NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 2, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 2, 2022

The Avalanche’s home win streak ends at 18 games, the top rookie and the three stars for January are revealed, Willie O’Ree will receive the U.S. Congress’ highest honor, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche’s home winning streak ended at 18 games as the Arizona Coyotes nipped them 3-2. Alex Galchenyuk scored his first goal of the season and tallied the winning goal in the shootout. Coyotes goaltender Scott Wedgewood picked up the win with a 38-save performance. The loss left the Avalanche (68 points) one point behind the first-overall Florida Panthers in the overall standings.

Speaking of the Panthers, they blew a 2-1 lead to drop a 5-2 decision to the New York Rangers. Chris Kreider scored twice and set up another goal while Artemi Panarin had a goal and two assists. The Rangers (64 points) are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes but the latter holds first in the Metropolitan Division with five games in hand.

The Tampa Bay Lightning (63 points) gained some ground on the Panthers by beating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on an overtime goal by Victor Hedman. With the win, the Lightning are three points back of the Panthers. Logan Couture had a goal and an assist for the Sharks (48 points), who sit two points out of the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner extended his goal streak to seven games by tallying twice and adding two assists in a 7-1 thrashing of the New Jersey Devils. Auston Matthews netted his 29th goal of the season as the Leafs remain in third place in the Atlantic Division with 61 points.

Filip Forsberg scored twice and Juuse Saros kicked out 30 shots for his 100th career NHL win to double up the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. The Predators sit in second place in the Central Division with 60 points while the Canucks (56 points) are four points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

David Pastrnak’s two power-play carried the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Seattle Kraken. Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 55 points.

The Calgary Flames overcame a 3-1 deficit with three unanswered third-period goals to drop the Dallas Stars 4-3. Dan Vladar replaced Flames starter Jacob Markstrom after he gave up three goals on 23 shots. Oliver Kylington tallied the winning goal late in the third. The Flames hold the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 50 points while the Stars sit two points back.

Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored twice, including the winner in overtime in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov made 43 saves after Vitek Vanecek left the game following a first-period collision with Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen. The Capitals hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 59 points while the Penguins (62 points) hold third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Vegas Golden Knights (57 points) opened a two-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division by defeating the Buffalo Sabres 5-2. Golden Knights forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had a goal and an assist while Sabres winger Alex Tuch scored in his first game in Vegas against his former club.

New York Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin stopped 26 shots in a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock returned to the lineup after missing 25 games with a lower-body injury.

The Philadelphia Flyers picked up their second straight win following a 13-game losing skid by downing the Winnipeg Jets 3-1. James van Riemsdyk and Oskar Lindblom tallied two unanswered third-period goals for the Flyers. Jets winger Kyle Connor potted his 25th goal of the season.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: The bill to present Willie O’Ree the Congressional Gold Medal was signed into law Monday by U.S. President Joe Biden. It is the U.S. Congress’ highest honor and commemorates O’Ree’s achievements as a hockey pioneer and his ongoing contributions to the game. O’Ree became the first black player in NHL history when he took to the ice for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to O’Ree, who will receive the award in a ceremony at a future date.

Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau, Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros, and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust are the NHL’s three stars for January 2022 while Panthers winger Anton Lundell was named rookie of the month.

THE ATHLETIC: Sean Shapiro reports several NHL executives are frustrated over the Arizona Coyotes plan to spend the next three seasons playing at a 5,000-seat arena at Arizona State University while the franchise attempts to construct a new arena in Tempe. The Coyotes must vacate the Gila River Arena at the end of this season after the city of Glendale opted out of it lease agreement with the club. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Shapiro the Coyotes’ plan is under serious consideration by the league.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those executives told Shapiro they’re concerned over what that move into such a small venue will have upon hockey-related revenue at a time when HRR has already been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re also upset by the prospect of the Coyotes receiving more money under the league’s revenue-sharing plan. Whether those concerns carry any weight in the league’s decision remains to be seen.

TSN: Rick Westhead reports former NHL star Ralph Backstrom had a severe form of the degenerative brain disease CTE. Backstrom died in Feb. 2021 and had his brain donated for research. His wife revealed the posthumous diagnosis. What was notable was Backstrom was a skill player rather than one who engaged in belligerent physical play. CTE is often diagnosed in athletes with a history of repeated blows to the head.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Westhead observes, Backstrom’s CTE may have come not from fights but from body checks that occur during a game.

