Some trade predictions for the coming season plus the latest on Penguins defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I underwent surgery on Oct. 5 to repair damaged tendons in my left hand. It was similar to the procedure I had in February. As a result, it could take a little longer to post my daily updates over the next few days. Please bear with me. As always, I appreciate your support.
TRADE PREDICTIONS FOR 2022-23
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli included some trade forecasts among his 32 bold predictions for the coming NHL season.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The New York Post’s Larry Brooks has suggested the Rangers should pursue Kane as a playoff rental at the trade deadline. I’m not dismissing that possibility but I doubt they’ll sign him to a long-term extension unless he accepts a massive pay cut from his current $10.5 million annual average value.
The Rangers already have $65.1 million invested in just 11 players for 2023-24. Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller and Filip Chytil will be due for new contracts as they become restricted free agents next summer.
Another prediction is the Detroit Red Wings moving Dylan Larkin before the March 3 trade deadline. He’s eligible for unrestricted free-agent status next July and carries a no-trade clause for this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings and Larkin were reportedly holding contract extension talks over the summer. The Michigan native hopes to stay put and management probably feels the same. As always, these things will hinge on dollars and term but I can see the two sides reaching an agreement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The sticking point has been the Coyotes’ rumored asking price. It’s believed they seek at least a first-round pick and a good young NHL player or a top prospect as part of the return. Unless they come down from that, Chychrun won’t be going anywhere.
In other predictions, Seravalli foresees Vancouver Canucks bench boss Bruce Boudreau becoming the first head coach to be fired, Kyle Dubas parting ways with the Toronto Maple Leafs as general manager after his contract expires, and the Vegas Golden Knights making Kelly McCrimmon the first GM to be fired this season.
LATEST ON PIERRE-OLIVIER JOSEPH
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel reports the Penguins to have nine NHL defensemen and can’t afford to keep them all. Pierre-Olivier Joseph appears the most likely to be moved as he’s reportedly being shopped. He’s now waiver eligible meaning a rival club could snap him up if the Penguins attempt to send him to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe wouldn’t be surprised if Joseph is traded. He claims general manager Ron Hextall and president of hockey operations Brian Burke isn’t enamored with the 23-year-old blueliner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far there’s no indication the Penguins are close to trading Joseph. Unless they package him with a draft pick, an interested team could be merely waiting until he goes on waivers and then gets him for nothing.
More speculation about the Golden Knights’ offseason plans plus updates on Evander Kane and Andrew Copp in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS
DAILY FACEOFF: The job security of Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon was among Frank Seravalli’s 10 burning offseason questions facing the 16 NHL non-playoff clubs.
Seravalli acknowledged the plethora of injuries that walloped the Golden Knights roster this season. However, he cited the almost daily drama that dogged the franchise this season, from shedding Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury last summer to backing the bus over Robin Lehner and a lack of teamwork among their players as they seemingly look over their shoulders wondering who’s next.
The Golden Knights have no salary-cap space, no top draft picks and a shallow pool of prospects. Seravalli feels it’s inevitable that head coach Peter DeBoer will be cut loose but he also wondered if McCrimmon will follow him out the door.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen also wondered about the futures of McCrimmon, DeBoer and Lehner in Vegas. He felt that moving on from Lehner would create a problem between the pipes for the Golden Knights.
Vegas Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith (NHL Images).
McCrimmon could be on the hot seat this summer along with president of hockey operations and former GM George McPhee. Their lack of cap space will affect efforts to re-sign original Golden Knight Reilly Smith. Winger Evgenii Dadonov could be moved in a cost-cutting deal to a team on his list of preferred destinations.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz has little sympathy for the Golden Knights as he believes they’re to blame for their plight. He believes the club’s problems run deeper than their injuries this season, pointing out their spending on big-ticket stars created havoc with their salary-cap payroll and cut deeply into their roster depth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Golden Knights with $83.8 million invested in 18 active players for 2022-23. With the cap sitting at $82.5 million, they have little choice but to shed some salary, especially if they hope to re-sign Smith.
Dadonov seems the most likely candidate given their failed attempt to move him at the trade deadline. He has a $5 million annual average value through 2022-23 with a 10-team no-trade list but finding a suitable trade partner might not be easy.
Moving Lehner would free up another $5 million but that would mean giving the inexperienced Logan Thompson as their starter. The 25-year-old did a good job filling in for the sidelined Lehner but it could be asking too much of him to take over that role on a full-time basis.
OILERS HOPE TO SIGN KANE, RANGERS HOPE TO RETAIN COPP
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Edmonton Oilers will make a concerted attempt to re-sign Evander Kane while the New York Rangers will do the same with Andrew Copp.
