NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 19, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 19, 2020

NHL looking at 8-9 locations as potential neutral-site hubs, plus the latest on Mikko Lehtonen and Guy Lafleur in today’s morning coffee headlines,

NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL is looking at “probably eight or nine different places” that can accommodate “a dozen or so teams in one location” as it continues to examine options to re-open the season. He also indicated there’s no fixed timetable yet for returning to action.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The latter comment may have been aimed at the players. Cory Schneider, the New Jersey Devils’ NHLPA rep, said the players are wondering if there’s a drop-dead deadline for returning to play. The longer it takes to restart the season, the further the start of next season gets pushed ahead. 

“We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty,” said Bettman. He also indicated border and quarantine issues must also be resolved before the players return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver have been mentioned as possible hosts. Having one of those hub locations in Canada would be more affordable for the league because of the lower value of the Canadian dollar. However, that depends upon whether there will be quarantine exemptions for NHL players. Anyone currently traveling to Canada must undergo a 14-day quarantine period. 

Bettman stressed the need to ensure an abundance of testing for all involved in NHL games.”(We) certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs.” Good game conditions must also be in place for the players. Everything the league does will be determined by medical and government authorities.

The commissioner said players and fans want the NHL to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup, even if it means playing through the summer and delaying the start of next season. The league remains committed to staging a full 82-games schedule for 2020-21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the league returns in early-July with a 24-team playoff format, the Stanley Cup could be awarded by mid-September. The 2020 NHL Draft would be staged soon afterward (provided it isn’t held in June) with the freeze on player trades lifted, followed by the start of the 2020 free-agent period. Training camp could open in November and the regular season begin in early-December. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Ken Campbell took to Twitter yesterday reporting almost nothing of substance came out of yesterday’s NHL Board of Governors’ meeting. “The league is still considering a host of options and will not commit to any one of them until absolutely necessary. Those close to the situation maintain the goalposts are still constantly moving.”

SPORTSNET: Newly-signed Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mikko Lehtonen was named the KHL’s top rearguard for 2019-20. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs could have a blueline star on their hands if Lehtonen adapts well to the NHL game. 

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur is healthy enough to renew his helicopter pilot’s license after undergoing open-heart surgery and cancer surgery since last fall.  “They have to send all the doctors’ papers to Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration because I also had a US license. They will give me permission to take my medical exam, which I need to do to get my license. I spoke to my doctor and he said it was okay,” said Lafleur.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Glad to hear Lafleur has fully recovered and ready to return to the skies. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2018

Nate Schmidt receives 20-game suspension, notable remaining UFAs and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt received a 20-game suspension for violating the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, a charge he, his agent and the team denied yesterday. The league didn’t reveal what substance Schmidt tested positive for or when the test was conducted. His appeal was denied by an independent arbitrator.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt has been suspended for violating the NHL’s PED program. (Photo via NHL Images)

In a statement yesterday, Schmidt professed his innocence, claiming he never knowingly ingested a banned substance. He said the trace amount was “consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.”

Schmidt cited one expert who testified on his behalf claiming the amount of substance found in his system ” 7 billionths of a milligram/mL — as the equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.” Another who analyzed a sample of his hair concluded there was no evidence of intentional use. “The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.”

The Golden Knights also released a statement supporting Schmidt, expressing their belief “that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know the full details from the hearings or what Schmidt may have ingested. Going by his story, however, it appears the punishment received was unduly harsh and perhaps unjustified.  It’s worth noting the Golden Knights are standing by Schmidt. It’ll be interesting to see if the league or the PA will issue a statement. it doesn’t sound as though there’s another appeal option for Schmidt.

In the meantime, Schmidt’s absence will leave a significant gap on their blueline early in the coming season that could force the Golden Knights to address via trade, free agency or waivers. I’ll have more in my Rumors section later this morning.  

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Center Antoine Vermette, left wing Mike Cammalleri, right wing Lee Stempniak, defensemen Luca Sbisa and Cody Franson and goaltender Steve Mason are the notable veterans remaining in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. Others include forwards Scott Hartnell and Daniel Winnik, blueliner Kevin Bieksa and goalie Kari Lehtonen. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A handful of these players could earn one-year deals via professional tryout offers. The rest face continuing their playing careers in Europe or retirement. 

TSN: Former Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators defenseman Alexei Emelin signed a three-year contract with KHL club Avangard Omsk.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The Vancouver Canucks need a healthy Chris Tanev to return to form this season. 


Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Latest on the Golden Knights and another look at the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in your NHL rumor mill.


LAS VEGAS SUN: In the wake of William Karlsson re-signing a one-year, $5.25-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, Jesse Granger reports defenseman Shea Theodore is their only remaining free agent. Theodore is coming off his entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. General manager George McPhee hopes to re-sign the young blueliner before the start of the season.

Vegas Golden Knights hope to re-sign defenseman Shea Theodore before the start of next season (Photo via NHL Images).

