NHL Rumor Mill – November 25, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 25, 2020

Recent Avalanche and Blues speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Brett Amadon wondered whether the Colorado Avalanche can re-sign pending free agents such as captain Gabriel Landeskog, Brandon Saad, Cale Makar and Philipp Grubauer before next season.

Can the Colorado Avalanche afford to re-sign Brandon Saad? (NHL Images)

Landeskog, Saad and Grubauer are due to become unrestricted free agents next summer. Makar becomes a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. General manager Joe Sakic said he’s started a dialogue with his captain. Amadon notes the Avs have leverage with Makar, but the futures of Saad and Grubauer are less clear.

Regarding Grubauer, Amadon pointed to injuries and inconsistency affecting the 29-year-old goaltender’s performance since his acquisition from the Washington Capitals in 2018. He was also outplayed last season by rookie Pavel Francouz.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently wondered if there’s a way the Avalanche can re-sign Saad or if he is merely a one-year rental player. He considers the 28-year-old winger a reliable two-way top-six forward who’ll net 20 goals and around 50 points each season.

With five other players (Landeskog, Grubauer, Ian Cole, Matt Calvert and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) also due to become UFAs, Gretz notes the Avs’ salary-cap space will disappear quickly. He speculates it could cost between $5 million and $5.5 million annually to keep Saad, especially if they let some other players go. However, Landeskog and the goaltending situation will likely be the Avs’ priority heading into next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Avalanche have $55.1 million invested in 12 players for 2021-22. Landeskog could cost around $7 million annually. Makar could get a bridge deal but he’ll still be in line for a significant raise, perhaps up to $5 million annually if Sakic decides to play hardball. The 35-year-old Bellemare probably won’t be back. Cole and Calvert could be affordable re-signings though the Avs could consider younger, cost-effective options.

There could be room to keep Saad if he proves a good fit. He’s earning $6 million annually on his current deal and could be reluctant to accept less than that approaching UFA eligibility for the first time. His status will become clearer once the regular season ends.

Grubauer’s situation could be interesting. Sakic said he’s happy with his current goalie tandem so I doubt he intends to make any changes there heading into this season. However, if Grubauer’s outplayed by Francouz again, Sakic could anoint him as his full-time starter by the season’s end. He could then seek an experienced backup next summer who’ll fit more easily within the Avalanche’s ’21-’22 budget.

NBC SPORTS: Gretz also believes the St. Louis Blues have some big decisions to make regarding winger Jaden Schwartz and goaltender Jordan Binnington. Both players are eligible for UFA status next summer.

Gretz suggests the Blues know what it could cost to re-sign Schwartz because they have an identical player in center Brayden Schenn, who they signed to an eight-year, $52 million extension. The decision, however, could come down to whether they want to invest that much in another player closing in on his 30th birthday.

Binnington could be a big question mark. He’s had a series of highs (winning the Stanley Cup in 2019), lows (the 2020 playoffs) and a little bit of in-between (the 2019-20 regular season). Nevertheless, Gretz considers him a solid starting NHL goalie.

The Blues have $55 million invested in their payroll for ’21-’22, but that will shrink once RFA defenseman Vince Dunn is signed before the start of this season. If it costs $6.5 million annually to sign Schwartz and if Dunn costs $3 million, they’ll have $16 million left for seven spots. That includes Binnington, who could get a deal comparable to what Matt Murray and Jacob Markstrom received ($6 million to $6.5 million annually) this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I suspect the Blues will do all they can to re-sign Schwartz. It could take $6.5 million annually to keep him but the length of the deal could be a sticking point. He could seek seven years while management could prefer four or five.

Unless Binnington’s performance goes downhill this season I doubt they’ll let him walk. Having traded Jake Allen, with no suitable replacements within their system and perhaps a lack of suitable options via next summer’s UFA market, they could have little choice but to sign him for perhaps around $6 million annually.










