NHL Rumor Mill – June 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 7, 2021

It’s been a week since the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the first round but that hasn’t stopped speculation over their offseason plans. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes the clock is ticking for the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup hopes with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner under contract. Matthews’ current deal expires in 2024, Marner’s the following year.

If things go sideways, the pair can depart via the unrestricted free agent market. Traikos doubts the pair will want to endure another five years of disappointment, much less a decade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Traikos feels the Leafs have three seasons to either win the Cup or make significant progress toward doing so to convince those two to stay. A lot can happen over that time. What Dubas does over the next three years will determine the futures of Matthews, Marner and the Leafs.

Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas could find it difficult to bolster the roster with limited cap space this summer. They have roughly $67.8 million invested in next season’s cap payroll, leaving little room under the $81.5 million cap.

With Dubas and team president Brendan Shanahan adamant that high-paid forwards Matthews, Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander aren’t going anywhere, the Leafs will have to look elsewhere to free up payroll.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images).

Dubas could avoid potentially losing Morgan Rielly to free agency next summer by trading him now. It would free up $5 million in cap room but also leave a big hole on their blueline, one Rasmus Sandin could eventually fill. If Alex Kerfoot is taken by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, it’ll free up $3.5 million.

Koshan considers re-signing Zach Hyman a seemingly insurmountable challenge. He’s an unrestricted free agent on July 28 and the Leafs lack the money to re-sign him. It’s believed the 28-year-old winger could get multiyear offers between $5 million and $6 million annually on the open market. With other holes in the roster to address, the Leafs can’t afford that even if they lose Kerfoot’s cap hit to the Kraken.

Hyman’s agent dismissed a rumor claiming the Leafs had already offered a deal worth $5 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hyman is a Toronto native. He could accept a “hometown discount” to stay with the Leafs, especially if he thinks he won’t get better offers in the free-agent market under a flattened salary cap. However, this is also his best opportunity to land a lucrative long-term deal. There will be teams willing to pay between $5 million and $6 million for his services on the open market despite the flat cap.

Even if Hyman accepts a lesser deal of, say, $4 million annually, that’s still going to take a big bite out of the Leafs’ cap space. That could force Dubas to consider a bigger move this summer.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox believes the Leafs must make a decision soon on Rielly. Do they keep him for next season as an “own rental” for one last shot at the Cup with the Leafs, do they trade him, or attempt to negotiate a contract extension starting on July 28? His trade value, combined with his affordable $5 million cap hit, might never be higher than it is now.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran believes trading Rielly should be on the table if the Leafs are committed to Sandin taking over his role. He points out they got a first-round pick and promising prospect Filip Hallander by trading Kasperi Kapanen last year to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rielly would be worth at least that much, and freeing up his $5 million cap hit would give the Leafs room to bring in a couple of affordable bottom-six forwards.

While Dubas and Shanahan said they’re not trading Marner, McGran wondered if they would listen if it was talent-for-talent. Perhaps they’d listen if the Columbus Blue Jackets offered defenseman Seth Jones, or the Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, or the Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk or Johnny Gaudreau.

McGran admits it would get tricky trying to move Marner. He expects Dubas won’t change his approach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Rielly is a more realistic scenario than moving Marner. Yes, the latter could happen if the Leafs got a terrific offer. But Rielly’s affordable cap hit for next season is easier for other clubs to absorb than Marner’s $10.9 million through 2024-25.

The question is, will Dubas make that move? As The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel observed last week, the Leafs better make sure they have a suitable replacement lined up. Siegel doesn’t consider Sandin ready yet for a full-time top-four role. If Dubas shares that view, Rielly could return for at least next season unless he can find an appropriate substitution in the trade or free-agent market.

Mark Zwolinski examined the Leafs’ options for a backup goaltender for Jack Campbell next season. One option is bringing back Frederik Andersen if he accepted a pay cut in the $2 million range. Free-agent options could include Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, Colorado’s Devan Dubnyk or Edmonton’s Mike Smith.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Andersen has played his last for the Leafs. He did his best and was often overworked and underappreciated, but Campbell has taken over the starter’s job now.

