NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

Niklas Hjalmarsson to retire, the Red Wings re-sign Marc Staal, the Canucks to buy out Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan reports Arizona Coyotes Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring. Morgan doesn’t anticipate he’ll make a formal announcement.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hjalmarsson, 34, spent 14 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Coyotes. A shutdown defenseman, his best years were with the Blackhawks as he helped them win three Stanley Cups during his 10 seasons with the franchise. He finishes with 172 points in 821 career NHL games. Best of luck to Hjalmarsson and his family in their future endeavors.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed defenseman Marc Staal to a one-year, $2 million contract. The deal also includes a no-movement clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal proved to be a valuable addition to the Red Wings. The 34-year-old provided experience, leadership and stability to the rebuilding club’s defense corps. He hopes to become a mentor this season to promising Wings blueliner Moritz Seider, who’s expected to make his NHL debut in 2021-22.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was once considered a promising offensive forward but he failed to play up to expectations. His recent questionable off-ice behavior also became an issue. The Canucks attempted to trade the 24-year-old winger during this season but reportedly couldn’t find any suitable offers. He’s been on leave from the club since May 1 following a sexual misconduct allegation.

THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to keep their goaltending tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo intact to start the 2021-22 season. Both are entering the final year of their contracts. It was anticipated one of them would be traded this summer but the tragic death of promising Matiss Kivlenieks on July 4 changed that plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps one of them will be shopped later in the season if the Jackets are out of playoff contention before the February trade deadline.

CAP FRIENDLY: The St. Louis Blues signed forward Nathan Walker to a two-year, two-way contract. He’ll earn $750K at the NHL level.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 16, 2021

The Avalanche trade Ryan Graves to the Devils, the Panthers buy out Keith Yandle, Ben Bishop agrees to waive NMC for the expansion draft, Leafs give Zach Hyman permission to speak to other clubs, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DENVER POST/NORTHJERSEY.COM: The Colorado Avalanche last night traded defenseman Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft.

The Colorado Avalanche trade Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche risked losing Graves to the Seattle Kraken for nothing in next week’s expansion draft. They get a promising young forward in Maltsev and replace the second-round pick they shipped to the New York Islanders last fall for Devon Toews. The move also gives the Avs some much-needed salary-cap relief, replacing Graves’ $3.21 million annual average value with Maltsev’s $925K for 2021-22.

Graves, 26, established himself as a quality top-four defenseman during his tenure with the Avalanche. The 6’5”, 220-pounder brings a good mix of size, physical play and a solid defensive game to the Devils’ blueline.

NBC SPORTS: The Florida Panthers have bought out the remaining two years of Keith Yandle’s contract. The 34-year-old defenseman had an annual average value of $6.35 million. The first year of the buyout will count as $2.34 million against the Panthers’ cap for 2021-22, jumping to $5.3 million for 2022-23, and dropping to $1.24 million annually for the final two seasons.

They also re-signed winger Anthony Duclair to a three-year, $9 million contract and defenseman Gustav Forsling to a three-year, $7.98 million deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things were coming to a head between Yandle and the Panthers this season. He was nearly a healthy scratch to start the season, which would’ve threatened his Ironman consecutive games streak. He was scratched from three postseason games. This move freed up immediate cap room to address other needs.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Ben Bishop agreed to waive his no-movement clause for the upcoming expansion draft. That will allow the Stars to protect goalie Anton Khudobin as promising Jake Oettinger is exempt from the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bishop missed all of this season recovering from a knee injury. His lengthy injury history likely means the Kraken will pass on selecting him in next week’s draft.

THE SCORE: cited TSN’s Darren Dreger reporting the Toronto Maple Leafs are allowing Zach Hyman to speak with other teams. The 29-year-old left-winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s a chance the Leafs could match the best offer but that appears slim. I’ll have more on Hyman in today’s Rumor Mill.

TSN: Darren Dreger speculates Shea Weber’s situation could end in a dispute between the NHL and NHLPA if the league doesn’t allow the Canadiens to put the 35-year-old defenseman on long-term injury reserve. Weber’s career is in jeopardy from the effects of multiple injuries suffered over the past four seasons. He’s reportedly expected to miss the entire 2021-22 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everyone is waiting for clarity on this before deciding what to do next. Weber is reportedly getting a second medical opinion. Dreger indicated the timing of this situation is what’s clouding the issue with the expansion draft coming up.

