NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2023

Johnny Gaudreau expresses optimism over the Blue Jackets’ upcoming season, the latest on the Rangers, and the NHL Network’s top 50 prospects in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Johnny Gaudreau feels a lot more comfortable entering his second season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He now knows the team and the city better, saying it’s starting to feel more like home.

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

Gaudreau joined the Blue Jackets last summer as a free agent but he and the club went through a difficult season, in part due to injuries to key players like Zach Werenski. His production dropped from a career-best 115 points in 2021-22 with the Calgary Flames to 74 points in 80 games.

Nevertheless, Gaudreau is optimistic about the club’s chances this season. “The amount of skill we have on our team with some of the young guys, it’s pretty fun to watch every day in practice and in games,” he said, adding that he hopes teams continue to underestimate the Jackets.

Gaudreau also believes the club’s hiring of Mike Babcock as head coach will improve their performance. “We need that hard-nosed coach that’s going to push us in practices and in games,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A return to form by Gaudreau will be crucial to the Blue Jackets’ hope for improvement this season. How well they adjust to Babcock’s coaching and the overall health of the roster will also be important.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers are hoping that veteran additions Blake Wheeler and Jonathan Quick will have a positive effect on the roster this season.

Both players signed bargain contracts with the Rangers. Wheeler inked a one-year, $1.1 million deal after being bought out by the Winnipeg Jets. Quick accepted a one-year, $925K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both players are past their prime but their experience and leadership could be helpful to the Rangers in their quest to win the Stanley Cup this season. Wheeler still has effective playmaking skills and might benefit from skating as a right wing on the Blueshirts’ top-two forward lines.

Quick could be useful in a backup role to spell off starter Igor Shesterkin. If he sees around 25-30 games of action it would ensure Shesterkin isn’t overworked before the playoffs begin.

LA PRESSE: Speaking of the Rangers, Alexis Lafreniere shed some light on his contract negotiations. The 21-year-old left winger is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights.

Lafreniere said talks are ongoing between his agent and Rangers management. He’s hopeful that an agreement will be reached within the next several weeks. “You have to be patient, sometimes it takes longer,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lafreniere has been occasionally mentioned in the rumor mill as a potential offer sheet candidate. Based on his comments, however, that appears to be a remote possibility. He’s likely to be signed before training camp opens in late September.

Lafreniere’s lack of arbitration rights gives him little leverage with the Rangers. The threat of an offer sheet would be his most effective weapon. Given the high number of teams with less than $5 million in cap space for the coming season, it’s unlikely he’s going to get one, assuming he’s willing to entertain that option.

NHL NETWORK: Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard sits atop the NHL Network’s recent ranking of the league’s top 50 prospects.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli, Anaheim Ducks forward Leo Carlsson, Philadelphia Flyers winger Matvei Michkov and New Jersey Devils defenseman Luke Hughes round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As expected, this generated plenty of responses from hockey fans. Check out the full list and feel free to respond in the comments below.