NHL Playoffs: Ten Players Who Were Stanley Cup Disappointments
Check out the latest on the Maple Leafs and the Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons doesn’t believe Kyle Dubas should be fired, but feels the Maple Leafs general manager could be looking for work in a year if he hasn’t reversed the club’s fortunes by then.
Simmons feels Dubas has to strengthen the Leafs after turning over almost half the roster last summer, weakening their depth in the process. The top of the roster wasn’t productive enough, the bottom of the roster not good enough, and the team defense was taken advantage of physically during puck battles.
Simmons called on Dubas to make bold changes via trades or free agency. He wondered if the Leafs GM will come back with goaltender Frederik Andersen next season or look for someone like Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, who Dubas knows from their days with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. He also noted there are desperate teams with salary-cap issues, roster issues, disappointed owners, or those like Pittsburgh and Nashville that have somehow lost their way.
TORONTO STAR: Dave Feschuk also wondered what Dubas has in store for the Leafs. He notes that fans and pundits are calling on the Leafs GM to trade William Nylander, or Mitch Marner, or Kasperi Kapanen and/or Andreas Johnsson. While Dubas could stubbornly stick to his plan, Feschuk suggests he needs to adjust it, pointing out the Leafs had this season’s sixth-worst goals-against per game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bloom is definitely off the Dubas rose. He’ll be under tremendous pressure to improve the Leafs this off-season.
Dubas isn’t afraid to make bold moves (signing Tavares and acquiring Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, and Cody Ceci). The problem is those decisions failed to address the Leafs’ glaring weaknesses. He must get it right this off-season or the calls for his dismissal will grow.
The Leafs GM has limited salary-cap space to work with, carrying over $76.9 million invested in 17 players. He and his capologist were able to free up sufficient cap space last summer to re-sign Marner, but they’ll have to get more creative this year to address the club’s issues. Fixing those problems could mean moving one of the Leafs’ top forwards, or one or two of their more affordable secondary scorers.
TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani reports Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin knows his club is a long way from being a Stanley Cup contender. “There definitely have to be changes,” he said. “We haven’t had success here. Things need to get better. That’s just the way it is.”
Guerin indicated he’ll attempt to land a true first-line center, indicating that will likely come via free agency or the draft. “Teams don’t trade No. 1 centers. They just don’t,” he said. The Wild GM also indicated he was unhappy with his goaltending this season and didn’t rule out looking outside the organization for help.
Guerin will meet with pending UFA Mikko Koivu and intends to get started on contract extension talks with players such as Kevin Fiala. Jonas Brodin, Marcus Foligno, and Joel Eriksson Ek. He also said contract buyouts are a last resort, but Mizutani speculates Victor Rask could be a buyout candidate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guerin took his time evaluating his roster until midseason when he traded Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh and replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach with Dean Evason. He’ll start putting a bigger stamp on this team through the offseason.
Several good goalies are available in this summer’s UFA market, but Guerin might stick with his current netminders next season to buy time for promising Kaapo Kahkonen. The current tandem (Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock) are under contract for next season, meaning one of them will have to be moved to acquire another netminder.
There aren’t any No.1 centers available in this year’s UFA market. Guerin could draft a promising center this year but that prospect won’t address that need next season. If he can’t find help in the trade market, he could try the offer sheet route. With over $65 million invested in 17 players, that’s probably not a wise course of action.
Rask has an annual average value of $4 million through 2021-22. Mizutani pointed out a buyout will leave the Wild with over $1.33 million in dead cap space through 2023-24.
More NHL players speak out against racial injustice, the latest on the league’s return-to-play format, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
GROWING LIST OF PLAYERS, TEAMS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE
THE SCORE: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner joined many in the sports world yesterday taking part in Blackout Tuesday on social media yesterday to bring attention to racial injustice.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba released a statement yesterday supporting the anti-racism movement across North America. “I’ve been sad, angry, and disturbed by the senseless unjust we have all witnessed this past week. I have been scared for the families in my community. I know I do not want to feel this way ever again; the feeling of helplessness. The feeling too many have to face each day. I am here for you. To lean on, to listen, to embrace, to have a voice and to be a leader in our community!”
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets captain Blake Wheeler vows to become more involved in speaking out against racism. “We have to be as involved in this as black athletes. It can’t just be their fight,” he said. “And I want to be real clear, here. I look in the mirror about this before I look out at everyone else. I wish that it didn’t take me this long to get behind it in a meaningful way. But I guess what you can do is try to be better going forward.”
