NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2024

Another milestone for Marc-Andre Fleury, the Senators make some front office changes and the Golden Knights prepare to face off against the Kraken in the 2024 Winter Classic. Details on these and other stories in the NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury appeared in his 1,000th career NHL game but his club dropped a 3-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets. Fleury made 26 saves and Frederick Gaudreau had a goal and an assist for the 16-15-4 Wild (36 points) as they sit four points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth. Laurent Brossoit stopped 24 shots while Dominic Toninato snapped a 2-2 tie in the third period as the Jets (22-9-4) extended their points streak to eight games and sit one point out of first place in the Central Division with 48 points.

Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury became just the fourth goaltender in NHL history to reach the 1,000-game plateau, joining Martin Brodeur (1,266), Roberto Luongo (1,044) and Patrick Roy (1,029) on the all-time list.

The Ottawa Senators defeated the Buffalo Sabres 5-1. Anton Forsberg kicked out 45 shots while Thomas Chabot collected two assists in his first game back with the Senators since being sidelined on Dec. 2 with a leg injury. Tage Thompson tallied for the Sabres, who sank to 14-19-4 while the Senators are 14-18-0.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Senators announced several front-office moves. President of hockey operations and interim general manager Steve Staios becomes the full-time general manager, former NHL player and TSN hockey analyst Dave Poulin is their new senior Vice-President of Hockey Operations and Ryan Bowness becomes associate general manager.

The Senators made a management change earlier this season when Staios replaced GM Pierre Dorion on Nov. 2. They also replaced head coach D.J. Smith on Dec. 18 with Jacques Martin on an interim basis. It’s expected they’ll announce a full-time replacement in the offseason.

With Staios now fully in charge of the front office, the focus is likely to shift toward possible roster moves if the Senators fail to show any significant improvement between now and the March 8 trade deadline.

Speaking of the Sabres, Zemgus Girgensons returned to action after being sidelined since Nov. 24 by a lower-body injury.

Edmonton Oilers winger Warren Foegele had a career-high five points (two goals, three assists) as his club thumped the Anaheim Ducks 7-2. Leon Draisaitl has a goal and two assists for the 18-15-1 Oilers (37 points) as they won their fifth straight game and sit three points out of the final Western wild-card spot. John Gibson made 32 saves for the 13-23-0 Ducks.

The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 2-0 deficit in a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist to become the first player to reach 60 points this season as the Lightning (17-11-6) vaulted one point over the idle Washington Capitals into the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 41 points. Cole Caufield, Johnathan Kovecevic and Nick Suzuki replied for the 15-16-5 Canadiens as they dropped their third straight game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens center Christian Dvorak missed this game with an upper-body injury and is sidelined indefinitely.

Dallas Stars winger Mason Marchment netted a hat trick and set up another goal in an 8-1 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks. Tyler Seguin had a goal and two assists for the 22-9-4 Stars, who sit in third place behind the Jets in the Central Division with 48 points. Philipp Kurashev netted the lone goal for the 11-23-2 Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Winnipeg and Dallas have identical records but the Jets hold second place in the Central with 20 regulation wins.

Boston Bruins forward Trent Frederic scored twice and set up another as his club defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-3. Charlie McAvoy collected three assists for the 22-7-6 Bruins (50 points) as they moved to within one point of the league-leading New York Rangers. Patrick Kane’s six-game points streak came to an end as the Red Wings dropped to 17-16-4.

The Pittsburgh Penguins got a 37-save performance from Alex Nedeljkovic in a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Lars Eller scored twice for the 18-13-4 Penguins (40 points) as they picked up their third straight win and extended their points streak to six games, sitting one point out of the final Eastern wild-card berth. Ilya Sorokin stopped 35 shots for the 18-15-5 Islanders as they sit in the first Eastern wild-card spot with 43 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield returned to the lineup after missing the last eight games with an upper-body injury.

Calgary Flames forward Blake Coleman got a goal and an assist in his 500th career NHL game while Andrew Mangiapane collected three assists to nip the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3. Dennis Gilbert also had a goal and an assist for the 15-16-5 Flames. Travis Konecny had two helpers for the 19-12-5 Flyers as they remain in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 43 points.

Third-period goals by Valeri Nichushkin and Josh Manson lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Nathan MacKinnon picked up two assists to extend his home points streak to 19 games as the Avalanche (23-11-3) hold first place in the Central Division with 49 points. Tomas Hertl scored for the 9-25-3 Sharks, who’ve dropped eight straight games and also lost top defenseman Mario Ferraro with a suspected shoulder injury following a check by MacKinnon.


NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights will face off against the Seattle Kraken at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park at noon PT on Jan. 1. This will be the Kraken’s first outdoor game and the second for the Golden Knights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll watch it for the novelty of seeing an outdoor game as usual. Besides, there are no World Junior Championship games scheduled for today.

DAILY FACEOFF: The Toronto Maple Leafs placed goaltender Ilya Samsonov on waivers before sending him to their AHL affiliate. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Sabres placed goalie Eric Comrie on waivers before sending him to their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both netminders are expected to clear waivers today. Samsonov has struggled this season and the Leafs intend to work with him during his time with the Marlies to help him improve his game. Comrie, meanwhile, is the third man out behind Devon Levi and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen among the Sabres’ goalies.

NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: Devils forward Timo Meier left Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins with an injury. There’s been no update yet regarding his status.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2023

A milestone game for the Rangers’ Chris Kreider, the league and NHLPA investigate a breach in treatment protocol for Coyotes defenseman Juuso Valimaki, and the Avalanche trade Tomas Tatar to the Kraken. Details on these and other stories in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider scored two goals in a 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Jonathan Quick made 29 saves while Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox each picked up two assists for the Rangers (20-7-1) as they sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division and second overall in the Eastern Conference with 41 points. Lukas Dostal made 34 saves for the Ducks (10-19-0) as they’ve lost five straight games and nine of their last ten.

New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a milestone game for Kreider as he surpassed Adam Graves to move into third place among the Rangers’ all-time goalscoring leaders with 281. He also tied Graves for fourth on their all-time list for power-play goals (100) and surpassed the 500-point mark (501). He’s just seven points away from surpassing Graves for tenth place among the Blueshirts in total points.

The Boston Bruins defeated the New York Islanders 5-4 on a shootout goal by David Pastrnak, who also had a goal and an assist in regulation time. James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Geekie also each scored and collected an assist for the 19-5-4 Bruins, who sit in first place in the Eastern Conference with 42 points. Bo Horvat had a goal and two assists while Mathew Barzal set up two goals for the Islanders (14-7-8), who sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 36 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders announced that defenseman Scott Mayfield (upper body) was placed on injured reserve before this game.

Four unanswered third-period goals lifted the Buffalo Sabres to a 5-2 upset of the Vegas Golden Knights. Casey Mittelstadt scored twice and collected an assist while Dylan Cozens had a goal and two assists for the 13-15-3 Sabres. Ivan Barbashev and Jack Eichel replied for the Golden Knights (20-6-5) as they held a three-point lead over the Bruins for first place in the overall standings with 45 points.

An overtime goal by Filip Forsberg lifted the Nashville Predators over the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5. Roman Josi and Ryan O’Reilly each had a goal and two assists for the Predators (17-13-0), who’ve won three straight games and hold the first Western Conference wild-card berth with 34 points. Martin Necas and Stefan Noesen each had a goal and an assist for the 16-12-2 Hurricanes as they cling to the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 34 points.

The Dallas Stars overcame a 4-2 deficit in a 5-4 win over the Ottawa Senators. Matt Duchene had a goal and an assist while Scott Wedgewood made 25 saves as the Stars improved to 17-8-3 and sit in second place in the Central Division with 37 points. Drake Batherson scored two goals and Jakob Chychrun picked up three assists for the 11-14-0 Senators, who have dropped seven of their last 10 games and remain mired in last place in the Eastern Conference with 11 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stars goalie Jake Oettinger started this game but left just eight minutes into the first period with a lower-body injury. He will not be traveling with his team to St. Louis for Saturday’s game against the Blues.

Meanwhile, Senators winger Vladimir Tarasenko missed this game due to a family matter. Teammate Mathieu Joseph suffered a lower-body injury early in the first period and didn’t return.

Arizona Coyotes goalie Connor Ingram made 21 saves to shut out the San Jose Sharks 1-0. Mattias Maccelli scored for the Coyotes (14-13-2) as they regained the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 30 points. Kaapo Kahkonen turned aside 23 shots for the 9-18-3 Sharks.


DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli cited sources indicating the NHL and NHL Players Association are investigating a gap in treatment protocol as defenseman Juuso Valimaki was left in a Dallas hospital without care for hours last month after suffering a serious facial injury during a game against the Stars on Nov. 14.

