NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 11, 2021

The league mourns the passing of Tony Esposito, the latest on Robin Lehner and Dylan Larkin, the Wings avoid arbitration with Jakub Vrana, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The hockey world is mourning the loss of Tony Esposito, who passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer at age 78. The younger brother of Phil Esposito, he carved his own path to the Hockey Hall of Fame during his 16 NHL seasons, with all but one of those with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was a trailblazer, using the butterfly style of goaltending pioneered by Glenn Hall.

Hall of Fame goaltender Tony Esposito (NHL.com).

Tony O” backstopped the Blackhawks to the 1971 and 1973 Stanley Cup Finals. He holds the league’s single-season shutout record with 15 set in 1969-70. He also holds the Blackhawks career record for wins (418), shutouts (74) and games played by a goalie (873), as well as the single-season records for save percentage (.934) and saves (2,119).

Esposito won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 1969-70. He also took home the Vezina Trophy in 1969-70, 1971-72 and 1973-74. He was part of the Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup roster in 1968-69 and played in four games for Team Canada in the eight-game 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Esposito was one of my favorite players when I was growing up in the 1970s. In my opinion, he was the greatest goaltender in Blackhawks history. My sincere condolences to his family, friends, former teammates and the Blackhawks organization.

Along with Ken Dryden, Bernie Parent and Rogatien Vachon, Esposito was part of a dominant foursome of NHL goaltenders in the early-1970s. His unique acrobatic style, right-handed trapper and memorable mask made him one of the league’s most recognized netminders.

THE SCORE: Vegas Golden Knight goaltender Robin Lehner said he caught some heat on social media last summer when player agent Allan Walsh tweeted his infamous photoshop of client Marc-Andre Fleury being stabbed in the back by a sword engraved with the name of Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer.

Walsh was upset over Fleury’s lack of playing time during the 2020 playoffs. Fleury had the agent delete the image but Lehner said he caught some flak from Fleury’s supporters because of Walsh’s actions.

Lehner and Fleury laughed off the incident and combined last season to win the William M. Jennings Trophy. He also said he’s come to admire Walsh for his willingness to fight for players’ rights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: When Fleury was traded to Chicago last month Walsh praised Lehner as an “amazing teammate and friend” to his client. He also praised him as “a role model and inspiration deserving of respect” for his work as a mental health advocate.

THE ATHLETIC: Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin is back on the ice skating and shooting as he aims to be ready for training camp next month. The 25-year-old center suffered a season-ending injury when Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn cross-checked him in the back of the neck during a game in late April. He’s yet to be cleared for contact drills but said he feels “refreshed and ready to go.” Nevertheless, he intends to be cautious in his preparations.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Speaking of the Red Wings, they avoided salary arbitration with Jakub Vrana, signing the 25-year-old forward to a three-year contract worth $5.25 million annually. He had originally sought $5.75 million while the Wings had offered $3.65 million.

ESPN.COM: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged a final decision on NHL participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will be made by the end of August. Negotiations between the league, NHL Players Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee are ongoing.

There are concerns over rising COVID-19 numbers and COVID restrictions placed on Olympic athletes that would dwarf those that NHL players experienced in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoff bubbles.

AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Phil Housley, Cory Stillman and Corey Schwab will all return as Arizona Coyotes assistant coaches this season.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Andrew Allen was named goaltending coach for the Kraken. They also hired former NHL coach Dan Bylsma as an assistant coach with its temporary AHL affiliate in Charlotte.

NHL.COM: The Los Angeles Kings signed 2021 first-round pick Brandt Clarke to an entry-level contract.

CHICAGO DAILY HERALD: The Blackhawks signed forward Mike Hardman to a two-year, $1.6 million contract.

