NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 29, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 29, 2018

Game recaps, plus updates on Patrik Laine, Alexander Edler and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Alec Martinez scored in the final minute of regulation as the Los Angeles Kings snapped a six-game losing skid by edging the New York Rangers 4-3. Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists for the Kings, who welcomed back winger Dustin Brown from injured reserve but also placed goaltender Jonathan Quick on IR earlier in the day. Brown wasted little time making his presence felt, scoring one of the Kings’ four goals.

Timo Meier’s two goals carried the San Jose Sharks to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks. (Photo via NHL Images)

Timo Meier scored twice, including the winner in overtime, to give the San Jose Sharks a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks, who overcame a 3-1 deficit to force the extra frame. Pontus Aberg scored two goals for the Ducks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier, who had a 21-goal sophomore performance last season, may be coming into his own as a goal scorer, leading the Sharks with eight goals and sitting among their top-five in points. 

Connor McDavid’s overtime goal gave the Edmonton Oilers a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago forward Patrick Kane had an assist to extend his points streak to six games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After a slow start, the Oilers have won three straight and sit in second place in the Pacific Division. 

The Detroit Red Wings finally picked up their first regulation win this season by doubling up the Dallas Stars 4-2. Jonathan Bernier made 28 saves and Dylan Larkin collected two assists for the Wings.

Thomas Greiss made 38 saves as the New York Islanders squeaked past the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1. Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho picked up an assist to stretch his season-opening points streak to 11 games. The Islanders were playing without forward Cal Clutterbuck, who’s sidelined with an upper-body injury.

Jonathan Marchessault’s penalty-shot goal in overtime gave the Vegas Golden Knights a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Alex Tuch scored twice for the Golden Knights while Senators goaltender Craig Anderson turned aside 49 shots. Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki, returning to the lineup following a one-game suspension, received a game misconduct for charging Vegas forward Cody Eakin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Borowiecki could face supplemental discipline for this incident. 

NBC SPORTS: Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, a 44-goal scorer last season, has just three goals and five points in 12 games thus far. Line shuffling could account for his early scoring drought, but the club’s trip this week to his native Finland for two games against the Florida Panthers might help him regain his scoring touch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine tends to be a streaky scorer. I expect he’ll get back on track soon.

CBS SPORTS: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler will miss three-to-six weeks with a sprained MCL. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing their top defenseman to injury could be a big blow for the rebuilding Canucks, who are off to a better-than-expected start to this season, sitting third in the Pacific Division.

ESPN.COM: In the wake of Saturday’s mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, the Penguins foundation ” is donating $25,000 to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, as well as $25,000 to establish a fund with the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety to benefit the four Pittsburgh police officers injured in the shooting.”

NHL.COM: A look at the history and enduring popularity of NHL ’94 video game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL ’94 remains one of my all-time favorite video games. My son and I played it endlessly during the mid-to-late 1990s.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2018

Golden Knights take Game 2 of Western Conference Final, plus updates on the Lightning, Capitals and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Jonathan Marchessault scored twice to give the Vegas Golden Knights a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2 of the 2018 Western Conference Final. The series shifts to Las Vegas tied at a game apiece. Tomas Tatar picked up his first goal of the playoffs for the Golden Knights while Kyle Connor tallied the only goal for the Jets. Golden Knights forward David Perron was scratched from this game for unknown reasons. Game 3 will be on Wednesday at 9 pm ET.

Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault scored twice as his club downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 in Game 2 of the 2018 Western Conference Final (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a strong bounce-back effort for the Golden Knights. The Jets came close to scoring several times but the Golden Knights did a good job stymieing Winnipeg’s offense. 

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning are sticking with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who gave up 10 goals in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They really don’t have much choice. As columnist Martin Fennelly observed, “What, Louis Domingue is going to pull your fat from the fire?”

WASHINGTON POST: “Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny was fined $2,419.35, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for cross-checking Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Monday.”

NHL.COM: In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to legalize sports gambling, the NHL released a statement saying it would “review our current practices and policies and decide whether adjustments are needed, and if so, what those adjustments will look like.” The league also said the ruling “has no immediate impact on existing League rules relating to sports wagering, and particularly, wagering involving NHL games.”

THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis is open to signing a contract extension with the club this summer. He has a year remaining on his current deal. Pending free agents Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin won’t be re-signed.



More Veteran Signings to Come for Golden Knights?

More Veteran Signings to Come for Golden Knights?

On Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights signed Jonathan Marchessault to a six-year, $30-million contract extension. It’s a significant investment in the 27-year-old forward, who’s emerged as the club’s leading scorer with 37 points in 36 games through Jan.4, 2018.

Golden Knights general manager George McPhee raised some eyebrows at last June’s expansion draft with his selections of Marchessault and veteran forwards James Neal and David Perron. While they had offensive experience, the trio were eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1, 2018.

When this season began, the expansion Golden Knights weren’t expected to be a playoff club. Once they were out of contention by February, many experts assumed McPhee would take the long view by peddling the trio for draft picks and prospects.

However, the script didn’t played out as expected. The Golden Knights not only exceeded the experts’ assumptions, they find themselves at midseason perched atop the Western Conference standings with the league’s best home record.

Re-signing Marchessault, a late-blooming scorer who tallied 30 goals with the Florida Panthers last season, sends a message the Golden Knights have no intention of becoming sellers. Indeed, one can’t dismiss the notion McPhee could instead go shopping at the trade deadline for an affordable playoff rental player or two.

The Marchessault signing could also signal Vegas’ intent to retain Neal and Perron.

Re-signing Marchessault, whose current annual salary is $750,000, to a six-year extension worth an average annual value of $5 million, can be easily justified. He’s in his late-twenties and still trending upward, on pace this season for a career-high 35 goals and 85 points.

Neal and Perron, meanwhile, are riskier long-term options.

With 17 goals in 39 games, Neal is on the verge of reaching the 20-goal plateau for the tenth consecutive season. He’s also on pace for 35 goals, which would be his second-highest single-season total.

However, there’s no certainty the 31-year-old Neal will reach the 30-goal heights beyond 2017-18. Given his age, the wear-and-tear of his physical style and the fact he tends to have long goalless droughts, he doesn’t have many more 20-goal seasons ahead of him.

The 29-year-old Perron, meanwhile, has 32 points in 33 games, putting him on track for a career-best 73 points. He’s closing in on hitting the 40-point mark for the sixth time.

Injuries, however, could be a concern for Perron, who turns 30 on May 28. He suffered a serious concussion earlier in his career, though he’s been symptom-free since 2012. He also missed six games this season with an upper-body injury.

Neal is completing a six-year, $30-million contract with an annual average value of $5 million. Perron’s earning $3.75 million annually on a two-year deal.

It also remains to be seen if Neal and Perron are keen to remain with the Golden Knights. Solid performances this season could tempt them into testing the UFA market in July.

If the Golden Knights were at the bottom of the standings, McPhee would probably shop them at the trade deadline. Given their present lofty position in the standings, the Vegas GM won’t put his club’s chances for a postseason run in jeopardy by moving either guy.

Neal and Perron provide the Knights with veteran skills and experience. They’ve played key roles in the club’s unexpectedly strong expansion season. They could also see themselves playing for Vegas beyond this season. 

If one or both seek expensive long-term deals, McPhee could let them test the market this summer, even though it means losing them for nothing. He won’t want to tie up too much salary-cap payroll for too long in potentially fading assets, especially when he’ll want to use that money down the road to re-sign younger talent. 

But if they’re willing to accept, say, three- or four-year deals worth between $4.5 million to $5 million each, perhaps they have a place in the Golden Knights’ future.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2018

Games recaps, All-Star Game captains announced, Vegas re-signs Jonathan Marchessault plus updates on Shea Weber, Filip Forsberg & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou tied an NHL record for the fastest goal (six seconds) to start a regular-season overtime period as his club edged the Ottawa Senators 2-1. It was Athanasiou’s second goal of the game.

Patrick Sharp’s third-period goal proved to be the game winner as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the New York Rangers 5-2. Hawks forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz each collected a goal and an assist while goalie Jeff Glass picked up his second NHL victory.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid is among the four division captains for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (Pacific Division), Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (Metropolitan), Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (Atlantic) and Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban (Central) will captain their respective division teams in the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Tampa Bay on Jan. 28.

The league also unveiled the jerseys for this year’s All-Star Game.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights signed winger Jonathan Marchessault to a six-year, $30 million contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the annual average value is $5 million, it’s a front-loaded contract that pays Marchessault $7 million in actual salary for 2018-19, $6 million in 2019-20, $5 million in ’20-’21 and ’21-’22 and $3.5 million in ’22-’23 and ’23-’24.

It’s a significant pay raise for the 27-year-old Marchessault, who’s currently completing a two-year deal worth $750K per season. However, it’s a reasonable contract for the late-blooming forward, who was eligible for unrestricted free agent status in July.