According to Seravalli’s sources, Valimaki was dropped off at the emergency room and left to advocate for his own care with his wife Vilma (who was traveling with him during that road game) and a Coyotes employee. After initial observation, the overworked Dallas hospital told Valimaki to find a local hotel and return the next day as they were treating more critical incoming trauma patients.

Valimaki, however, required immediate treatment. With a bloodied face, a hole in his mouth, and internal bleeding, he was unable to function. Doctors later said he might have asphyxiated in his sleep on his blood had he gone to the hotel as instructed. Five hours later after the NHLPA stepped in, Valimaki received 55 stitches in his mouth to close the wound, which included a fractured bone and the loss of three teeth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli’s story indicates it was Valimaki’s wife who called the NHLPA after her husband spent an hour in the emergency room without care. It was two hours later when his face and wound were finally cleaned, another hour before he was admitted to the hospital for surgery to close the wound in his mouth and another 12 hours before he received surgery to repair the fractured bone in his mouth and realign his remaining teeth.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW/THE SEATTLE TIMES: The Avalanche traded winger Tomas Tatar on Friday to the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a 2024 fifth-round pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tatar, 33, signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract this summer with the Avalanche. He struggled to mesh with his new club, tallying one goal and nine points in 27 games. The move frees up cap space for the Avalanche if they wish to make another move later in the season.

The Kraken, meanwhile, are struggling to score this season. Pressed for cap space, they hope Tatar (a former six-time 20-plus goal scorer) can regain his form in Seattle.

THE PROVINCE/SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: The Vancouver Canucks traded forward Jack Studnicka to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenseman Nick Cicek and a 2024 sixth-round draft pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In what could be a related move, the Sharks also placed forward Nico Sturm on injured reserve.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Sam Carchidi reports Flyers general manager Daniel Briere doesn’t intend to be a buyer before this season’s NHL trade deadline. While the club is exceeding expectations, Briere doesn’t intend to mortgage the future just to sneak into the playoffs.

Briere would love for the Flyers to reach the postseason. However, he still believes his club should stockpile draft picks rather than trade those assets for rental players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see if Briere becomes a seller by the March 8 deadline if the Flyers are still holding a playoff berth by then. He could stand pat rather than shop his own pending unrestricted free agents such as Sean Walker and Nick Seeler.

Both defensemen have reportedly drawn lots of interest in the trade market. Briere could still move one or both by March 8 for the right offer.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine is expected to miss six weeks as he recovers from a fractured clavicle suffered during Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine has been plagued by injuries over the past three seasons. He’s recently surfaced in media trade conjecture though there’s no indication he wants to be moved or that the Blue Jackets are shopping him. If he was available in the trade market, his injury history would hurt his value.

CBS SPORTS: The Los Angeles Kings placed defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (lower body) in injured reserve. He’s listed as week-to-week.

DAILY FACEOFF: Speaking of the Kings, backup goalie Pheonix Copley left practice on Friday with an undisclosed injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings have reportedly called up David Rittich.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins placed forward Vinnie Hinostroza on waivers to send him to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 17, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 17, 2023

Recaps of Monday’s games, the three stars of the opening week of the season, injury updates and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: A 34-save performance by Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Arvid Soderblom carried his club to a 4-1 upset of the Toronto Maple Leafs, snapping Auston Matthews’ season-opening hat-trick streak at two games. Corey Perry snapped a 1-1 tie, Andreas Athanasiou collected two assists and rookie Connor Bedard had his points streak end at three games. John Tavares replied for the Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Full marks to the Blackhawks for a solid team game against the Leafs. The latter’s sloppy defense in this contest proved costly, especially on Perry’s game-winning goal.

The Detroit Red Wings got a 23-save shutout from James Reimer to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0. Shayne Gostisbehere scored what proved to be the winning goal. Spencer Martin stopped 28 shots for the Blue Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Red Wings raised some eyebrows by making Jeff Petry a healthy scratch. They acquired the 35-year-old defenseman from the Montreal Canadiens in August. Meanwhile, Wings forward Robby Fabbri missed this game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Florida Panthers winger Sam Reinhart (NHL Images).

