NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 18, 2021

Game recaps plus the latest on Patrik Laine, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, J.T. Miller, Erik Johnson, Jason Spezza and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Jake Guentzel tallied the only goal in a shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their first win over the season by edging the Washington Capitals 4-3. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored his first of the season, moving to within one career goal of tying Mike Gartner (708) for seventh place on the all-time goal-scoring list.

Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel (NHL Images).

Three unanswered third-period goals by Eetu Luostarinen, Patric Hornqvist and Jonathan Huberdeau lifted the Florida Panthers to a 5-2 season-opening victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Huberdeau had a goal and two assists while teammate Keith Yandle tallied his 100th career goal in his 867th consecutive NHL game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trade rumors dogged Yandle last week amidst speculation he could become a healthy scratch, snapping his Ironman streak. It remains to be seen how things unfold for the veteran blueliner and the Panthers.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets winger Patrik Laine left practice yesterday with an apparent injury above his left hip. Head coach Paul Maurice shed little light on Laine’s status, adding he’ll see how the winger is doing on Monday. Laine is slated to travel with the team to Toronto.

AZCENTRAL: The Arizona Coyotes placed captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson on injured reserve. He’s slated to miss their next three games. Ekman-Larsson suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks following a hit from Sharks’ winger Evander Kane.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller returns to the lineup after missing the club’s first three games in coronavirus quarantine as a high-risk contact of teammate Jordie Benn.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defensemen Erik Johnson and Bowen Byram will join their teammates after completing COVID-19 quarantine. Johnson missed all of training camp and the Avs’ first test games after testing positive for the coronavirus. Byram was in quarantine after traveling from Canada following the 2021 World Juniors in Edmonton.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs placed center Jason Spezza and goaltender Aaron Dell on waivers for the purpose of assigning them to their taxi squad. Spezza indicated he’ll retire immediately if claimed by another club. Dell, meanwhile, could be targeted by a club with goalie issues like the Edmonton Oilers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll learn their fate by noon ET today.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins placed defenseman Mike Matheson on injured reserve retroactive to Friday with an undisclosed ailment. Head coach Mike Sullivan said Matheson was injured during Friday’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues placed defenseman Robert Bortuzzo on injured reserve following a hit to the head suffered during Friday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Bortuzzo was struck by the shoulder of Avs winger Valeri Nichushkin.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase is doubtful for Monday’s game against the New York Islanders. Kase suffered an upper-body injury during Saturday’s overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils.

CBS SPORTS: The Calgary Flames signed forward Brett Ritchie to a one-year, two-way contract. He’d attended Flames’ training camp on a professional tryout offer.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2020

The Penguins trade Patric Hornqvist to the Panthers for Mike Matheson, the latest Stanley Cup Final news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

TSN: After a day of uncertainty, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally traded winger Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson. The Panthers also sent winger Colton Sceviour to the Penguins in the deal.

Pittsburgh Penguins trade Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: This trade was originally reported on Wednesday but was held up due to Hornqvist’s no-trade clause and insurance concerns regarding his contract. It took a day to get those issues sorted.

The Penguins get younger by taking on the 26-year-old Matheson and 31-year-old Sceviour while the Panthers hope to benefit in the short term by the 33-year-old Hornqvist’s playoff experience and gritty style of play. Matheson struggled over the last two years but the Pens have had success taking on blueliners (like Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley) who improved once they came to Pittsburgh.

Hornqvist has three years left on his contract, Matheson six years and Sceviour one year. The Penguins don’t free up much cap space for 2020-21, swapping Hornqvist’s $5.3 million annual average value for Matheson ($4.875 million) and Sceviour ($1.2 million).

The Penguins might not be done dealing. They have a surplus of eight defensemen under NHL contracts and still have to re-sign goaltender Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry. That’s generating speculation one of those blueliners could be shopped in a cost-cutting deal.

NBC SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov’s consistency is among the driving factors in his club’s quest for the Stanley Cup. He’s the playoffs’ leading scorer with 30 points and has had eight multi-point games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kucherov’s performance puts him among the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars face the Lightning tonight in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and Game 5 on Saturday. That could put a considerable burden upon goaltender Anton Khudobin. With Ben Bishop still unfit to play, there are questions over what they’ll do between the pipes during the upcoming back-to-back stretch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin normally backs up Bishop, but he’s played in most of the Stars’ games in this postseason. Youngster Jake Oettinger appeared in just over 36 minutes in two games, replacing Khudobin for the third period during the Stars 5-2 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday.