SPORTSNET: Former NHL player Reid Boucher was sentenced to four years of probation with one year of suspended jail time if he successfully completes his probation in his 2011 sexual assault case. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 13 to third-degree sexual criminal sexual conduct against a minor.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2021

The Rangers and Wild extend their respective win streaks, the Islanders snap a long winless skid, Jason Spezza suspended for six games, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The New York Rangers picked up their seventh straight win by dropping the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2. Artemi Panarin reached 500 career points with two goals and two assists as the Blueshirts (37 points) moved within a point of the first-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. Blackhawks forward Jujhar Khaira was stretchered from the ice in the second period following a hit by Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba. Khaira was taken to a hospital for further testing but Blackhawks coach Derek King said he was up and responsive and wanted to return to the game before he went to the hospital.

New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (NHL Images).

Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot made 38 saves backstopping his club to their seventh straight victory with a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers, handing the latter their third straight loss. Joel Eriksson Ek had a goal and an assist for the Wild, who sit atop the Western Conference with 37 points.

The New York Islanders snapped a 12-game winless skid by beating the Ottawa Senators 5-3. Anders Lee tallied twice for the Islanders while Oliver Wahlstrom had a goal and an assist. Alex Formenton had a goal and an assist for the Senators.

Morgan Rielly collected four assists and Auston Matthews scored twice to extend his goal streak to seven games as the Toronto Maple Leafs held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored two goals for the Jackets. The Leafs played without Jason Spezza after he received a six-game suspension by the NHL department of player safety for kneeing Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk. Winger Mitch Marner (shoulder) and defenseman Rasmus Sandin (knee) also missed this game. Marner is sidelined for three-four weeks. Sandin’s knee suffered no structural damage but will need time for the swelling to subside.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza had no history of fines or suspension in his NHL career. He reportedly intends to appeal his suspension. He deserved punishment for his dangerous retaliatory hit on Pionk but this seemed unduly harsh given his previously unblemished record.

The Carolina Hurricanes blew a 2-0 lead but rallied to double up the Winnipeg Jets 4-2. Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes. Carolina defenseman Ian Cole was ejected for a knee-on-knee hit on Jets center Mark Scheifele, who was uninjured. The Jets played without defenseman Neal Pionk, who received a two-game suspension by the NHL department of player safety for kneeing Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin. Pionk is also in concussion protocol.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pionk had no history of fines or suspensions before this. Leafs fans are wondering why he got just two games while Spezza got six. The fact he was sidelined by a concussion from Spezza’s hit probably factored into it though Sandin was injured by Pionk’s hit in the first place.

Pavel Buchnevich’s overtime goal lifted the St. Louis Blues over the Florida Panthers 4-3. It was a costly win for the Blues as goalie Ville Husso left the game with a lower-body injury and defenseman Jake Walman suffered an upper-body injury. The Blues were already playing without starter Jordan Binnington, who is in COVID protocol. Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov scored in his first game since being sidelined on Nov. 16 by a knee injury.

The Anaheim Ducks got a 25-save shutout by Anthony Stolarz to blank the Buffalo Sabres 2-0. Ducks forwards Trevor Zegras made a lacrosse-style pass from behind the net to Sonny Milano for the game-winner. The Sabres have lost five straight while the Ducks (33 points) move within two points of the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific Division.

Speaking of the Flames, they blew a 3-1 lead to fall 5-3 to the San Jose Sharks. Tomas Hertl led the way for the Sharks with a hat trick while Adin Hill made 40 saves for the win. Struggling Sharks forward Kevin Labanc was a healthy scratch from this game.

Roman Josi, Ryan Johansen and Dante Fabbro each had a goal and two assists to power the Nashville Predators over the Detroit Red Wings 5-2, snapping the latter’s five-game win streak. The Predators played without goaltender Juuse Saros and defenseman Mattias Ekholm as both are sidelined by a non-COVID illness.

Two late third-period goals by Corey Perry and Ondrej Palat lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. The Lightning has won four straight games. Nick Suzuki had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens did almost everything right in this game except win. That’s the way this season is going for the hapless Habs. They rarely win even when they play well.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE WASHINGTON POST: The Capitals have canceled today’s practice as part of their extra precautions after three players (Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway and Trevor van Riemsdyk) wound up on COVID protocol. No players tested positive yesterday.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers claimed defenseman Kevin Connauton off waivers yesterday from the Florida Panthers.