SPORTSNET: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed defenseman Andrew Peeke to a two-year, $1.575 million contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 27, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 27, 2021

With the NHL free-agent market opening July 28, here’s the latest on the goalie market, Ryan Getzlaf’s status with the Ducks and updates on the Canadiens and Kraken in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE OFFSEASON GOALIE MARKET

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports talks between the Colorado Avalanche and goaltender Philipp Grubauer are expected to go down to the wire before the free-agent market opens at noon ET on July 28. The Avs are holding firm with an offer of five years and $5 million annually while the Grubauer camp seeks over $6 million per season.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer (NHL Images).

The Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs view Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper as a primary trade target but the asking price is high. The Chicago Blackhawks are among several teams with an interest in Vancouver Canucks netminder Braden Holtby. The Vegas Golden Knights have dangled Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury at varying points this season.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports have an interest in Kuemper and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek. They haven’t made a contract offer to former starter Frederik Andersen. He thinks Andersen could be on the Hurricanes’ shortlist.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting a deal for one of the Golden Knights’ goaltenders fell through over the weekend. It was either Fleury going to the Blackhawks or Lehner heading to the New Jersey Devils.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can expect a fair bit of jockeying over the next couple of days as teams attempt to address their goalie needs via trades and/or free agency.

Grubauer’s situation will be interesting. The Avs wouldn’t have clinched this year’s Presidents’ Trophy without him but he was shaky in their second-round series against Vegas. Nevertheless, I don’t see a better option in the trade or free-agent markets.

Kuemper is the best of the bunch after Grubauer but he carries a $4.5 million cap hit for next season, has a recent injury history and is slated to become a UFA next summer. The Coyotes asking price is likely a high draft pick and/or a top prospect or young NHL-ready player.

The Lehner to New Jersey rumor caught my eye. The Devils seemed keen on young Mackenzie Blackwood as their starter. I assumed they’d want a reliable backup to mentor him. Lehner, however, is a full-fledged starter. If the Devils were trying to get him that suggests they have less confidence in Blackwood than originally thought.

It sounds like the Leafs are scouting the market for someone to share the goalie duties with Jack Campbell. If they don’t find anything that fits within their limited cap space perhaps they’ll circle back to Andersen, provided another club hasn’t snapped him up.

COULD GETZLAF HIT THE MARKET?

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Anaheim Ducks and captain Ryan Getzlaf aren’t close to a new contract but he doesn’t rule out the possibility that they’ll get one done. Nevertheless, the 36-year-old center is readying himself to hear offers from clubs on Wednesday if he’s still unsigned by then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Eric Stephens reports the Ducks want to bring back Getzlaf. He suggested the speculation about the captain leaving might be to put a bit of pressure on the Ducks. We’ll see what transpires. Despite his age and declining production, he will attract plenty of interest in the free-agent market.

WHO COULD THE CANADIENS TARGET IN FREE AGENCY?

TVA SPORTS: Rumors are circulating suggesting the Montreal Canadiens could sign Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman David Savard and Carolina Hurricanes forward Cedric Paquette when the UFA market opens on Wednesday.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston took to Twitter reporting Chris Wideman is a “good bet” to land with the Canadiens via free agency. The 31-year-old defenseman is coming off a productive season in the KHL.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are looking to fill the gap on defense with Shea Weber sidelined for next season (and possibly longer). They’ll also need some checking-line depth if they lose center Phillip Danault to free agency. One rumor claims Wideman already has a one-year deal in place with the Habs that will be announced tomorrow.