I don’t see Rinne leave Nashville if he still wants to play one more season. The Oilers have already indicated they’re bringing back Smith. Dubnyk’s performance has really declined over the last two years. Other free-agent options include former Leafs James Reimer or Jonathan Bernier or the Hurricanes’ Petr Mrazek.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 7, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 7, 2021

Connor McDavid’s march to 100 points continues, Auston Matthews nets his 40th goal of the season, the league fines the Rangers $250,000, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is within four points of reaching 100 on the season after collecting three assists in a 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Leon Draisaitl also scored twice for the Oilers, who pulled goalie Mikko Koskinen from the net after the Canucks scored four goals on their first four shots. Brock Boeser, Nils Hoglander, Travis Hamonic and Jayce Hawryluk each had a goal and an assist for the Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has four games remaining in the season to reach 100 points. The Oilers sit in second place in the Scotia North Division with 66 points, eight behind the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs and seven up on the third-place Winnipeg Jets.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Speaking of the Leafs, Auston Matthews tallied his 40th goal in his 49th game of the season in a 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Mitch Marner and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist. Canadiens center Phillip Danault left the game with an upper-body injury. The fourth-place Canadiens missed an opportunity to secure the final playoff berth in the division. With 57 points, they hold a 10-game lead over the Calgary Flames and need just one point to clinch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews might’ve had a shot at 50 goals if not for a nagging wrist injury that cost him four games. This is the third time in his five NHL seasons he’s reached the 40-goal plateau.

A four-goal performance by Jeff Carter carried the Pittsburgh Penguins to an 8-4 drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres. Frederick Gaudreau and Jared McCann each collected three points as the Penguins moved into sole possession of first place in the MassMutual East Division with 75 points, two ahead of the second-place Capitals. The Caps, however, hold two games in hand.

Patrice Bergeron tallied the game-winner as the Boston Bruins blanked the New York Rangers 4-0. Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman turned aside 15 shots for the shutout while Brad Marchand and David Krejci each had two assists as the Bruins (71 points) moved within two points of the Capitals.

A 32-save performance by Mackenzie Blackwood gave the New Jersey Devils a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Michael MacLeod snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period. The slumping Isles have dropped six of their last eight games and sit three points back of the third-place Bruins.

The Chicago Blackhawks upset the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on an overtime goal by Alex DeBrincat. Blackhawks goaltender Collin Delia kicked out 36 shots for the win. The Hurricanes extended their points streak to 13 games and sit atop the overall standings with 80 points, holding a five-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers in the Discover Central Division.

HEADLINES

The NHL fined the New York Rangers $250,000.00 for issuing a public statement on Tuesday condemning George Parros, the director of the league’s department of player safety. The comments came after Parros fined Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson for roughing Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich while Rangers winger Artemi Panarin suffered a season-ending injury after tussling with Wilson.

It is terribly unfair to question George Parros’ professionalism and dedication to his role and the Department of Player Safety,” said league commissioner Gary Bettman.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers CEO James Dolan appeared unperturbed by the fine. He said his club said what it felt it needed to say and the league did what it felt it needed to do. “Hopefully, we’ll both move on. I don’t think it’s worth enflaming anymore.”

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the Rangers statement galvanized support for Parros from other teams and general managers in feedback delivered to NHL headquarters. The league has no intention of replacing Parros.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dolan has no love lost for Bettman dating back to the commissioner shutting down the Rangers’ attempt in 2007 to establish its own website outside of the NHL.com umbrella, even threatening to strip control of the Rangers from the Dolans. He knew he would get a slap on the wrist for his public comments.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Dolan’s hamhanded attempt to get Parros replaced failed. Bettman enjoys the support of most of the team owners. Their general managers toe the company line. The NHL brain trust thinks its player safety department is doing a good job, a view that seems to be shared around the league, and it really doesn’t care about criticism from the fans and media.

