NHL Could Face A Reckoning on CTE
An update on NHL CBA negotiations, the latest on Justin Williams, Ben Lovejoy retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL is expected to announce it will decline its Sept. 1 option to reopen the current collective bargaining agreement “within the next day or two.” Dreger claims the decision will be based on “progressive discussions” with the NHL Players Association.
Meanwhile, Pierre LeBrun reports the NHLPA executive board plus other players are expected to meet in Chicago next Wednesday for an update on the discussions. The PA can reopen the CBA on Sept. 15. The two sides have had numerous meeting throughout the summer but LeBrun declined to speculate over where this all leads.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having covered the last two NHL lockouts, these latest reports give me cause for cautious optimism. The run-up to the last two work stoppages saw both sides snipe at each other in the media. Indeed, the coverage in the summers of 2004 and 2012 was filled with daily CBA reports and analysis even though most NHL insiders were on vacation.
We haven’t seen that this time around. Reports have been few and far between, as both sides kept mum other than to say talks were ongoing and positive. If the league doesn’t take the early out, the pressure falls on the PA to do the same. It’ll be interesting to see what they do. I’m guessing they’ll also pass on the early out.
If both sides decline to reopen the current CBA, they’re either close to a new deal or kicking the can down the road to when the current agreement expires in three years.
THE SCORE: Defenseman Ben Lovejoy yesterday announced his retirement after 11 NHL seasons. He played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Dallas Stars, winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lovejoy in his future endeavors. TSN’s Rick Westhead points out the blueliner became the first active player to pledge his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston. No other active player followed his lead. “I am a believer in science,” said Lovejoy. “I want to do anything I can to help.”
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour has an idea over whether Justin Williams is leaning toward returning or retirement. However, he’s not saying which direction it’ll be.
THE ATHLETIC: Financial pressures led to Sportsnet cutting NHL analysts Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons recently reported John Shannon is also out but there’s been no official statement. Nevertheless, Sportsnet’s hockey coverage will have a significantly different look this season.
CAP FRIENDLY: released a list of notable dates on the NHL’s 2018-19 schedule. The Christmas holiday trade freeze (all times Eastern) begins at 11:59 PM on Dec. 19 and ends at 12:01 am on Dec. 28. The league’s holiday break runs from Dec. 24 to 26. The NHL trade deadline is 3 pm on Feb. 24. The regular season ends on Apr. 4.
Game recaps, Connor McDavid receives a two-game suspension, Carter Hart sidelined, Ben Lovejoy traded to Dallas, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: The New Jersey Devils trade defenseman Ben Lovejoy to the Dallas Stars in exchange for defenseman Connor Carrick and a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars add some experienced grit and depth to the blueline in Lovejoy, who won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. Carrick was acquired by the Stars earlier this season from the Leafs but was sidelined for 27 games with an injured foot and was a frequent healthy scratch following his return.
NHL.COM: Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves as the Columbus Blue Jackets blanked the Ottawa Senators 3-0. Jackets center Matt Duchene, acquired earlier in the day from the Senators, failed to register a point against his former team. The victory moved the Jackets (71 points) ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division because they hold two games in hand.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane scored a goal to extend his points streak to 20 games but it wasn’t enough to prevent his club from dropping a 5-3 decision to the Colorado Avalanche. Carl Soderberg and J.T. Compher each tallied twice for the Avalanche (63 points), who sit one point behind the Minnesota Wild for the final Western Conference wild-card berth. The Blackhawks (61 points) sit three points behind Minnesota.
Speaking of the Wild, they maintained their hold on that wild-card spot by edging the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. Devan Dubnyk made 26 saves and Luke Kunin had a goal and an assist. Ryan Donato picked up an assist, giving him three points in his first two games since the Wild acquired him earlier this week in a trade with Boston.
The Calgary Flames picked up their fourth straight win by nipping the Anaheim Ducks 2-1. Andrew Mangiapane broke a 1-1 tie late in the third period. The Flames (83 points) hold a three-point lead atop the Western Conference standings while the Ducks (57 points) sit seven points out of a playoff berth.
Patrick Laine snapped his 15-game goalless drought by scoring twice in the Winnipeg Jets 6-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Nikolaj Ehlers also scored in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 20 games. The victory vaulted the Jets (78 points) one point ahead of the Nashville Predators for first in the Central Division.
The NHL’s department of player safety suspended Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid two games for an illegal check to the head of New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy on Thursday.
SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi is seeking a second opinion on a lower-body injury. If surgery is required, the 20-year-old winger could miss the remainder of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This news prompted some smartasses to suggest Puljujarvi was faking the injury to avoid being demoted again to Bakersfield. The reason he’s seeking a second opinion is he hopes to avoid going under the knife.
The NHL is monitoring weather conditions for tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers at Lincoln Financial Field. The game is still slated for 8 pm ET.
NBC SPORTS: Philadelphia Flyers coach Scott Gordon raised some eyebrows by announcing Brian Elliott would be his starting goalie for tonight’s game instead of rookie star Carter Hart.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hart played poorly in his last two games. With the Flyers (63 points) trying to keep their playoff hopes alive, Gordon feels Elliott is the better choice right now. If they win, no one will second-guess this decision.
**UPDATE** The Flyers announced this morning Hart will be sidelined for at least 10 days with a lower-body injury.
Dorion on message to Sens fans: “All we’re asking for is our fans to be patient.”
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) February 22, 2019
Updates on Sergei Bobrovsky, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Micheal Ferland and the latest on the Devils in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
WHAT NEXT FOR BOBROVSKY?
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will meet with management today after he was told to stay away from the club Thursday after an undisclosed incident following Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay. Asked if Bobrovsky’s relationship with the club is souring, LeBrun noted the goalie controls his fate because of his full no-movement clause in his contract. He said general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told him this incident had nothing to do with the goalie’s relationship with head coach John Tortorella.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports if the meeting goes well Bobrovsky will return to practice today and will travel with the team for their game in Washington on Saturday. He is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Before the incident, the Jackets intended to carry him for the remainder of the season. However, Portzline speculates that plan might have changed now. If Bobrovsky hits the open market, Portzline listed the Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders among the clubs believed to have interest in the goaltender.
NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. If the Jackets decide to part ways with Bobrovsky, his no-movement clause will give him full control over the situation. If he agrees to be traded he will attract plenty of suitors. While he’s struggled this season there will be general managers willing to bet a change of scenery will help him recover the form that won him two Vezina Trophies. The Blue Jackets won’t just give him away but the pressure to move him quickly could affect their efforts to get a big return.
LATEST ON THE HURRICANES, FLYERS, AND BLUES.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Carolina Hurricanes winger Micheal Ferland is on the trade market. While that doesn’t necessarily mean Ferland will be traded, the Hurricanes don’t intend to lose him to free agency this summer for nothing. The two sides haven’t talked contract in over a month.
NOTE: I believe the Hurricanes will move Ferland before the trade deadline if they can’t get him re-signed by mid-February.
Bob McKenzie reports the Philadelphia Flyers will be a club to watch leading up to the trade deadline. GM Chuck Fletcher seeks a starting goaltender, a top-four defenseman, and a top-two or top-three line center. A veteran such as Wayne Simmonds could be traded. Simmonds is slated to become a free agent in July.
NOTE: There’s increasing speculation suggesting Simmonds will be moved by the trade deadline. While McKenzie said that’s not a certainty, it seems more and more likely he’ll be on the move to a playoff contender in the coming weeks.
LeBrun reports St. Louis Blues center Brayden Schenn is drawing interest around the league. The Boston Bruins have been linked to Schenn. LeBrun suggests GM Doug Armstrong could afford to wait until the offseason to make that move.
NOTE: Schenn is signed through next season so Armstrong isn’t under pressure to move him by the trade deadline. If he can’t find a return he likes, he’ll wait until the summer when the trade market should improve.
DEVILS COULD GET BUSY IN THE TRADE MARKET
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: cites NHL insider Darren Dreger telling Winnipeg’s TSN 1290 that he feels the New Jersey Devils could be close to “moving out some pieces.” He doesn’t see GM Ray Shero moving out stars such as Taylor Hall or Kyle Palmieri. “Maybe he wants to dip into the market, or take advantage of someone else who wants to dip into the market early,” said Dreger.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Abbey Mastracco reports goaltending, organizational depth and consistency are the biggest issues plaguing the Devils this season. Goalie Keith Kinkaid’s play has declined since early in the season, noting he was overplayed because of necessity and could be again if promising Mackenzie Blackwood should be sidelined long-term. She also noted they need another top-pairing defenseman like Sami Vatanen. They’re also lacking depth elsewhere in the roster and they don’t appear to have anyone ready on their AHL farm team to call up.
