NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 19, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 19, 2022

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

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

Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










NHL Rumor Mill – November 1, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 1, 2022

The Leafs’ shaky start to this season is a growing concern to their followers. Could it lead to changes in the front office, behind the bench or to the roster? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the Maple Leafs 4-4-2 start to this season isn’t something to be taken lightly. He feels the club is heading toward an implosion that could lead to big changes depending on their upcoming performances against the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights.

Simmons puts the blame squarely on the performance of the Leafs players, especially during their losses to three of the worst teams in the league in Arizona, San Jose and Anaheim. He singled out core players Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander for not playing up to expectations.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Simmons acknowledged the Leafs have a banged-up defense corps. Nevertheless, he believes their best players must improve while their worst need to get better. He also criticizes general manager Kyle Dubas for not providing head coach Sheldon Keefe with a roster suitable for success.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of the Leafs defenders point out that they were 4-4-2 at the same point in 2021-22 and wound up with a franchise-best 115-point season. Others, however, point to the poor performance of their best players as one of the more concerning issues compared to this time last season.

The Leafs have questionable goaltending and a defense that when healthy isn’t deep enough to make them a serious Stanley Cup contender. Nevertheless, they have sufficient talent to be playing better than they currently are even with an injury-riddled blueline.

Maybe they’ll snap out of their current doldrums and turn things around during that upcoming stretch of games mentioned by Simmons. If they don’t, however, this situation could lead to a coaching change or a roster shakeup.

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle suggests the Leafs could need a trade to snap out of their current tailspin. He reminds us that Dubas has had some success with in-season trades, pointing to the acquisitions of Jake Muzzin, Jack Campbell, Ilya Lyubushkin and Mark Giordano. With Muzzin on long-term injury reserve, it frees up a large chunk of his $5.6 million cap hit to put toward acquisitions.

Mirtle suggested Dubas could shop some of his underperforming players to free up more cap space. Justin Holl ($2 million), Pierre Engvall ($2.25 million), Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million) or Nicolas Aube-Kubel ($1 million) could be trade candidates, with bigger names perhaps becoming available if the losing continues.

Given the Leafs need to address their puck-moving issues among their defensemen, Mirtle suggested Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun or Anaheim’s John Klingberg as possible options. Others included Columbus’ Vladislav Gavrikov, New Jersey’s Damon Severson or Arizona’s Shayne Gostisbehere.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs were reportedly interested in acquiring Ethan Bear from the Carolina Hurricanes but didn’t want to part with a draft pick. He wound up shipped last Friday to the Vancouver Canucks.

That indicates Dubas is looking around for help in the trade market. Finding a suitable return will be difficult at this point in the season given how many clubs have limited salary-cap space but it’s not impossible. However, it could require some creativity on his part, including parting with a quality draft pick or a promising prospect.

Mirtle acknowledged Chychrun’s injury history well as the Coyotes’ high asking price. Klingberg could be a more affordable option in terms of return and perhaps the Ducks would retain some of his $7 million cap hit for the right offer. However, Jamie Drysdale’s potentially season-ending shoulder injury could force the Ducks to hang onto Klingberg for a while.

Gostisbehere could be a possibility as he won’t cost nearly as much as Chychrun to get from the Coyotes. I don’t see the Blue Jackets parting with Gavrikov given his solid all-around play and value to their blueline. The Devils are off to a terrific start and aren’t under any pressure right now to move Severson.

THE JEFF MAREK SHOW (stick tap to NHL Watcher): Elliotte Friedman believes Auston Matthews will sign a contract extension with the Maple Leafs. He doesn’t necessarily believe it’ll be a long-term deal.

Friedman is concerned about things going off the rails. He doesn’t believe the 24-year-old center is currently unhappy but felt the Leafs have to “constantly take his temperature”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The earliest Matthews can sign with the Leafs is July 1, 2023. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent a year later. It’s interesting that Friedman believes he’d sign a short-term extension. Perhaps it would be a three-year deal taking him up to age 30.

Of course, as Friedman also points out, it will depend on whether Matthews is happy with the direction of the Leafs. If things do go off the rails, he could decide to test the market on July 1, 2024.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 5, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – October 5, 2022

In today’s NHL Rumor Mill: trying to guess what Auston Matthews’ next contract will look like plus the latest on Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi and Arizona Coyotes defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.

HOW COULD A RISING SALARY CAP AFFECT MATTHEWS’ NEXT CONTRACT?

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen looked at how the projected rise of the salary cap to $88 million by 2024-25 could affect the Toronto Maple Leafs’ efforts to re-sign Auston Matthews. The 25-year-old center is signed through 2023-24 and carries an average annual value of $11.64 million.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Boylen examined several scenarios regarding Matthews signing for a certain percentage of the Leafs’ cap payroll up to the maximum of 20 percent as managed by the collective bargaining agreement.

