NHL Rumor Mill – March 28, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – March 28, 2019

Latest on the Kings plus updates on Anders Lee and Cam Talbot in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


SPORTSNET: Mark Spector believes the Los Angeles Kings should replace interim head coach Willie Desjardins with former San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan. He said the word is McLellan is at the top of the Kings’ list of potential coaching candidates. 

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun said it’s his understanding McLellan is the clear front-runner to replace Desjardins. However, he could have other options on the table as there are half-a-dozen coaching positions presently up for discussion. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McLellan had a good tenure with the Sharks and did the best he could with what he had in Edmonton, guiding the Oilers to their first postseason in 11 years in 2017.  The Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators could also be interested in McLellan, as well as perhaps the Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild. 

Can the LA Kings find any takers for Dion Phaneuf this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

Spector also suggested the Kings try moving defenseman Dion Phaneuf but acknowledged that won’t be easy. Phaneuf is 33, struggling to adjust to the league’s faster pace and has two more years at $5.25-million per season remaining on his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see much of a market for Phaneuf. In addition to his remaining salary-cap hit and term, Cap Friendly indicates he still has a 12-team trade list. 

He also noted the Kings are stuck with aging winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who has an annual average value of $6.25 million for two more seasons. “Would they take Milan Lucic and a defensive prospect like Ethan Bear for Kovalchuk from Edmonton?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No, they won’t. I realize Mark (no relation) is just spit-balling but Kovalchuk has two years left on his contract while Lucic has four more ($6-million AAV) on his. Besides, Kovalchuk has a full no-movement clause and already indicated he’s not going anywhere. 


TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports contract discussions between the New York Islanders and captain Anders Lee may be stalled over the term of a new deal. Lee wants to re-sign and Isles GM Lou Lamoriello wants to keep him. The Lee camp prefers a seven- or eight-year extension while Lamoriello prefers below that. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After losing one captain to free agency last summer in John Tavares, it wouldn’t look good for the Islanders to lose another this year. Lamoriello is likely reluctant to give a seven- or eight-year contract to a player who turns 29 on July 3. Perhaps a compromise can be reached on a five- or six-year deal? 


NBC SPORTS: John Boruk reports goaltender Cam Talbot has seen just 93 minutes of action with the Philadelphia Flyers after waiving his no-movement clause to accept a trade from the Edmonton Oilers. There’s been no movement toward a new contract for Talbot, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talbot got lost in the shuffle with Brian Elliott returning from injury in late-February. The Flyers have stuck with Elliott and rookie Carter Hart as they try to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. Still, Talbot probably fits into their long-term plans. Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are also slated to become UFAs this summer and aren’t expected to be re-signed. 

Oilers Fire McLellan, Hire Hitchcock as New Coach

Oilers Fire McLellan, Hire Hitchcock as New Coach

The Edmonton Oilers fired head coach Todd McLellan, replacing him with Ken Hitchcock.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the eighth time in 10 years, the Oilers make a coaching change. McLellan joins Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, and Todd Nelson on the growing list of bench bosses who, for the most part, paid for the sins of management over the years.

Todd McLellan was fired as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo via NHL Images)

McLellan had his critics and their evaluations weren’t without merit. Still, he coached the Oilers in 2017 to their first 100-point season in 30 years, which also ended a decade-long playoff drought.

McLellan didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. Rather, he paid the price for a starting goalie (Cam Talbot) who failed to regain his stellar 2016-17 form, for a defense that never really recovered from Andrej Sekera’s lengthy injury-related absences, for a lack of checking-line depth and right-wing scoring, for a once-intimidating power forward (Milan Lucic) whose best seasons are now behind him, and for a series of bad trades by general manager Peter Chiarelli that did more harm than good.

So now it’s Hitchcock’s turn to try and succeed where so many have failed. He ranks fifth all-time in NHL games coached. In 20 years with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and St. Louis Blues, Hitchcock has a record of 823-506-88-119. He guided the Stars to a Stanley Cup in 1999 and won the Jack Adams Award with the Blues in 2012.