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is understandably proud of what the NHL accomplished with its return-to-play plan with two quarantine bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto. “It’s been nothing short of remarkable”, he said yesterday.

Bettman praised NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer and his staff of 150 people for their planning and staging of the event, as well as the governments of Alberta and Ontario and the Canadian government, and the collaborative efforts between the league and the NHLPA.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman’s pride is justified. The league silenced its critics by staging a safe environment for 24 teams in two NHL cities to compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup. However, he indicated the league’s intent is not to stage next season in a bubble environment. They hope to have fans in the arenas when it is safe to do so.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Curtis Lazar to a two-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $800K.

SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators re-signed forward Yakov Trenin to a two-year, $1.45-million contract.

NHL.COM: The league revealed its offseason protocols for training at team facilities. The plan will be similar to Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan.

The teams can open their training facilities if a minimum of five players request it commencing Oct. 15, though they can open them sooner at their discretion following the completion of the Stanley Cup Final. No more than 12 players will be allowed on the ice at one time, though more players may be present in the facility at the same time.

Local public health restrictions will be observed and mandatory testing for COVID-19 is required for players and training staff wishing to use the facility.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 24, 2020

Steven Stamkos returns as the Lightning take 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, the latest on a potential Patric Hornqvist-for-Mike Matheson trade, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Steven Stamkos scored in his return to action as the Tampa Bay Lightning downed the Dallas Stars 5-2 in Game 2 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

Stamkos, who’s been dealing with a core-muscle issue that sidelined him since July, played only five shifts in the first period but scored the Lightning’s second goal, eluding Stars defenseman Esa Lindell and sniping a wrister past Anton Khudobin. He spent the rest of the game on the Lightning bench. In his post-game interview, Stamkos said he’s still working through the issue, adding it was too early to tell if he’ll suit up for Game 4 on Friday.

Victor Hedman had a goal and two assists, becoming the third defenseman in Stanley Cup playoff history to score at least 10 goals in a postseason. Only Paul Coffey (12 goals) and Brian Leetch (11) have more. Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat each had a goal and an assist.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos’ brief return in Game 3 still provided a big lift to his teammates. You could see it by the way they played and their reaction to their captain’s goal. They took control of the game in the second period, scoring three goals and outshooting the Stars 21-4.

Hedman, meanwhile, is making a strong case as the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. In addition to his goal-scoring efforts, he’s been the Lightning’s leader during Stamkos’ absence, playing a strong game at both ends of the rink.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports a potential trade in which the Pittsburgh Penguins would send winger Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson could be falling apart over Hornqvist’s no-trade clause and concerns over whether his contract was covered by insurance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This deal could still go through if those issues are sorted out, but Friedman sounds skeptical. “One hurdle would be challenging enough…but two? Big problem.” If the deal goes through, the Penguins will have a surplus of left-side defensemen, meaning another trade could be likely.

TSN: Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion confirmed his club won’t be re-signing long-time goaltender Craig Anderson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in the 39-year-old Anderson’s performance over the past two years made this inevitable. Nevertheless, it’s the end of an era between the pipes for the Senators. Anderson is their all-time leader in wins, losses, and games-played, and played a big role in their surprising run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens re-signed forward Jake Evans to a two-year contract extension. The first year is a two-way deal paying him $750K at the NHL level. He’ll earn $800K in the second year.

TORONTO STAR: The Canada Revenue Agency alleges former Maple Leafs Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker participated in a scheme to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The duo claimed millions in business losses related to foreign currency trading during their years with the Leafs, but the CRA alleges it was a sham to claim the losses to lower their taxable income. Corson and Tucker deny the allegations.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2020

The latest on Matt Dumba, Brock Boeser, Darcy Kuemper, Frederik Andersen, Phillip Danault and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts”, Elliotte Friedman believes Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin will continue trying to build up his depth at center. There’s interest in defenseman Matt Dumba, a good player signed to a good contract.

