NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2021

The Wild sign Kirill Kaprizov, the Blues Jackets re-up Elvis Merzlikins and the Blues ink Robert Thomas. Check out the details of these signings plus the latest PTO contracts and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed winger Kirill Kaprizov to a five-year, $45 million contract on Tuesday night. The annual average value of the deal is $9 million. This comes on the eve of the Wild opening training camp today.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report adds Kaprizov is in North America, will travel to Minnesota today and will be in training camp tomorrow. The 24-year-old winger’s one NHL season has raised questions over whether he’s worth that type of contract.

The Wild, however, had no choice. Kaprizov may have a short body of work but he won the Calder Memorial Trophy last season, becoming the most exciting offensive star they’ve had since Marian Gaborik was in his heyday 15 years ago. Cap Friendly indicates they’re also facing a short-term cap crunch over the next three seasons. They needed certainty over how much he’ll cost them per season, especially when the salary cap begins rising again.

Kaprizov now faces the pressure of justifying that hefty raise and building on his promising NHL debut. If he does, the Wild should remain a legitimate playoff contender despite their upcoming salary-cap issues. If not, things could get ugly very quickly for him and for general manager Bill Guerin.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year, $27 million contract extension. The annual average value is $5.4 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing cements Merzlikins as the Blue Jackets’ starting goaltender. It also means Joonas Korpisalo could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent unless he’s moved before the March trade deadline if the Jackets are out of playoff contention.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues inked center Robert Thomas to a two-year, $5.6 million contract with an annual average value of $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s the same deal teammate Jordan Kyrou recently signed but there was speculation Thomas would get less than that because of his struggles last season. The signing pushes the Blues above the cap by around $1.3 million but it’s expected they’ll offset that by placing sidelined forward Oskar Sundqvist (knee injury) and his $2.75 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve to start the season.

The Blues must become cap compliant when Sundqvist returns to action. That could come about via demoting or trading a lower-salaried player or perhaps they’ll find a trade partner for Vladimir Tarasenko by then.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed Bobby Ryan to a professional tryout offer. The 34-year-old winger played for the Wings last season.

TSN: Alexander Galchenyuk signed a PTO with the Arizona Coyotes. The 27-year-old forward last played for the Coyotes in 2018-19.

NHL.COM’s Brian Compton tweets the New York Islanders signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a PTO, inked goaltender Cory Schneider to a two-way contract and signed Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle.

Freelancer Ken Campbell reports Edmonton Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith is still quarantining after receiving his second COVID-19 vaccination. He’s expected to miss the first week of training camp.

TSN: The Philadelphia Flyers announced center Kevin Hayes underwent abdominal surgery and will be sidelined four to six weeks and defenseman Samuel Morin will be out six to eight weeks recovering from knee surgery. Forward Wade Allison is out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ll feel Hayes’ absence for the opening weeks of this season. His spot as second-line center could be filled by Morgan Frost.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have barred forward Zac Rinaldo from attending training camp due to his unvaccinated status. He’s on a one-year, two-way contract and has been vocal in his stance against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. He’ll instead attend the training camp of their AHL affiliate in Cleveland later this month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinaldo can forget about getting called up by the Jackets. The club is taking a firm stance on ensuring all its players are fully vaccinated, operating under the NHL’s COVID protocols for this season.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Motte remains sidelined by an undisclosed injury suffered on April 29 in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll miss the start of training camp and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

SPORTSNET: After 42 years in broadcasting, Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Jim Hughson has retired. He called his first game on radio in 1979 and become the main play-by-play for the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and national broadcasts on HniC.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hughson and his family for a happy retirement.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 11, 2021

The hockey world remembers 9/11 victims Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis, Zach Parise signs with the Islanders and the Flames ink Erik Gudbranson and Michael Stone. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: Twenty years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the hockey world remembers Los Angeles Kings scouts Garnet “Ace” Bailey and Mark Bavis, who perished aboard highjacked United Airlines Flight 175 when it was deliberately crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Garnet “Ace” Bailey and Mark Bavis (NHL.com).

Wayne Gretzky shared his memories of Bailey, who mentored The Great One early in his pro career and became his close friend. Mike Bavis recalled identical twin brother Mark’s path to becoming a scout.

Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau talked about how would’ve been on the same flight with Bailey and Bavis if he hadn’t flown to Los Angeles a day earlier to attend a dinner of all the coaches in the Kings’ organization. At the time, Boudreau was the head coach of the Manchester Monarchs, an AHL affiliate of the Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Please spare a thought for the families and friends of Bailey, Bavis, and the other innocent people who perished during the attacks on that terrible day and for the survivors, many of whom still bear the physical and mental scars.

NEWSDAY: The worst-kept secret of the offseason was officially confirmed yesterday as the New York Islanders announced Zach Parise had signed a one-year contract. Financial terms for the former Minnesota Wild winger were not disclosed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Parise recently confirmed he’d signed with the Isles earlier in the season and would soon be on his way to Long Island for training camp.

TSN: The Calgary Flames signed free-agent defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a one-year, $1.95 million contract yesterday. They also brought back blueliner Michael Stone on a one-year deal worth $750K.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gudbranson’s critics believe his style of play no longer fits into today’s fast-paced game. Nevertheless, he keeps finding teams willing to pay for his leadership and physical shutdown game. The Flames are the well-traveled blueliner’s seventh NHL team.

THE SCORE: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins revealed a new mask honoring his late friend and teammate Matiss Kivlenieks, who perished in a fireworks accident on July 4.