Hitchcock has an impressive resume but there’s no certainty he can overcome the Oilers’ roster weaknesses and get them back on track this season. His hiring has the whiff of desperation from a general manager trying to keep his job. If Hitchcock fails, Chiarelli will be next out the door.


NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2018

Latest on the Oilers, Blue Jackets, Penguins, and Jeff Skinner in your NHL rumor mill.


TSN: Darren Dreger reports there have probably been a few more senior management meetings for the Edmonton Oilers as their current slump continues. Going into last weekend the feeling was they would stay the course but back-to-back losses have made things white hot in Edmonton. Dreger said it’s not as simple as changing the coach, pointing to their inconsistent goaltending and sketchy transition play.

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Insider Elliotte Friedman appeared on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 discussing the Oilers’ current woes. He feels everyone in the organization is on pins and needles right now.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz also wonders how much longer can the Oilers go on like this. He believes asset management is the biggest issue, pointing to the poor returns general manager Peter Chiarelli has received in his recent trades, specifically the deals that saw the departures of Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz, and Jordan Eberle.

Could Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan become the next NHL coach to be fired this month? (Photo via NHL Images)

“That points to an even bigger problem at the top — above even the head coach and general manager — because that has been the one constant in the organization. It also paints a disturbing picture for Oilers fans because it should be obvious that the current organizational structure is not working and that changes probably need to be made. But what faith do you have that the people in charge are going to make the right changes?”

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples believes it’s time for a coaching change as the Oilers seem to have tuned out Todd McLellan. He suggests they look into hiring former Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis considers Zach Kassian, Drake Caggiula, Matt Benning, and Al Montoya as plausible trade candidates. Depending on where the Oilers are in the standings near the Feb. 25, 2018 trade deadline, Cam Talbot or Mikko Koskinen could be available.

Willis also touched on struggling young winger Jesse Puljujarvi. “If we were to make a list of trade warning lights, “player who might not be happy with his handling” and “player who might be valued more by other teams than his own” would be near the top of the list and Puljujarvi is a good candidate for both descriptions.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no trade coming at this point in the season to save the Oilers. They’re top-heavy up front, they still have defensive issues and their goaltenders are struggling of late. Last week’s swap of Ryan Strome to the New York Rangers for Ryan Spooner did nothing to improve the situation. If things don’t soon improve, big changes could be coming behind the bench and in the front office. 

**UPDATE** Soon after this was published, the Oilers announced McLellan was relieved of his duties and replaced by Ken Hitchcock. You can read my take on this here


TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports on the status of Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and winger Artemi Panarin, who are both slated to become unrestricted free agents in July. There’s been little change in Bobrovsky’s status but Panarin’s agent is set to meet with him following the holiday break to discuss their contract situation.

With Panarin apparently happy and scoring and the Blue Jackets in first place in the Metropolitan Division, GM Jarmo Kekalainen could keep trying to show that Columbus is a good place to be. LeBrun thinks the Jackets will make a contract offer to Panarin before the trade deadline and see if they can convince him to stay.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s all the Jackets can do at this point. Even if Panarin and Bobrovsky won’t commit to a new deal by the trade deadline, I think Kekalainen will retain them if they’re still in the thick of the playoff chase. Of course, he could listen to trade offers but it could take a substantial pitch to pry either guy out of Columbus. 


TSN: Bob McKenzie reports Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is “very much open for business.” He’s already made one trade shipping Carl Hagelin last week to the LA Kings for Tanner Pearson. McKenzie believes it’s safe to say that the only untouchables are Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. “So open for business, but those big deals are hard to make. But, open for business nonetheless.”

TRIBLIVE.COM: Mark Madden believes there’s no quick fix for the Penguins’ current problems, which includes poor play from starting goalie Matt Murray, a decline in their speed affecting their system, and a lack of energy and production from their bottom-six forwards. While Rutherford is working the phones, Madden cautions against attempting to over-fix the problems and risk putting the club into a deeper hole beyond this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just because Crosby and Malkin are the only untouchables doesn’t necessarily mean stars like Phil Kessel and Kris Letang are hitting the trade block. Could Rutherford listen to offers for those two? Sure, but moving them isn’t likely to fetch a return that provides immediate help.

