NHL Rumor Mill – October 7, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – October 7, 2023

Check out the latest on Predators’ goaltender Juuse Saros, goalies to watch as waiver candidates, and which Blues defensemen could be the odd man out this season in the NHL Rumor Mill.

TROTZ SAYS SAROS IS PART OF THE PREDATORS LONG-TERM PLANS

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently reported Nashville Predators general manager Barry Trotz wants Juuse Saros to be part of the club’s long-term plans. The 28-year-old goaltender is in the second-last season of his four-year contract, paying him an average annual value of $5 million.

Trotz told LeBrun that he’s already reached out to Saros’ agent to determine their thoughts on discussing a contract extension. Whether the Predators are rebuilding or retooling, he wants his starting goaltender on the roster.

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Saros has occasionally surfaced in the rumor mill this season as some pundits have suggested he could become trade bait given his contract status and the current state of the Predators. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2025 and his current deal plus his status among the league’s best netminders would make him an attractive trade target around the league.

The presence of promising Yaroslav Askarov also prompted questions about Saros’ future in Nashville.

Trotz is obviously keen to keep Saros but we’ve yet to hear what the goalie wants to do. It’s probably fair to say that he’ll be willing to listen to whatever the Predators GM is willing to pitch for contract offers.

The earliest the two sides can technically begin contract talks is July 1 of next year. However, they can get the ball rolling with casual discussions regarding the framework for a new deal.

If the two sides fail to reach an agreement on an extension Saros could become a trade candidate sometime during the 2024-25 campaign. For now, however, it appears that he won’t be shopped this season.

GOALIES TO WATCH ON THE WAIVER WIRE

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli and Tyler Yaremchuck discussed goaltenders they’re watching on the waiver wire as teams finalize their rosters for the upcoming start of the regular season.

Among the notables are Detroit’s Alex Lyon, Toronto’s Martin Jones, Montreal’s Cayden Primeau, Buffalo’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Los Angeles’ David Rittich, St. Louis’ Malcolm Subban, Florida’s Anthony Stolarz and Pittsburgh’s Magnus Hellberg.

Luukkonen was the name that most interested Yaremchuk, who wondered about his chances of clearing if he gets put on waivers. Seravalli pointed out that the Sabres have sufficient cap space to carry three goalies to start the season without putting Luukkonen on waivers.

Lyon and Jones are also fascinating names for Seravalli. He doubts the Leafs will head into this season with three goalies. He also indicated the Canadiens had yet to make a decision about Primeau.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli also wondered about Stolarz’s situation with the Panthers but that’s been rectified with Spencer Knight being loaned to their AHL affiliate soon after this report aired on Friday.

The intrigue over what those clubs will do with their extra goalies is mostly due to pundits pondering what the Tampa Bay Lightning will do to address the loss of starter Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s out for a couple of months following lower-back surgery, leaving them with Jonas Johansson and his 35 games of NHL experience and 29-year-old rookie Matt Tomkins.

Most believe the cap-strapped Lightning could pluck one of these aforementioned goalies off the waiver wire to bolster their depth between the pipes until Vasilevskiy’s return. We’ll learn their intentions between now and Tuesday.

LATEST ON THE BLUES

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford recently examined the St. Louis Blues’ depth on defense to determine who’s in beyond their top four of Torey Krug, Nick Leddy, Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko.

Rutherford noted they have five defensemen battling for four positions if they opt to carry eight for this season or three spots if they carry seven. He thinks it could come down to Marco Scandella or Calle Rosen. Both are in the final season of their respective contracts.

Scandella carries a cap hit of $3.275 million plus a seven-team no-trade list making him difficult to move. Rosen wouldn’t fetch much of a return as a depth player but there’s a risk that he might not clear if placed on waivers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If push comes to shove it’ll likely be Rosen as he’d be the easiest to move.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 26, 2023

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 26, 2023

What does the future hold for Capitals coach Peter Laviolette and center Evgeny Kuznetsov? Will the Sabres seek a goaltending upgrade in the offseason? What is the latest on the Blackhawks? Find out in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

DO LAVIOLETTE AND KUZNETSOV STILL HAVE A FUTURE IN WASHINGTON?