If Matthews signs an extension for five or eight years next season at 20 percent of $83.5 million, Boylen projects the Leafs star will earn an AAV of $16.7 million. If he waits until he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2024, (when the cap could be $88 million) he could get an AAV of $17.6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a trade or a free agent rumor but it’s definitely something to keep in mind as Matthews approaches the end of his current contract, especially if he decides to wait until July 1, 2024, to sign his new deal.

Matthews is going to be very expensive to sign. I doubt he’ll accept a “hometown discount” to stay with the Leafs. He’s already a two-time Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s leading goal scorer, winner of the 2022 Hart Memorial Trophy and the first player in a decade to tally 60 goals in a season. He’s in his playing prime and will remain among the league’s elite superstars when he signs his next contract.

That means Matthews is going to get top dollar, either from the Leafs or another club if he tests the market.

LATEST ON PULJUJARVI AND GOSTISBEHERE

THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Nugent-Bowman believes the emergence of young winger Dylan Holloway could spell the end of Jesse Puljujarvi’s tenure with the Edmonton Oilers, “whether that’s next week or next year.”

Puljujarvi’s been on the trade block for some time and likely would’ve been moved by now if the market hadn’t gone soft. Oilers general manager Ken Holland has been resistant thus far to trading him for futures.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers’ limited salary-cap space could force Holland to accept futures for Puljujarvi if injuries strike the lineup later in the season and he needs cap room to call up players from the minors. The 24-year-old winger carries a $3 million cap hit for this season.

GOPHNX.COM: Craig Morgan believes Shayne Gostisbehere could be traded this season by the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes if he plays as well this season as he did in 2021-22. The 29-year-old defenseman played his way onto the Coyotes’ top defense pairing, finishing with 51 points in 82 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gostisbehere would be more affordable than teammate Jakob Chychrun, who’s been a fixture in the rumor mill since the middle of last season. He could be a solid addition for a playoff contender seeking additional production from the blueline.

Gostisbehere’s contract will also make him attractive. Slated to become a UFA next summer, he carries a $4.5 million cap hit. However, he’s earning $3.25 million in actual salary, of which $2.25 million has already been paid by the Coyotes as a signing bonus.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2022

Kyle Dubas faces an uncertain future as Leafs GM plus the latest on Auston Matthews David Pastrnak, Jason Robertson and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas will not be receiving a contract extension this season. Michael Traikos speculates the decision could be a wait-and-see approach by his bosses after the Leafs failed to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. He also suggested it could be because Dubas didn’t bring in a true No.1 goaltender or upgrade the defense during the offseason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas downplayed the notion that this could be a make-or-break season for him, but there’s really no other way to look at it. For most of the past four seasons, the Leafs were among the top teams during the regular season but never staged a deep playoff run. Another early playoff exit (or worse) probably spells the end of Dubas’ tenure as Leafs general manager.

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas (NHL.com)

Speaking of the Leafs, Auston Matthews has two years remaining on his contract but that’s already sparking concern that he might depart Toronto as a free agent. Matthews told reporters he loves the city and considers it like home but won’t be entertaining any further questions about his contract. “There’s nothing that can be done for two more years,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: His critics will likely take him to task for not saying he would look forward to opening contract talks as soon as possible. However, he’s absolutely right that they can’t do anything about it now. The earliest Matthews and the Leafs can start contract extension discussions is July 1, 2023, so it’s pointless to badger him or Dubas about it during this season.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins GM Don Sweeney said he will continue to hold discussions with David Pastrnak’s representatives in hope of reaching an agreement on a contract extension. The 26-year-old right winger is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Pastrnak could start the coming season without an extension in place.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sweeney was asked if Pastrnak might sign a team-friendly deal as some claim Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci did at Pastrnak’s age. He indicated that those players signed for what was market value at the time. Rising salaries during the course of their contracts made them seem like bargains over time.

In other words, Pastrnak’s camp will seek market value that could exceed $9.5 million annually based on his performance in the upcoming season. That could explain why the two sides haven’t reached an agreement on an extension yet.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of the Stars’ training camp today. The 23-year-old winger was their leading goal scorer last season but remains an unsigned restricted free agent. GM Jim Nill said negotiations have been ongoing and he’s hoping an agreement can be reached as soon as possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Stars have $6.3 million in cap space and could reportedly have $7-$8 million in salary-cap space for this season depending on their roster makeup. The Robertson camp could be angling for an expensive new deal but their client is coming off his entry-level contract.