Both forwards are slated to become unrestricted free agents in July. Kane has meshed well alongside Oilers captain Connor McDavid while Copp has been a perfect fit on Artemi Panarin’s line. Dreger wondered if term could be an issue for Kane and the Oilers, wondering if three years would be too much.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s next contract could be determined by the outcome of his ongoing grievance hearing over the San Jose Sharks terminating his contract last January. He had three years at $7 million annually remaining on that deal.
Kane and the Sharks could agree to a settlement with the winger getting something between $4 million and $5 million annually over the next three years. The Oilers could then sign him to a three-year deal worth between $2 million and $3 million. Considering how well he’s playing alongside McDavid, Kane might accept that type of deal.
Copp is completing a one-year deal worth over $3.6 million. He’ll likely seek around $5 million annually on a long-term deal with the Rangers or another club via free agency. The Rangers have around $11 million in cap space with 16 active players under contract for next season and second-line center Ryan Strome also eligible for UFA status. Re-signing those two will eat up most, if not all of that cap space.
Patrice Bergeron and Brock Nelson each have four-goal performances, the aftermath of the Jack Eichel trade and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patrice Bergeron had a natural hat trick (all on the power play) on his way to a four-goal performance as the Boston Bruins beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-1. Brad Marchand collected four assists for the Bruins (5-3-0). Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin missed this game for personal reasons as his club’s record fell to 4-5-2.
Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergeron, 36, became the second-oldest player behind Johnny Bucyk to score four goals in a game. Bucyk was 38 when he had his final four-goal game back in 1974.
New York Islanders center Brock Nelson also tallied four goals as his club whipped the Montreal Canadiens 6-2. Anthony Beauvillier had three assists and Zach Parise had two for the Isles (4-2-2) while the hapless Habs fall to 3-9-0. Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin (day-to-day) missed the game with a head injury.
Jordan Eberle tallied the first hat trick in Seattle Kraken history in a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Jaden Schwartz had a goal and two assists for the Kraken (4-6-1) while the Sabres 5-4-1 dropped their third straight game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken aren’t going to enjoy an inaugural season like the Vegas Golden Knights did but they’re off to a respectable start. They’re certainly not an easy two points.
The Florida Panthers extended their points streak to 10 games by nipping the Washington 5-4 on an overtime goal by Eetu Luostarinen. Aleksander Barkov scored twice for the Panthers (9-0-1), who blew 2-0 and 4-1 leads as the Capitals (5-1-4) battled back to force the extra frame. Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky left the game with an upper-body injury in the first period. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had three points, including his 740th career goal to put him one behind Brett Hull for fourth on the all-time goal-scoring list.
John Tavares’ game-tying goal late in the third period set the stage for William Nylander’s overtime winner as the Toronto Maple Leafs (6-4-1) rallied to down the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1. Pat Maroon scored for the Lightning (5-3-2). The Leafs have won four straight. Tavares took exception to an illegal hit to the head by Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev on Mitch Marner, immediately coming to his teammate’s defense. Sergachev received a two-minute penalty.
The Vegas Golden Knights improved their record to 5-5-0 by dropping the Ottawa Senators 5-1. Robin Lehner made 38 saves for the win and Jonathan Marchessault scored two goals. Brady Tkachuk replied for the Senators as their record slips to 3-6-1.
An overtime goal by Kris Letang lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins (4-3-2) over the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 to snap a three-game losing streak. Tristan Jarry picked up the win with a 36-save effort. The Penguins played without head coach Mike Sullivan as he entered the COVID protocol. Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton scored for the Flyers (5-2-2).
Jamie Benn scored in overtime as the Dallas Stars (4-4-2) broke a four-game skid to snuff out the Calgary Flames 4-3. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen picked up three assists. The Flames (6-1-3) extended their points streak to nine games.
The St. Louis Blues extended their record to 7-1-1 with a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Brandon Saad scored two goals for the Blues while Joel Hofer had a 23-save performance to win his NHL debut. The Sharks slip to 6-4-0.
SPORTSNET: In an interview with Elliotte Friedman, Jack Eichel thanked Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams for trading him to a team where he can under disc replacement surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, as well as providing him an opportunity to continue his playing career elsewhere. The Sabres traded the 25-year-old center on Thursday to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Eichel admitted he initially requested a trade following the 2019-20 season after the Sabres failed to qualify for the playoff bubble. He felt the club was heading toward another rebuild but he didn’t want to be a part of that. The 25-year-old center expressed regret over the club’s inability to improve during his tenure. “I really wish that we had won more for the fans because I felt they really deserved it,” he said.
