Bruins Struggle Through Scoring Drought to Open NHL Season
Contract talks have broken off between the Canadiens and Brendan Gallagher, some “mutual interest” between the Leafs and Joe Thornton, three key Bruins underwent surgery last month, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Contract talks between Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens have broken off, Gallagher’s agent Gerry Johansson told Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday. The 28-year-old winger is eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have more about this later this morning in the Rumors section. There’s still plenty of time for the two sides to work out a new contract. Gallagher is considered among the Canadiens’ core players but this report casts early doubt over his long-term future in Montreal.
THE SCORE: cites The Athletic’s James Mirtle reporting of “some mutual interest” between the Toronto Maple Leafs and UFA center Joe Thornton in reaching an agreement on a contract. The discussions are at an early stage. The 41-year-old center is coming off a disappointing 31-point performance in 70 games last season, his worst output over a full season since his NHL debut in 1997-98.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The idea is Thornton would become the Leafs’ third-line center, allowing Alexander Kerfoot to play on the wing. The former Shark is among the greatest playmakers in NHL history and a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. However, the decline in his performance last season should be a concern. The Leafs might be better off looking elsewhere for a short-term third-line center.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and defenseman Charlie McAvoy underwent surgeries in September. Marchand underwent sports hernia surgery on Sept. 14 and is sidelined for four months. Pastrnak had a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair on Sept. 16 with a five-month recovery period. McAvoy, meanwhile, had a right knee arthroscopy on Sept. 8 and is expected to be ready for training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins will be without Pastrnak and Marchand if the 2020-21 NHL season opens in January.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks signed Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto to one-year contracts. Cap Friendly indicates Marleau and Nieto will each earn $700K.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed goaltender Aaron Dell to a one-year, $800K contract.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Predators signed UFA forward Brad Richardson to a one-year, $1-million contract.
NHLPA: The dates for salary arbitration have been announced:
OTTAWA SUN: Senators prospect Tim Stuetzle will undergo surgery to repair a broken hand suffered during training camp with the Mannheim Eagles. The recovery time is six-to-eight weeks. Stuetzle was the Senators’ first-round pick (third overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft.
TSN: Speaking of the Senators, Eugene Melnyk has filed a defamation lawsuit against Ottawa Sun columnist Rick Gibbons regarding reports claiming the Sens owner was attempting to divert money from a club charity to his own charity and gouging the Ottawa Senators Foundation by charging exorbitant rent. The Sun subsequently published an apology and a correction of errors in Gibbon’s stories.
THE ATHLETIC: Multiple Dallas Stars employees will be furloughed for the second time this year. Team owner Tom Gagliardi is facing mounting financial difficulties as his core businesses (hotels and restaurants) continue to be affected by COVID-19.
The Bruins, Avalanche, and Lightning take commanding leads, the Blues tie their series with the Canucks, an update on Evgeni Malkin, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: A four-goal third-period outburst by the Boston Bruins gave them a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of their first-round series and a commanding 3-1 series lead. Jake DeBrusk scored two of those goals as the Bruins held off the Hurricanes’ push in the dying minutes of regulation to tie the game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big hit by Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy on Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal shifted the momentum of the game. Staal departed and didn’t return. An update on his status could be announced today.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 18, 2020
Ryan O’Reilly scored twice and set up another as the St. Louis Blues downed the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 in Game 4 to tie their series at two games apiece. Blues goalie Jake Allen made 22 saves for the win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the Blues’ best effort of the postseason as they showed why they’re defending champions. O’Reilly remains in Conn Smythe Trophy form with his hardworking two-way play.
The Colorado Avalanche took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Arizona Coyotes in Game 4 with a convincing 7-1 victory. Nazem Kadri scored twice and set up another, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog had two assists and Cale Makar a goal and an assist. The Avs limited the Coyotes to just 15 shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was only a matter of time before the Avalanche broke through in this series. The Coyotes have relied on goalie Darcy Kuemper and a tight-checking defensive system, but the Avs’ talented depth couldn’t be contained in this game. MacKinnon also got into a rare tussle, rag-dolling Coyotes forward Christian Fischer after the latter cross-checked him during a scrum.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves as the Tampa Bay Lightning held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in their opening-round series. Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde scored for the Bolts while Cam Atkinson replied for the Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts are playing a more grinding style against the Jackets compared to last year’s opening-round series. If the Jackets can’t find a solution, their postseason will end on Wednesday.
SPORTSNET: For the third straight week, the NHL reports no positive COVID-19 tests.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin and Zach Aston-Reese recently underwent surgery. Malkin went under the knife for an elbow injury and is expected to require three-four weeks to recover. Aston-Reese had shoulder surgery and is expected to be sidelined for six months.
ESPN.COM: The NHL is finalizing plans that would allow family members to join players in the conference finals bubble in Edmonton. Family members would have to quarantine in their hotel room away from the player upon arrival for four days until they’ve passed four COVID-19 tests, after which they’ll be allowed in the same hotel room as the player. They would also be subject to daily testing.