SPORTSNET: The Tampa Bay Lightning claimed forward Riley Nash off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers placed forward Brendan Perlini on waivers.

Former NHL goaltender Devan Dubnyk has signed a professional tryout offer with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 5, 2021

Alex Ovechkin reaches more scoring milestones, the Wild and Rangers extend their points streaks, plus updates on Igor Shesterkin, Mitch Marner, Charlie McAvoy and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin scored his 750th career goal and his 118th game-winner as the Washington Capitals downed the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1. He’s now 16 goals behind Jaromir Jagr for third place on the all-time goal-scoring list, tied for third with Phil Esposito for the most game-winning goals, and tied with Jagr, Marcel Dionne, Brett Hull and Mats Sundin for the third-most consecutive 20-goal seasons. The Capitals played without Trevor van Riemsdyk, joining teammate Nic Dowd in COVID protocol.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

Kirill Kaprizov’s shootout goal lifted the Minnesota Wild over the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3, extending their winning streak to six games while snapping the Leafs’ five-game streak. The Wild (35 points) hold a seven-point lead over the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division. Jason Spezza scored twice and added an assist as the Leafs overcame a 3-0 deficit. Leafs winger Mitch Marner missed this game following a collision in practice with teammate Jake Muzzin. He’s also expected to miss Sunday’s contest with the Winnipeg Jets.

The New York Rangers picked up their sixth straight victory by holding off the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome each had a goal and two assists while Alexandar Georgiev picked up the win with a 25-save performance. Earlier in the day, the Rangers placed goaltender Igor Shesterkin (lower body) on injured reserve. Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and Seth Jones each had two points.

Florida Panthers forward Sam Reinhart’s shootout goal gave his club a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues, marking the third straight game the Panthers overcame a deficit to claim victory. Maxim Mamin tallied twice for the Panthers while Blues goalie Ville Husso made 48 saves. With 37 points, the Panthers return to first place in the overall standings.

Jake Guentzel extended his points streak to 12 games with a hat trick and an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists and Kris Letang chipped in three helpers. The Canucks sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division with 18 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canucks fans expressed their displeasure late in the game by calling for general manager Jim Benning to be fired. Whether the club’s ownership takes them up on their suggestion remains to be seen.

The Tampa Bay Lightning nipped the Boston Bruins 3-2 on an overtime goal by Steven Stamkos. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 37 shots for the win. The Bruins forced the extra frame on goals by Charlie Coyle and Curtis Lazar. Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy missed the game with a non-COVID-related illness.

An overtime goal by Moritz Seider lifted the Detroit Red Wings over the New York Islanders 4-3, leaving the latter winless in 10 straight games. Oliver Wahlstrom tallied twice for the Isles while the Wings have won five straight.

The Ottawa Senators blew a 5-2 lead but an overtime goal by Brady Tkachuk gave them a 6-5 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle each scored twice and added an assist.

Carolina Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen scored twice and Vincent Trocheck had a goal and two assists in a 6-2 drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres. Sebastian Aho collected three assists for the Hurricanes as they snapped a three-game losing skid. Carolina winger Andrei Svechnikov was a late scratch with an injured finger.

Filip Forsberg’s overtime goal gave the Nashville Predators a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Predator forward Luke Kunin had a goal and an assist. Canadiens goalie Jake Allen stopped 40 shots while teammate Cole Caufield had two assists. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens claimed defenseman Kale Clague off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings. They’re also rumored to have player agent Kent Hughes on their radar as a potential general manager candidate though they haven’t yet contacted him about the job.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hughes is a bilingual Montreal native whose clients include Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron and Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 27, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 27, 2021

Should the struggling Maple Leafs fire their coach or trade a big-name player? Are the Golden Knights pursuing a trade for Sabres center Jack Eichel? Should the Avalanche also try to acquire him? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli appeared on Sportnet 590’s FAN Morning Show to discuss the Toronto Maple Leafs’ options as they endure a slow start to this season. He believes they face three options. They could replace head coach Sheldon Keefe, trade a big-name player like Mitch Marner or “triple down” and stick with the roster they’ve built.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

Seravalli doesn’t see them firing Keefe as he just got a contract extension. Marner could have value in the trade market despite his offensive struggles stretching back to the 2021 playoffs. However, Seravalli doesn’t believe they’re at that point. He sees them sticking with their roster and waiting for them to overcome their slow start.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Keefe hasn’t been helped by the steady depletion of roster depth over the last two offseasons. The loss of gritty heart-and-soul forward Zach Hyman to free agency this summer was a significant blow. They remain top-heavy at forward, lacking skilled depth throughout their checking lines and defense corps.