Robertson’s only leverage is to refuse to report to training camp (and perhaps miss the start of the season) but that won’t do either side any good. The sooner Robertson’s in camp, the more effective he’ll be to their roster. The longer he holds out, the longer it’ll take for him to regain his form and that could hurt their production this season.

Speaking of the Stars, Ben Bishop’s front-office role will have to wait until next season. His career was ended by chronic knee injuries but he didn’t retire as he had a year remaining on his contract. The Stars traded that contract to the Buffalo Sabres in June to remove it from their books for this season. However, the league has informed the Stars it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to work for them while he’s still being paid by Buffalo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers raised the point that the NHL had no issue with permanently sidelined Chris Pronger working for their department of player safety while he was still under contract with the Arizona Coyotes.

Maybe the league realized its mistake with Pronger and didn’t want the Stars to repeat it with Bishop. Perhaps it’s a different story if a player is working for the department of player safety while still under contract with another club despite the potential for a conflict of interest.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres announced general manager Kevyn Adams has agreed to a multi-year contract extension. In a statement, team owner Terry Pegula praised Adams’ work over the past two seasons and believes the club is heading in the right direction.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Adams’ lack of management experience raised questions over his suitability for the job when he was hired two years ago. Over that time, however, he’s made some good selections in the draft (including promising defenseman Owen Power) and got a solid return from the Vegas Golden Knights (including Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs) in the Jack Eichel trade. The Sabres also showed promising signs of improvement last season.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning center Brayden Point is “fully healthy” after recovering from a torn quad muscle suffered during the opening round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Andrew Copp is still recovering from off-season abdominal surgery and won’t be available until the start of the regular season. The versatile 28-year-old forward signed a five-year contract with the Red Wings in July.

THE ATHLETIC: Nicolas Hague isn’t expected to join his Vegas Golden Knights teammates when training camp opens for them today. The 23-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. His agent, Murray Koontz, remains hopeful of getting a deal done with the Golden Knights but they’re not at that point yet.

CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington (personal matter) and winger Andrew Mangiapane (undisclosed injury) will miss the start of training camp today.

CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: The Flames signed Adam Ruzicka to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $762K. It’s a two-way deal for this season and a one-way for 2023-24. Meanwhile, Brett Ritchie inked a one-year, $750K deal.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers restricted free agent Ryan McLeod remains without a contract but is expected to join his teammates for the start of training camp today. Management hopes to trade away some salary to clear up cap space to sign McLeod to a new deal.

The Oilers also announced defenseman Slater Koekkoek remains at home as he continues to work on improving his mental health.

DAILY FACEOFF: The New York Islanders signed UFAs Cory Schneider and Nikita Soshnikov and RFA Parker Wotherspoon to one-year contracts.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 7, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 7, 2022

The favorites to win the Hart Trophy for 2022-23, the league revamps a rule to permit disallowed penalties, and the Senators are enjoying a surge in season-ticket sales. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

DAILY FACEOFF: Matt Larkin has the PointsBet odds for the top favorites and sleeper candidates for the 2022-23 Hart Memorial Trophy.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

Edmonton Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews sit atop the 10 favorites for the Hart. Columbus Blue Jackets winger Johnny Gaudreau leads the sleeper candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow the link provided above for Larkin’s full list. Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar could challenge McDavid, Draisaitl and Matthews if he builds upon last season’s stellar performance.

SCOUTING THE REFS: The NHL has revamped its review rule to permit disallowed penalties. Referees will now be able to nullify a major penalty after video review or downgrade it to a minor infraction. The change doesn’t apply to match penalty reviews.

SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators are seeing a significant surge in season-ticket sales following a busy offseason that saw them add Claude Giroux, Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot to their roster. It’s also fueled by growing excitement over the development of their young core led by Brady Tkachuk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators could also see improvement at the gate throughout the coming season if the club becomes a playoff contender.

Speaking of the Senators, The Associated Press’ Stephen Whyno reports rookie defenseman Jake Sanderson has fully recovered from a lingering hand injury. He expects to be 100 percent when training camp opens later this month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fifth-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Sanderson is expected to become a blueline regular this season for the Senators.

TSN: Former NHL forward Brett Connolly signed a one-year contract with Lugano HC of Switzerland’s National League on Monday. The 30-year-old winger played in just nine games last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, who bought out the final season of his contract earlier this summer.

Connolly played 11 seasons in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and the Blackhawks from 2011-12 to 2021-22. He won a Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018 and tallied a career-best 22-goal, 46-point performance in 2018-19.

SIN BIN VEGAS: Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy recently provided an update on Laurent Brossoit. He said the 29-year-old goaltender is healing well from his (hip) surgery and is motivated to play this season.