The Norris Trophy & Selke Trophy finalists are revealed, the latest COVID-19 testing results, plus the latest on Max Domi, Charlie McAvoy, Ilya Samsonov, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
2020 NHL AWARDS UPDATE
NHL.COM: John Carlson of the Washington Capitals, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators are this year’s finalists for the James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top defenseman as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hedman is a former Norris winner (2018) and was a finalist last season. This is the first time as finalists for Carlson and Josi. Carlson led all defensemen in scoring, with Josi second and Hedman third.
Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier, and St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly are the finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s top defensive forward as voted by the PHWA.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergeron could win the Selke for a record-setting fifth time. O’Reilly won the award last season while Couturier was a finalist in 2017-18.
LATEST NHL COVID-19 TESTING RESULTS
The NHL yesterday released the results of their COVID-19 testing from last week, indicating two players tested positive for the coronavirus. Both players are self-isolating and following CDC and Health Canada guidelines. The league administered 2,618 tests to over 800 players from July 13-17.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a notable improvement over the previous numbers released by the league. At that rate, the league’s chances of staging its playoff tournament in Edmonton and Toronto look very good.
This week, however, will be the crucial period, as the players have been around each other more since Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan began on July 13.
PHASE 3 TRAINING CAMP NOTES
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens forward Max Domi rejoined his teammates yesterday after taking a week to evaluate the risks to his health associated with COVID-19. He’s a type-1 diabetic and also suffers from celiac disease.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Domi will need some time to get up to speed with his teammates. Nevertheless, his return to the lineup should provide a boost to their forward lines entering their best-of-five qualifying-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Charlie McAvoy and Chris Wagner were missing from Bruins practice yesterday, joining wingers David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase on the sidelines.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy couldn’t elaborate as to why McAvoy and Wagner weren’t at practice due to league protocols. However, he seemed to hint at the reason behind their absence, noting that COVID-19 tests results are sometimes delayed or inconclusive. Pastrnak is out for precautionary reasons linked to possible secondary exposure to a person with the coronavirus. As per league rules, the Bruins say Kase remains unfit to participate.
CBS SPORTS: Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov is the sole member of the roster not to participate in Phase 3 training.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Because of league protocols, we don’t know if Samsonov has tested positive for COVID-19 or is nursing an injury.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Patric Hornqvist was among nine players returning to the ice yesterday after being held out of practice as a precaution for potential secondary exposure to COVID-19. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby missed practice again yesterday after leaving the ice on Saturday.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers winger Brendan Lemieux received a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi on March 11. He will serve that suspension during the opening two games of his club’s qualifying-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
IN OTHER NEWS…
SPORTSNET: released its broadcast schedule for the qualifying round and round-robin series commencing Aug. 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former Sportsnet analyst John Shannon reported hearing the NHL plans to put its World feed on a five-second delay to monitor the players’ language. Expect to hear plenty of bleeps given how salty their on-ice language tends to be and how clearly it will be heard without fan noise to drown it out.
Former NHL winger Alex Kovalev was named head coach of KHL team Kunlun Red Star.
Former NHL defenseman Jack McIlhargey passed away from cancer on Sunday at age 68. McIlhargey spent nine seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, and Hartford Whalers from 1974-75 to 1981-82, tallying 47 points and collecting 1,102 PIMs in 393 games. Following his playing career, he served within the Canucks system from 1984 until 2007 as a minor-league head coach and as a scout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to McIlhargey’s family, friends, and former teammates and associates.
Check out the latest Buffalo Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty suggests the Buffalo Sabres’ “dumpster fire” might be a good opportunity for the Bruins to look into acquiring Jack Eichel. The Sabres captain was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, providing the Bruins with a local boy possessing superstar potential. With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci aging, Eichel would give the Bruins a dominant young center.
Haggerty noted Eichel’s recent exasperation with the Sabres’ ongoing mediocrity, suggesting perhaps he’s tacitly pining for a change of scenery. Acquiring him would be expensive. Haggerty felt it could cost the Bruins promising young center John Beecher, winger Jake DeBrusk, and a robust high draft pick package. They might also have to include a defenseman like Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo, which would be a difficult decision.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Folks may be looking at Eichel’s comments and seeing more than is really there. There’s no question he’s frustrated over the constant losing, and Sabres’ ownership should be concerned if their franchise player isn’t happy. Nevertheless, there’s no indication Eichel wants out of Buffalo…yet.
Another season or two of mediocrity could test Eichel’s patience. If that happens, the Bruins could be among the clubs queuing up to inquire into his availability and the Sabres’ asking price.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington recently observed Sabres defensemen Brandon Montour and Colin Miller didn’t seem to fit into coach Ralph Krueger’s system. He wouldn’t be shocked if new general manager Kevyn Adams moved them in the off-season for some help on the forward lines. Harrington also noted Krueger really likes Rasmus Ristolainen, suggesting the recent change in management could be a good sign for the 26-year-old defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen, Montour, and Miller frequently surfaced in this season’s trade rumors. Ristolainen suggested he might be among the first to be moved if then-GM Jason Botterill wanted to make changes, but he also sang Kruger’s praises.