KRAKEN EXPECTED TO BE BUSY IN UFA MARKET

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the expansion Seattle Kraken are expected to be active in the upcoming free-agent market. They have lots of cap space to invest. LeBrun believes they’ll circle back on St. Louis Blues’ left winger Jaden Schwartz and make him a concrete offer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken have over $30 million in projected cap space. They have sufficient room to re-sign their four restricted free agents (including Vince Dunn) and make a splash or two in the UFA pool for someone like Schwartz.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 26, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 26, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, the goaltending market and Evgeny Kuznetsov in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD AN EICHEL TRADE HAPPEN THIS WEEK?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Jack Eichel’s agents believe the 24-year-old center will be traded in the near future, adding all their discussions with the Buffalo Sabres have centered around that issue. Eyebrows were raised when Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said he’d have no problem if Eichel was still with the club when training camp opens in September.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Friedman listed the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild among the clubs with some interest in Eichel. The Montreal Canadiens have engaged in talks with the Sabres but they’re not anywhere near a point where the latter would agree to a deal. The New York Rangers and Sabres aren’t close in their conversations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The sticking point, of course, is the herniated disk in Eichel’s neck. While he’s returned to skating, it’s believed he still prefers surgery. However, the Sabres are reluctant to go that route because the procedure has never been done on a professional hockey player.

Eichel’s $10 million annual cap hit for the next five seasons is another issue. So is the Sabres’ rumored asking price of the equivalent of four first-round draft picks. As I’ve recently speculated, this could drag on throughout the summer before reaching a resolution before the start of training camp.

A LOOK AT THIS SUMMER’S GOALIE MARKET

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman observed the Toronto Maple Leafs have made finding a goaltending partner for Jack Campbell to be their top priority. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers seek an experienced partner for young starter Carter Hart.

He wondered if the Vancouver Canucks will buy out Braden Holtby if unable to trade him and if Martin Jones will get a fresh start elsewhere assuming he’s bought out by the San Jose Sharks.

Other goalie questions include where Arizona Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper ends up, what the Vegas Golden Knights will do with their goalie tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner, and what the market will be for Sabres UFA Linus Ullmark.

He also mused over what the Colorado Avalanche’s contract limit will be for pending free agent Philipp Grubauer. It’s believed Grubauer’s asking price was close to the six-year, $6 million per season contract of St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan and The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox believe it’s crucial for Leafs GM Kyle Dubas to find the right partner for Campbell. Cox was scathing in his analysis of Dubas’ seeming unwillingness to adequately address the club’s goaltending.

There won’t be any long-term solutions walking through the door via free agency for the Leafs. I doubt they can win any bidding war for Grubauer. The asking price for Kuemper could be a first-round pick but they’ve go just three picks (including their first) in next year’s draft. Acquiring Fleury or Lehner could also cost them a valuable asset.

CAPITALS NOT SHOPPING KUZNETSOV?

WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Sammi Silber reports the possibility of the Capitals trading Evgeny Kuznetsov appears less certain after GM Brian MacLellan downplayed that notion over the weekend. “We’ve never said we’re trading Kuznetsov,” he said. “I said we were open to discussions on most of our players in the trade market and if it comes up, it comes up and if it doesn’t make sense, same as always.”

The Capitals face a salary-cap crunch and still have to re-sign captain Alex Ovechkin and goaltender Ilya Samsonov. While clearing Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million AAV would address that issue, MacLellan said decisions to clear cap space will be based on how much they need. He also suggested swinging a blockbuster deal similar to those in recent days isn’t necessarily going to be his team’s strategy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Kuznetsov’s disappointing season on and off the ice, MacLellan could be reluctant to part with him because of his previous contributions when he’s on his game. He may have also tested the market and found lukewarm interest in the 29-year-old center.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2021

Could the Golden Knights move a goaltender to free up cap space to fix their power play? What’s the latest on Duncan Keith? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reported Golden Knights owner Bill Foley will be meeting with his club’s front office and pro scouting staff in the coming weeks to draw up their plan for the offseason. He singled out the club’s power play as a key area to address.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

The Golden Knights’ play with the man advantage has plagued them since last year’s postseason. Their power-play was held scoreless in 15 attempts during their semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens and was 4-for-43 in this year’s playoffs.

With the second-most salary-cap space allotted to goaltending ($12 million), the Golden Knights must also decide whether to keep Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner. Foley advocated during last offseason to retain Fleury and has expressed his wish for the veteran netminder to finish his career with Vegas. Fleury, 36, won the Vezina Trophy this season. He and 29-year-old Lehner also won the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals-against.