Eichel also spoke about the impasse with the Sabres over his preferred choice of treatment for his injury. The club preferred a spinal fusion over disc replacement because the latter had never been done on an NHL player before. He understood the Sabres’ rights within the CBA giving them the final say but felt it was his body and thus his decision. He hopes to undergo the surgery next week.
Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon expects Eichel will be sidelined three-to-five months recovering from the disc replacement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some fans have criticized Eichel for not doing more to make the Sabres a better club during his tenure but I think that’s an unfair assessment. He led all Sabres with 355 points in 375 games during his tenure, averaging 0.95 points per game.
The fault lies with the Sabres front office. Three general managers failed to surround Eichel with a strong supporting cast while four different head coaches led to constantly changing systems that hurt some players’ development.
TSN: The New York Islanders traded the rights to defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the Sabres in exchange for future considerations. The move enables the Sabres to remain above the $60.2 million salary-cap minimum after trading Eichel yesterday. Boychuk is on permanent LTIR due to a career-ending eye injury and carries an cap hit of $6 million for this season.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes claimed goaltender Scott Wedgewood off waivers from the New Jersey Devils.
TSN: The executive board of the NHL Players Association voted to approve an independent investigation into the union’s handling of sexual assault allegations by Kyle Beach in 2010 against former Chicago Blackhawks video coach Bradley Aldrich. Beach said he informed the PA of the details of the allegations and blamed Donald Fehr, the union’s executive director, for turning his back on him.
NHL.COM: Marian Gaborik officially announced his retirement from the NHL after 17 seasons. He scored the first goal in Minnesota Wild history and went on to tally 407 goals and 815 points in 1,035 career games with the Wild, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators. He also netted 58 points in 84 career playoff games. He helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2014.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Injuries hampered Gaborik throughout his career and ultimately brought his playing days to a close. When healthy, he was a talented scorer, tallying 30-plus goals seven times, including three seasons with 40-or-more goals. Best wishes to Gaborik and his family in their future endeavors.
The Golden Knights tie their semifinal series with an OT win over the Canadiens plus ongoing reaction from Game 4 of the Islanders-Lightning series and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights tied their semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens at two games apiece with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 4. Nicolas Roy tallied the game-winner in the extra frame.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (NHL Images).
Montreal opened the scoring with a second-period goal by Paul Byron but Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb tied it midway through the third period. Robin Lehner was a surprise starter for the Golden Knights, kicking out 27 shots for the victory.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eyebrows were raised when Vegas coach Peter DeBoer went with Lehner over starter Marc-Andre Fleury for this contest. Fleury’s turnover in Game 3 cost his club that game but he’s been otherwise superb in this postseason. It was a gusty move on DeBoer’s part that paid off. Lehner played very well, showing little sign of rust in just his second game of these playoffs.
After the Golden Knights dominated Game 3 and lost in overtime, it was the Canadiens turn to fall in the extra frame after outperforming their opponent. This was one of the Habs’ best games of the playoffs despite the loss. They’ve done an effective job bottling up the Golden Knights’ scoring forwards.
The poor quality of the NHL officiating has been an ongoing theme in this year’s playoffs. It reared its ugly head in this contest. One example was Montreal defenseman Joel Edmundson boarding Vegas forward William Carrier from behind right in front of referee Dan O’Rourke. Another was NcNabb manhandling Canadiens center Nick Suzuki, punching him in the face in full view of referee Chris Lee. There was no call in either incident.
LAS VEGAS SUN: Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon was placed in self-isolation yesterday after testing positive for COVID-19. The test result was revealed hours before Game 4. McCrimmon is the second person in this series to test positive. On Friday, Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme tested positive and is self-isolating for 14 days.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme was fully vaccinated but a Golden Knights spokesman declined to comment when asked if McCrimmon had reached that status. The story goes on to say that 85 percent of their traveling party had reached the vaccination threshold that qualified for relaxed travel protocols. McCrimmon and team president George McPhee was seen maskless while watching Game 3 from a suite at the Bell Centre, which could be considered a protocol violation.
The games in this series are the first involving NHL teams traveling back and forth between Canada and the United States since March 2020. So far, no players have tested positive. You can bet the league will be closely monitoring this situation, reminding both clubs about the importance of maintaining its COVID-19 protocols.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: For the first time in two postseasons, the Lightning is tied 2-2 in a series heading into Game 5. They led each of their last six series three games to one heading into previous Game 5 situations.
NEW YORK POST: Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock’s game-saving block in Game 4 is earning comparisons to other famous saves in sports history.