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Tarik El-Bashir was asked if the Washington Capitals would bring back head coach Peter Laviolette next season. Laviolette, 58, is in the final season of a three-year contract.

El-Bashir doesn’t think Capitals management has reached a decision on Laviolette’s future. He wouldn’t be shocked if the club hired a replacement nor would he be surprised if they re-sign Laviolette. He noted that the Capitals play well under Laviolette when healthy but they’ve been a banged-up club this season. He also thinks it’s risky to trust the final three seasons of Alex Ovechkin’s career to a new head coach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In December, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said the club wasn’t going to undergo a rebuild. It’ll be interesting to see what Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has in store for his club this summer.

I suspect MacLellan’s looking at a quick turnaround following this season’s disappointing outcome. That could mean bringing back Laviolette on perhaps a two-year contract.

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (NHL Images).

Another reader asked El-Bashir if the Capitals would revisit trading Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was the subject of rumors a couple of years ago.

El-Bashir said the Capitals’ decision-makers are disappointed in Kuznetsov’s performance this season. They needed him to step up and he didn’t plus he struggled defensively all season.

Kuznetsov has two years remaining on his contract with an average annual value of $7.8 million. El-Bashir wondered if management trusts the 31-year-old center to return to form and play with consistency and urgency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those issues affecting Kuznetsov’s performance this season would also adversely affect his value in the trade market, especially with that hefty cap hit. He also carries a 10-team no-trade clause.

Trading Kuznetsov isn’t impossible but it would be difficult. The Capitals might have to retain some salary to make him enticing in the trade market, especially if the salary cap only rises by $1 million for next season.

WILL THE SABRES UPGRADE THEIR GOALTENDING?

THE ATHLETIC: Matthew Fairburn listed goaltending as one of the factors that contributed to the Buffalo Sabres’ recent slide in the standings. While the team defense deserves plenty of blame, they also weren’t getting the type of goaltending necessary to stay competitive in some games.

The Sabres knew entering this season that they had to limit the workload of 41-year-old Craig Anderson. As the playoffs came into view, Anderson became their best option to win so they increased his playing time, resulting in his struggling in some recent key games.

Eric Comrie was injured in November and has struggled since his return. Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen has shown a lack of consistency in his first full NHL season. They have promising Devon Levi but they need to start him only when he’s ready to play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fairburn believes the Sabres need to find a more proven short-term starter until Levi is ready to take over. He doesn’t think it’s a good idea to put the full weight of the starter’s job on the youngster’s shoulders next season.

I agree with that assessment. Maybe Levi can rise to the challenge but they must ensure they’ve got a reliable veteran to share the duties and mentor him in the NHL game. As Fairburn noted, starting next season with Comrie and Luukkonen is just asking for a repeat of the same problems.

They could find some decent short-term options via free agency. Jonathan Quick, Semyon Varlamov, Joonas Korpisalo and Frederik Andersen could be available on short-term contracts.

RECENT BLACKHAWKS SPECULATION

CHICAGO DAILY HERALD: John Dietz wondered where Blackhawks goalie Alex Stalock will be playing next season. He’s been their best netminder this season going 9-11-1 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .915 save percentage with two shutouts.

Dietz considers it a no-brainer for the Blackhawks to make an offer. However, they’ve already got a glut of goalies for the next two seasons with Petr Mrazek, Arvid Soderblom, Jaxson Stauber and Drew Commesso. He also wondered if teams seeking a goalie might be scared off by Stalock’s injury history.