Friedman suggested the Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames could be among the suitors. The Jets can’t offer up a center but perhaps the Wild might be interested in a skilled winger. Same goes for the Canucks though Friedman isn’t convinced they’d move winger Brock Boeser. He feels the Flames could do it.

He also noted Guerin’s predecessor pursued Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander. However, the Leafs weren’t inclined to move him then and Friedman isn’t convinced that’s changed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s media speculation suggesting Patrik Laine or Nikolaj Ehlers could be available, but I don’t see the Jets parting with either guy for Dumba. Boeser told The Province he doesn’t want to be traded and doesn’t expect to be. Boeser-for-Dumba seems reasonable, but it wouldn’t address the Wild’s need for a first-line center unless they flip Boeser to another team for a center.

If the Flames are willing to move Sean Monahan, a Dumba-for-Monahan swap would work, but that would leave the Flames in need of a first-line center. Nylander can play center but he’s at his best on the wing. Guerin may be willing to take a chance on Marcus Johansson as a center but I don’t think he’s going to take any chances with his first-line center spot.

Friedman believes players who’ve been paid their bonuses and have low actual salaries for 2020-21 will be attractive trade targets. They include Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, Arizona Coyotes center Derek Stepan, and New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban, though he has an additional year remaining on his contract. Friedman also said Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has reached out twice to Andersen to say teams are interested in him, but he’s not actively shopping him and isn’t interested in any offer he doesn’t consider an improvement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit Dubas for being upfront with Andersen about the trade chatter. If he doesn’t get offered a better goaltender, Andersen won’t be going anywhere. Stepan or Subban could interest clubs looking to reach the cap floor. Both have seen their stock tumble over the last couple of years so there might not be much interest in either guy.

Friedman speculates Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito is going to be asked about Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau. He doesn’t see Barkov going anywhere but expects Zito will move one of the big tickets on his blueline to create flexibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Ekblad gets moved. Keith Yandle ($6.35 million through 2022-23) has a full no-movement clause while Anton Stralman ($5.5 million through 2021-22) carries a 16-team no-trade list. The most likely candidate is Mike Matheson ($4.875 million through 2025-26). He lacks no-trade protection and has popped up in this season’s rumor mill.

The Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks are among the clubs asking about Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper. The Boston Bruins, Flames and Oilers have inquired about Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson while the Colorado Avalanche asked about Niklas Hjalmarsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of speculation about the status of those Coyotes in recent weeks, especially given recent reports of the club’s money troubles. However, they’ve hired an experienced executive in Bill Armstrong as their new GM. Depending on what ownership wants, I feel he’s the right guy to navigate this situation.

Coyotes insider Craig Morgan recently cast doubt on the idea of the Coyotes trading Kuemper for draft picks and prospects. If they shop Ekman-Larsson and he’s willing to waive his no-movement clause, Morgan suggested the Boston Bruins as a destination if they lose Torey Krug to free agency next month. He thinks cost-controlled young players like defenseman Brandon Carlo and winger Jake DeBrusk could be attractive to the Coyotes.

Speaking of the Oilers’ rumored interest in Kuemper, the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples feels they could stick with Mikko Koskinen. Jim Matheson feels the Oilers would be better off acquiring a 1-A like Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk or a promising young goalie like the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev, though he’s probably out of reach.

Friedman claims Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault’s name is “out there” and there’s definitely interest, but rival general managers aren’t sure what Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin will do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s name may be out there but Friedman doesn’t say if he’s being actively shopped or if clubs are calling to make inquiries. I think the Habs would be foolish to part with Danault and I’m not the only one who shares that view.

The Chicago Blackhawks and goalie Corey Crawford initially weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on the dollar value of a contract extension. Crawford knew there would be a pay cut but the amount was the issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis noted Friedman’s inclusion of the Blackhawks among the clubs making inquiries about Kuemper, who has a two-year deal worth $4.5-million annually. Rather than part with assets to acquire Kuemper, Roumeliotis suggests simply paying Crawford a similar contract.