Florida Panthers winger Sam Reinhart scored twice as his club held off the New Jersey Devils by a score of 4-3. Matthew Tkachuk collected two assists as the Panthers jumped to a 4-0 lead. The Devils made it interesting with three unanswered goals in the third period with Jesper Bratt collecting a goal and an assist.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers head coach Paul Maurice moved into third place on the NHL’s all-time games coached list at 1,769. Speaking of the Panthers, they placed forward Sam Bennett on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

Timo Meier was benched in the third period by Devils coach Lindy Ruff along with Curtis Lazar and John Marino with Ruff singling out Meier’s undisciplined play. Devils forward Tomas Nosek (day-to-day) missed this game with a lower-body injury.

A shootout goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames, giving Spencer Carbery his first win as an NHL head coach. Former Flames winger Matthew Phillips collected a goal and an assist against his old club as the Capitals overcame a 2-0 deficit. Adam Ruzicka and Dillon Dube each had a goal and an assist for the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Capitals winger Anthony Mantha was a healthy scratch from this game.

The New York Rangers nipped the Arizona Coyotes 2-1. Vincent Trocheck snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period while Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves for the win. Chris Kreider also scored for the Rangers while Clayton Keller replied for the Coyotes.


Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson and Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin were the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Oct. 15.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Kirby Dach suffered a “significant injury” during Saturday’s win over the Blackhawks and will be sidelined for an extended period of time. He suffered the injury when he was checked into the Chicago bench by Blackhawks defenseman Jarred Tinordi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Eric Engels said he’s heard Dach tore his ACL and MCL in his knee. The club is doing more tests before making a more detailing announcement regarding his status but Engels suggests it could put the young forward’s season at risk. Offseason acquisition Alex Newhook could replace Dach as the Canadien’s second-line center.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken forward Brandon Tanev is expected to be sidelined for four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury suffered during the season-opener against the Vegas Golden Knights.

DAILY FACEOFF: Minnesota Wild forward Matthew Boldy is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury suffered during Saturday’s loss to the Maple Leafs.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers center Sean Couturier missed practice on Monday. He played in their first two games of the season which was the first time he’d played since being sidelined by a back injury in Dec. 2021. Head coach John Tortorella said his absence was not due to his back but that he was “banged up.”

DAILY FACEOFF: Speaking of the Flyers, they officially unveiled their new arena upgrades for Wells Fargo Center that cost the club an estimated $400 million.

CBS SPORTS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic won’t play Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes due to a lower-body injury.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield is day-to-day with a lower-body injury suspected to be his left ankle.

NHL Rumor Mill – July 1, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – July 1, 2023

The NHL’s annual free-agent market opens at noon ET today. Here’s the latest on the notable pending UFAs such as Tyler Bertuzzi, Vladimir Tarasenko, Max Pacioretty and Blake Wheeler plus the latest on Alex DeBrincat and Logan Thompson in the Rumor Mill.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the Carolina Hurricanes will be aggressive in the UFA market. He wouldn’t be surprised if they pursued such notables as Tyler Bertuzzi, Vladimir Tarasenko, Dmitry Orlov or Blake Wheeler.

The Toronto Maple Leafs could also have an interest in Bertuzzi and could also pursue a UFA defenseman. They’ve also been linked to former Minnesota Wild enforcer Ryan Reaves.

Ryan O’Reilly has been linked to the Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if the Canadiens, Predators and Canucks seriously pursue O’Reilly given their current state of retooling/rebuilding their rosters. Still, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected in free agency (hello there, Johnny Gaudreau to Columbus) so never say never, I guess.

DAILY FACEOFF: reported significant interest in former Carolina Hurricanes winger Max Pacioretty despite his twice-injured Achilles tendon last season. Team indicated the Hurricanes granted Pacioretty permission to speak with other clubs prior to July 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given those injuries I expect Pacioretty ends up signing an affordable one-year contract. He’s 34 so he’s not eligible for a 35-plus bonus-laden deal. **Update** As reader “Chris” pointed out, Pacioretty would be eligible to sign a 35-plus contract due to his number of career games played (400-plus) and the number of days spent on injured reserve (100-plus days) on injured reserve in the last year of their most recent contract.

TSN: Darren Dreger speculates the Boston Bruins or Florida Panthers as possible destinations for Blake Wheeler.

SPORTSNET: Friedman reports that we shouldn’t expect any immediate decisions from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on where they’ll be signing.

Jonathan Quick could be heading to the New York Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: ESPN’s Kevin Weekes broke the news of Quick potentially heading to the Rangers to back up Igor Shesterkin.