THE SCORE: Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich received a one-game suspension for high-sticking Capitals winger Anthony Mantha during Wednesday’s fight-filled rematch between the two clubs.

NHL.COM: Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen was fined $2,000 for embellishment during a game against the San Jose Sharks on April 30.

CBS SPORTS: Blackhawks center Kirby Dach won’t play in the club’s final three games of the season. He aggravated scar tissue in his surgically repaired wrist on Monday.

AWFUL ANNOUNCING: ESPN has approached Wayne Gretzky about a broadcasting role. They’re also looking at Ray Ferraro, Kevin Weekes and John Davidson.










NHL Betting: Connor McDavid Cementing Hart Trophy Race

NHL Betting: Connor McDavid Cementing Hart Trophy Race

 










NHL Betting: Auston Matthews Seals Up The Rocket Richard Award

NHL Betting: Auston Matthews Seals Up The Rocket Richard Award

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 2, 2021

The Islanders clinch a playoff spot, Marc-Andre Fleury reaches another milestone, the top rookie and players of April are announced and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders clinched a playoff berth by downing the New York Rangers 3-0. Semyon Varlamov picked up his third straight shutout with a 28-save performance while Anthony Beauvillier scored twice. The Isles hold third place in the MassMutual East Division with 67 points.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry made 24 saves to shut out the Washington Capitals 3-0. Bryan Rust tallied two goals for the Penguins (71 points), who sit two points ahead of the Capitals in first place in the East Division. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury.

A hat trick by Craig Smith powered the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres 6-2. David Krejci collected three assists and Taylor Hall had two. With 66 points, the fourth-place Bruins move within a point of the third-place Islanders. Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen left the game following two periods with an apparent lower-body injury.

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

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 489th career NHL victory by beating the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 on an overtime goal by Jonathan Marchessault. Fleury is now tied with Roberto Luongo for third place on the all-time wins list. The Golden Knights sit in first place in the Honda West Division with 74 points.

Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon each had a goal and an assist as the Colorado Avalanche held off the San Jose Sharks 4-3. The Avs (70 points) sit four back of the Golden Knights in second place. Tomas Hertl and Alexander Barabanov had a goal and an assist for the Sharks.

An overtime goal by Kevin Fiala capped a three-goal rally by the Minnesota Wild to beat the Blues 4-3. The Wild remain two points back of the Avs in third place while the Blues (53 points) hold a three-point lead over the Coyotes for fourth place. St. Louis defenseman Torey Krug missed the game with an upper-body injury.

Auston Matthews scored twice to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. With 71 points, the Leafs hold a nine-point lead over the Edmonton Oilers for first place in the Scotia North Division. Matthews leads the league this season with 38 goals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring injury, Matthews will reach 42 goals in 52 games. That’s a big achievement in this pandemic-shortened season.

Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists and Leon Draisaitl collected four assists to douse the Calgary Flames 4-1. The Oilers (62 points) opened a five-point lead over the third-place Winnipeg Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid now has 87 points with seven games remaining in the season. He still has a good shot at finishing with 100 points.

Montreal Canadiens rookie Cole Caufield’s first NHL goal came in overtime as his club overcame a 2-0 deficit to nip the Ottawa Senators 3-2. Jeff Petry and Tyler Toffoli each had a goal and an assist as the fourth-place Canadiens (55 points) moved within two points of the third-place Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens now hold an eight-point lead over the Flames with both clubs having six games left.

An overtime goal by Dougie Hamilton lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic kicked out 31 shots and collected an assist on Hamilton’s goal. The Hurricanes sit atop the Discover Central Division with 75 points, two up on the second-place Florida Panthers.

Speaking of the Panthers, Anthony Duclair scored twice and picked up an assist in a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist and Sam Bennett collected two helpers. The Panthers sit two points up on the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning, meanwhile, dropped a 1-0 decision to the Detroit Red Wings. Thomas Greiss made 33 saves for the shutout while Sam Gagner tallied the winner in a shootout. Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was a healthy scratch as head coach Jon Cooper alluded to a plan for his starter down the stretch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like Cooper intends to rest Vasilevskiy as much as possible over the remainder of the regular season in preparation for the upcoming playoffs.