Marner’s hefty contract ensures he’s not going anywhere during this season, especially with only a handful of teams carrying $10 million or more in cap space. His $10.9 million deal is difficult for another club to absorb during the season. The earliest Marner could hit the trade block is in the offseason, assuming the Leafs face-plant in the first round again or fail to reach the postseason. That’s usually when stars with big contracts get dealt.

For now, of course, it’s still too early to talk about a big roster shakeup by the Leafs. As Seravalli indicated, they’ll stick with their current roster in anticipation of them turning things around soon.

DAILY FACEOFF: Seravalli also reports there’s been “increased chatter” between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Buffalo Sabres about Jack Eichel in recent days. Eichel and the Sabres remain at a standoff over which medical procedure he’ll receive for a herniated disc in his neck. There’s speculation he could file a grievance through the NHLPA if there’s no resolution to the impasse soon.

The Golden Knights’ interest could depend on the status of winger Mark Stone. He carries a $9.5 million salary cap hit but is currently sidelined with what Servalli called a back injury. It’s uncertain how long he’ll be out but the Golden Knights could be holding their cards close to the vest in hope of making an Eichel deal work. He also mentioned the possibility of a third-party broker getting involved to make this work from a financial standpoint.

THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes the struggling Colorado Avalanche should beat the Golden Knights to the punch and acquire Eichel. He acknowledged the difficulty from a salary-cap viewpoint as well as the risk posed by the uncertainty over Eichel’s medical condition. Nevertheless, he felt that might be better than Eichel scoring a clutch goal for the Golden Knights against the Avalanche in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights have long been linked to Eichel and he would address their glaring need for an elite first-line center. They’re sitting over the $81.5 million salary cap but are getting nearly $12 million in cap relief with Max Pacioretty (lower-body fracture) and Alex Tuch (shoulder surgery) on long-term injury reserve. They could get $9.5 million more if Stone ends up there too.

Acquiring Eichel now and letting him undergo disc replacement surgery could mean waiting weeks or months before he’s ready to play again. Pacioretty and Tuch, meanwhile, will return to the lineup later this season, meaning the Golden Knights must be cap complaint when Eichel makes his return.

The Golden Knights would also have to give up three roster players as part of the deal. Reilly Smith, Peyton Krebs and Nicolas Hague were part of the Sabres’ reported asking price back in July. If the Sabres won’t lower that price it would further deplete their roster, knocking them out of playoff contention by the time Eichel is ready to play.

A third-party broker might mean the Golden Knights won’t have to give up as much to get Eichel, but that third team would still want a significant return to absorb a healthy chunk of the center’s $10 million annual cap hit. It would still leave Vegas’ lineup depleted and struggling.

The same goes for the Avalanche. They were rumored to have looked into the cost of acquiring Eichel but they don’t seem to be seriously pursuing it.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 29, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 29, 2021

Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi signs an offer sheet from the Hurricanes. Check out the details plus the latest on Sidney Crosby, Mitch Marner and Gerard Gallant in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed a one-year, $6, 100,015 million offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canadiens have seven days to match the offer. If they don’t, the 21-year-old Kotkaniemi joins the Hurricanes and the Habs get the Canes’ first-round pick and their third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft as compensation.

The Carolina Hurricanes sign Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet (NHL Images).

The 15 dollars tacked on to the end of the $6.1 million represents Kotkaniemi’s jersey number with the Canadiens. This offer sheet also includes a $20 dollar signing bonus. That number represents Sebastien Aho’s jersey number. The Canadiens attempted to sign him to an offer sheet two years ago but the Hurricanes matched it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes’ Twitter feed took great delight in trolling the Canadiens once the offer sheet signing was announced. That included issuing a bilingual statement that was almost word-for-word what Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said when he signed Aho to his offer sheet.

The revenge angle and the Hurricanes’ joyful spite provided considerable entertainment for some and annoyance over its pettiness from others. I’m more interested in the effect of this signing upon both clubs.