NJ.COM: In a recent mailbag, Chris Ryan was asked about the trade value of Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle, Keith Kinkaid, and Ben Lovejoy. He felt Johansson might have the best trade value despite his injury history. He doesn’t expect Boyle to be traded, while MacKenzie Blackwood’s performance could make moving Kinkaid plausible. Lovejoy could have the second-most value as he’s “a smart, veteran blueliner with playoff experience who could provide plenty of penalty killing value to any team.”
NOTE: Shero might be a seller but he won’t be trading away his best players. I expect he’ll try to re-sign Boyle before his UFA eligibility this summer. He’s a popular team leader worth keeping around. There might be a market for Johansson, who’s also slated to become a UFA, but his injury history could dampen his trade value. Lovejoy could attract interest but Shero won’t get much for him. With Blackwood currently sidelined and Cory Schneider on injured reserve, I don’t see Kinkaid going anywhere for now.
Game recaps, possible expansion to Seattle, Hurricanes to be sold and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Matt Hunwick’s overtime goal gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to force the extra frame. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who has a history of concussions, seemed to have dodged a bullet following an accidental hit to the head by Isles winger Jordan Eberle. He looked a little shaken up immediately following the hit but remained in the game. Earlier in the day, the Pens learned defenseman Justin Schultz will be sidelined “a couple of weeks” with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Schultz’s injury likely puts the Ian Cole trade speculation on the back burner. As for Crosby, it doesn’t appear as though he suffered any lingering ill effects from that head shot, but you can bet he’ll be closely monitored by the club’s medical staff over the next 24 hours.
Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov each collected a goal and two assists to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
Vincent Trocheck scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau added three assists to give the Florida Panthers a 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
David Backes tallied his first two goals of the season as the Boston Bruins thumped the Arizona Coyotes 6-1 to pick up their seventh win in their last nine games.
Sean Monahan scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Calgary Flames ended a three-game losing skid by nipping the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. The Flames were playing without left wing Matthew Tkachuk, who was serving a one-game suspension for spearing Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin.
Jake Allen made 29 saves as the St. Louis Blues shut out the Dallas Stars 3-0. The Blues pressed former SLU goalie Tyler Stewart into service as an emergency backup after Carter Hutton was sidelined during the morning skate and call-up Ville Husso was unable to join the club before the start of the game.
Claude Giroux and Shayne Gotisbehere each had a goal and an assist to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to their third straight victory by beating the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. It was the Canucks’ first game this season without first-line center Bo Horvat, who’s sidelined for six weeks with a fractured foot. They subsequently shipped defensive prospect Jordan Subban (younger brother of Nashville’s P.K. and Vegas’ Malcolm) to the Los Angeles Kings for center Nic Dowd.
Speaking of the Kings, they edged the struggling Ottawa Senators 4-3 on an overtime goal by Drew Doughty. It was the Kings seventh straight victory while the Sens have just one win in their last 10 games.
Brent Burn’s overtime goal lifted the San Jose Sharks to a 5-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Sharks center Joe Thornton had a goal and two assists while Hurricanes winger Sebastian Aho countered with two goals.
NBC SPORTS: On the heels of the city of Seattle’s recent announcement of major renovations to KeyArena, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday announced the league would allow an ownership group to submit a bid to put an expansion franchise in that city. Like the Vegas Golden Knights, the prospective Seattle ownership will be allowed to stage a season-ticket drive to determine if an NHL franchise is a viable option. The expansion fee would be a whopping $650 million. Bettman suggested the earliest a Seattle franchise could launch would be 2020-21.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL’s wanted to put a franchise in the American Pacific Northwest for some time. A successful expansion bid by Seattle would enlarge the league to 32 teams, as well as balance out the current disparity between the conferences by adding a 16th to the Western Conference. For now, there’s no guarantee there will be an expansion club in Seattle but this is a significant step toward that goal.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes could soon have a new majority owner. Dallas businessman Tom Dundon signed a purchase agreement to buy a controlling interest in the team from Peter Karmanos Jr. League commissioner Gary Bettman said the Hurricanes would remain in their current location.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A formal vote by the league board of governors must be held to approve the sale. For those of you entertaining thoughts of the Hurricanes relocating to Texas despite Bettman’s comment, the club’s current arena lease agreement runs through 2024. And no, it can’t be broken by the new owner.
NJ.COM: New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy became the first active NHL player to pledge his brain for donation to CTE research.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks placed forward Tanner Kero on waivers yesterday.
Check in regularly for the listing of today’s notable NHL free-agent signings and trades. Analysis of the top deals will appear later today in my Soapbox section. (more…)