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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2020

The Buffalo Sabres shake up their management and scouting departments, the Canadian government is open to a hub city, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SABRES SHAKE UP THEIR FRONT OFFICE

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres yesterday fired general manager Jason Botterill and replaced him with Senior VP of Business Administration Kevyn Adams. The move came three weeks after Botterill received a vote of confidence from team owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

Kevyn Adams is the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres (Photo via NHL.com)

The club relieved assistant GMs Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley of their duties and fired the entire coaching staff of AHL affiliate Rochester Americans.

SPORTSNET: The Sabres also fired director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski and reportedly 12 of their 21 scouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This front-office bloodletting is seen as cost-cutting by a club that will be sitting idle until perhaps January. Kim Pegula claimed the change of heart with Botterill was due to the 2020 NHL Draft being pushed to this fall, giving Adams time to familiarize himself with his new role. Putting Adams, who has no management experience, into that role is also being seen as the Pegulas injecting themselves directly into management decisions affecting the on-ice product.

Botterill leaves with more misses than hits during his tenure. He got very little back from trading Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis and Evander Kane to San Jose. While he didn’t give up much to acquire Jeff Skinner from Carolina, he was criticized for re-signing the winger to an eight-year extension worth $9 million annually. On the plus side, he drafted Rasmus Dahlin and acquired blueliner Brandon Montour.

Yesterday’s moves left many observers pondering the fate of head coach Ralph Krueger. So far, it appears his job is safe, but the same was said of Botterill three weeks ago.

Considering the Sabres’ lousy record since the Pegulas took over in 2011 – a nine-year playoff drought, three management changes, and six different head coaches – their fans can be forgiven any skepticism over yesterday’s moves.

The patience of team captain and franchise players Jack Eichel will be tested if the Sabres fail to improve. Yesterday could become the beginning of the end of Eichel’s tenure in Buffalo.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

TSN: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said his government is comfortable with the NHL having a host city for its playoff tournament in Canada, provided the league follows local health protocols. Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the 10 teams in the running.

“Obviously the decision has to be made by the NHL and the cities and the provinces in the jurisdiction, but Canada is open to it as long as it is okayed by the local health authorities”, said Trudeau.”

Bob McKenzie reports there was some talk of Toronto as a front-runner but all three Canadian cities are very much in the mix. He feels Trudeau’s announcement opens the door for one of them to become a hub for the playoff tournament.

Pierre LeBrun believes we’ll get more clarity on the two hub cities next week. Las Vegas remains a lock. If the three Canadian cities don’t work out there are some people who favor Chicago.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Toronto Maple Leafs player rep Zach Hyman said he doesn’t have much clarity yet about how restrictive the NHL’s return-to-play protocol will be. He believes there could be some leniencies in place allowing players some access to their families during the tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league and the NHLPA are in ongoing negotiations regarding those return-to-play restrictions. It’s expected more will be revealed when the league moves to Phase 3 as training camps open on July 10.

AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes center Brad Richardson said he was in contact with the team staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Richardson said he subsequently tested negative for the virus.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will difficult for teams to protect their players from the coronavirus as they prepare for training camp, especially in areas like Arizona where reported cases are on the rise. The Phase 3 training-camp period will determine if Phase 4 – the playoff tournament – goes off. 

NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy isn’t ruling out resting some of his regulars during the round-robin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You’re probably thinking, “They’ve had months to rest and recover from any nagging injuries so why rest them in a three-game round-robin before the playoffs?” I doubt Cassidy’s going to do that for all of his stars. They’re going to need those games to get into game shape. This could be done on a game-by-game basis depending on the player’s needs.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has resumed skating with several teammates at Pepsi Center in Denver.

IN OTHER NEWS…

BLOOMBERG NEWS: The Nassau Coliseum will be shuttered indefinitely as its owner seeks new investors to take over operations and the remaining debt on the building. The New York Islanders were supposed to return to the Coliseum next season to play all of their home games there before moving into their new Belmont Park arena for 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The New York Post’s Larry Brooks wonders if Rangers owner James Dolan might swoop in and keep the Coliseum open next season to enable the Islanders to play there. If that doesn’t happen, the Isles might have to play one more season at Barclays Center before moving to their new arena.

