NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 27, 2020

The latest on Anthony Cirelli, Ilya Samsonov and Alexis Lafreniere plus updates on return-to-play and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports it doesn’t appear a new contract is imminent for Anthony Cirelli. The 23-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning center is a restricted free agent. Earlier this week, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Mikhail Sergachev but Cirelli’s agent said there’s nothing new to report on a new deal for his client.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Lightning are above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.904 million following the Sergachev signing. The Bolts are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason but perhaps general manager Julien BriseBois intends to shed salary before signing Cirelli and fellow RFA Erik Cernak.

Given the uncertainty over the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, BriseBois has plenty of time to get Cirelli and Cernak under contract and shed some salary to become cap compliant when the season finally begins.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals professional development coach Olaf Kolzig isn’t worried about Ilya Samsonov replacing the departed Braden Holtby as the club’s starting goaltender. “I think Sammy has the ability to be like (Andrei) Vasilevskiy,” said Kolzig, referring to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s starter. Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy in 2019 and backstopped the Bolts to the 2020 Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As a former Vezina Trophy winner, Kolzig would know if Samsonov has the potential to play as well as Vasilevskiy. The young netminder showed considerable promise as a rookie last season, often outplaying Holtby before an injury kept him out of the 2020 playoffs. He’ll be under considerable pressure this season but that should be alleviated by offseason signing Henrik Lundqvist.

THE SCORE: Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s senior VP of national teams, suggested it’s not out of the question for Alexis Lafreniere to join Canada’s World Junior Championship roster.

Lafreniere was selected first overall by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old winger is currently in New York and would face quarantine restrictions to return to Canada but Salmond said there’s an ongoing discussion about the winger’s status.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cites a league executive having “no doubt we’re going to have a season” but he’s uncertain when that will happen. Garrioch believes an agreement to start the season on Jan. 1 will have to be made by no later than Tuesday (Dec. 1).

With negotiations between the NHL and NHL Players Association stalled, a mid-January or early February start appears more likely. The betting in league circles is Feb. 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch also said the word is the players told NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr not to pick up the phone or budge on their position not to agree to the league’s requests for increases to the escrow and salary deferral rates.

Given the importance of ensuring the league doesn’t slip off the sports radar with other leagues ongoing or planning their new seasons, the feeling is the league and the PA will eventually work out a return-to-play plan.

It could be both sides are regrouping and working on workable proposals. We’ll find out soon enough.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell recently wondered if the NHL could legally attempt to leverage the threat of suspending or ceasing the 2020-21 season if their requests aren’t met by the players because of the effects of COVID-19 upon hockey-related revenue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far there’s no indication the NHL is going down that road. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ll use that hardball gambit.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 13, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 13, 2020

The latest on Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner, Canucks acquire Nate Schmidt, the Islanders sign Cory Schneider and trade Devon Toews to the Avalanche, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said he will be keeping his goaltending tandem intact for next season and won’t be trading Marc-Andre Fleury. He also indicated Robin Lehner will undergo shoulder surgery but will recover in time for training camp.

Marc-Andre Fleury is staying with the Vegas Golden Knights (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury was the subject of trade speculation after Lehner got the bulk of the starts in the playoffs and signed a contract extension earlier this month. There was talk they were trying to move Fleury by getting a third team involved who would absorb part of his $7 million salary-cap hit. It was assumed he’d be moved to clear salary-cap space to sign Alex Pietrangelo, but the Golden Knights made another move (see below) to address that issue.

The coming season could be Fleury’s last in Vegas. He lacks a full no-movement clause and will likely be left unprotected in next year’s expansion draft.

THE PROVINCE: The Golden Knights found another way to shed some cap payroll after signing Pietrangelo yesterday, trading Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights shed Schmidt’s $5.95 million cap hit. They’re still above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $974K but that’s within the 10 percent allowable offseason cap overage.

The Canucks, meanwhile, find a suitable replacement for Chris Tanev, who signed with Calgary as a free agent. Schmidt is a good puck-moving defenseman who can log over 21 minutes per game and skate on the left or right side of the blueline. He’s got five years remaining on his contract, which could become a cap headache in the latter years, but he should be a welcome addition to the Canucks defense corps in the short term.