If the Vegas Golden Knights were willing to buy out Marc-Andre Fleury, Friedman wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he doubts Vegas would go that route in this economy.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 24, 2020

Speculation over Marc-Andre Fleury’s future with the Golden Knights, plus the latest on the Flames, Senators, and Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FLEURY’S FUTURE

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required) Jesse Granger suggests Marc-Andre Fleury‘s defense of his agent, Allan Walsh, gives the impression the veteran goaltender didn’t disagree with Walsh’s provocative post criticizing his client’s lack of playing time.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

Over the weekend, Walsh posted an image showing Fleury being stabbed in the back by a sword with the name of Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer on the blade. Fleury appeared in just two of the Golden Knights’ games since the NHL returned to action, with trade-deadline acquisition Robin Lehner seeing the bulk of the starts. He’s had Walsh remove the image from his Twitter feed. 

Granger noted Fleury said he speaks regularly with Walsh. The fact Fleury didn’t immediately condemn the image gave the impression the netminder wasn’t that upset over it.

Fleury has two years remaining on his contract while Lehner is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. If the Golden Knights re-sign Lehner to a large contract, Granger believes they could face having between $12 – $14 million invested in the goalie position or they would have to move on from Fleury.

Granger pointed out Fleury has a 10-team no-trade list. Given the flattened salary cap for next season, there might not be many destinations for Fleury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury’s future with the Golden Knights is now a topic of speculation that will intensify the longer he remains Lehner’s backup. As Granger noted, trading him won’t be easy. In addition to his no-trade clause and the flattened cap, his $7.5 million annual average value, his age (35), and inconsistency this season could also become sticking points.

LATEST FLAMES SPECULATION

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson acknowledged Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau’s playoff performance was disappointing. Trading him, however, could be risky. He wondered what the return would be, suggesting they’d have to get someone to replace Gaudreau’s production. Gilbertson mused about perhaps bringing in a blue-chip defenseman with Mark Giordano about to turn 37, or perhaps swapping Gaudreau for picks and prospects and using the cap savings to sign Taylor Hall. The danger would be looking back after the trade and realizing they got little in return.

Gilbertson also pondered if Flames GM Brad Treliving will re-sign Cam Talbot, stick with David Rittich, or pursue a free-agent goalie like Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner or Braden Holtby. He wondered which of their pending UFA blueliners (T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, Michael Stone) will be back. He also thinks Treliving would like to add a Nazem Kadri-type player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Treliving could quietly gauge Gaudreau’s trade value following the playoffs. Maybe he shops him for a more affordable young winger with upside. Maybe he dumps Gaudreau’s salary and goes after Hall, though that comes with its own risks in terms of salary and Hall’s effectiveness as he approaches 30 next year. Maybe he tries to add that young forward and a gritty secondary scorer.

The goaltending is an interest situation. Re-signing Talbot would be merely a short-term solution as Gilbertson points out. Rittich looks less like a future starter with each passing season. Markstrom, Lehner or Holtby might be better options but they’ll also be expensive.

WILL THE SENATORS ADD A GOALIE?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch recently suggested several trade options for the Senators if GM Pierre Dorion wants to add a veteran goaltender.

The New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist could be the biggest name available but he might not want to join a rebuilding team. Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray could be another trade target.

Garrioch also noted the Arizona Coyotes have Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper while the Carolina Hurricanes may decide they need to do something with James Reimer or Petr Mrazek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Lundqvist agreeing to be traded to a rebuilding club in what is likely his final NHL campaign. Murray’s injury history and inconsistency make him a risky acquisition.

The Coyotes won’t part with Kuemper, while Raanta also has a long history of injuries. The Hurricanes should upgrade their goaltending but they could stick with their current tandem because of their affordability. Both are signed for next season.

SUGGESTED BLUELINE OPTIONS FOR THE KINGS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman recently listed Carolina’s Joel Edmundson, Chicago’s Olli Maatta, Washington’s Brenden Dillon, Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, and Florida’s Mike Matheson as possible blueline targets for the Los Angeles Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Edmundson, Dillon, and Tanev are UFAs at season’s end. Maatta is signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $4.083 million but Dillman suggests he could be a buyout candidate. Matheson is under contract until 2025-26 with an AAV of $4.875 million.

Kings GM Rob Blake seems content to continue rebuilding with youth but I can see him making an affordable free-agent addition or two this summer. One of those pending UFA options listed by Dillman could be on his list if he can get them to agree to short-term contracts. He could be reluctant to take on Matheson’s deal.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 16, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 16, 2020

Has Tuukka Rask played his final game with the Bruins? Could the Rangers be tempted to trade the first-overall pick? What’s the latest on the Panthers? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

COULD THE BRUINS AND RASK PART WAYS?