TSN: The reopening of Seattle’s KeyArena has been pushed back by two months. However, it’s not expected to affect the city’s NHL expansion team from starting their inaugural season in 2021-22.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

​​A growing number of NHL stars are speaking out against racial justice, the latest updates on the league’s return-to-play format, and Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray talks about his club’s future in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MORE NHL STARS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE

TSN: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban pledged $50,000 to George Floyd’s daughter Gianna’s GoFundMe page.

“Change the game means change the narrative. The narrative has been the same: no justice. There needs to be justice. Justice has to happen, change needs to come. But we need everyone. We need all people to look at our lives and see where we can help that change and do our part.”

BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 13: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins poses for his official headshot for the 2019-2020 season on September 13, 2019 at WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Patrice Bergeron

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron pledged $25,000 to the Boston branch of the NAACP and $25,000 to Centre Multiethnique de Quebec.

 “Let’s take real actions, with an open heart and compassion, I am determined to be an ally, continue to grow myself, and raise my children to be anti-racist.”

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and teammate Jason Zucker, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber and teammate Brendan Gallagher, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and winger Tom Wilson, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson joined a growing list of NHL stars issuing statements speaking out against racial injustice.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas believes his club can and should do more to combat systemic racism.

“I think what we’ve learned, especially in the last number of days, is that with the Maple Leafs and with our players and with our staff … we need to be doing more on the anti-racism side of things. Not only with our statements and our words and our tweets and what we put out there but with our actions, and we know that people will be watching us and holding us accountable in that regard.”

ESPN.COM: NHL analyst and former goaltender Kevin Weekes described his experiences as a black player in a predominantly white sport.

“The higher up I got in hockey, the more race started to become a factor,” Weekes said. “And I started realizing that, for me, I was walking over Niagara Falls on a tightrope with no safety net.”

Weekes called upon the NHL to implement harsher punishments for racially motivated incidents or slurs and to evaluate its relationship with local police departments.

For an example, an NHL club should be very selective, just as they are with their players, to do hyperscreening of the law enforcement officials they use to work their venues or protect their players and their families. We’ll be a lot more diligent in the people we select to work with us.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell notes the growing number of NHL players speaking out against the murder of George Floyd and racism toward black people have galvanized the sport. He wonders if this will bring about necessary change within hockey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s heartening to see more NHL stars adding their voices against racial injustice, bigotry, and intolerance. However, they must back up their comments by actively working against racism within the sport and in society

Subban and Bergeron accompanied their words with deeds. Hopefully, other players will follow their example.

I’m not doubting the players’ sincerity, but if they don’t back up their comments with positive action, their words will ring hollow.

LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported an NHL source said the league hasn’t yet whittled down its list of 10 potential hub cities down to two for its return-to-play tournament. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Chicago are believed in the running. The league could narrow down that list and finding suitable locations within the next two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent protests against racial injustice in many US cities could affect the league’s decision. The potential Canadian locations depend upon whether the Canadian government eases its current COVID-19 border restrictions or deems NHL employees as essential works.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports the NHL won’t begin Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan until all 31 teams can safely and legally reopen their training facilities. There are also complications involving foreign-born players being allowed to return to their Canadian NHL cities because of the country’s border restrictions. July 10 is the earliest date training camps could open, with the 24-team tournament beginning in late July or early August.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 2 allows the players to return to their respective NHL cities to engage in voluntary small-group training in their practice facilities. The league is believed to be aiming for mid-June to formally introduce that phase.

SPORTSNET: Ontario premier Doug Ford said the NHL told him it would use private labs to process COVID-19 tests of players and staff should the league resume plan this summer. Toronto is among the teams on the proposed list of hub cities for the return-to-play tournament.