The Wings and Predators have also been linked to former Colorado Avalanche center J.T. Compher.

Speaking of the Wings, Friedman expects them to make a big move given their plentiful cap space this summer. “All eyes are on Alex Killorn, with Alex DeBrincat trade talks stalled.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Killorn player for Wings general manager Steve Yzerman when the latter was GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

One team with an interest in defenseman Scott Mayfield told Friedman they believe he is all but re-signing by the New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello usually doesn’t officially announce his UFA re-signings until September. Don’t be surprised if Mayfield’s name is still listed as unsigned in a month’s time.

Friedman believes the Leafs and Edmonton Oilers are in on former Washington Capitals winger Connor Brown.

The Vancouver Canucks could be interested in a UFA defenseman such as Ian Cole or Carson Soucy.


OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals are among the teams interested in Senators winger Alex DeBrincat, along with the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars.

WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Sammi Silber cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman saying the Red Wings are no longer the favorites to land DeBrincat. He also listed the Capitals, Islanders and Stars as possible trade partners as well as the Anaheim Ducks.

Silber believes the Capitals’ limited salary-cap space would make it difficult to acquire and re-sign DeBrincat. They could get cap relief if they could shed the contracts of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha via trade but those moves seem unlikely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators would prefer to move DeBrincat as soon as possible but they’re willing to be patient. If a trade can’t be found before their club-elected arbitration date later this summer, they’ll retain him for 2023-24 and try again to move him during the season. Nevertheless, I expect him to be moved soon.


VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Chris Gawlik cited ESPN’s Kevin Weekes reporting a few teams contacted the Golden Knights about the availability of goaltender Logan Thompson. This came amid word they were close to signing playoff hero Adin Hill to a two-year contract, which was completed on Friday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gawlik doesn’t rule out the possibility of Thompson getting traded, pointing to the Reilly Smith deal earlier this week that no one saw coming. However, he noted there are no indications the Golden Knights are shopping the 26-year-old netminder.

With Robin Lehner facing an uncertain future due to health issues and the limited options within their system, the Golden Knights will likely return this season with a tandem of Hill and Thompson.

NHL Rumor Mill – April 10, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – April 10, 2023

The latest on Jonathan Toews and an update on the Islanders in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is treating the club’s final two home games as his last with the franchise after 15 seasons. The 34-year-old center is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s not treating it as the end of his career as he thinks he could be playing elsewhere next season but he believes he’s coming to the end of his time with the Blackhawks.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks are rebuilding with younger talent, shipping Toews’ long-time teammate Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers before the March 3 trade deadline. He might’ve been traded to a playoff club too if he hadn’t taken himself out of the lineup for two months dealing with health issues.

If Toews decides to continue his playing career it’s unlikely that he’ll be returning to the Blackhawks. He still wants to win and would like one more shot at adding a fourth Stanley Cup ring to his collection.

Toews turns 35 on Apr. 29, which will make him eligible to receive a 35-plus contract, meaning a team can sign him to a one-year contract with a low base salary and plenty of performance bonuses.

Despite his health issues, there could be contenders willing to sign him to that type of contract.


THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz recently pondered whether the New York Islanders can afford to re-sign pending UFAs Pierre Engvall and Hudson Fasching. Both are in their late-20s and seem like the type of players that general manager Lou Lamoriello would like to keep around on his aging roster.

Re-signing both could require some salary-cap gymnastics by the cap-strapped Islanders. Kurz suggested a four-year, $16 million deal for Engvall and a three-year, $3.6 million contract for Fasching, meaning it would cost the Isles a total of $5.2 million to keep them.

The Islanders have over $76 million invested in their 2023-24 roster. Kurz speculates that pending UFAs Semyon Varlamov and Scott Mayfield will likely get better contracts elsewhere. He also suggested a contract buyout for Josh Bailey and burying Ross Johnston’s $1.1 million in the minors.

However, the Isles have restricted free agents like Oliver Wahlstrom and Samuel Bolduc that they’ll want to keep around. Kurz thinks they’ll have to make another cost-cutting move or two to re-sign Engvall and Fasching.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could mean shopping the 32-year-old Casey Cizikas and his $2.5 million average annual value through 2026-27. Perhaps they try peddling 35-year-old Cal Clutterbuck ($1.75 million) or the 33-year-old Matt Martin ($1.5 million), who are both a year away from UFA status.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 15, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 15, 2022

Four unexpected early-season trade candidates plus speculation over how the Leafs will replace the sidelined Jake Muzzin in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen lists the Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat and Thatcher Demko, St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson as four trade candidates we didn’t expect to see.

