-laden contract, $2.5 million base salary). The 36-year-old Vrbata will replace now-departed winger Jaromir Jagr. He was the Coyotes’ leading scorer last season with 55 points and could be a decent short-term addition to the Panthers’ scoring lines.

Los Angeles Kings sign winger Mike Cammalleri (one year, $1 million AAV). After being bought out by the New Jersey Devils, Cammalleri returns to the city his NHL career began. The 35-year-old still has a decent scoring touch, but injuries in recent years have limited his effectiveness.

Chicago Blackhawks sign winger Patrick Sharp (one year, $800k AAV). The 35-year-old tallied 20 goals and 55 points in 2015-16 but injuries limited him to just 18 points last season. Having recovered from hip surgery, perhaps a return to Chicago, where he had his best seasons, can help him regain to form. It’s an affordable risk for the cap-strapped Blackhawks.

 











Notable NHL Free Agent Signings – July 1, 2017

Notable NHL Free Agent Signings – July 1, 2017

New York Rangers sign Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year contract.

The NHL free-agent period opened at noon ET today. Here’s a look at the day’s notable signings thus far. Analysis of the most noteworthy signings will follow later today in my Soapbox section.

Pittsburgh Penguins re-sign defenseman Justin Schultz to a three-year contract worth $5.5 million per season. 

San Jose Sharks have reportedly re-signed center Joe Thornton to a one-year, $6.5 million contract. 

Tampa Bay Lightning sign winger Chris Kunitz to a one-year, $2 million contract. 

Anaheim Ducks signed goaltender Ryan Miller to a two-year deal worth $2 million annually. 

Los Angeles Kings sign winger Mike Cammalleri to a one-year, bonus-laden contract with a $1 million base salary. 

Anaheim Ducks re-sign defenseman Cam Fowler to an eight-year, $52-million contract extension. The deal kicks in on July 1, 2018. 

San Jose Sharks re-signed defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to an eight-year, $56 million contract extension and re-up goaltender Martin Jones to a six-year, $34.5 million extension.  Both deals commence on July 1, 2018. 

Pittsburgh Penguins sign goaltender Antti Niemi to a one-year, $750K contract. 

Buffalo Sabres sign goaltender Chad Johnson to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. 

Carolina Hurricanes sign winger Justin Williams to a two-year, $9 million contract.  

Pittsburgh Penguins sign defenseman Matt Hunwick to a three-year, $6.75 million contract. 

Winnipeg Jets sign goaltender Steve Mason to a two-year deal worth $4.1 million per season. 

Buffalo Sabres signed winger Benoit Pouliot to a one-year, $1.15 million contract. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed defenseman Dan Girardi to a two-year deal worth $3 million per season. 

The Detroit Red Wings signed defenseman Trevor Daley to a three-year, $9.5 million contract. 

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is heading to the Winnipeg Jets. Three years, $4.33 million AAV.

Center Brian Boyle is reportedly heading to the New Jersey Devils on a two-year deal. (Update: It’s two years, $5.5 million)

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the Toronto Maple Leafs are signing defenseman Ron Hainsey to a two-year deal. (Update: $3 million per season. )

TSN’S Darren Dreger reports center Nick Bonino is joining the Nashville Predators. Four years, $4.1 million AAV.

NBC SPORTS cites a report from NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes saying the New York Rangers signed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year deal worth $6.9 million per season.  TSN’s Frank Seravalli, however, reports Shattenkirk’s agent calls this premature, claiming his client is still considering his options. 

TSN contributor Aaron Ward reports hearing  the Montreal Canadiens have agreed to a five-year contract with defenseman Karl Alzner worth roughly $4.5 million annually. (Update: It’s a five-year, $23-million contract. $4.6 million AAV).

SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reports it looks like the Vancouver Canucks will sign forward Sam Gagner (three years, $3.15 million per). Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (two years, $3 million) goaltender Anders Nilsson (two years, $2.5 million AAV) and forward Alex Burmistrov are also expected to join the Canucks. 

 Winger Patrick Sharp is rejoining the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s reportedly a one-year, $1 million contract. ($800K base salary, $200K in bonuses).

Center Martin Hanzal is expected to join the Dallas Stars. (Update: Three years, $4.75 million annually). 

Goaltender Jonathan Bernier is joining the Colorado Avalanche. (Update: Two years, $2.75 million per season)

Goalie Ondrej Pavelec is heading to the New York Rangers. (Update: One year, $1.3 million). 