THE ATHLETIC’s Michael Russo tweeted former Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu will be joining the club’s prospect camp and training camp. It’s believed he’ll eventually have a position within the organization. Koivu announced his retirement in February after 16 NHL seasons.

USA HOCKEY: announced Ryan Kesler will be a volunteer assistant coach for the organization’s National Team Development Program.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows Kesler under contract with the Anaheim Ducks this season. However, he’s all but retired after being sidelined by a hip injury. This announcement indicates Kesler is taking the first step toward what could be a coaching career in the pro ranks.

SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators announced a proof of vaccination and mask-wearing will be required for fans attending their home games this season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 8, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 8, 2021

Elvis Merzlikins talks about his offseason and his plans for the coming season, the Senators re-sign GM Pierre Dorion plus updates on Charlie McAvoy, Gustav Nyquist, Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: In an interview with Aaron Portzline, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins spoke about the tragic death of teammate and close friend Matiss Kivlinieks and the birth of his son Knox Matiss Merzlikins during the offseason. Kivlinieks’ loss has given Merzlkins motivation to win the Vezina Trophy.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (NHL Images).

I don’t want to make any promise, but I can tell you, Aaron…my plan is to win a Vezina Trophy. I’m gonna win a f*****g Vezina for him.”

Merzlikins credits Kivlinieks with saving the life of his family when his late friend was struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar on July 4.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Merzlikins will be jockeying for the starter’s job with Joonas Korpisalo. He said he and Korpisalo have a good relationship and understood the duo could split the playing time this season. A Vezina-worthy performance by Merzlikins, however, will ensure he gets the bulk of the starts and could help the Blue Jackets rebound from a lousy performance last season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed general manager Pierre Dorion to a three-year contract extension through 2024-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion has done a good job handling the Senators’ rebuild. He drafted young core talent such as Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Drake Batherson and acquired Josh Norris. Promising prospects such as Jake Sanderson, Tyler Boucher, Shane Pinto and Jacob Bernard-Docker are also in their pipeline.

The Senators showed real signs of improvement last season. They’ll attempt to build on that with those youngsters playing key roles.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy and his agent aren’t concerned over the lack of contract extension talks. “I’m just really excited for the year, just worrying about this summer, being in the best spot to be ready for camp,” said McAvoy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McAvoy is a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. Both sides are probably willing to wait and see how this season pans out before engaging in serious contract discussions. Given how much defensemen such as Colorado’s Cale Makar, Chicago’s Seth Jones, and Edmonton’s Darnell got this summer, I daresay McAvoy’s next contract will average over $9 million per season.

NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist is looking forward to the coming season after missing the entire 2020-21 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery.

THE PROVINCE: Former Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen signed a one-year contract with KHL club Spartak Moscow. The Canucks released the 25-year-old forward this summer following an allegation of sexual misconduct against the former first-round pick.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks hired John MacLean as an assistant coach. He replaces Rocky Thompson, who stepped down last week due to medical reasons preventing him from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

THE ATHLETIC: The Seattle Kraken signed defenseman Dennis Cholowski to a one-year, two-way contract worth $900K at the NHL level.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Simon Gagne, Paul Holmgren, Bob Kelly, Lou Nolan, Mark Recchi and Rick Tocchet are the six finalists for inductions into the Flyers Hall of Fame. A voting committee will make the final selection and the induction ceremony will be held during a game this season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 24, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 24, 2021

The preseason schedule is released plus the latest on  Jaden Schwartz, David Krejci, Henrik Lundqvist and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The 2021-22 preseason schedule was released on Monday. It begins on Saturday, Sept. 25 as the Montreal Canadiens travel to Toronto to meet the Maple Leafs for an afternoon contest. The Minnesota Wild will face off against the St. Louis Blues in an evening contest.

Seattle Kraken winger Jaden Schwartz (NHL Images).

The following day features the Seattle Kraken hosting the Vancouver Canucks at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The schedule concludes with 11 games on Saturday, Oct. 9.

THE ATHLETIC: Jaden Schwartz revealed he almost didn’t play with the St. Louis Blues last season following the sudden death of his father. It was the relationships within the organization and the memory of his dad that convinced him to play. Now signed with the Seattle Kraken, he’s looking forward to a new chapter in his life and career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Schwartz was hampered by an oblique injury last season but the loss of his father also affected his performance. He’ll be expected to play a leadership role with the Kraken in their upcoming inaugural campaign.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Former Bruins center David Krejci was formally introduced yesterday as the latest member of the Czech Republic club HC Olomouc. While the Bruins have left the door open for Krejci to return later this season, the 35-year-old center appears intent on playing back home.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Krejci plays one game in the Czech Republic he’d have to clear waivers to return to the Bruins or any other NHL club this season.

NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist is looking forward to having his No. 30 raised to the rafters of Madison Square Garden by the New York Rangers at some point in the coming season. He played 15 seasons with the Blueshirts, winning a franchise-record 459 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This report came out before Sunday’s news of the passing of Rangers legend Rob Gilbert. Lundqvist tweeted out his condolences on Monday.

TSN: Former NHL forward Jimmy Hayes died Monday at age 31. The older brother of Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes, Jimmy spent seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils from 2011-12 to 2017-18, totaling 54 goals and 109 points in 334 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Hayes’ family, friends and former teammates.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins and his wife Aleksandra recently welcomed son Knox Matiss Merzlikins into their family. His middle name honors the memory of Merzlkins’ friend and teammate Matiss Kivlenieks, who died last month during a fireworks incident.










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.