With Botterill gone, Ristolainen might not be a trade candidate after all. Montour and/or Miller, however, seem more likely to be moved by new management, especially if Krueger has any say in the matter.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his Sabres postmortem, Matt Larkin noted the Sabres will have over $34 million in salary-cap space to work with during the off-season. He feels that’s enough to re-sign restricted free agents like Montour, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Dominik Kahun, and Linus Ullmark while leaving enough to go shopping in the free-agent market. Given the current status of the club, however, they could be forced to overpay to attract UFA talent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rather than chase overpriced UFAs, Adams should target clubs looking to shed salary before next season. With 13 teams carrying payrolls of over $70 million for next season, Adams could pluck away a couple of good young players from cap-strapped rivals.
Who could the Bruins target in the trade market, and could Charlie McAvoy become trade bait? What’s the latest on the Rangers and Red Wings? Check out the details in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST BRUINS TRADE BUZZ
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Los Angeles’ Alec Martinez and San Jose’s Brenden Dillon top Nick Goss’ list of five defensemen for the Bruins to pursue at the trade deadline. New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen, Ottawa’s Ron Hainsey, and Chicago’s Erik Gustafsson round out his list.
Joe Haggerty suggests the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider and the LA Kings’ Tyler Toffoli among the top-six forward trade options for the Bruins. New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, Montreal’s Ilya Kovalchuk, and Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel are the other notables on Haggerty’s list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins were active during the last two trade deadlines, bringing in Rick Nash in 2018 and Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson last year. They believe their Stanley Cup window remains wide open, so they’ll likely make a significant move in the coming weeks. Adding a scoring winger is their pressing need, but we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility they’ll also add a veteran blueliner.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently reported an NHL scout texted him saying, “Don’t be surprised if the Bruins move (Charlie) McAvoy.” While other sources say the young defenseman isn’t being shopped, there’s growing speculation McAvoy could be used by general manager Don Sweeney to make a “statement trade” to add a young scoring winger with term remaining on his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I would be surprised if the Bruins trade McAvoy, who was re-signed last summer to a cap-friendly, three-year contract. Nevertheless, if Sweeney indeed wants to make a significant move to bolster his offense, swapping the 22-year-old defenseman for a scoring forward would certainly do it. That type of move usually doesn’t take place until the off-season. We’ll find out soon enough what Sweeney has in store.
UPDATES ON THE RANGERS
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the trade buzz surrounding Alexandar Georgiev is picking up, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche said to be interested in the Rangers’ backup goaltender. If the Blueshirts don’t improve and remain in the playoff hunt over the next several weeks, Brooks feels Georgiev and other possible playoff rentals (Chris Kreider, Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Strome, Jesper Fast) and perhaps winger Pavel Buchnevich) could hit the trade block.
Noting the growing interest in Georgiev, Brooks suggests the Rangers strike now while the 23-year-old’s trade value is high. A bidding war for Georgiev’s services might fetch “a no-doubt top-nine winger with potential top-six upside.” He doesn’t believe veteran Henrik Lundqvist will ask to be moved or approached about waiving his no-movement clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Rangers can get a quality return for Georgiev, they’ll move him. If not, they’ll retain him and see what his value will be in the off-season trade market. It’s expected Kreider will be moved unless the Rangers surge up the standings before the trade deadline. Not so sure about Strome, Fast, DeAngelo or Buchnevich getting shopped, but each could attract varying degrees of interest if management is willing to entertain offers.
There has been a thaw in the relationship between Rangers and Lias Andersson, Post has learned. Andersson and John Davidson have been communicating directly for about the last 10 days. Andersson has begun to skate/practice with Division II Kungälvs IK, with NYR approval.
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) January 21, 2020
RED WINGS’ LIMITED TRADE OPTIONS
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman hopes to shop several pending unrestricted free agents for draft picks at the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Unfortunately, those trade candidates (Mike Green, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard) are struggling this season and have limited trade value.
Khan thinks Green’s offensive abilities might draw some interest. Daley and Ericsson have been hurt a lot and clubs could seek better options. Howard’s performance and a thin goalie market probably make him untradeable. Asked about Valtteri Filppula and Andreas Athanasiou, Khan believes teams would want the Wings to pick up part of Filppula’s $3-million annual average salary, while Athanasiou’s struggles has sent his trade value plummeting this season.
Khan listed the Wings’ untouchables as Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Zadina and Filip Hronek on the current roster, and Moritz Seider, Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen in their system. He also wouldn’t give up on defenseman Dennis Cholowski.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Mark Falkner cites NBC Sports’ Pierre McGuire reporting Trevor Daley requested a trade to a Stanley Cup contender. McGuire suggests the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, and Vegas Golden Knights could be interested.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Daley’s injury history and declining performance, I don’t see him helping the Stars, Avs or Golden Knights.