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont suggests it might be time for the Bruins and goaltender Tuukka Rask to part ways. This comes in the wake of Rask’s decision to return home for family reasons. While the club is supportive of the goalie’s decision, and Dupont is also sympathetic, the pundit points out this isn’t the first time he’s taken a leave of absence for family reasons.

Rask has one season left on his contract, but Dupont feels the Bruins cannot have uncertainty between the pipes, especially in the starter’s position. He notes the Bruins can trade the netminder to one of the 15 teams on the list he was obligated to provide in February. He believes Bruins general manager Don Sweeney “will be working the phones.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every statement coming from the Bruins’ organization supports Rask’s decision and I feel they’ve handled this situation well considering the circumstances His critics will condemn him for bailing on the team. We don’t know the full story but it appears to be something he carefully considered for some time.

I don’t fault Rask for putting his family first. The same goes for anyone else regardless of profession. It’s difficult to focus on a job when you’re worried about your family.

Rask’s decision, however, does raise questions over the goaltender’s future in Boston. Some will suggest a trade, others retirement.

Dupont feels the Bruins GM and coach need to know who they can count on during the good times, bad times, and especially during the playoffs. If that’s the rationale the Bruins use to trade Rask (and that’s a big “if” at this point), it will hurt his value in the trade market. If Rask returns next season, they could keep their goalie tandem intact with Jaroslav Halak for one more season. 

Will the New York Rangers use the first-overall pick to select Alexis Lafreniere? (NHL.com)

COULD THE RANGERS SHOP THE FIRST-OVERALL PICK?

ESPN.COM: The New York Rangers won the draft lottery, but Greg Wyshynski notes this year’s top prospect, left-wing Alexis Lafreniere, won’t address their need for a skilled centerman. They’re already well-stocked at the left-wing position with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider.

Wyshynski points out the Rangers could land a proven center and help on defense by shopping the first-overall pick. A bidding war could get started among clubs seeking a skilled left-winger. However, just because it’s an option doesn’t make it the best one.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman cites former NHL GM Brian Burke suggesting the Rangers have got to listen if someone is going to come after that pick hard, but he notes those offers usually aren’t good.

Dillman wondered if the Los Angeles Kings, who own the second-overall pick, might contact the Rangers. The presence of No. 2 prospect Quinton Byfield (a center) might entice the Rangers to listen. While the Kings have depth in center prospects and the Blueshirts have a need at that position, it doesn’t mean there’s a fit there.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if the Rangers don’t get some calls about that pick. Maybe from the Kings, perhaps from the Ottawa Senators, possibly from the Montreal Canadiens or another club in dire need of a potential scoring star. However, it’ll take a significant offer to convince them to part with that pick. Ultimately, I expect the Rangers will keep the pick, select Lafreniere, and find other ways to boost their depth at center, either internally or through the trade or free-agent markets. 

LATEST ON THE PANTHERS

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards noted whoever becomes the Florida Panthers new GM will have decisions to make regarding unrestricted free agents such as Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman.

Richards suggests the flat salary cap could work to the Panthers’ advantage if they want to re-sign a couple of their UFAs without breaking the bank. Dadonov and Hoffman seem to enjoy living in Florida and playing for the Panthers, but they might have to accept short-term deals if they hope to stay. However, their production could make them cost-prohibitive if the Panthers decide to cut payroll.

Improving the defense should be the Panthers’ priority. Richards notes blueliner Mike Matheson has six years left on his contract at $4.8 million per season and was scratched from the final two games of the postseason. If they’re willing to give up on Matheson’s potential it might not be easy to move his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lack of a state tax also works in the Panthers’ favor if they hope to re-sign Dadonov and Hoffman. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires with those two as they approach free agency. They could test the market and then return to the Panthers if there’s nothing to their liking. That’ll depend, of course, on who takes over the GM’s chair between now and then.

Matheson frequently surfaced in this year’s rumor mill. The Panthers could be stuck with him as the decline of his play over the last couple of seasons could hurt his value in the trade market. Still, I can see the next GM calling around to see if there’s a club willing to take a chance on him.