Granger also reports McPhee hinted at a possible move to bolster his forward lines. “We’re happy where we are,” said the Vegas GM. “If there’s an opportunity to upgrade at the forward position at any time over the next year we will.”

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Despite re-signing Karlsson to a one-year deal and with Theodore expected to re-sign, Ed Graney reports the Golden Knights aren’t any better on paper than they were in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Graney raises some questions, wondering if they’re really convince Malcolm Subban is a capable long-term solution if starter Marc-Andre Fleury becomes sidelined again, if someone like Ryan Carpenter can steal a job, and if career performances by so many players last season could result in a natural regression in 2018-19.

He also wonders if the Golden Knights “would emerge from a handful of reported suitors” interested in Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights definitely defied expectations last season. While I think they’re still good enough to be a playoff contender in 2018-19, I doubt they’ll make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Unlike many of McPhee’s peers who might have interest in acquiring Erik Karlsson or a skilled forward, he’s carrying considerable depth in draft picks (stick tap to Cap Friendly) and promising young players that could be used as trade bait. Doing so, however, could mean including the promising Theodore in the package or giving up a top prospect such as Cody Glass or Nick Suzuki. 


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the NHL’s top-10 remaining unrestricted free agents. Topping the list is winger Rick Nash, though it remains uncertain if he’ll continue his career due to health and family concerns. Prior to the start of this summer’s UFA market, Nash told several teams (including the Columbus Blue Jackets) that he was sitting out the free-agent frenzy to contemplate his future. 

The remainder of Fox’s list includes defenseman Luca Sbisa (who at one point had reportedly been contacted by the Chicago Blackhawks), blueliner Tobias Enstrom, forward Mark Letestu, forward Mike Cammalleri (who got some interest from Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley in bringing him to the KHL), rearguard Alexei Emelin, goaltender Kari Lehtonen, center Nick Shore, winger Scott Hartnell (who recently conceded he could be headed toward retirement) and left wing Benoit Pouliot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from Nash, most of the others on this list could face going through professional tryouts during training camp to land new contracts for next season. Some could end up continuing their playing careers overseas. Some, like Hartnell, could be retiring.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Blackhawks have ongoing interest in Sbisa as they still need help on the blueline. The KHL could be the oft-injured Cammalleri’s best option to continue his playing career. Lehtonen might still draw some interest from teams in need of experienced goaltending depth. However, he could be a late-September or early-October signing as clubs evaluate their goalies during training camp and preseason play. 


Slim Pickings Remain in 2018 NHL UFA Market

Slim Pickings Remain in 2018 NHL UFA Market

A week into the 2018 NHL free-agent market, not much talent remains for teams attempting to bolster their lineups. Here’s a brief look at the notable names still available as of July 7, 2018.

Left wing Patrick Maroon is the best player still available in this summer’s UFA market (Photo via NHL Images).

Patrick Maroon. The best remaining scorer in the bunch. A big-bodied (6’3”, 225 lbs) left winger coming off back-to-back 40-plus point seasons. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly interested in his services.

Kari Lehtonen. The 34-year-old Lehtonen posted a respectable 2.56 goals-against average and .912 save percentage last season in a backup role with the Dallas Stars. He could be a mentor for a rising young starter.

Dan Hamhuis. Though Hamhuis’ best days are behind him,  the 35-year-old defenseman still tallied 24 points while skating over 20 minutes per game with the Stars. He could be a solid depth addition for a playoff contender.

Toby Enstrom. Injuries have frequently sidelined the 33-year-old Enstrom, hampering his effectiveness as a puck-moving blueliner. His experience, however, could be helpful to a rebuilding club.

Brooks Orpik. The shutdown blueliner helped the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup this spring. Traded to Colorado and bought out, the Capitals are reportedly interested in bringing him back for one more year.

Steve Mason. The 30-year-old struggled with injury and inconsistency as the Winnipeg Jets’ backup last season. Those factors could hurt Mason’s efforts to land with another NHL club.

Luca Sbisa. Missed all but 30 games to injury last season but was solid in the playoffs for the Vegas Golden Knights. Sbisa could be a good depth addition to a blueline in need of a physical rearguard.

Antoine Vermette. The 35-year-old’s 20-goal, 40-point seasons are well in the past. However, he could provide depth for clubs in need of a veteran checking-line center.

Alexei Emelin. A physical defenseman, Emelin could provide some experienced grit as a third-pairing blueliner.

Ondrej Pavelec. The 30-year-old netminder sported a decent .910 save percentage serving as Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy with the New York Rangers.


NHL Headlines – June 17 and 18, 2018

NHL Headlines – June 17 and 18, 2018

Canadiens re-sign Domi plus latest on Alex Galchenyuk and Kari Lehtonen in your NHL headlines

NHL.COM: Hours after acquiring left wing Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes, the Montreal Canadiens re-signed him to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.15 million.