THE SCORE: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins said Matiss Kivlenieks died a hero during the memorial service for his late teammate. Kivlenieks died at age 24 from chest trauma from a fireworks mortar blast. The tube tilted and started firing toward a hot tub. Merzlikins and his pregnant wife were nearby. He said the young goaltender sacrificed his life to protect others

SPECTOR’S NOTE: RIP Matiss, your last save was your biggest.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed winger Brett Ritchie to a one-year, $900K contract.

THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks re-signed center Dylan Gambrell to a one-year, $1.1 million contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill: Looking ahead at possible offseason moves by the Golden Knights and the Blue Jackets appear to be out of the Jack Eichel sweepstakes.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes the Vegas Golden Knights need to open up some salary-cap flexibility during the offseason. They’ve only got $3 million in cap room for 2021-22 with Alec Martinez and Tomas Nosek hitting free agency. Reilly Smith, Ryan Reaves, Brayden McNabb and Nick Holden will be UFAs next summer.

Could the Vegas Golden Knights attempt to trade Marc-Andre Fleury later this summer? (NHL Images).

They have over $12 million tied up in goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner. Wyshynski wonders if Fleury might be easier to move with a year remaining on his contract as a Vezina Trophy finalist.

Wyshynski believes they need to find a star center. With players like Jack Eichel, Evgeni Malkin, Aleksander Barkov and Evgeny Kuznetsov potentially available and the Golden Knights considered high-stakes gamblers, it wouldn’t be surprising if they made a major move this summer.

The Golden Knights are exempt from the expansion draft. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t swing a cost-cutting deal with the Seattle Kraken.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Ed Graney believes offseason changes are needed for the Golden Knights after failing to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season. Pointing to a power-play that went scoreless in 15 attempts against the Montreal Canadiens in the semifinal, he feels it needs a “massive overhaul, be it schematically or personnel.”

Graney also thinks the Golden Knights must move on from one of their two goaltenders. “You figure it would be Fleury,” he said.

He also pointed out the need for high-end talent up front. The lack of depth at center, including Cody Glass’ inability to develop as hoped, also needs to be addressed. He recommended putting together a package offer for Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel or contacting the Columbus Blue Jackets about winger Patrik Laine.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights aren’t likely to just stand pat this summer. They’re unafraid to make bold moves and could so again this summer, perhaps with one or two cost-cutting trades to free up room for an impact center.

Fleury carries a $7 million cap hit for next season ($6 million in actual salary) and a 10-team no-trade list. Still, the Golden Knights could gauge his value in the trade market, especially if he ends up winning the Vezina Trophy.

Landing an expensive talent like Eichel or Kuznetsov would be a complex move. The Sabres reportedly want between four-to-six assets for Eichel. Kuznetsov will cost less but the Capitals will still want to get back something decent. Laine could be available but the Golden Knights lack the quality center the Blue Jackets would probably want in return.

Forget about Malkin or Barkov, they’re not going anywhere. The former reportedly will only waive his no-movement clause to go to Florida, while the Panthers intend to sign the latter to a contract extension.

BLUE JACKETS OUT OF THE EICHEL SWEEPSTAKES?

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports of rumors the Columbus Blue Jackets are heavily involved in trade discussions with the Buffalo Sabres for Jack Eichel. However, his sources claim it doesn’t appear they’re in hot pursuit of the 24-year-old center.

Eichel’s health (herniated disc), the Sabres’ asking price, and the Blue Jackets’ position as a rebuilding club are the main issues here. Portzline speculates it could cost them their first-round pick (fifth overall) in this year’s draft, goaltender Elvis Merzlkins, forward Alexandre Texier or defenseman Andrew Peeke, and a top prospect. Even that probably wouldn’t be enough to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I assumed the Blue Jackets’ depth in first-round picks in this year’s draft and in tradeable goaltenders (Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo) could give them an edge in the potential Eichel bidding war. Portzline’s report took the air out of that balloon.