 











NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2017

Leon Draisaitl scores in overtime to lift the Edmonton Oilers over the Anaheim Ducks.

Game recaps, top star and rookie for March and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid scored and set up two others to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks. Milan Lucic scored the game-tying goal and Leon Draisaitl potted the winner. Both clubs are now tied with 97 points for top spot in the Pacific Division with four games left. The Oilers are red hot, extending their win streak to five games. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a terrific game with a playoff-like atmosphere between two talented clubs who could meet later this spring in the postseason. The Oilers are now only one point back of the Minnesota Wild for second overall in the Western Conference. That’s an impressive achievement for a club that missed the playoffs last season and were considered a marginal playoff contender entering this season. 

The Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils was overshadowed by the collapse of goaltender Michal Neuvirth early in the first period. He was stretchered from the ice conscious and alert and spent the night in hospital. No reason was given for Neuvirth’s condition, but it’s believed he was suffering from the flu. The win kept the Flyers within six points of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was certainly a scary moment and you could’ve heard a pin drop in the arena as Neuvirth was being tended to by medical staff. Here’s hoping he is okay and his condition isn’t serious. 

Patrice Bergeron scored twice as the Boston Bruins beat the Florida Panthers 5-2. With the win, the Bruins (90 points) opened a four-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and moved within a point of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators for second in the Atlantic Division.

Bruins winger Jimmy Hayes left the game with a lower-body injury and is questionable for Sunday’s tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks. Panthers enforcer and former Bruin Shawn Thornton was named third star in his final game in Boston’s TD Garden. He’ll retire at season’s end. 

The Leafs moved into a tie with the Senators by edging the Detroit Red Wings 5-4. Leafs rookie Auston Matthews scored twice and set up another while fellow rookies William Nylander and Mitch Marner also found the back of the net. Speaking of Nylander, he was named NHL rookie of the month for March 2017. He also received that honor back in October. 

The Senators continue to struggle, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets. Already playing without team captain Erik Karlsson (lower-body injury), blueliner Cody Ceci left the game with a lower-body injury and will miss Monday’s game against Detroit. The Sens have won only twice in their last 10 games.

Alexander Radulov’s overtime goal gave the Montreal Canadiens a 2-1 victory over the Lightning. The Habs (99 points) remain atop the Atlantic Division, holding an eight-point lead over the Leafs and Senators. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov was name NHL star of the month for March 2017

Pekka Rinne turned in a 31-save shutout performance as the Nashville Predators blanked the Minnesota Wild 3-0. The Predators (91 points) hold the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference and can clinch a trip to the playoffs with a win today against the St. Louis Blues. 

The Carolina Hurricanes playoff hopes suffered a blow with a 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars. Kari Lehtonen made 24 saves for the shutout, as the Hurricanes (84 points) remain six points out of a wild-card spot in the East. 

NEWSDAY: New York Islanders center John Tavares’ season is over as he’s listed as week-to-week with a left hamstring injury. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With five games remaining and sitting six points out of a playoff berth, losing Tavares at this crucial point in the season is too big an obstacle for the Isles to overcome. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Chris Kunitz (lower-body injury) joined the lengthy list of sidelined Pittsburgh Penguins that includes Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues recent road trip was made more special with 11-year-old cancer patient Arianna “Ari” Dougan joining them as a guest of Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko. 

SPORTSNET: O’Leary, PEI, is the winner of Kraft Hockeyville 2017. In addition to $100K in upgrades to their arena, O’Leary will also host a preseason game between the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators on September 25, 2017. 

CBC SPORTS:  Calgary Flames president and CEO Ken King said his club will move if it can’t strike a deal with the city of Calgary for a new arena. Despite the lengthy negotiations, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi remains confident the project will proceed. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t blame King if he’s feeling a little impatient over how arena talks have dragged for nearly five years. Still, threatening to move the club is a textbook move by any team owner hoping to squeeze a city for public funds to construct a new venue. I don’t believe King is bluffing, but I also don’t see the Flames moving. As with their neighbor in Edmonton (the Oilers), who underwent the same process several years ago, a new arena will get built to house the Flames. 












NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2016



NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2016

Florida Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr salutes the fans after tying Mark Messier on the NHL’s all-time points list.

Game recaps, Jagr ties Messier for second on all-time points list & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.com: Florida Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr tied Mark Messier for second on the NHL’s all-time points list (1,887), collecting three assists to lead his club to a 4-3 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Jagr reached this milestone in 94 fewer games than Messier. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Factor in that Jagr played three seasons in the KHL and also endured three NHL lockouts and a players’ strike that cost him another two seasons of combined playing time, his achievement is all the more noteworthy. 