An overtime goal by Erik Haula lifted the Nashville Predators over the Dallas Stars 1-0. Juuse Saros made 28 stops for the shutout as the Predators (58 points) opened a three-point lead over the Stars for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central.

Anaheim Ducks goalie Ryan Miller made 23 saves in his final home game in a 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Danton Heinen and Jacob Larsson each had a goal and two assists. Miller is retiring at the end of this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings lined up following the game to congratulate Miller while the Ducks honored the goaltender and his family with a center-ice ceremony.

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1. Jack Hughes collected two assists and Mackenzie Blackwood made 31 saves for the Devils.

Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews were named the NHL’s stars of the month for April 2021. Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson was named rookie of the month for April.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on leave and are taking part in an independent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by the 24-year-old winger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: People will rush to judgment on Virtanen but we don’t know all the facts. The accuser must be heard and have their claim fully investigated but Virtanen also has the right to defend himself. Remember, innocent until proven guilty.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 16, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action include milestones for Tuukka Rask and Nicklas Backstrom, the Canucks’ Friday game is postponed plus the latest on Steven Stamkos and Jack Eichel in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Taylor Hall scored his first goal with the Boston Bruins and Tuukka Rask picked up his 300th career NHL victory after returning from injury in a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. Brad Marchand scored twice for the Bruins, who sit fourth in the MassMutual East Division with 52 points. The Islanders are in second place with 58 points.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (NHL Images).

The Washington Capitals failed to widen their lead over the Isles as they were upset 5-2 by the Buffalo Sabres. Washington center Nicklas Backstrom picked up an assist in his 1,000th career NHL game. Anders Bjork had a goal and an assist for the Sabres. The Capitals remain atop the East with 60 points.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin picked up his second straight shutout over the New Jersey Devils with a 4-0 victory. Artemi Panarin scored two goals as the Rangers (48 points) remain four points behind the Bruins and two ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Speaking of the Flyers, they got shootout goals from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier to nip the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1. Carter Hart kicked out 31 shots for the Flyers. The Penguins are in third place with 57 points, one back of the second-place Islanders.

The Carolina Hurricanes moved into first place in the Discover Central Division by downing the Nashville Predators 4-1. Andrei Svechnikov and Vincent Trocheck each had a goal and an assist to give the Hurricanes 60 points in the standings. The Predators, meanwhile, are in fourth place with 49 points.

An overtime goal by Victor Hedman gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Alex Killorn had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. The Lightning also announced they placed captain Steven Stamkos on long-term injury reserve with a lower-body injury retroactive to April 9. Tampa Bay also has 60 points but sits second in the Central on the basis of games played while the Panthers are one point behind them.

Jakub Vrana scored his first goal with the Detroit Red Wings as they upset the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. Troy Stecher also scored two goals for the Wings to extend their win streak to three games. The loss leaves the Blackhawks (45 points) four points behind the Predators.

The Dallas Stars kept their playoff hopes alive by dropping the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1. Denis Gurianov scored twice and collected an assist as the Stars are one point back of the Blackhawks.

Two-goal performances by Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connors carried the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto center Auston Matthews missed the game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day. The Jets (57 points) moved to within three points of the first-place Leafs in the Scotia North Division.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks’ scheduled game tonight against the Edmonton Oilers was postponed because of player preparation concerns. The Canucks last played on March 24 and their schedule was postponed on March 31 by COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation Saturday’s game could also be postponed. It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes another week before the Canucks can safely ice a healthy roster. This latest postponement came about after the players raised concerns with the NHLPA that they hadn’t fully recovered in time for Friday’s contest with the Oilers.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams denied reports claiming team captain Jack Eichel would soon undergo surgery to repair a season-ending herniated disk in his neck. He said Eichel will continue to rehab the injury and he’ll be reevaluated in May.