Maybe the Jackets’ interest changes if the Sabres can’t find a suitable trade partner for Eichel and lower their rumored asking price. As Portzline pointed out, however, giving up a lot of promising young players for a superstar with injury concerns would be a risky move for a rebuilding club.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2021

The latest on Mitch Marner, Seth Jones, Sam Reinhart and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LEAFS GM SAID HE WON’T MOVE MARNER BUT SPECULATION PERSISTS

NHL.COM: Mike Zeisberger reports Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Mitch Marner won’t be part of any potential offseason roster changes. He defended Marner and Auston Matthews, adding that moving either of them would be foolish.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos acknowledged Dubas’ comments but believes rival general managers will be calling about Marner. He thinks the Leafs should listen to offers, especially if they’re coming from Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen. Traikos wondered if they could swap out Marner for Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, or Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson, or Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas seems adamant about not trading Marner or Matthews. It would have to be a significant deal to pry Marner away from the Leafs. Maybe he’s willing to listen if Jones or Gibson or Eichel were pitched to him for Marner, but we don’t know if those offers will be made.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S RECENT “31 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes there will be plenty of interest in Jackets defenseman Seth Jones despite his unrestricted free agent eligibility next summer. He feels it could be a complex transaction. He thinks it could be “a trade and free agency at the same time” unless someone’s willing to offer up a major package for Jones as a playoff rental for this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I said before, interested clubs could want assurances Jones will sign a contract extension before signing off on a trade. He’ll be of more value in the trade market that way. Perhaps a sign-and-trade scenario takes place. Maybe the Jackets grant permission for rival general managers to speak with Jones’ agent about a new deal.

Speaking of the Jackets, Friedman believes they spoke to the Buffalo Sabres about Sam Reinhart. The Sabres are looking for goaltenders and could have interest in Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins. He thinks these two clubs would make sensible trade partners.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart for Korpisalo or Merlikins could make sense for both clubs. As Friedman noted, however, there’s no guarantee that a deal takes place.

Friedman expects the Anaheim Ducks will try to make a big move this summer. They attempted to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Blue Jackets before he was traded in January to the Winnipeg Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The pursuit of Dubois suggests Ducks GM Bob Murray will be in the market for a center. Aging captain Ryan Getzlaf is a UFA this summer. If he returns it won’t be in a top-six role.

Sources indicate league revenue for this season could be between $1.8 billion and $2 billion. Factor in money owed to the league by the players and the salary cap could remain static for several seasons, perhaps to 2024-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman suggests that could mean offer-sheet thresholds could be lower than ever. I still don’t hold my breath waiting for one given how rarely that tactic is employed.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 10, 2021

Speculation over Taylor Hall and Jaroslav Halak’s futures with the Bruins, the Blue Jackets face a busy offseason, plus a look at some possible coaching candidates for the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BRUINS

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek recently examined how the Boston Bruins could keep Taylor Hall after this season if he remains a good fit on their roster. He’s not going to get more than Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand, with Bergeron the top earner of the trio at $6.875 million annually.

Could Taylor Hall re-sign with the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

If they do keep Hall it could come at the expense of another forward such as Jake DeBrusk, who’s signed beyond this season at $3.675 million. That’s assuming Hall would accept playing on their second line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the Bruins could re-sign Hall if he’s willing to accept a pay cut to play the same role he’s currently filling as their second-line left wing. That could also mean re-signing linemate David Krejci on an affordable, short-term deal, which he could accept to stay with the only NHL team he’s ever played for. Doing so, however, will mean shipping out DeBrusk in a cost-cutting move.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports this season could be Jaroslav Halak’s last with the Bruins. There were exploratory contract talks with Halak and Tuukka Rask two months ago but a source said the play of Jeremy Swayman changes everything.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Swayman’s emergence this season likely spells the end of Halak’s tenure in Boston. Like Krejci, Rask could return on a cost-effective, short-term contract.

BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC: Prior to the Columbus Jackets parting ways yesterday with John Tortorella, Aaron Portzline wondered who they could hire as a replacement. He speculated they could go with a “player’s coach”, though general manager Jarmo Kekalainen never had an issue with Tortorella’s firm stance. He doubts the Jackets will pay top dollar for one of the bigger names available in the coaching market.

Turning to the roster, signing Seth Jones to a contract extension will be the offseason priority. The 26-year-old defenseman is a year away from unrestricted free agent status. If Jones doesn’t re-sign, Kekalainen could attempt to trade him for the best possible return. Then again, perhaps Jones will wait and see what roster moves the Jackets GM makes before signing an extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones’ contract status will be among this offseason’s closely-watched stories. He’ll draw considerable attention in the trade market if a new deal cannot be reached with the Jackets.