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos expressed compassion and support for peaceful protesters and didn’t approve of the looting and riots since George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police last week. “But, as many of YOU have opened my eyes to, I see that these actions may be coming from real pain and suffering,” Stamkos wrote. “I can at least try to comprehend that.”
Teammate Patrick Maroon expressed his respect for law enforcement but also anger toward the injustice of George Floyd. Maroon added he felt he needs to set a better example. “I’m sorry and I promise to do better for you,” he finished.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and his wife Brandi sent out a message of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters in Washington through Brandi’s Instagram account. Holtby’s teammate John Carlson did the same via his Instagram account.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues and St. Louis Cardinals issued a joint statement yesterday speaking out against racial injustice. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington took to his Instagram account vowing to stand in solidarity with those “fighting for change, equality and justice,” encouraging his followers to “ask questions, listen, learn and pass your knowledge on to your friends.”
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings and Tigers also released a joint statement in support of “equality, justice, and respect for all.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins also released a statement on Tuesday. “Black lives matter,” the statement issued Tuesday begins. “Bigotry, ignorance and senseless violence in any and all forms is wrong.”
WGR550: Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula issued a statement standing with those peacefully protesting to eradicate racism and inequality and against those motivated by hatred and violence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s heartening to see more NHL teams and players taking a stand against racism, bigotry, injustice, and intolerance. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the words but their actions will speak much louder. Time will tell if their words result in action that leads to positive change within the sport and in society in general.
THE SCORE: Madison Square Garden Company chairman and New York Rangers owner James Dolan released a statement yesterday defending the organization’s decision not to release a public statement following the death of George Floyd. “As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, however, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters. What’s important is how we operate. Our companies are committed to upholding our values, which include creating a respectful workplace for all, and that will never change. What we say to each other matters. How we treat each other matters. And that’s what will get us through this difficult time.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dolan’s been criticized for his position. The NBA’s New York Knicks, also owned by Dolan, are reportedly furious that the team hasn’t released a statement. He’s since sent out a second e-mail to his employees condemning racism, but that’s unlikely to go down well with those upset over his previous comments.
LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports we could learn as early as today if the first two rounds of the NHL’s 16-team playoffs will be best-of-five or best-of-seven. The league proposed best-of-five for expediency while the NHLPA has leaned toward best-of-seven. The play-in qualifying round will be best-of-five.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The pros and cons of the 10 cities under consideration to become the two hubs for the NHL’s return-to-play tournament.
TSN: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said it would be great to have NHL games played in Canada, but ensuring everyone’s safety remains the priority as discussions continue about its return. Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among 10 cities under consideration to become one of the two NHL hubs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There won’t be any NHL hockey this summer unless the Canadian government eases restrictions on non-essential border travel or deems NHL employees as essential workers.
NATIONAL POST: A recent survey indicates 47 percent of Canadians felt it’s not important that Canadian arenas host the NHL’s return-to-play tournament.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The survey also suggested the fact fans won’t be in attendance for those games factored into the result.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov will donate “2,500 disposable masks and 25 containers of hand sanitizer (5.25 gallons each) to the Boys & Girls Clubs serving Wake County on Wednesday.”
SPORTSNET: The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) announced its intention to play a full 68-game schedule for 2020-21 with a certain percentage of fans in attendance, depending on the local social distancing rule in each province.
Check out the latest on the Leafs and Oilers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SHOULD THE LEAFS PURSUE MURRAY OR HEISKANEN?
SPORTSNET: During a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked what a contract extension for Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen might look like, and if the Leafs should attempt to acquire Matt Murray. He believes they could push Andersen’s extension to 2021 and dismissed the notion of acquiring Murray.
Despite Murray’s two Stanley Cup rings, Fox is not convinced that the Pittsburgh Penguins netminder is better than Andersen, pointing out the latter has more wins over the past four seasons and a better career save percentage. Murray is also a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forget about the comparisons of Andersen’s and Murray’s career stats, the Leafs can’t afford the latter even if they wanted to acquire him. As per Cap Friendly, they have almost $77 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, with $6.65 million going to Andersen and Jack Campbell. Unless they intend on trading Andersen (and I don’t believe they do), there’s no room to take on Murray.
