Sabres Desperately Need Experienced Management and Coaching
Latest on Tyler Seguin and Corey Crawford, Capitals re-sign Tom Wilson and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said he’s working on a contract extension for center Tyler Seguin, who’s eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent. “We’ve had continued dialogue,” Nill said. “They’ve got where they think they should be and we’ve presented where we think we should be, and we just continue to discuss.” He remains hopeful of getting Seguin under contract, preferably before the start of 2018-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seguin could hit the open market next summer but there appears a willingness on both sides here to avoid that possibility. Re-signing him will be expensive. Seguin’s current annual salary-cap hit is $5.75 million and I suspect he’ll seek at least $10 million annually on his next deal.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Mark Lazerus reports Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford said he’s made progress in his recovery from a season-ending head injury and hopes to be recovered in time for training camp. He admitted he’s not yet at 100 percent but remains determined to return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthy Crawford is key to the Blackhawks’ hopes of rebounding from last season’s disappointing performance and returning to Cup contender status. While GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville have maintained their belief that their starter will be good to go come September, the fact Bowman signed former Carolina Hurricanes starter Cam Ward suggests they want to have a reliable insurance policy just in case.
Lazerus also reports Quenneville won’t be carrying three goaltenders if Crawford returns for training camp and the start of the season. That could mean Anton Forsberg ends up exposed to waivers.
NBC SPORTS: The Washington Capitals have re-signed winger Tom Wilson to a six-year contract with an annual average value of $5.17 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nothing like winning a Stanley Cup to make a general manager overpay one of his free agents. Look, I understand Wilson is a significant physical presence for the Capitals and he had a terrific playoff performance. I get their willingness to keep him in the fold, but they paid too much for too long here.
As per Cap Friendly, Wilson’s coming off a two-year deal with an AAV of $2 million. Unless Wilson’s postseason numbers (15 points in 21 games) are indicative of an offensive breakout on his part, the Capitals could come to regret this contract down the road.
SPORTSNET: Forget about Dean Lombardi becoming the next president of the Vancouver Canucks. His current contract with the Philadelphia Flyers doesn’t allow that. Lombardi also said he remains committed to the Flyers.
Latest on Roberto Luongo, Ryan Miller, Petr Mrazek and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: After an injury-shortened 2016-17, Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo hopes his summer of rehab will lead to a healthier 2017-18 campaign. Luongo’s also incorporated a lengthier, intricate warm-up routine last 45-60 minutes.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: After years of being linked to the Anaheim Ducks in trade rumors, goaltender Ryan Miller is getting ready for his first season with the team. Miller inked a two-year contract with the Ducks this summer.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Coming off a poor performance in 2016-17 and being left exposed in June’s expansion draft, Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek has a renewed attitude as he looks toward a bounce-back season.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Sophomore forward Nick Schmaltz is getting an opportunity to center the Blackhawks’ second line.
CSNNE.COM: Veteran winger Teddy Purcell hopes to rekindle his NHL career on a professional tryout contract with the Boston Bruins.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues center Zach Sanford will missed the remainder of training camp with a shoulder injury.
TSN: The Philadelphia Flyers hired former Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi to work under GM Ron Hextall.
Capitals force Game 7 against Penguins plus updates on John Tavares, Vladimir Tarasenko & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Andre Burakovsky scored twice and Nicklas Backstrom tallied a goal and an assist as the Washington Capitals defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 in Game 6 of their second-round series. The seventh and deciding game will be played on Wednesday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals dominated the Penguins in this game, breaking up Pittsburgh’s passing game and frustrating their best players. Some believe there’s been a momentum shift since Game 5 of this series, but I believe that shift occurred following captain Sidney Crosby’s concussion in Game 3. While the Penguins won Game 4 in Crosby’s absence, they were outplayed in that game and owed their victory to the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury. Crosby’s return in Game 5 hasn’t helped. Indeed, he hasn’t looked the same since his injury. His teammates look like they’ve lost the energy they had earlier in this series.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby collected an assist for his 97th career NHL playoff point, surpassing Mario Lemieux as the club’s all-time playoff points leader. However, that was overshadowed by the loss and a scary incident in which Crosby crashed headfirst into the end boards during the first period. Crosby would continue playing but he and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan offered up conflicting replies post-game regarding concussion evaluation. Crosby said he was evaluated following the first period but Sullivan said he wasn’t.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s surprising the NHL’s concussion spotters didn’t ask to take a look at Crosby following that incident. The conflicting comments by the Penguins captain and Sullivan could raise more questions over how the club and the league evaluates their players for possible concussion symptoms.