Cam Atkinson scored twice and potted one of two shootout goals as the Columbus Blue Jackets won their 10th consecutive game by edging the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Jeff Carter also scored twice for the Kings. The Jackets are now only one point behind the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins with three games in hand. 

Devan Dubnyk picked up his league-leading fifth shutout of the season as the Minnesota Wild got their eighth straight win by blanking the Colorado Avalanche 2-0. Earlier in the day, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said he would address new contracts for pending restricted free agent forward Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund in the offseason

It was a rough night for goaltenders in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning’s Ben Bishop (lower body) and the Red Wings Jimmy Howard (lower body) were both sidelined. 

Evgeni Malkin had a goal and two assists while Sidney Crosby picked up his league-leading 22nd goal in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 7-2 romp over the New York Rangers. 

Jeff Petry scored a goal and set up two others as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-1. Ducks winger Andrew Cogliano moved into fifth place on the NHL’s Ironman list, playing his 738th consecutive game. 

Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris had two-point nights as the Ottawa Senators edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3. Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa left the game with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. Earlier in the day, the Senators listed goalie Andrew Hammond (twisted ankle) as day-to-day. 

James Neal potted two goals and Viktor Arvidsson collected three assists as the Nashville Predators thumped the New Jersey Devils 5-1. 

Anders Lee scored twice as the New York Islanders chased Tuukka Rask from the net on route to a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. 

Joonas Donskoi scored twice to give the San Jose Sharks a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames. 

Jannik Hansen tallied two goals as the Vancouver Canucks downed the Winnipeg Jets 4-1. 

ESPN.COM: The former nanny for the family of Pittsburgh Penguins winger Chris Kunitz received a five-year prison sentence “for setting fire to her rental residence and then filing fraudulent insurance claims for the contents.”

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: Budding superstars such as Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine could make Canadian NHL teams more attractive to potential free agents. 

CALGARY SUN: Former Flames coach Bob Hartley is looking forward to coaching Latvia’s National Team, but remains hopeful of one day returning to the NHL. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: The combination of CPR and ECMO therapy helped save the life of Tucson Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham, who collapsed before an AHL game last month. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having received CPR training during my military career, I strongly recommend everyone take a course on this potentially life-saving procedure. In North America, training is available through the Red Cross, American Heart Association, St. John Ambulance and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2016



NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2016

The Edmonton Oilers celebrate one of their goals in their 5-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Edmonton Oilers celebrate one of their goals in their 5-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Game recaps, injury and waiver updates, All-Star voting & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Leon Draisaitl scored twice, Connor McDavid collected two assists and Cam Talbot made 31 saves as the Edmonton Oilers shut out the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0. 

P.K. Subban scored twice as the Nashville Predators downed the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1.

The New York Rangers overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Rookie Jake Guentzel scored both goals (his first in the NHL) for the Penguins. Earlier in the day, the Rangers claimed forward Matt Puempel off waivers from the Ottawa Senators, while forward Pavel Buchnevich (back) will be sidelined two-three weeks.  The Penguins, meanwhile, placed winger Chris Kunitz (lower-body injury) on injured reserve

Brent Burns had a goal and an assists and Martin Jones made 27 saves as the San Jose Sharks blanked the New Jersey Devils 4-0. Earlier in the day, the Sharks announced winger Tomas Hertl is sidelined indefinitely following a minor procedure to address a knee sprain. 

Jamie Benn scored in overtime to give the Dallas Stars a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild. 

Matt Duchene’s overtime goal lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Kyle Okposo had a goal and an assists to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. 

TSN:  Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter, Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward and Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom are the NHL’s stars of the week. 

ARIZONA SPORTS:  The Coyotes announced Tucson Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham is in stable but critical condition after collapsing prior to an AHL game against the Manitoba Moose. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Cunningham makes a swift and full recovery. 

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers announced defenseman Alex Petrovic (ankle injury) will miss the next eight weeks

The Carolina Hurricanes placed goaltender Eddie Lack (concussion) on injured reserve, called up goalie Michael Leighton and assigned defenseman Ryan Murphy to their AHL affiliate on a conditioning stint

LAS VEGAS JOURNAL-REVIEW:  The NHL’s Las Vegas expansion franchise will reveal their name and jersey today. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thank heavens, I was getting tired of calling them the “Las Vegas Insert Your Name Here”. 