Fox was asked if the Leafs should trade Mitch Marner to the Dallas Stars for Miro Heiskanen. He doesn’t see the Stars parting with their 20-year-old stud defenseman. He also cites Stars beat reporter Sean Shapiro declaring Heiskanen untouchable but speculates they could be willing to part with blueliner John Klingberg.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So, Marner for Klingberg, Leafs fans? Discuss!
LATEST PULJUJARVI SPECULATION
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins cited a New York source claiming there was “renewed smoke” over the possibility of a trade that would see the Oilers ship winger Jesse Puljujarvi to the New York Rangers for center Lias Andersson. However, word out of New York is Oilers general manager Ken Holland would also demand a first-round pick from the Rangers, with the Oilers including another mid-level prospect in a two-for-two swap.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under that scenario, I envision it ending with Rangers GM Jeff Gorton rolling his eyes skyward, politely thanking Holland for his offer, and hanging up the phone.
Jim Matheson doesn’t expect to see the Oilers trading Puljujarvi to the Florida Panthers for center Henrik Borgstrom. The Panthers currently value centers over wingers, especially after trading away Vincent Trocheck. The Panthers also don’t need Puljujarvi when they’ve got Owen Tippett and Grigori Denisenko in their pipeline. Speaking of Tippett, sources consider swapping him for Puljujarvi a non-starter.
Regarding a recent suggestion of the Oilers shopping Puljujarvi to the Ottawa Senators for their third first-round pick in the 2020 draft, Matheson said sources indicate the Senators are lukewarm on the Oilers winger because they’re deep in farm forwards ready to make the jump to the NHL.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson also indicates Holland won’t be talking to other GMs about Puljujarvi’s rights until hockey resumes. In other words, the aforementioned rumors are probably just media spitballing.
The latest on the NHL’s efforts to resume its season, Mitch Marner, Max Domi, and Matt Dumba weigh in with their thoughts, and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
UPDATES ON NHL’S EFFORTS TO RETURN TO ACTION
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL-NHLPA Return to Play Committee could meet for the third time this week to discuss concepts over what resuming the season would look like. A 24-team play-in involving the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks isn’t sitting well with some players and team executives. Under that scenario, the Canadiens would face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who sit 15 points above the Habs in the Eastern Conference standings.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports he’s also heard some pushback against the 24-team playoff scenario. There are also questions over the format (Best-of-three? Best of five?) for the opening round.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Going the 24-team format allows two of the NHL’s biggest markets (Montreal and Chicago) into the playoffs, which would draw potentially higher television ratings. In his column for The Athletic, LeBrun said the Canadiens and Blackhawks would participate in that format if asked, but they’re not pushing for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets whittled down to a regular 16-team postseason based on points percentage or a 20-team format where there’s a short-term play-in period for the bubble teams.
Darren Dreger reports some players expressed concerns about escrow payments going forward. A source told Dreger there’s no indication the return-to-play plans will be tied to the CBA economic issues.
If the border closure between Canada and the United States is extended to June 21, Bob McKenzie wondered how that would affect the return-to-play plans. He said the NHL is in contact with the governments of both countries and it might not be an impediment.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving told Sportsnet’s Eric Francis that he’s sensing some momentum toward a preliminary plan for resuming the season could be in place by next week. However, he also said that will depend upon the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also believes discussions are going on between the league and the Canadian and American governments.
LeBrun said he’s been told there are eight or nine teams in the running to become one of the four host cities under the return-to-play plan. Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Minnesota, and Vegas are among those believed in the running.
McKenzie said the prospect of staging the 2020 NHL Draft in June could be fading. The league still thinks it’s a great idea but widespread support isn’t there. “I think the NHL is starting to get the idea that the time, the effort and the political capital that would be required to convince enough teams that it is a good idea, might not be worth it,” said McKenzie.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also said there’s been considerable pushback against staging the draft before the resumption of the season. He indicated half the teams are believed against it, while there weren’t many teams willing to fight for a June draft.
A decision is reportedly expected sometime next week. NHL headquarters could ignore this and decide to hold it in June, but there’s obviously a growing sense that might not happen.
LATEST ON MARNER, DOMI, DUMBA, AND GRUBAUER.
THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner believes safety must be the priority for the NHL’s return to play. “My thought on this is, OK, I’m all down for starting everything back up, let’s rock,” he said. “But what if someone gets sick and dies? What happens? It’s awful to think about, but still.”