Horvat, 27, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. With the Canucks struggling, his future in Vancouver has come under question. There’s speculation it could cost them $8 million annually for eight seasons to re-sign their captain.

As for Demko, Boylen indicates he’s not the sole reason behind the Canucks’ difficulties this season. However, the 26-year-old goaltender’s inconsistent play has been a contributing factor that could take him out of the franchise’s core of untouchable players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the losses piling up in Vancouver there’s a sense that something’s gotta give. There’s talk that head coach Bruce Boudreau could be replaced which seems the more likely option given how difficult it is at this stage of the schedule to swing a season-saving trade.

Of the two, Horvat is the more likely trade candidate given his contract status. Demko’s struggles are tied in part to the porous defense in front of him. Besides, trading Demko would only create the additional headache of finding a suitable replacement carrying an annual cap hit comparable to his reasonable $5 million per season.

If Canucks management shakes up the roster I suspect it’ll be in the New Year when we get closer to the March 3 trade deadline. Horvat would draw considerable interest from playoff contenders and should fetch a quality return.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).

Like Horvat, O’Reilly is due to become a UFA next summer. He turns 32 in February and will be in line for a hefty new deal. However, the Blues are transitioning toward younger talent while O’Reilly is struggling to score this season. They could peddle their captain if it looks like they’ll miss the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Reilly has stated he wants to remain with the Blues beyond this season. I doubt he’ll be going anywhere if the Blues rebound and are a playoff contender by the trade deadline. Whether he and Blues management can agree to a contract extension is another matter.

If they’re out of contention by then it wouldn’t be surprising if GM Doug Armstrong trades him. He has parted ways with previous captains, letting Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes depart via free agency. Armstrong could look at getting something for O’Reilly rather than lose him for nothing.

Karlsson’s terrific start to this season for the lowly Sharks has sparked some musings about his trade status. Boylen observed first-year GM Mike Grier traded away Brent Burns to Carolina in July. Karlsson carries a hefty $11.5 million cap hit and a full no-movement clause. However, a trade might be possible if he’s willing to waive the clause to join a playoff contender and if the Sharks are willing to retain a healthy chunk of his cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns was easier to move because his contract was shorter and more affordable than Karlsson’s. He’s signed through 2024-25 with an average annual value of $8 million, which made retaining $2.7 million of that AAV easier to do. Karlsson is signed through 2026-27, which is a far longer period to be carrying dead cap space.

I’m not saying Karlsson can’t or won’t be traded, only that his contract won’t be easy to move. I think Grier will want to retain as little of that big cap hit as possible.


TORONTO SUN: With Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin sidelined until at least February by a cervical spine injury, Terry Koshan believes GM Kyle Dubas should determine what’s available in the trade market regarding veteran blueliners.

THE JEFF MAREK SHOW (stick tap to “NHL Watcher”): Marek suggested Anaheim Ducks rearguards John Klingberg and Kevin Shattenkirk as trade options to replace Muzzin. Elliotte Friedman disagreed as he doesn’t believe they’re the type of defenders the Leafs need.

Friedman also noted the Leafs have been tied to Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. However, he expressed concern over Chychrun’s injury history and the Coyotes’ high asking price.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel suggested pending UFAs such as the Washington Capitals Dmitry Orlov, the Ottawa Senators’ Artem Zub and the New York Islanders Scott Mayfield. He also mentioned the Chicago Blackhawks’ Connor Murphy, who has three more seasons left on his contract with an AAV of $4.4 million. However, he wondered if it could cost them a defenseman like Timothy Liljegren or Rasmus Sandin or perhaps forward Nick Robertson in order to get a serious return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Koshan and The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk reported Dubas intends to see if Liljegren and Sandin can elevate their play before going the trade route. They’ve managed to make do with Muzzin missing most of this season thus far. T.J. Brodie is also sidelined but he’s expected to be out for just a couple of weeks.

Dubas won’t go shopping for help as long as the Leafs can keep their heads above water while Muzzin is sidelined. If the blueliner is ruled out for the remainder of the regular season during his February re-evaluation, the Leafs GM will keep him on long-term injury reserve and probably use the cap relief to bring in a rental defenseman. The trade market will likely contain better options by that point.