More likely options are players such as Daniel Sprong, Olli Maatta, Bryan Rust, and Riley Sheahan, who’ve frequently surfaced in recent trade speculation. Unless Rutherford is planning on blowing things up already, I think he’s looking more for tweaks than an overhaul. 



NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 28, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 28, 2018

Jets down the Predators, Hart Trophy finalists announced, Evander Kane suspended. Details and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Connor Hellebuyck made 47 saves backstopping the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their second-round series. Mark Scheifele scored twice and Blake Wheeler collected two assists.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck backstopped his club to a Game 1 victory over the Nashville Predators (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hellebuyck flat-out stole this game for the Jets, who were outplayed and outshot by the Predators. They’ll need a better overall effort in Game 2. 

New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon are this year’s finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This should also bring an end to weeks of tedious debate over whether Edmonton Oilers star (and 2017 Hart winner) Connor McDavid should be a nominee. If you’re among those who believe he should’ve, don’t worry, he’ll likely be a frequent finalist (and winner) in the coming years. Now you can turn your focus toward more important matters, like what the Oilers intend to do to surround McDavid with the talent needed to turn the Oilers into a Stanley Cup contender. 

San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane received a one-game suspension for cross-checking Vegas Golden Knights forward Pierre-Marc Bellemare in Game 1 of their second-round series.

The 2018 NHL Draft Lottery will be held tonight in Toronto starting at 7:30 pm ET. The Buffalo Sabres have the best chance of winning this year’s lottery, with an 18.5 percent chance.

CALGARY SUN: Brian Burke is stepping down as president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Now Burke has time to devote to more important matters, like relearning how neckties work and taming his Sonic the Hedgehog hairstyle. 

Speaking of the Flames, former NHL linesman Don Henderson has been ordered to pay $11,000.00 for costs in his unsuccessful lawsuit against former Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman and the team.

USA TODAY: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand denied reports claiming the Bruins forward was asked by the league to stop licking players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has to be the silliest headline I’ve read this week. 

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and head coach Mike Babcock denied a report claiming a rift had emerged between the two during their opening-round series against the Bruins.

Todd McLellan will return next season as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. Assistant coaches Ian Herbers and Jim Johnson were relieved of their duties. 

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres forward Jacob Josefson signed a four-year deal with Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League.

CANES COUNTRY: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Klas Dahlbeck is set to sign with KHL team CSKA Moscow.


Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 11, 2018

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 11, 2018

A look at the general managers and coaches potentially on the hot seat in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.


THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle recently listed Detroit’s Ken Holland, Toronto’s Lou Lamoriello, Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli, Montreal’s Marc Bergevin, the New York Islanders’ Garth Snow, Arizona’s John Chayka, Minnesota’s Chuck Fletcher, Colorado’s Joe Sakic, Columbus’ Jarmo Kekalainen and Chicago’s Stan Bowman as the 10 NHL general managers potentially on the hot seat as this NHL season winds down.

Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli is among several NHL GMs who could be on the hot seat. (Photo via NHL.com).

Holland was linked to Vancouver (before Jim Benning was re-signed) and Seattle’s expansion franchise. Mirtle also speculated Holland could be moved upstairs to a president’s role with the Wings or they could maintain the status quo. It’s expected Lamoriello will be moved out of the role as Maple Leafs’ GM at the end of this season, though he has a strong connection with Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.

There’s been rumors Chiarelli “is a man on an island in the front office as Wayne Gretzky exerts some influence,” while Oilers fans are “fed up”. Bergevin’s been given a vote of confidence by Canadiens ownership but Mirtle feels he’ll be on a short leash.

Snow has long had ownership support and contract talks with John Tavares could complicate any change before July 1. Still, Mirtle thinks the tide is shifting against the long-time Islanders GM. After two seasons with little improvement by the Coyotes under Chayka, a management change wouldn’t be surprising. Another early playoff exit by the Wild could prove costly to Fletcher.