NHL.COM:  The league is changing the fan voting rules to prevent the fans from stuffing the ballot box for a write-in candidate.”Players who are injured or in the minors won’t be on the active ballot until they’re back in the NHL. If someone is voted captain and is hurt or in the AHL, the player with the second-most votes gets in.” Last year, the fans voted for long-time enforcer John Scott, who was playing in the minors at the time.. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fortunately for the league, Scott’s presence at the 2016 All-Star Game turned into a feel-good story with a happy ending. The league obviously wants to avoid the possibility of a potential embarrassment in future All-Star contests.

WINNIPEG SUN: Former NHL defenseman Ian White was granted a three-month conditional sentence and placed on 12 months supervised probation after pleading guilty to three firearm storage offenses. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 18, 2016



NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 18, 2016

Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Connor Brown (left) celebrates one of his two goals against the Florida Panthers.

Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Connor Brown (left) celebrates one of his two goals against the Florida Panthers.

Game recaps, injury updates, CBA news & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.com: Connor Brown scored twice and set up two others as the Toronto Maple Leafs thumped the Florida Panthers 6-1, spoiling former Leafs goalie James Reimer’s return to Toronto since his trade to San Jose last season. Reimer signed this summer with the Panthers.

Jeff Carter’s shorthanded second-period goal stood as the winner as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2, handing the latter their fifth straight loss.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The same old issues (secondary scoring, defensive play, goaltending) continue to haunt the Oilers. 

Michael Raffl and Sean Couturier scored within 34 seconds of each other as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-2. In an awkward moment, the Flyers made defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere a healthy scratch on the same day he received Philadelphia’s Pro Athlete of the Year Award.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Helluva way to send a message to Gostisbehere that his defensive game needs improvement. 

Mikael Granlund scored late in third period to give the Minnesota Wild a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins. Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves for the shutout. Earlier in the day, the Wild announced they were assigning rookie forward Joel Eriksson Ek to Sweden for the remainder of the season.

Ben Bishop made 32 saves and Nikita Kucherov potted his ninth goal of the season to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Earlier in the day, the Lightning learned captain Steven Stamkos will miss at least the next four months following knee surgery.

Pekka Rinne made 30 saves as the Nashville Predators downed the Ottawa Senators 5-1. It was a costly loss for the Sens, as winger Bobby Ryan left the game with an upper-body injury.

Jaden Schwartz scored twice to help the St. Louis Blues edge the San Jose Sharks by a score of 3-2.

Ryan Kesler potted the game-winning goal to give the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, snapping the latter’s five-game win streak.

Kari Lehtonen made 34 saves as the Dallas Stars held off a rally by the Colorado Avalanche to win the game 3-2.

Ben Hutton’s overtime penalty shot lifted the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes, who also lost forward Brad Richardson to a lower-body injury.

CALGARY SUN:  Flames general manager Brad Treliving spoke to NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom expressing concerns over multiple slashes to Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau, resulting in Gaudreau suffering a broken finger. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The practice of “tapping” a player with your stick has been around for decades as a means of distraction to force a turnover.  Still, Treliving has a point over how Gaudreau received multiple hacks to the hand in that 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Tapping could become an issue among NHL GMs in their future meeting. 

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports several NHL general managers suggest this season’s compressed schedule, the toll of constant training upon players’ bodies, lighter equipment and higher shot blocking could be contributing factors in this season’s high rate of injuries. 

TRIBLIVE.COM:  Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patrick Hornqvist (concussion) and Chris Kunitz (lower-body injury) are listed as day-to-day. 

TORONTO SUN: Mike Zeisberger believes we shouldn’t be surprised by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s recent proposal to the NHLPA offering continued participation in the Winter Olympics in exchange for a three-year extension of the CBA. “If the players say yes, Bettman and the owners get to maintain the status quo for a longer period. And if they give the thumbs down, the owners avoid the disruption of the season,” writes Zeisberger, adding the owners win either way. 

CSN BAY AREA:  San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic casts a cynical eye upon Bettman’s proposal. “I started laughing,” he said. “That’s not negotiating. It’s not. As an athlete, it’s your right to go to the Olympics. I don’t know if [the report] is true. I hope it’s not. That’s not the way you negotiate things. But, if that is true, all of a sudden they don’t mind having a two-week break in the NHL for a three-year collective bargaining agreement.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Something Vlasic didn’t mention is the players reported unhappiness with the current system of escrow clawbacks from their salaries. Extending the CBA locks them into that setup for three more years. It’s unlikely they’ll stomach that.