However, Cassidy was vague over when Brossoit will return to the lineup. “Whether he joins us at the end of the year or two or three weeks in, we’ll see him.”

WINNIPEG SUN: Former Jets defenseman and captain Scott Campbell, 65, passed away on Saturday following a battle with cancer. Drafted first overall in the 1977 WHA draft by the Houston Aeros and ninth overall by the St. Louis Blues in the NHL Draft, Campbell opted for the WHA. His contract was purchased by the Jets after the Aeros folded and he won the Avco Cup with the Jets in 1978-79.

Campbell was part of the Jets after their move to the NHL in 1979. He was named team captain in the 1980-81 season and was traded to the Blues in 1981. His career was ended prematurely the following year by chronic asthma. He had 55 points in 149 WHA games and 25 points in 80 NHL contests.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Campbell’s family, friends and former teammates.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2022

Speculation over whether Auston Matthews will “pull a Gaudreau”, suggested destinations for free agent Nazem Kadri, and the latest on the Islanders in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD MATTHEWS “PULL A GAUDREAU” AND LEAVE THE LEAFS?

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos recently wondered if Auston Matthews might follow Johnny Gaudreau’s example and sign as a free agent with a club close to his hometown. The 24-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs center was raised in Arizona and makes his off-season home in Scottsdale.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Matthews is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024. If the Arizona Coyotes can’t afford him if he tests the market, nearby teams like the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks or Vegas Golden Knights could pursue him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s a good chance Matthews will stick with the deep-pocketed Leafs, especially if they can finally get over the playoff hump over the next couple of seasons. However, Gaudreau’s situation serves as a reminder that even superstars on good teams can take the opportunity presented by free agency to move closer to their offseason homes. That was a key factor in John Tavares’ decision four years ago to leave the New York Islanders for the Maple Leafs.

Could Matthews bolt for one of those clubs mentioned by Traikos in two years’ time? Yes, he could. Will he? That’s something only Matthews knows and he’s not telling. However, if he doesn’t sign a contract extension with the Leafs next summer, questions about his future in Toronto will dominate the rumor mill throughout 2023-24.

WHERE WILL KADRI GO?

THE ATHLETIC: The Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and Calgary Flames are among Peter Baugh’s suggested destinations for Nazem Kadri. The 31-year-old center is currently the biggest name available in this summer’s free-agent market as speculation abounds over where he’ll eventually sign.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Avalanche has just $3.9 million in cap space for this season. They’ll have to shed salary if they hope to bring Kadri back.

The Islanders have the cap space but they need a scoring winger, not a center. They could shift Mathew Barzal or Brock Nelson to the wing but I think their preference is for a natural winger. They must also ensure they have sufficient cap room to re-sign restricted free agents Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov.

Kadri rejected a trade to the Flames three years ago. Perhaps he’d be willing to join them if they pony up a big offer. They’ve got over $18 million in cap space and while a big chunk of that will go to Matthew Tkachuk, they should have enough for Kadri. However, that could complicate efforts to re-sign RFAs Andrew Mangiapane and defenseman Oliver Kylington.

Baugh also listed the Nashville Predators and Seattle Kraken as destinations for Kadri.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the Predators can trade a high-priced center such as Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene, or they shift the latter to the wing, Kadri isn’t a fit in Nashville. Besides, they already have three high-salaried forwards in Johansen, Duchene and Filip Forsberg. I doubt GM David Poile wants to add a fourth.

The Kraken have room on the roster and in their cap payroll. However, Kadri might prefer joining a playoff contender instead of an NHL club in just its second season of existence.

LATEST ON THE ISLANDERS

NEW YORK POST: Ethan Sears wondered what the New York Islanders will do after losing out in the Johnny Gaudreau free-agent sweepstakes. He noted that Nazem Kadri was still available but believes he’ll be out of their price range.

General manager Lou Lamoriello could go the trade route to address his club’s need for a scoring forward. St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko could be available but he’s a UFA next summer and has full no-trade protection this season.

Lamoriello could inquire about Patrik Laine if the Columbus Blue Jackets have difficulty re-signing the RFA winger after adding Gaudreau. He could also revisit his interest in Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello is getting slammed by Islanders fans and the local media for missing out on Gaudreau as they question whether he’ll be able to address his roster’s biggest need this summer. The Isles GM never tips his hand and never speaks to the media about his intentions, which is stoking the impression that he’s doing very little.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamoriello is quietly going about his business searching for a scorer. Nevertheless, he could find it increasingly challenging this summer to bolster his offense. Suitable options via free agency are few and far between and the trade market could be cooling off after a couple of weeks of heated activity.