Kekalainen must also decide if winger Patrik Laine’s game will improve under a new head coach and if they can find a suitable center for him. Portzline cites sources saying he isn’t averse to trading Laine for the right deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen’s proven he’s willing to make bold moves. That’s how he got Laine in the first place. He could trade the winger this summer but that doesn’t mean he will. The right deal would probably be the offer of a good, young first-line center. A lot will also depend on how Laine’s contract talks shake out. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights costing $7.5 million just to qualify his rights.

The Jackets GM must also attempt to acquire one or two centers. He has three first-round picks in this year’s draft and plenty of salary-cap space to pursue a deal with a cap-strapped rival.

He’ll also have to decide between goaltenders Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins. Portzline doesn’t see them returning as a tandem for next season. Both are UFAs next summer and Kekalainen can’t afford to lose one of them for nothing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Korpisalo or Merzlikins could be part of a package deal to acquire a center or one of them could be used to address other roster needs.

COYOTES

AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan listed several potential coaching candidates for the Arizona Coyotes after the club parted ways yesterday with bench boss Rick Tocchet. A source told Morgan they’d like to have Tocchet’s replacement hired before this year’s draft on July 23-24.

Morgan doesn’t expect veteran coaches such as John Tortorella, Claude Julien, Bruce Boudreau or Gerard Gallant will be under consideration. He speculated options include St. Louis Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn, San Jose Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson, New York Islanders associate coach Lane Lambert or Blue Jackets assistant coach Brad Larsen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like the Jackets, the Coyotes seem to prefer affordable coaches over more well-known ones who’ll be expensive to hire.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2021

Are offseason changes in store this summer for the Blue Jackets? Could Patrik Laine, Max Domi or John Tortorella be part of them? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline was asked if Patrik Laine’s body language suggests the Blue Jackets winger wants out of Columbus. Citing those who know Laine best, he said the winger does care, wants to be in Columbus and is being maligned by a lack of confidence. Laine becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Portzline suspects he’ll get a one-year deal, making him an RFA again next summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine could also pop up in offseason trade speculation. Unless he demands a trade or the Jackets get a mind-blowing offer I expect they’ll re-sign him. A one-year contract could be the best path for now given his difficulties this season.

This was a tough season for the Jackets as a team and Laine personally. The club could have a different coach behind the bench and maybe some news faces in the lineup for 2021-22. Gauging Laine’s play over a normal 82-game schedule will allow them to fully evaluate whether he’s a worthwhile long-term fit.

The likely return for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo could be underwhelming if the market for goaltenders is flooded this summer. He suggested teams like Colorado, Toronto or Washington could seek help between the pipes if their goaltending fails them in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This summer’s pending UFA goalies include Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. There could still be a decent market for Merzlikins or Korpisalo assuming Rask and Grubauer sign with their current clubs.

The health of the franchise will depend upon what Seth Jones wants to do. Signing the defenseman to a contract extension this summer has to be the top item on general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s list, followed by deciding whether to sign or replace head coach John Tortorella.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones is eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent. The Blue Jackets can open contract extension talks once the NHL offseason is in full swing. His contract negotiations could become a hot topic in this summer’s rumor mill. If Jones prefers testing the market it could lead to a franchise-altering trade at some point before next year’s trade deadline.

Tortorella’s critics this season (of which I am one) wonder why he hasn’t been replaced given the Jackets’ decline this season and the struggles of Laine and Max Domi since their arrivals in Columbus. There’s no question he did a good job reversing their fortunes in recent years. Nevertheless, the club’s disappointing performance this season suggests it’s time for a change behind the bench. We’ll find out well before next season if Kekalainen shares that view.

Portzline is against trading struggling forward Max Domi, pointing out the Jackets would be selling low. He wonders if Domi might benefit from a different voice behind the bench.

In another mailbag, Portzline suggests the Jackets might have to package defenseman Zach Werenski to acquire a No. 1 center in the trade market, though they shouldn’t do that unless they know what Jones intends to do. Free-agent options include Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Montreal’s Phillip Danault but the former is really a second-line center and the latter a middle-six guy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boosting the offense should be a priority, even if it means adding wingers if no decent centers can be found. The Jackets require a reliable first-line center but they might have to develop their own while making do in the short term with second-line additions via trades and/or free agency.