Ian Mitchell’s future with the Blackhawks could also be something worth watching. He’s gifted offensively but struggles in his own zone. However, he’s just 24 with 77 NHL games under his belt. The Hawks must be careful not to give up on him too soon as they did with Gustav Forsling only to watch him flourish elsewhere.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 2, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 2, 2023

The Bruins and Hurricanes head into the All-Star break on a winning note, the three stars and the top rookie for January are revealed, Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes a second back surgery, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins ended a three-game winless skid by dropping the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2. Pavel Zacha scored twice and Linus Ullmark made 33 saves for the Bruins (39-7-5) as they sit atop the overall standings with 83 points. Mitch Marner and Calle Jarnkrok replied for the 31-13-8 Leafs as they sat third overall with 70 points.

Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho scored for the sixth straight game in a 5-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Brent Burns also scored to extend his points streak to seven games as the Hurricanes (34-9-8) picked up their seven straight win to sit second overall with 76 points. The Sabres slipped to 26-20-4 and remain one point back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 56 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres scoring leader Tage Thompson left this game in the second period with an upper-body injury. He’s slated to play in Saturday’s All-Star Game so it’ll be interesting to see if he still attends or ends up replaced. These were the final games before the All-Star break which begins today

HEADLINES

New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes (NHL Images)

 NHL.COM: New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes, Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak and Seattle Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn are the league’s three stars for the month of January 2023. Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was named the rookie of the month for January.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing successful back surgery on Tuesday. It’s the second time in nine months that the 30-year-old right winger has had back surgery, having missed 45 games last season. He didn’t miss a game this season until getting injured on Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights have gone 1-5-2 since Stone was sidelined. His ongoing absence could send management into the trade market in search of help. I’ll have more about that in today’s Rumor Mill update.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a left shoulder injury. It’s the same shoulder he has surgically repaired in November 2020 but he won’t have to go under the knife this time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports Nyquist is hoping to return before the end of this season. While the current injury hurts the winger’s trade value, Portzline suggests that it doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be moved before the March 3 trade deadline. He points out the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired a sidelined Riley Nash two years ago, who ultimately played in two playoff games for the Leafs.

THE SCORE: New Jersey Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette was arrested early Wednesday morning in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart. He was charged with driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500.00 bond. In a statement, the Devils indicated that they’re aware of the situation and were gathering additional information.

OTTAWA SUN’s Bruce Garrioch reports the expectation for Cam Talbot is the sidelined Senators goaltender will resume skating next week when the club reconvenes following the All-Star break.

SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL: NHL viewership on ESPN and TNT is down 22 percent heading into the All-Star break compared to the same time last year.

The main reason is both networks doubled the number of games they carried compared to last season. Bigger schedules tend to hurt average viewership.

TNT is also affected by local blackouts affecting big markets in Boston, Pittsburgh and New York whereas last season they had no blackouts. ESPN’s numbers were hurt by scheduling six games on Sunday up against the NFL whereas the network had no Sunday games at this point last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics seized on that ratings drop as an opportunity to rail against the issues they believe are hurting the game’s popularity. The Athletic’s Sean Gentille acknowledged that those issues are real and long-standing but aren’t applicable to the real reasons (noted above) behind those ratings decline. Gentille pointed out that those numbers could improve once ABC’s 20-game coverage during the remainder of the regular season is included in the final equation.

ESPN: Emily Kaplan reports the NHL Players Association’s executive board will meet this week in Florida to discuss the possible appointment of US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh as its new executive director. Walsh has emerged as the leading candidate to replace current PA director Donald Fehr, who is stepping down after 12 years.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 19, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 19, 2022

The Canucks defeated the Kings plus updates on Auston Matthews, Philipp Grubauer, Scott Wedgewood and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: The Vancouver Canucks got two-goal performances from Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser to defeat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Thatcher Demko made 37 saves for the Canucks as their record improves to 6-9-3. Blake Lizotte replied for the Kings as they drop to 11-8-1. Prior to this game, the Canucks activated Curtis Lazar off injured reserve.

Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks need their young stars like Pettersson, Boeser and Demko to step up if they hope to get back on a winning track and rise in the standings. This performance was a good start but they’ll need more of this on a consistent basis.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is okay after limping off the ice during practice yesterday when he took a shot off his foot.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: The Kraken have activated goaltender Philipp Grubauer off injured reserve. He’d been sidelined since Oct. 21 with a lower-body injury.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goalie Scott Wedgewood is listed as day-to-day and could resume practice today. He was stretchered from the ice during Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers with a back injury. However, he did not need to go to a hospital and was walking around following the game.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have called up netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to replace Eric Comrie, who is expected to be sidelined for weeks with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Luukkonen was tabbed as the Sabres’ future starter but he’s had difficulties seizing the role. His recall comes at a time when the club is once again fading from a hot start to the season.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Golden Knights forward Nicolas Roy has a lower-body injury that could keep him out of their next two games against the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

OTTAWA SUN: Some good news for the Senators blueline as defenseman Artem Zub could return to action on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. He’s been sidelined since Oct. 27 with an upper-body injury and has gone 2-6-1 without him in the lineup.

CBS SPORTS: Speaking of Senators’ defensemen, Nikita Zaitsev cleared waivers on Nov. 10 and was sent to their AHL affiliate in Belleville on Friday.

OTTAWA SUN: Staying on the topic of Ottawa blueliners, former Senator Wade Redden will be the first player inducted into their Ring of Honour on Dec. 11. Redden, who now works for the club in a development role, played 838 games in 11 seasons with the Sens from 1996-97 to 2007-08. He is fifth all-time among their scorers with 410 points and their all-time leader in plus-minus at plus-159.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 1, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 1, 2022

Stars owner Tom Gaglardi on the status of contract talks with Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger, the Wild trade Dmitry Kulikov to the Anaheim Ducks, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

THE SCORE: During an appearance on “The Cam & Strick Podcast”, Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi spoke about the contract talks with restricted free agents Jason Roberton and Jake Oettinger. Both players are restricted free agents coming off their entry-level contracts. 

Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (NHL Images).

Gaglardi pointed out it takes time to get these deals done. “You’re an RFA, there’s really no deadline, there’s no hurry, and that’s kind of how things go,” he said. 

The Stars owner pointed out his club has the cap space to sign them but it’s finding the right fit in dollars and term. “These conversations are happening, I can’t tell you that a deal is imminent, but maybe one of them is more imminent, I don’t know.” 

Cap Friendly indicates the Stars have over $10 million in cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: One or both players could be under contract before training camp opens later this month. That leaves roughly three weeks for both sides to sort this out. 

Robertson and Oettinger have no real leverage other than to withhold their services by not reporting to training camp until a deal is signed. Both are core members of the Stars roster so management would prefer to avoid them missing any valuable training time or have this situation drag on into the start of the regular season. 

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild traded defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to the Anaheim Ducks for future considerations. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a straightforward salary dump by the cap-strapped Wild, shedding Kulikov’s $2.25 million cap hit for the coming season. The rebuilding Ducks, meanwhile, bring in some additional veteran depth to take some pressure off their younger defensemen. 

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to a two-year, $1.675 million contract. 

Speaking of the Sabres, they’re bringing back their black and red “Goathead” jersey for 12 games this season, starting in November. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: At least it’s not the dreaded “Buffaslug”.

THE SEATTLE TIME: The Kraken signed defenseman Cale Fleury to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers recently signed winger Hayden Hodgson to a two-year, $1.6 million contract. The deal is two-way in the first season and one-way for the second. 

TORONTO SUN: Former NHL player and coach Orval Tessier passed away last Thursday at age 89. 

Tessier played 59 games with the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins between 1954-55 and 1960-61. He went on to a successful coaching career in Juniors and the AHL, winning the Memorial Cup in 1972 with the Cornwall Royals and the Calder Cup with the New Brunswick Hawks in 1982.

In 1982-83, Tessier became head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Jack Adams Award as that season’s NHL coach of the year. Fired midway through the ’84-’85 season, he became a scout and won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tessier’s family and friends as well as the players who were coached by him.