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell believes Marner’s concern is legitimate, one that many NHL players are likely grappling with as the league and the PA discuss resuming the season. Campbell interviewed Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, regarding Marner’s concern. Bogoch believes everyone involved must be fully aware of the risks but noted the risk for the players is relatively low because of their youth and conditioning.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi could be at a higher risk than most players. “Being a Type 1 diabetic, it’s something that raises some concern. But you really don’t know how everyone’s going to be affected by this disease. Being a Type 1 doesn’t change much. I would handle myself the same way as if I didn’t have it,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay Marner’s concerns are shared by other players. As long as the league can ensure the health and safety of the players, they’ll approve returning to play this summer.
Speaking of that vote, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported it’s his understanding the 31 player reps will vote on an official return-to-play format. “The player reps are in constant communication with their teammates so their vote should be reflective of what the players on their respective team want.”
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba hopes for a chance to resume his season. He felt his game was improving in the weeks before the schedule was paused. Dumba believes he spent too much time last summer rehabbing a surgically repaired pectoral muscle and not enough on other areas of his game.
EISHOCKEY NEWS: Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer opted to remain in Denver rather than return to his native Germany to ride out the league’s mandatory self-quarantine period. Unlike other parts of the United States, Grubauer felt the local and state officials in Colorado were doing a good job addressing the pandemic. He’s spent a good deal of time maintaining his conditioning by cycling.
Grubauer said the league wants the players to be prepared for a possible resumption of play. The longer it takes, the less likely a return will happen, but Grubauer feels optimistic over a possible return. As to what the schedule might look like, he speculated it could be compressed to playing two games in a row, followed by a day off and then two more games.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins forward Dominik Simon underwent surgery on his left shoulder April 29 to repair a torn labrum. He is expected to be sidelined six to seven months.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller said he underwent a second surgery on his troublesome knee a couple of months ago. He had surgery last year to repair a fractured kneecap and missed this season as he faced setbacks in his recovery.
The latest on plans to resume or cancel the 2019-20 season, an update on the Senators, plus the latest on Mitch Marner and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL has yet to set a firm deadline to announce the resumption or cancellation of the 2019-20 season. If the schedule is to resume, the league will need at least two weeks for players returning from Europe to be quarantined, followed by two-three weeks of training camp, potentially some exhibition games followed by some regular-season contests before starting the playoffs. One league governor suggested they should have an idea by late-May, while another though mid-June would be the earliest.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The longer the restrictions on crowd sizes, the slimmer the chances of finishing the regular season or staging the playoffs. Again, I don’t fault the league and the NHL Players Association for examining every option, but I’m not optimistic this season can be completed.
THE SCORE: The NHL yesterday extended the self-quarantine period for its players to April 30. It’s the third time the period has been extended.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t be surprised if there’s another extension to May 15.
SPORTSNET: U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a conference call with the major-league sports commissioners today, including NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. They’re part of a committee of 200 business leaders advising the president on when to re-open the American economy.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said his club has made three proposals to Bettman on possible scenarios for resuming the draft lottery, the regular season, and the playoffs. The Senators hold three picks in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, including what could be the second- and third-overall selections. Overall, the Senators hold 13 picks in this year’s draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Sens have three first-round picks, four in the second round, two in the third round, one in each of the fourth and fifth rounds, two in the sixth, and none in the seventh.
TSN: Dorion also said the five Senators players and the one staff member who contracted COVID-19 have recovered.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner is using his charitable organization to solicit for donors to organizations providing food, shelter and aid to front-line services.
NBC SPORTS: Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise raised $1 million to assist those affected by the coronavirus epidemic.
WGR 550: The owners of the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bandits are issuing furloughs and layoffs. Executive pay is also being temporarily reduced.
TSN: Colby Cave’s family and the Edmonton Oilers have set up a memorial fund to support mental health initiatives and programs providing access to sports for underprivileged children. The fund will be headed by Cave’s wife, Emily. Cave passed away last week at age 25 following emergency surgery to remove a colloid cyst that was causing pressure on his brain.
NHLPA: Kris Versteeg announced his retirement as a professional player, which include 11 NHL seasons. He spent five seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2015.
Versteeg also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, and Calgary Flames. In 643 career NHL games, he scored 149 goals, 209 assists, and 358 points. He also had 18 goals and 48 points in 93 playoff contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Versteeg in his future endeavors.