DUCKS GM EXPECTS IMPROVEMENT NEXT SEASON

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Elliott Teaford reports Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray voiced his displeasure over his club’s poor performance this season. He expects improvement and more accountability from his players in 2020-21.

Murray singled out his core players. “No excuses,” he said. “All of our core guys have to pick up their games.” He also intends to meet next week with head coach Dallas Eakins and his staff in person if possible.

The Ducks GM spoke about his club’s free agents. We’ve talked to them all,” Murray said. “In some cases, we have the hammer. In some cases, they have the hammer. There’s not going to be a lot of money out there (because of the coronavirus pause in play). The (salary) cap could be flat for a couple of years. Revenues could be tight.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks were a mess last season. Teaford cited their anemic offense, underachieving special teams, and inconsistent play.

Part of it had to do with their rebuilding roster, as several promising youngsters failed to play up to expectations. Some of it was Eakin readjusting to the NHL game after coaching in the minors. Some of it was core players like Rickard Rakell failing to step up. Murray can demand accountability but it remains to be seen if the Ducks can elevate their play.










NHL Gold & Mold: Zibanejad’s five-goal game and Toronto’s three-game skid

NHL Gold & Mold: Zibanejad’s five-goal game and Toronto’s three-game skid

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 1, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 1, 2019

The Canadiens and Flames rally for overtime victories plus the latest on Dustin Byfuglien, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAMES RECAPS

NHL.COM: Max Domi’s overtime goal gave the Montreal Canadiens a 5-4 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Habs overcame a 4-2 deficit on goals by Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher to force the extra frame. Domi and Tatar each had a goal and an assist. Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty collected an assist against his former club for his 500th career NHL point. Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi missed the game as he’s listed as day-to-day with a groin injury.

The Calgary Flames overcame 2-0, 4-1, and 5-4 deficits to burn the Nashville Predators 6-5 on a between-the-legs overtime goal by Matthew Tkachuk, who also tallied the game-tying goal. Tkachuk and Sean Monahan finished with three points apiece. Predators winger Auston Watson celebrated his new three-year, $4.5-million contract extension with a four-point performance. Teammate Calle Jarnkrok also tallied twice.

HEADLINES

TSN: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien could require up to four months to recover from recent ankle surgery. His agent is in discussions with the NHL Players Association as they review his case. it could have financial complications if it’s determined he injured his ankle playing hockey.

Dustin Byfuglien’s ankle surgery raises more questions over his future with the Winnipeg Jets (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byfuglien is on a leave of absence mulling his future and was suspended without pay for salary-cap purposes. He underwent this surgery in his home state of Minnesota without informing the team.

General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff shed little light on the situation, raising speculation of a difference of opinion between the player and the organization over the status of his injured ankle. The silence from both sides only generates more questions over the future of Byfuglien’s playing career. For the time being, it seems increasingly likely he won’t be back with the Jets this season.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets got more bad news as center Mark Letestu has been sidelined by a heart virus (myocarditis) for six months. Winger Patrik Laine remains sidelined with a minor lower-body injury. Center Bryan Little left practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury and could miss tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Letestu is expected to make a full recovery but he’ll miss the remainder of the regular season.

THE SCORE: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has hired a lawyer to investigate how his name became associated with a Russian virtual reality start-up that reportedly lost millions of dollars. The report claimed Malkin invested $4 million into the company, which used his name to attract other investors. He denied investing in the company.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Speaking of the Penguins, they’ve assigned Sam Lafferty to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

CBS SPORTS: Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Buffalo Sabres winger Jimmy Vesey (lower body) has been upgraded from week-to-week to day-to-day. San Jose Sharks center Dylan Gambrell is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings forward Tyler Toffoli was a healthy scratch during Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli is an unrestricted free agent in July. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds to this move.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks have recalled defenseman Adam Boqvist.

The Charlotte Checkers have released Jamie McGinn from his professional tryout offer.