TSN: The New York Islanders signed goaltender Cory Schneider to a one-year, $700K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles are expected to go with Semyon Varlamov and promising Ilya Sorokin as their goalie tandem next season. Schneider is an affordable insurance move in case Sorokin struggles to adjust at the NHL level.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche acquired defenseman Devon Toews from the Islanders in exchange for a second-round pick in 2021 and a second-rounder in 2022. They also re-signed defenseman Ryan Graves to a three-year, $9.5 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs were looking for a defenseman after shipping Nikita Zadorov to Chicago for Brandon Saad over the weekend. Toews, 26, is a fine replacement. Colorado GM Joe Sakic sang his praises as “a smart, two-way puck-moving defenseman” who logs over 20 minutes per game and is “excellent in transition”.

Graves’ new contract is worth an annual average value of $3.16 million. That’s a considerable raise over the $735K of his previous deal. He earned it with a career-best 26-point performance and a league-leading plus-minus of plus-40.

Speaking of the Avalanche, The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark took to Twitter reporting preliminary contract talks have begun with captain Gabriel Landeskog. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $3-million contract.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks signed center Mattias Janmark to a one-year, $2.25-million contract and center Lucas Wallmark to a one-year deal worth $950K.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild re-signed goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen to a two-year, $1.45-million contract.

NEW YORK POST: Alexis Lafreniere signed a three-year entry-level contract with the New York Rangers. The 19-year-old left-winger was the first-overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

THE ATHLETIC: Bill Shea reports talks are ongoing to extend the NHL’s 10-year, $2-billion broadcast rights contract with NBC Sports that expires at the end of next season. While the league’s playoff ratings were down due to the pandemic, it still helped NBCSN have one of its best-ever third quarters. ESPN, Fox Sports and Turner Sports are also interested in the NHL’s TV and streaming business.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 7, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 7, 2020

Alexis Lafreniere tops the first-round selections in the 2020 Draft, the NHL and NHLPA target Jan. 1 as the start date for the 2020-21 season, the Capitals re-sign Brenden Dillon, the latest contract buyouts and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

Alexis Lafreniere was selected first overall by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft (NHL.com).

  NHL.COM: The New York Rangers selected Alexis Lafreniere with the first-overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft last night. The Los Angeles Kings selected Quinton Byfield with the second-overall pick while the Ottawa Senators selected Tim Stuetzle with the third-overall selection. Rounds two through seven will be held today starting at 11:30 am ET. (Stick tap to NBC Sports for the list below):

1. New York Rangers – Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
2. Los Angeles Kings – Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
3. Ottawa Senators (from SJS) – Tim Stuetzle, C/LW, Mannheim (DEL)
4. Detroit Red Wings – Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SHL)
5. Ottawa Senators – Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP (USHL)
6. Anaheim Ducks – Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie (OHL)
7. New Jersey Devils – Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgardens (SHL)
8. Buffalo Sabres – Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa (OHL)
9. Minnesota Wild – Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa (OHL)
10. Winnipeg Jets – Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw (OHL)
11. Nashville Predators – Yaroslav Askarov, G, St. Petersburg (VHL)
12. Florida Panthers – Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (SM-liiga)
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from TOR) – Seth Jarvis, C, Portland (WHL)
14. Edmonton Oilers – Dylan Holloway, C/LW, Wisconsin (NCAA)
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from PIT) – Rodion Amirov, LW, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL)
16. Montreal Canadiens – Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL)
17. Chicago Blackhawks – Lukas Reichel, LW, Eisbaren Berlin (DEL)
18. New Jersey Devils (from ARZ) – Dawson Mercer, C/RW, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
19. New York Rangers (from CGY) – Braden Schneider, D, Brandon (WHL)
20. New Jersey Devils (from VAN via TB) – Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL)
21. Columbus Blue Jackets – Yegor Chinakhov, RW, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
22. Washington Capitals (from CGY via NYR via CAR) – Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
23. Philadelphia Flyers – Tyson Foerster, RW, Barrie (OHL)
24. Calgary Flames (from WSH) – Connor Zary, C, Kamloops (WHL)
25. Colorado Avalanche – Justin Barron, D, Halifax (QMJHL)
26. St. Louis Blues – Jake Neighbours, LW, Edmonton (WHL)
27. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS) – Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
28. Ottawa Senators (from NYI) – Ridly Greig, C, Brandon (WHL)
29. Vegas Golden Knights – Brendan Brisson, C, Chicago (USHL)
30. Dallas Stars – Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
31. San Jose Sharks (from TB) – Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW, Prince Albert (WHL)