Kotkaniemi would become the second-highest paid forward on the Canadiens if they match the offer. While he has considerable promise, his play to date isn’t worth $6.1 million. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes the Habs were talking a two-year deal in the $2.5 million per season range. TVASports’ Renaud Lavoie said $2.2 million annually was the highest suggestion he heard of Kotkaniemi’s worth from sources around the league.

This contract would create a salary-cap headache for the Canadiens. Cap Friendly shows them already above the $81.5 million by over $2.2 million. They can exceed the cap by 10 percent ($89.65 million) during the offseason but must be cap-compliant when the season begins. However, they’ll be allowed to go over the cap by $7.857 million if Shea Weber goes on long-term injury reserve as expected for 2021-22 ($89.357 million). They can exceed it by an additional $3.4 million by putting Paul Byron (hip surgery) on LTIR but would have to free up some space once he returns to action in the new year.

Kotkaniemi’s new salary would also affect the Habs cap payroll for 2022-23. It would cost $6.1 million to qualify his rights. That’s assuming, of course, he plays well enough to earn that type of deal.

The Canadiens already have $69.2 million invested in 12 players for next season, with Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov and Jake Evans as restricted free agents. They could attempt to negotiate a longer-term deal with Kotkaniemi for less than $6.1 million but it would probably still be well over $5 million annually. They could get over $7.8 million in relief if necessary should Weber wind up on LTIR again, but it would still be a cap complication the Habs don’t need.

Do the Canadiens even want to match? Kotkaniemi signing that offer sheet suggests an unhappiness with his role and his contract talks with the Canadiens. If the Habs don’t match, however, his departure will leave them thin at center following Phillip Danault’s decamping for Los Angeles via free agency. 

The joy of revenge aside for the Hurricanes, this is a bit of gamble for them. The Athletic’s Sara Civian indicates this move puts them over the cap by $1.5 million, but she suggested freeing up cap space by trading defenseman Jake Gardiner or someone claims him off waivers. GM Don Waddell undoubtedly has something in mind to address that issue but it remains to be seen if Gardiner is that solution.

Kotkaniemi’s consistency issues could follow him to Carolina. That would leave the Canes with a $6.1 million mistake on their books (albeit for just one year) plus the loss of two picks in next year’s draft.

They’ll also face the $6.1 million qualifying offer, though Friedman believes this offer sheet was made with the knowledge that Kotkaniemi’s next contract would be long term for less money. However, would it really be worth it if he doesn’t crack their top-six next season or show the potential to do so?

Some are already questioning this move, suggesting Carolina would’ve been better off using that $6.1 million to keep Dougie Hamilton rather than lose him for nothing to free agency. That criticism will grow louder if Kotkaniemi doesn’t play up to his salary for this season.

Other interesting factors could be in play here as we await the Canadiens’ decision. I’ll have more in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup. Meanwhile, here’s the rest of today’s notable headlines.

THE ATHLETIC‘s Rob Rossi observes Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby is wearing the captain’s “C” on Team Canada’s Winter Olympics’ promotional media.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rossi noted that it hasn’t been confirmed Crosby will be Canada’s captain in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Nevertheless, it’s a safe bet he’ll get that honor.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox believes Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner will face intense scrutiny this season following the club’s first-round collapse to Montreal in the 2021 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marner bore the brunt of fan and media criticism for his underwhelming postseason play. For the first time, he’ll be facing a much harsher spotlight in Toronto. 

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Gerard Gallant will bring a physical edge to the New York Rangers in his first season as their head coach. However, Gallant said they’re not plotting revenge on Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson in their season opener. Wilson manhandled Artemi Panarin and now-former Ranger Pavel Buchnevich in a game last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting tougher isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s doesn’t overshadow the club’s skill. If they waste time chasing Wilson it will throw them off their game.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2021

What would be a fair return for Mitch Marner if the Leafs shopped him in the trade market? Should the Jets shop Kyle Connor for a defenseman? What moves should the Oilers make this summer? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: In his latest Toronto Maple Leafs mailbag, Luke Fox was asked if the club could win a Mitch Marner trade. While acknowledging the front office’s belief in the 24-year-old playmaker, Fox believes general manager Kyle Dubas would want a return that fits with his bet-on-young skill vision that helps the club now. He also doesn’t foresee Marner requesting a trade.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

He doubted Dubas would accept someone like Columbus’ Patrik Laine or Seth Jones or Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk in return. However, he could listen if the Buffalo Sabres offered up center Jack Eichel.