Foley said he likes both goaltenders but indicated they’ll have to see how things evolve in the coming weeks.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Mark Madden believes the Pittsburgh Penguins should attempt to acquire Robin Lehner from the Golden Knights if Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t available.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights could face a difficult decision with their goaltenders. They could be forced to move one of them to free up salary-cap space to bring in additional scoring punch for their power play.

Fleury and Lehner would draw plenty of interest in the trade market. Perhaps the Penguins could be among them but their limited cap space means shedding salary to make room for one or the other. 

Fleury has a year left on his contract but carries a $7 million cap hit. Lehner’s is $5 million annually but has four more years on his deal. However, their modified no-trade clauses will limit the potential destinations. Fleury has a 10-team no-trade list while Lehner’s is eight teams for the coming season. If Vegas trades one they’ll have to find a suitable (and affordable) replacement via trade or free agency.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Oilers’ pursuit of Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith could be complicated by the upcoming expansion draft.

With the Oilers expected to protect seven forwards and three blueliners, perhaps it means any possible deal for Keith takes place following the July 21 expansion draft. In that case, however, it could mean the Blackhawks risk losing Riley Stillman to the Seattle Kraken if Keith won’t waive his no-movement clause for the draft.

Given Keith’s age (37), Matheson suggested the Oilers would be better off in an ideal world trying to sign 28-year-old Dallas Stars blueliner Jamie Oleksiak via free agency. However, Oleksiak could command $4 million per season. Oilers GM Ken Holland would likely be bidding against eight-to-10 other teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson raises an interesting point regarding the Keith-to-Edmonton trade speculation. As he pointed out, the Oilers could send the Blackhawk a defenseman in return for Keith that can be exposed in the expansion draft to protect Stillman.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 21, 2021

The Golden Knights tie their semifinal series with an OT win over the Canadiens plus ongoing reaction from Game 4 of the Islanders-Lightning series and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights tied their semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens at two games apiece with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 4. Nicolas Roy tallied the game-winner in the extra frame.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (NHL Images).

Montreal opened the scoring with a second-period goal by Paul Byron but Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb tied it midway through the third period. Robin Lehner was a surprise starter for the Golden Knights, kicking out 27 shots for the victory.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eyebrows were raised when Vegas coach Peter DeBoer went with Lehner over starter Marc-Andre Fleury for this contest. Fleury’s turnover in Game 3 cost his club that game but he’s been otherwise superb in this postseason. It was a gusty move on DeBoer’s part that paid off. Lehner played very well, showing little sign of rust in just his second game of these playoffs.

After the Golden Knights dominated Game 3 and lost in overtime, it was the Canadiens turn to fall in the extra frame after outperforming their opponent. This was one of the Habs’ best games of the playoffs despite the loss. They’ve done an effective job bottling up the Golden Knights’ scoring forwards.

The poor quality of the NHL officiating has been an ongoing theme in this year’s playoffs. It reared its ugly head in this contest. One example was Montreal defenseman Joel Edmundson boarding Vegas forward William Carrier from behind right in front of referee Dan O’Rourke. Another was NcNabb manhandling Canadiens center Nick Suzuki, punching him in the face in full view of referee Chris Lee. There was no call in either incident.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon was placed in self-isolation yesterday after testing positive for COVID-19. The test result was revealed hours before Game 4. McCrimmon is the second person in this series to test positive. On Friday, Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme tested positive and is self-isolating for 14 days.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme was fully vaccinated but a Golden Knights spokesman declined to comment when asked if McCrimmon had reached that status. The story goes on to say that 85 percent of their traveling party had reached the vaccination threshold that qualified for relaxed travel protocols. McCrimmon and team president George McPhee was seen maskless while watching Game 3 from a suite at the Bell Centre, which could be considered a protocol violation.