The NHL and NHLPA issued a joint statement targeting Jan. 1, 2021 for the start of the 2020-21 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be great if the league and PA can safely start next season on New Year’s Day. Whether they can is another matter. COVID-19 will ultimately decide if that start date can be met. The priority is the safety of everyone involved in the games.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals re-signed defenseman Brenden Dillon to a four-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good, affordable signing by the Capitals. They acquired Dillon before the trade deadline and he quickly fit in well on their blueline.

THE SCORE: Speaking of the Capitals, defenseman Michal Kempny will be sidelined six-to-eight months following surgery to repair an Achilles tendon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kempny will likely go on long-term injury reserve for 2020-21. It would give the Capitals $2.5 million in wiggle room if necessary to make other moves.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens placed defenseman Karl Alzner on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the remaining two years of his contract. It will count as $3.9 million for 2020-21 against their cap hit, dropping to $1.9 million in 2021-22, and $833K per season for the final two years of the buyout

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Habs could’ve waited another year to buy out Alzner when it wouldn’t have counted as long against their cap. It’s believed they did this to allow the veteran blueliner an opportunity to try and sign with another NHL club.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings placed forward Justin Abdelkader on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the final three years of his contract. It’ll count as $1.8 million against their cap in 2020-21, $2.3 million annually for the next two seasons, and $1.05 million for the final three years of the buyout.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers general manager Ken Holland decided not to tender qualifying offers to Andreas Athanasiou and Matt Benning. Both players will become unrestricted free agents on Friday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland is catching flak from Oilers supporters because he gave up two second-round picks as part of the return to the Detroit Red Wings last February for Athanasiou. The Oilers GM was hoping the speedy winger could regain his 30-goal form but he managed just two points in 13 games in Edmonton. The cost of qualifying his rights was $3 million, which would’ve been too expensive for the cap-strapped Oilers.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks re-signed winger Zack MacEwen to a two-year contract worth $825K per season.

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 16, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 16, 2020

Has Tuukka Rask played his final game with the Bruins? Could the Rangers be tempted to trade the first-overall pick? What’s the latest on the Panthers? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

COULD THE BRUINS AND RASK PART WAYS?

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont suggests it might be time for the Bruins and goaltender Tuukka Rask to part ways. This comes in the wake of Rask’s decision to return home for family reasons. While the club is supportive of the goalie’s decision, and Dupont is also sympathetic, the pundit points out this isn’t the first time he’s taken a leave of absence for family reasons.

Rask has one season left on his contract, but Dupont feels the Bruins cannot have uncertainty between the pipes, especially in the starter’s position. He notes the Bruins can trade the netminder to one of the 15 teams on the list he was obligated to provide in February. He believes Bruins general manager Don Sweeney “will be working the phones.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every statement coming from the Bruins’ organization supports Rask’s decision and I feel they’ve handled this situation well considering the circumstances His critics will condemn him for bailing on the team. We don’t know the full story but it appears to be something he carefully considered for some time.

I don’t fault Rask for putting his family first. The same goes for anyone else regardless of profession. It’s difficult to focus on a job when you’re worried about your family.

Rask’s decision, however, does raise questions over the goaltender’s future in Boston. Some will suggest a trade, others retirement.

Dupont feels the Bruins GM and coach need to know who they can count on during the good times, bad times, and especially during the playoffs. If that’s the rationale the Bruins use to trade Rask (and that’s a big “if” at this point), it will hurt his value in the trade market. If Rask returns next season, they could keep their goalie tandem intact with Jaroslav Halak for one more season. 

Will the New York Rangers use the first-overall pick to select Alexis Lafreniere? (NHL.com)

COULD THE RANGERS SHOP THE FIRST-OVERALL PICK?