John Tavares’ injury highlights the Leafs lack of center depth. Fox suggests shifting Tavares to the wing as he ages and his foot speed slows.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox also said Eichel’s neck injury would be a huge caveat, adding they shouldn’t make that move unless certain he’s fully recovered.

Eichel for Marner straight up would work in terms of player value and cap dollars. Nevertheless, I doubt it’s a move we’ll see take place between these two long-standing rivals.

Fox was also asked which players the Leafs should add to address the lack of killer instinct team president Brendan Shanahan felt his club still needs. He wondered if Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf or Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny would accept a Joe Thornton deal, or if Colorado’s Brandon Saad would come more cheaply than Zach Hyman.

His other suggested options include Minnesota’s Nick Bonino, Vegas’ Mattias Janmark and Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak. He also proposed it would be great to see what a healthy Nick Foligno could do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas will have to engage in more salary-cap gymnastics given his club’s limited cap space to address that need. I think Getzlaf re-signs with Anaheim or retires. Stastny might be a possibility. Saad could cost more than Hyman.

The Wild could re-sign Bonino if he’s willing to accept a pay cut from his current $4.1 million cap hit. If not, he could be a good option for the Leafs. Janmark and Oleksiak could also be worthwhile cost-effective additions.

Foligno could also help if he’s fully healthy but that depends on whether he sees a future in Toronto or if they feel they should look toward younger alternatives.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma wondered if the Vancouver Canucks would be interested in Alex Kerfoot. The Leafs aren’t expected to protect the 26-year-old center in next month’s expansion draft. They need to clear cap space if they hope to re-sign Zach Hyman. The Leafs can’t afford to take back salary but perhaps they’d accept a draft pick or prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuzma noted the Canucks pursue Kerfoot four years ago as a college free agent before he signed with the Colorado Avalanche. He could be an affordable option to bolster the Canucks’ depth at center.

SHOULD THE JETS SHOP CONNOR FOR A DEFENSEMAN?

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes it’s time for the Jets to pay the price to acquire some high-end defensive talent if they wish to be more than playoff also-rans. Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot all departed since the Jets marched to the 2018 Western Conference Final.

McIntyre doubts we’ll see any significant off-season activity out of Winnipeg based on their history. However, he wonders at what point general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will be forced to consider moving a core player to balance a lineup that isn’t good enough.

Other than goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and perhaps winger Nikolaj Ehlers, McIntyre doesn’t believe there should be an untouchable on the Jets roster. He proposed shopping winger Kyle Connor, who struggled in the Montreal series after center Mark Scheifele was suspended. The Jets’ crop of promising young skaters like Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins and Cole Perfetti could give them the freedom to use Connor as trade bait to address their blueline issues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff has occasionally made a big move during his tenure as Jets GM, the latest being his swap of Patrick Laine for Pierre-Luc Dubois. For the most part, however, he tends to be patient, sometimes to a fault.

The Jets GM could surprise us with a major offseason move. Like McIntyre, however, I don’t expect him to shop a core player like Connor this summer. He could instead look for affordable options via trade or free agency while preparing to promote promising youngsters like Ville Heinola or Dylan Samberg into the lineup.

THE LATEST ON THE OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited NHL insider Kevin Allen’s three main offseason proposals for the Oilers. They include pursuing a younger goalie like Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo or the New York Islanders Semyon Varlamov via trade, or Frederik Andersen or Linus Ullmark via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers intend to bring back 39-year-old Mike Smith for another season but could shop Mikko Koskinen. The Islanders aren’t in a hurry in shop Varlamov but inquiring with the Jackets about Merzlikins or Korpisalo makes sense. It wouldn’t hurt to kick tires on Andersen or Ullmark.

Allen also suggested the Oilers try to come up with enough assets to bundle with James Neal to get a rebuilding club with cap space (Detroit Red Wings) to take the winger off their hands.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Holland will consider that option. The assets in that package, however, could be more than he’s willing to part with. A contract buyout remains possible for Neal if he isn’t moved in a cost-cutting deal.

Allen also recommended re-signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson and then calling the New York Rangers about Tony DeAngelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers are working on the first two. DeAngelo’s character issues are a red flag but there could be clubs interested in the puck-moving defenseman. If the Oilers were interested, they could wait until he’s bought out of his current contract and then sign him as a free agent.