The games in this series are the first involving NHL teams traveling back and forth between Canada and the United States since March 2020. So far, no players have tested positive. You can bet the league will be closely monitoring this situation, reminding both clubs about the importance of maintaining its COVID-19 protocols.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: For the first time in two postseasons, the Lightning is tied 2-2 in a series heading into Game 5. They led each of their last six series three games to one heading into previous Game 5 situations.

NEW YORK POST: Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock’s game-saving block in Game 4 is earning comparisons to other famous saves in sports history.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 22, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 22, 2022

The Golden Knights become the first team to clinch a playoff berth, Patrick Marleau reaches another milestone for games played, plus the latest on Jonathan Toews, Conor Garland and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights became the first team to clinch a berth in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs by downing the San Jose Sharks 5-2. Jonathan Marchessault led the way with two goals and two assists for the Golden Knights, who sit atop the Honda West Division and the overall standings with 68 points. San Jose forward Patrick Marleau reached another milestone, playing in his 900th consecutive NHL game. The Sharks (41 points) remain four points back of the fourth-place Arizona Coyotes.

Jonathan Marchessault’s four-point performance in a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks helped the Vegas Golden Knights clinch a 2021 NHL playoff berth (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marleau recently broke Gordie Howe’s NHL record for most games played with 1,768. His Ironman streak is also impressive, becoming just the fourth player in league history to play 900 consecutive games. The leader is Doug Jarvis (964), followed by Garry Unger (914) and Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle (913), with the latter poised to tie Unger in tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Speaking of the Coyotes, they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Minnesota Wild. Kirill Kaprizov set the Wild record for most goals by a rookie with 19 while Cam Talbot kicked out 39 shots for the win. With 61 points, the Wild sits three points behind the second-place Colorado Avalanche. Coyotes winger Conor Garland missed the game following a lower-body injury suffered in practice earlier in the day.

Montreal Canadiens winger Josh Anderson scored twice as his club held off the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Edmonton captain Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists as the Oilers (56 points) sit one point behind the second-place Winnipeg Jets in the Scotia North Division. The Canadiens, meanwhile, sit fourth with 49 points, opening an eight-point lead over the Calgary Flames. Oilers winger Zack Kassian left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. 

The Chicago Blackhawks overcame a 4-1 deficit to drop the Nashville Predators 5-4 on an overtime goal by Brandon Hagel, who also collected two assists. The Predators sit in fourth place in the Discover Central Division with 52 points while the Blackhawks sit three back in sixth.

HEADLINES

The NHL extended the West Division schedule to May 13 to accommodate postponed games involving the Avalanche.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL hopes to start the 2021-22 season on Oct. 12, which is one week later than in a normal year. Training camps would open on Sept. 22 if there are no COVID-related delays.

The league cannot say for certain when the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs will begin due to the in-season delays some teams have dealt with this season.

The NHL still intends to participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics provided an agreement is reached with the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee.

The 2021 NHL Draft (July 23-24) will be held virtually for the second straight year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means it’ll probably take over seven hours again to complete the second day of the draft unless the league sets a more rigid timetable for each team to make their selections.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner accused the NHL of lying to the players regarding its policies on COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinations. He claimed the league told them restrictions would ease if a certain threshold of vaccinations were achieved.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied Lehner’s claim, saying loosened restrictions were previously discussed internally and with the NHL Players Association but no decision was reached or communicated to the players.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is likely done for the remainder of this season as he continues to battle an illness that’s left him drained and lethargic. However, his health is improving and he’s expected to return next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Toews as he continues his recovery.

CBS SPORTS: Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart will miss his club’s next two games due to a knee sprain.

TSN: A settlement in principle has been reached between the NHL and Kelli Ewen, widow of former player Todd Ewen, over the wrongful death lawsuit she filed against the league in 2019. The suit alleges Todd’s suicide in 2015 was linked to the league allegedly downplaying the potential long-term effects of repeated head trauma and profiting from a culture of on-ice violence.