ESPN.COM: The New York Rangers won the draft lottery, but Greg Wyshynski notes this year’s top prospect, left-wing Alexis Lafreniere, won’t address their need for a skilled centerman. They’re already well-stocked at the left-wing position with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider.

Wyshynski points out the Rangers could land a proven center and help on defense by shopping the first-overall pick. A bidding war could get started among clubs seeking a skilled left-winger. However, just because it’s an option doesn’t make it the best one.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman cites former NHL GM Brian Burke suggesting the Rangers have got to listen if someone is going to come after that pick hard, but he notes those offers usually aren’t good.

Dillman wondered if the Los Angeles Kings, who own the second-overall pick, might contact the Rangers. The presence of No. 2 prospect Quinton Byfield (a center) might entice the Rangers to listen. While the Kings have depth in center prospects and the Blueshirts have a need at that position, it doesn’t mean there’s a fit there.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if the Rangers don’t get some calls about that pick. Maybe from the Kings, perhaps from the Ottawa Senators, possibly from the Montreal Canadiens or another club in dire need of a potential scoring star. However, it’ll take a significant offer to convince them to part with that pick. Ultimately, I expect the Rangers will keep the pick, select Lafreniere, and find other ways to boost their depth at center, either internally or through the trade or free-agent markets. 

LATEST ON THE PANTHERS

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards noted whoever becomes the Florida Panthers new GM will have decisions to make regarding unrestricted free agents such as Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman.

Richards suggests the flat salary cap could work to the Panthers’ advantage if they want to re-sign a couple of their UFAs without breaking the bank. Dadonov and Hoffman seem to enjoy living in Florida and playing for the Panthers, but they might have to accept short-term deals if they hope to stay. However, their production could make them cost-prohibitive if the Panthers decide to cut payroll.

Improving the defense should be the Panthers’ priority. Richards notes blueliner Mike Matheson has six years left on his contract at $4.8 million per season and was scratched from the final two games of the postseason. If they’re willing to give up on Matheson’s potential it might not be easy to move his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lack of a state tax also works in the Panthers’ favor if they hope to re-sign Dadonov and Hoffman. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires with those two as they approach free agency. They could test the market and then return to the Panthers if there’s nothing to their liking. That’ll depend, of course, on who takes over the GM’s chair between now and then.

Matheson frequently surfaced in this year’s rumor mill. The Panthers could be stuck with him as the decline of his play over the last couple of seasons could hurt his value in the trade market. Still, I can see the next GM calling around to see if there’s a club willing to take a chance on him.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 13, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 13, 2020

Recaps of yesterday’s playoff games, the Penguins fire their assistant coaches, the Leafs respond to the qualifying-round elimination and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Patrice Bergeron’s double-overtime goal gave the Boston Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Bergeron’s linemates David Pastrnak (one goal) and Brad Marchand (two assists) picked up their first points of the postseason. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton returned to action after missing the qualifying round with an undisclosed injury, but winger Justin Williams and blueliner Sami Vatanen were ruled “unfit to play” for Game 1.

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (NHL Images).

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was fined $25K for his comments disputing the Bruins’ second goal when Anders Bjork appeared to swat the puck out of Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek’s glove on the ice to teammate Charlie Coyle. “This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things,” said Brind’Amour following the game. “That one is a crime scene.”

 

  SPECTOR’S NOTE: In my opinion, the officials got the call wrong, but Brind’Amour should know the league takes a dim view of coaches publicly airing their grievances about officiating.   The New York Islanders overcame a 2-0 deficit to double up the Washington Capitals 4-2 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, and Anthony Beauvillier tallied four unanswered goals for the Islanders while T.J. Oshie netted both Capitals goals. The Caps were unhappy with Lee over a late hit on Nicklas Backstrom that sidelined the center for the rest of the game. A further word on Backstrom’s condition could be provided later today.  

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eberle’s goal late in the second period gave the Isles a much-needed lift. They went on to dominate the Capitals in the final frame.

A three-goal outburst within a 1:23 span in the third period powered the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes in the first game of their opening-round series. Nazem Kadri, J.T. Compher, and Mikko Rantanen were the goal scorers while Philipp Grubauer made 14 saves for the shutout.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Colorado controlled this game from the opening faceoff. Only the play of Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper kept this scoreless until the Avs’ third-period flurry.