Marchessault’ enjoyed a career-best 30-goal, 51-point performance last season with the Florida Panthers. With 15 goals and 37 points in 35 games this season, he’s the Golden Knights’ leading scorer and on pace for a 35-goal, 85-point performance. 

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber will be sidelined at least six weeks with a foot injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s what this means for the Canadiens’ playoff hopes:


THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg will be sidelined four-six weeks with an upper-body injury. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Preds will certainly feel the absence of their leading scorer. With 15 goals and 34 points in 37 games, the 23-year-old was on track for a 32-goal, 73-point performance. 

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body muscular injury. He’s expected to miss the club’s next two games before their week-long break begins Sunday.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Florida Panthers goaltender James Reimer is okay after missing part of Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to Minnesota with a neck injury. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers winger Patrick Maroon received a two-game suspension for interference on Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty during a recent game. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maroon had no prior suspensions or fines and Doughty was able to return to the game. Those factors likely explain why he only got two games for that dangerous hit. 

THE BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins assigned rookie winger Anders Bjork to their AHL affiliate in Providence.

TSN: The Calgary Flames waived forward Freddie Hamilton on Wednesday. 

SPORTING NEWS: With his professional hockey career over, Angelo Esposito now sells, renovates and rents homes in Montreal. The Pittsburgh Penguins selected him 20th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft but his NHL dreams were derailed by frequent injuries. 


Smaller Players Thriving in Today’s NHL

Smaller Players Thriving in Today’s NHL

NHL scouts tend to put a preference on size when ranking potential prospects. As of 2016-17, the average size of an NHL player was 6’1” and 207 lbs.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau is among several undersized players thriving in today’s NHL. (Photo via NHL Images)

Many of today’s top NHL stars, such as John Tavares (6”1′. 208 lbs), Steven Stamkos (6’1”, 194 lbs), Connor McDavid (6’1”, 192 lbs) and Sidney Crosby (5’11”, 200 lbs) fall within the league average.

Players with large, heavy frames have an advantange over their smaller peers. Their size, strength and longer reach gives them the edge in shooting, stickhandling and physical play.

Imagine a modern NHL skater and imposing stars such as Zdeno Chara (6’9”, 250 lbs), Ryan Getzlaf (6’4”, 223 lbs), Joe Thornton (6’4”, 220 lbs) and Alex Ovechkin (6’3”, 235 lbs) likely come to mind. They’re extreme examples, but many scouts, team executives and fans would consider them the perfect size for an NHL superstar.

But with the speed of the big-league game increasing in recent years, there’s been a recent rise in smaller, faster, skilled talent reaching the NHL.

Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau is a notable example. At 5’9” and 157 lbs, he’s well below the league’s average size. Throughout his hockey career, he was considered too small to be an effective player.

Time and again, however, Gaudreau confounded the experts. Now in his fourth NHL campaign, the 24-year-old is a former Calder Memorial Trophy finalist and the face of the Flames. He’s currently on pace for an 85-point performance and should finish as Calgary’s scoring leader for the third straight season.

Smaller skaters have gone on to long, successful NHL careers in the past. Several, such as Ted Lindsay, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer, Dave Keon, Rod Gilbert, Marcel Dionne and Denis Savard, were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Some, such as Theoren Fleury and Martin St. Louis, should be in the Hall one day.

But the preference toward bigger players over the past three decades made it more difficult for smaller players to achieve success at the NHL level. That was particularly true during the league’s “Dead Puck Era” from 1995 to 2004, when size and physicality were prized over speed and offensive skill in a period when uncalled obstruction masquaraded as defensive hockey.

Being undersized by NHL standards undoubtedly contributed to several notable current players being passed over in the draft. New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (5’8”, 179 lbs), Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (5’8”, 183 lbs), Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault, (5’9”, 174 lbs) and Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (5’9”, 186 lbs) are among several who began their NHL careers as undrafted free agents.

Size has also determined a player’s selection in the NHL draft. Gaudreau for example, was a fourth-round selection (104th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft.

He’s not the only notable pint-sized NHL star to be selected in the later rounds. The Boston Bruins chose left wing Brad Marchand (5’9”, 181 lbs) in the third round (71st overall) in the 2006 draft. Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (5’9”, 181 lbs) was taken in the fifth round (147th overall) in 2010. In the 2008 draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets landed right wing Cam Atkinson (5’8”, 179 lbs) 157th overall in the sixth round.

With the emphasis shifting toward speed and skill in recent years, undersized skaters now appear to have greater value.

Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller (5’10”, 170 lbs) was selected seventh overall in the 2016 draft. In the second round, the Chicago Blackhawks took winger Alex DeBrincat (5’7”, 165 lbs) with the 39th overall pick. Both are among the scoring leaders in this season’s rookie class.

Size and strength will undoubtedly remain key factors in evaluating future NHL players. Promising undersized talent could continue to be passed over in favor of larger skaters. That’s especially true for goaltenders, with many of today’s top netminder standing well above the league’s average height.

Still, if the NHL game continues on its current path that favors swift-skating offensive talent, smaller players could become more prevalent in the near future.


NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2017

Latest on the Golden Knights, Devils and Sharks in your NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the ongoing success of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights could alter general manager George McPhee’s trade-deadline plans. The season began with McPhee carrying a roster with a number of pending unrestricted free agents and pondering how many he could flip at the deadline to bolster his already impressive stockpile of draft picks and prospects. But with the Golden Knights playing much better than anticipated, perhaps they could consider becoming buyers. McPhee said it was premature to ask that question, saying only that it’ll depend upon the landscape when they get there.

ESPN.COM: Matthew Collier suggests McPhee could face the choice between scuttling his club’s playoff chances by trading some of his top UFA players (including James Neal, David Perron and Jonathan Marchessault) to continue building for the future or sacrificing some of that future for a shot at a possible playoff run.

If it’s the latter, Collier suggests it isn’t worth the trade-off to retain their UFAs at the risk of losing them for nothing this summer only to be eliminated in the opening round. He advocates an all-in approach. That mean’s chasing possible rental players such as Buffalo’s Evander Kane or perhaps Vancouver’s Sedin Twins. They also have the cap room to take on a player signed beyond this season, such as Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly or Florida’s Keith Yandle, or even take a huge run at potential 2019 UFAs such as Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson or Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

If that’s not possible, Collier advocates McPhee stay the course and continue building for the future by moving his pending UFAs. Neal or Marchessault could fetch Vegas a first-round draft pick from a contending club. “If the Golden Knights added two more first-round picks to the bundle of draft assets they already hold, McPhee’s team would be more likely to land the superstar-level talent required to compete for the Cup.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: During a recent interview with Sportsnet, McPhee already indicated he won’t do anything to derail his club by the trade deadline. “We do have a master plan, but if this team is in the hunt way down the road, way down the road, in March, then we’ll stay in the hunt. I wouldn’t derail it. It’s not fair to this team or this community,” said McPhee.

We must also factor in the possibility that Neal, Marchessault and Perron could prefer re-signing with the Golden Knights. If their asking prices are reasonable, McPhee could re-sign them to maintain a level of veteran skill and leadership that allows their younger players more time to blossom.

Again, the picture will become clearly by February. If they’re chugging along just fine by then, I don’t see McPhee being a major player at the trade deadline, though he could make a smaller move or two if it’ll help keep his team in the hunt. 


NJ.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Chris Ryan was asked if the New Jersey Devils could make a deal at the trade deadline if they maintain their current level of play. While Ryan doubts Devils GM Ray Shero will swing another trade similar to his shipping forward Adam Henrique to Anaheim for defenseman Sami Vatanen, he thinks Shero could make a small move or two to solidify a position.

Ryan doesn’t think they’re in the market for a second-line center/winger but admits a lot can change between now and the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Asked if it was realistic to envision the Devils pursuing Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, he replied it’s hard to envision a scenario where they get seriously involved in bidding for him. He does see them adding defensive depth if necessary. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Devils maintain their hold on a playoff berth by the deadline, Shero could consider adding a depth player to address any potential roster weakness. I don’t see him chasing any of the bigger-name rentals. 


THE MERCURY NEWS (stick tap to GJ Berg): Paul Gackle suggests San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson can make a significant trade without parting with a core player by shopping backup goaltender Aaron Dell. An unrestricted free agent next summer, Dell could be a highly sought-after commodity on the open market. With a 1.94 goals-against average and .935 save percentage, teams lacking goaltending depth are eyeing Dell. While trading Dell for an asset could prove risky if starter Martin Jones becomes sidelined, Gackle feels it’s worth the risk if the Sharks hope to add to their roster to become a true contender this season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks need an additional top-six winger to bolster their scoring. If Dell can fetch that type of return, it could be worth the gamble, especially if Wilson can also pry away a decent backup in a separate deal from a non-contender. Otherwise, it’s best to retain him as insurance behind Jones for the remainder of the season.