Montreal Canadiens re-sign recently acquired left wing Max Domi to a two-year contract (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a reasonable two-year bridge deal for the 23-year-old Domi, who’s completing his entry-level contract. Having dealt away Alex Galchenyuk’s $4.9-million annual salary-cap hit, Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens now have over $60.8 million invested in 21 players.

If the salary cap reaches $80 million as projected, they’ll have roughly $19 million in cap room to work with this summer. That’s assuming, of course, no other notable salaried players (Max Pacioretty?) get dealt. 

ARIZONA SPORTS:Alex Galchenyuk is looking forward to a fresh start with the Coyotes, where he could be playing center next season. Galchenyuk said he’d asked Canadiens coach Claude Julien late in this season if he could return to center but nothing came of it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was certainly puzzling that the Caandiens didn’t move Galchenyuk back to center when the season was a lost cause. After all, if he wasn’t as good at that position as they believed, there wasn’t any harm in letting him move into that spot for a few games.

For whatever reason, they didn’t. Critics of Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin believe this was yet another example of the club misusing a valuable asset. If Galchenyuk goes on to star with the Coyotes as a center and Domi struggles next season, it’ll cost Bergevin his job.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is putting his $4.25-million home up for sale.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehtonen and his wife hope to remain in the Dallas area. If he intends on continuing his NHL career, he’ll have to do so playing for another club, as he’s an unrestricted free agent and not expected to be re-signed.


Latest Senators and Stars Speculation – April 2, 2018

Latest Senators and Stars Speculation – April 2, 2018

More speculation over Erik Karlsson’s future plus a look at possible offseason moves for the Dallas Stars in your NHL rumor mill.

Erik Karlsson’s future with the Ottawa Senators will remain an ongoing topic of interest in the offseason (Photo via NHL Images)


OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren wonders if tonight’s contest against the Winnipeg Jets might be the final home game for Erik Karlsson with the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson has one year remaining on his contract and the Senators hope to re-sign him this summer, but Warren is curious over how much they’re willing to spend. “Eight years and $80 million? Eight years and $90 million? $100 million, anyone?”

If the Senators win the 2018 NHL Draft lottery, it would put them in line to select Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Warren thinks that would generate “a steady stream of trade speculation involving Karlsson” leading up to the opening round of the draft on June 22.

It also remains to be seen if Karlsson wants to be part of a rebuilding club. Warren notes the Senators captain, who has a 10-team list of trade destinations, was “very much in play” leading up to this year’s NHL trade deadline. He and Bobby Ryan were rumored to be heading to a Western Conference team in a package deal by deadline day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson’s going to be part of a steady stream of trade speculation regardless of whether or not the Sens win the draft lottery. It’s believed they were close to shipping Karlsson and Ryan to the Vegas Golden Knights before the deadline but the deal apparently fell through. It’s possible the two clubs could revisit those discussions leading up to the draft. If not, perhaps the Senators will start looking around for potential suitors once the playoffs end in June. 

The earliest the Senators can re-sign Karlsson is July 1. It’s going to cost the Sens a lot of money on a long-term deal to keep him in the fold. He’s indicated he won’t accept a hometown discount. If they’re engaging in a full rebuild, Karlsson and/or the Sens front office could decide it’s time to part ways. 


THE ATHLETIC: With the Dallas Stars’ playoff hopes fading, Sean Shapiro was recently asked about their possible offseason moves in a recent mailbag segment. His checklist includes buying out fading veteran forward Jason Spezza or picking up part of his $7.5-million cap hit on the remaining year of his salary in order to trade him.

Shapiro also feels they need to build up their second line via trades or free agency. While that won’t be easy, he observed the Stars have the cap space to take some of the burden off their top line. He suggested trading for Ottawa Senators winger Mark Stone at the draft.

As for the Stars’ unrestricted free agents, Shapiro believes goaltender Kari Lehtonen and defenseman Dan Hamhuis won’t be re-signed. He also felt blueliner Greg Pateryn could be moving on but has a gut feeling Antoine Roussel could be back, though he’s “not sure if there is a contractual number that works for both sides.” Shapiro doesn’t believe the Stars will move their first-round pick in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars’ late-season collapse could spur more roster changes this summer. It might not include acquiring Stone from Ottawa. During the blizzard of speculation involving the Senators leading up to the trade deadline, his name was rarely mentioned as a trade candidate. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and it’s believed the Sens intend to keep him. Of course, if he does hit the trade block the Stars would probably be interested, However, they’ll have competition from a number of NHL clubs hoping to pry him away from the Sens.

After tallying 50 points in 68 games in 2016-17, Spezza’s managed just 26 points in 75 games this season. He turns 35 in June and the wear and tear of 15 NHL campaigns could be catching up with him. Perhaps he also feels stymied under coach Ken Hitchcock’s system. Whatever the reason, the Stars will have to pick up a big chunk of that cap hit to move him. They could explore that option in late-June and perhaps buy him out by June 30 if there aren’t any takers. As per Cap Friendly, they’ll free up $5 million in cap space if they go the buyout route.