Carter Hart made 27 saves as the Philadelphia Flyers held off the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. Joel Farabee tallied the game-winner 16 seconds after the Habs tied it on a second-period power-play goal by Shea Weber. Habs goalie Carey Price made a breathtaking stick save on a second-period Scott Laughton blast, preventing either a sure goal or perhaps serious injury to teammate Nick Suzuki as the youngster attempted to block the shot.

 

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a physical,closely-contested game that could set the tone for the remainder of the series. Both goaltenders were outstanding.

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat scored twice in a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Horvat, Troy Stecher (with the game-winner), and J.T. Miller netted three unanswered third-period goals. Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom made 29 saves for the win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a close game until the Canucks blew it open with three goals on five shots. The Blues played better than they had in the round-robin but seemed to wilt in that final period.

HEADLINES

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins dismissed assistant coaches Sergei Gonchar, Jacques Martin, and Mark Recchi yesterday. A search for new assistants for head coach Mike Sullivan will begin at once.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins GM Jim Rutherford promised changes after his club’s qualifying-round exit. He’ll turn next to his roster, but don’t expect any big changes there other than perhaps trading goalie Matt Murray and letting Justin Schultz depart via free agency. If those moves fail to improve the Pens next season, Sullivan could lose his job while Rutherford looks at maybe a bigger roster move or two.

The Penguins also opted to retain their 2020 first-round pick (15th overall). They will instead send their 2021 first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild to complete February’s Jason Zucker trade.

NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist’s future with the New York Rangers appears hazy following a recent meeting with team president John Davidson. The long-time Rangers starting goalie lost his job to rookie Igor Shesterkin this season and the club doesn’t intend to carry three goalies next season. Lundqvist has a year remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $8.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could be trying to convince Lundqvist to retire, removing his full cap hit from their books. They could also buy him out, but that would only save $3 million next season and give them $1.5 million in dead cap space for 2021-22.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan reaffirmed his faith in general manager Kyle Dubas during yesterday’s online end-of-season press conference. Dubas, meanwhile, defended his players and resisted the notion that management misread the club’s potential. Leafs stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly acknowledged the disappointment and frustration over yet another early postseason exit but maintain their belief they have the core to develop into a winner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unhappy Leafs followers appear to be running out of patience with “The Shanaplan”, Dubas’ management, and the inconsistent performance of some of the club’s stars. It’ll be interesting to see what off-season moves they make to address their roster deficiencies, especially on the blueline. Another erratic season could cost Dubas his job and perhaps lead to a core player getting traded.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: An undisclosed injury appears to be affecting Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin. He failed to register a shot in the Stars’ Game 1 loss to the Calgary Flames, marking the second time in three games he’s done so.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The low-scoring Stars need veterans scorers like Seguin at his best if they hope to stage a run for the Stanley Cup.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Bryan Little is unsure if he’ll play again after suffering a punctured eardrum and concussion when he was struck in the head by a shot during a game last November. He’s been sidelined ever since as he recovered from surgery to repair his eardrum. His symptoms have reduced but brain scans revealed lingering damage that could put his future at risk if he continues playing hockey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Little intends to take time to heal as he undergoes further tests and seeks different medical opinions. Nevertheless, his playing career appears in jeopardy.

THE SCORE: Top prospect Alexis Lafreniere won’t be returning to Rimouski Oceanic training camp and he won’t be playing in Europe as he prepares for his NHL career. He intends to train at home and report to his NHL team whenever their training camp opens this fall. It’s expected the New York Rangers will select him with the first-overall pick in this year’s draft in October.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 12, 2020

Could the Rangers shop the first-overall pick? Are changes coming for the Penguins? What’s the latest on the Leafs and Oilers? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WILL THE RANGERS LISTEN TO OFFERS FOR FIRST-OVERALL PICK?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton will spend the coming weeks deciding if he’ll use the first-overall pick to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere or shop it for the No. 2 center his club badly needs.