Mirtle thinks this season’s improvement by the Avalanche means it’s safe to assume Sakic will be staying put. Kekalainen, meanwhile, could feel the pressure for Columbus to advance past the opening round of the playoffs. Bowman likely isn’t going anywhere in the offseason but Mirtle wonders about his future if the Blackhawks get off to a poor start next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve summarize the main points from Mirtle’s piece. Holland’s contract is up at the end of this season and I think the Wings are ready for a management change. Lamoriello is expected to move aside to make way for assistant GM Kyle Dubas. I can see him taking another role in the organization.

I don’t think Chiarelli will be fired but, like Bergevin in Montreal, he’ll be under pressure to turn things around this summer. Maybe Snow will be replaced, but I don’t think that’s a certainty. I certainly don’t see it happening while he’s negotiating with Tavares. If Snow can’t get his captain under contract, that could spell the end of his long tenure as Isles GM.

The Coyotes have had a rough season, but they’ve played better in the second half of this season. That could justify keeping Chayka around for another season. I agree with Mirtle that another disappointing playoff for the Wild could lead to major changes, which could include firing Fletcher. I don’t see Sakic, Kekalainen or Bowman going anywhere. 


USA TODAY: Kevin Allen lists the New York Rangers’ Alain Vigneault, Detroit’s Jeff Blashill, Edmonton’s Todd McLellan, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville, Washington’s Barry Trotz and Carolina’s Bill Peters as six coaches on the hot seat. 

The Rangers are committed to a rebuild but Vigneault has a reputation for being tough on young players. The justification for replacing Blashill could be the need for the younger players to hear a different voice. After Edmonton’s disappointing season, McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli could be vulnerable. 

Quenneville could be replaced if the Blackhawks’ front office believes the roster needs a fresh approach behind the bench. Allen feels the fact the Capitals haven’t extended Trotz’ contract speaks to tension between the coach and the organization. A new GM in Carolina could want to bring in his own coach, while could spell the end of Peters behind the Hurricanes’ bench. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been an unusual season as no NHL head coach has lost a job…yet. Vigneault is under contract through 2019-20 so perhaps the Rangers will keep him around for next season. The fates of Blashill and McLellan could be tied to those of their respective general managers.

The Blackhawks’ struggles this season are of management’s making but it’s usually the coach who pays the price. If the Capitals make another early playoff exit, Trotz is a goner. With Francis out as the Hurricanes’ GM, his replacement will likely want to bring in his own staff. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 4, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 4, 2018

Game recaps, including updates on Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is the sixth player in NHL history with nine 40-goal seasons (Photo via NHL Images)

  NHL.COM: Alexander Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the season as the Washington Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in the 2018 NHL Stadium Series. Ovechkin becomes just the sixth player with nine 40-goals seasons and sits just two goals shy of 600 for his career. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and two assists for the Capitals. 

Speaking of the Capitals, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports they’ve agreed to a multi-year contract extension with general manager Brian MacLellan. 

Steven Stamkos had a career-best five-point game (two goals, three assists) and scored the game winner in a shootout as the Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 5-3 deficit to edge the Philadelphia Flyers 7-6. Victor Hedman collected four points (two goals, two assists) and Nikita Kucherov had three assists.

Brad Marchand’s overtime goal gave the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Antti Niemi made 48 saves in a losing cause for the Habs. It was a costly victory, however, as defenseman Charlie McAvoy left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. An update on his condition is expected on Monday. 

Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn snapped a 12-game goalless streak with an overtime market to give his club a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis also lost defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and forward Scottie Upshall with lower-body injuries

An overtime goal by Sidney Crosby snapped the Pittsburgh Penguins’ three-game losing skid as they downed the New York Islanders 3-2, handing the latter their sixth strait defeat. 

The Chicago Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 deficit with four unanswered third-period goal to beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-3. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a goal and two assists for the Blackhawks. 

New York Rangers rookie goaltender Alexandar Georgiev got his first career victory by turning in a 35-save performance (including 15 in the third period) in a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. The loss spoiled the return of center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who played his first game since being sidelined on Jan. 13 with a rib injury. 

Speaking of the Oilers, if you’ve got nearly $2.5 million burning a hole in your pocket, head coach Todd McLellan is selling his San Jose home. 

The Arizona Coyotes picked up their eighth win in 11 games by squeaking past the Ottawa Senators 2-1. Jordan Martinook’s second-period goal held up as the game winner.