The Penguins also played without defenseman Trevor Daley, who missed Game 6 with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
EDMONTON SUN/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Oilers fourth-liner and first-unit power-play shooter Mark Letestu has more points than superstar teammate Connor McDavid, sitting seventh among all scorers in this postseason. Meanwhile, Ducks forwards Patrick Eaves and Logan Shaw remain questionable for Game 7 tomorrow.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s largely due to Ducks center Ryan Kesler’s close checking of McDavid, but the Ducks seem to have no answer for Letestu, who’s really stepped up his game in his series.
OTTAWA SUN/NEW YORK POST: Long-time Senators enforcer Chris Neil hopes he’ll see some playing time in Game 6 of his club’s series tonight against the New York Rangers. Neil played just over two minutes in Game 5, but his presence provided a boost to his teammates. However, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault doubts Neil will have much impact if he plays in Game 6.
NEWSDAY: New York Islanders captain John Tavares underwent surgery last month on his right hand but is expected to be ready for training camp in September. It’s also believed the Islanders are likely to offer Tavares, who’s eligible next July for unrestricted free agency, an eight-year contract extension worth $10 million annually. Meanwhile, sources claim Barclays Center has taken the preliminary step toward a potential opt-out of its 25-year lease with the Islanders.
STLTODAY.COM: The coach of Russia’s national hockey team said St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko won’t be joining his club at the World Championships because he’s due to undergo surgery. However, there’s no confirmation about this from Tarasenko or Blues management.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs forward Frederik Gauthier underwent surgery for a lower-body injury and is expected to be sidelined for six months.
COURIER POST’S Dave Isaac reports the Philadelphia Flyers there is interest in bringing back Dean Lombardi, the former general manager of the Los Angeles Kings. No word what his role could be.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers GM Ron Hextall worked with Lombardi as assistant GM with the Kings. I imagine Hextall wants to bring Lombardi in as his right-hand man.
TSN: If the NHL Players Association opts out of the current CBA in 2019 and there isn’t a new CBA in place by 2020, there won’t be a World Cup of Hockey that fall.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the Vegas Golden Knights will be able to sign an unprotected restricted free agent as though they’re their own player. No offer sheet required and no compensation for the team.
BSN DENVER: The Colorado Avalanche has parted ways with team doctor Andrew Parker and their medical staff.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Former Canadiens owner and president John David Molson passed away at age 88. He was president of the club from 1964 to 1972, during which the Habs won five Stanley Cups.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the Canadiens organization and the Molson family.
More speculation on the Stars goaltending and the Kings management and coaching in your NHL rumor mill.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent live chat, Mike Heika once again addressed the state of the Dallas Stars goaltending. He doesn’t expect the current tandem of Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi will remain intact, suggesting one or both could be bought out in late-June.
Heika recommends the Stars attempt to acquire young goaltender Joonas Korpisalo from the Columbus Blue Jackets via trade, as the Jackets risk losing him to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. Once Korpisalo is acquired, Heika suggests buying out Lehtonen and Niemi, which would cost a combined $3.5 million per season for the next two years against the Stars’ salary cap. It would free up cap room to pursue an unrestricted free agent goalie such as Scott Darling or Ben Bishop.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Heika is merely making his own suggestion here. I agree with him that the Stars cannot return with the same goalie tandem next season. Whether they buy out one or both of their current netminders, I expect they’ll be busy in the trade and/or free agent markets this summer. They could also look at trying to pry Antti Raanta away from the New York Rangers or pursuing the Washington Capitals’ Philipp Grubauer. Like Korpisalo, they could be left exposed in the expansion draft so the Rangers and Capitals could instead try to trade them . The Stars were occasionally linked to Pittsburgh Penguins veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, though he’s got two more years at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million left on his contract.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie telling Montreal’s TSN 690 he expects the Los Angeles Kings ownership will make a hard evaluation of the club in the offseason. With the Kings missing the playoffs twice in the last three seasons, McKenzie said he’d “be surprised if the Kings came back intact in terms of the management and the coach. But we’ll see what happens.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been talk of the Kings moving general manager Dean Lombardi into a different role within the organization and putting Rob Blake into the GM’s chair. If that happens, Blake could consider a coaching change, though I don’t think Sutter should lose his job because Lombardi was unable to bolster the roster.
Whether it’s Lombardi, Blake or somebody else as the Kings’ GM, they must find a way to clear some salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who both have arbitration rights and are in line for significant raises. It could force them to make a difficult decision, such as costly buyouts of expensive, fading forwards such as Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, or perhaps dealing winger Jeff Carter while his trade value remains high.
Updates on Patrick Kane, Matt Cullen, Calvin Pickard and Brandon Gormley, five NHL coaches on the hot seat and Dean Lombardi named GM of the US World Cup of Hockey team. (more…)