Will the New York Rangers keep the first-overall pick and select Alexis Lafreniere? (NHL.com)

The Rangers already have left-wingers Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, making it difficult for Lafreniere to be an immediate fit in their roster. Garrioch expects Gorton will find a place for the youngster unless he gets an offer too good to refuse. He believes the Ottawa Senators (with the third and fifth overall picks), Montreal Canadiens, and Detroit Red Wings could come calling.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators, Canadiens, and Red Wings lack the type of center the Rangers would want as part of the return. I think Gorton will listen to offers but he might not get one to his liking. He could also surprise us by taking Quinton Byfield instead of Lafreniere with that pick, but I believe he’ll stick with the time-honored adage that you take the best available player.

CHANGES COMING FOR THE PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski reports Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford indicated changes are coming during his end-of-season press conference yesterday.

Team sources indicate there could be an assistant coach change at some point this week. Rutherford indicated no changes are coming to the roster core. He expressed disappointment in defenseman Justin Schultz’s performance, an indication perhaps the pending free agent won’t be re-signed.

The Penguins GM also spoke about goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. The pair are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. Rutherford acknowledged it would be difficult to keep both. He also feels his roster needs to get younger.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Penguins are leaning toward keeping this year’s first-round pick (15th overall) and sending next season’s first-round selection to the Minnesota Wild. As per conditions in the Jeff Zucker trade last February, the Penguins have seven days following the lottery to reach a decision.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford’s comments should put to rest recent suggestions that Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang should hit the trade block. Unless he can free up salary-cap space, he’ll have to choose between Murray or Jarry. I expect he’ll take the younger, affordable option with Jarry.

It won’t be surprising if Schultz doesn’t return. He hasn’t been the same since fracturing his leg last season.

LATEST ON THE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas must decide if he’ll re-sign goaltender Frederik Andersen to a long-term deal given his recent history of giving up soft goals in the playoffs.

Do the Leafs really want to tie into Andersen for the long term? Can they afford to? Do people really think the Leafs will turn into Stanley Cup contenders if Dubas acquires Matt Murray?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To answer those questions in order: No, they shouldn’t. No, they can’t. No, they won’t. Andersen has a year left on his contract. Unless better options appear via the trade market or free agency (provided Dubas can free up sufficient cap space), best to ride it out with Andersen for one more year and see what becomes available during next season or next summer.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports his understanding of Dubas’ no-trade promise after re-signing William Nylander last season was that it was solely for the immediate aftermath of the agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever Dubas promised Nylander, the young winger could soon find out that a general manager’s promises are easily broken for the good of the team or the GM’s ongoing employment.

Friedman also believes San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton could be on the Leafs’ radar, depending on what happens with Jason Spezza.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All due respect to Thornton, who’s had a wonderful career, but he’s well past his best-before date. Besides, the Leafs already had an aging former Sharks on their roster in Patrick Marleau and it cost them their 2020 first-round pick to get rid of the final year of his contract. They don’t need to repeat that mistake. Yes, I know, they could get Thornton to agree to a one-year, bonus-laden deal, but he’s not going to make the Leafs a better team next season. 

UPDATE ON THE OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Terry Jones reports Oilers GM Ken Holland indicated he’s got some decisions to make going forward after his club was eliminated from the qualifying round. Noting Holland spoke about the flat salary cap for next season, Jones speculates Andreas Athanasiou, Mike Smith, and James Neal might not be back.

Jones also thinks one of the Oilers’ top-four defensemen other than Ethan Bear could be shopped. He guesses Adam Larsson could be available in a “semi-major trade.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Holland could decide not to qualify the winger’s rights, making him a UFA. The Oilers GM could then attempt to sign him to a more affordable contract, or simply look for a better option elsewhere.

The 38-year-old Smith is no longer an effective NHL starting goalie. The Oilers need a better option to split the duties with the erratic Mikko Koskinen. Neal is signed through 2022-23 and his age (32), the cap hit ($5.27 million) and offensive inconsistency will be difficult to move. A buyout is possible here.

Larsson was acquired four years ago from New Jersey for Taylor Hall. Holland might have to bundle him with a draft pick or prospect or pick up part of his $4.16-million cap hit for next season. Larsson also has a modified no-trade clause.