NHL Rumor Mill – August 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 21, 2020

What next for the Flames, Capitals and Blue Jackets now that their postseason is over? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FLAMES

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered about the future of Johnny Gaudreau following yet another disappointing early playoff exit by the Calgary Flames. The 27-year-old winger’s been the subject of trade speculation throughout this season as he put up his lowest offensive output since his rookie season.

Could the Calgary Flames shop Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason? (NHL Images)

It’s been speculated Gaudreau, a New Jersey native, could be peddled to an East Coast team. There’s also a theory the Flames could trade away “Johnny Hockey” to make room for Arizona Coyotes winger (and Calgary native) Taylor Hall.

With notable coaches such as Bruce Boudreau, Peter Laviolette, and Mike Babcock available, Wyshynski pondered the future of Flames interim bench boss Geoff Ward. He also wondered which of their notable UFAs (goalie Cam Talbot, blueliners T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic) will be back.

CALGARY SUN: Kristen Anderson and Wes Gilbertson wondered if changes could be coming to the Flames’ core forwards like Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and Sam Bennett. Gilbertson also mused over whether it’s time for general manager Brad Treliving to test Gaudreau’s trade value or make a change at center by trading Sean Monahan or dropping him to the second line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think a shakeup is coming and it could be Gaudreau on the move. A year ago, I considered that unthinkable. Not now. He seemed off-kilter until midseason and wasn’t much of a force in this postseason. As Gilbertson pointed out, he didn’t have an even-strength goal during the series with the Stars.

Despite Gaudreau’s struggles this season, he’s the Flames’ best trade chip. They aren’t moving Monahan because first-line centers are difficult to find. Spark plug Matthew Tkachuk isn’t going anywhere. I expect they’ll hang onto Bennett. He’s a versatile checking-line forward who elevates his play in the postseason. Backlund could be shopped but won’t fetch as strong a return as Gaudreau.

Dump Gaudreau to sign Hall? Stranger things have happened but Hall did little to raise his UFA stock this season. Maybe he’d regain his 2018 Hart Trophy form in Calgary but he would be an expensive gamble.

CAPITALS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan examined some possible off-season moves by the Washington Capitals. It appears long-time starting goaltender and pending UFA Braden Holtby has played his final game for the Caps. Their blueline could use some help but they have limited salary-cap space. Kaplan also wondered about the fate of head coach Todd Reirden.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Barry Svrluga wondered if the Capitals’ early playoff departure suggests a team in decline or perhaps the interruption of the season by COVID-19 skewed the results. He points out most of their core players are now in their thirties, took note of Holtby’s expected departure and wondered about Reirden’s fate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Replacing the coach is easier than replacing the roster, and there’s some justification for a change behind the Capitals bench after Reirden got schooled in the Isles series by former Washington coach Barry Trotz. The Caps remain a talented team but most of their stars don’t have many good years left. 

Holtby’s departure is a foregone conclusion. His performance declined over the last couple of years. Ilya Samsonov had a promising debut season and will be their starter for the foreseeable future.

Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $71.1 million invested in 16 players. There’s a chance they’ll re-sign Brenden Dillon but he could cost over $4 million annually. RFA Jonas Siegenthaler will get an affordable bridge deal coming off his entry-level deal. That won’t leave much to bolster their blueline depth.

BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports of rumors Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could be preparing for some big off-season moves to bolster his forward lines.

Portzline believes their priority should be adding a top-six center. He feels the Jackets’ GM could draw from his blue-line depth for trade bait, suggesting David Savard as a candidate. RFA winger Josh Anderson could be another. With Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins as bonafide starters, the Jackets could get calls from clubs seeking help in goal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen showed a willingness to make significant moves leading up to the 2019 trade deadline. With his club in dire need of scoring punch, I expect he’ll swing a trade or two to address that need. Several clubs with limited salary-cap space could be looking to shed a high-salaried talent for a more affordable option.

As per Cap Friendly, the Jackets have over $76 million invested in 23 players, with center Pierre-Luc Dubois due for a raise coming off his entry-level contract. He lacks arbitration rights so Kekalainen could ink him to an affordable short-term bridge deal with the promise of a more lucrative contract afterward.

If Kekalainen seeks impact forwards, he’ll have to move salaried players too. He could get $5.85-million in cap flexibility if sidelined forward Brandon Dubinsky starts the season on long-term injury reserve.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 11, 2020

The Rangers win the 2020 draft lottery, the Panthers formally part company with Dale Tallon, the opening round of the 2020 playoffs begin today and more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.

  NHL.COM: The New York Rangers won Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery yesterday, giving them the first-overall pick and the opportunity to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic.

2020 NHL DRAFT ORDER

1. New York Rangers

2. Los Angeles Kings

3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)

4. Detroit Red Wings

5. Ottawa Senators

6. Anaheim Ducks

7. New Jersey Devils

8. Buffalo Sabres

9. Minnesota Wild

10. Winnipeg Jets

11. Nashville Predators

12. Florida Panthers

13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)

14. Edmonton Oilers

15. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Hurricanes received the Leafs pick as part of the return in last June’s Patrick Marleau trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was 24 hours of suck for the Maple Leafs. They would’ve kept that pick had they won the lottery.

As a result of the Penguins acquiring Jason Zucker in February from the Wild, Pens general manager Jim Rutherford has seven days to decide if he’ll send this year’s first-rounder to the Wild or defer the pick to 2021.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers have parted ways with general manager Dale Tallon. He’d been with the club for 10 years, most of that period as GM. The club issued a statement indicating the decision was mutual. It’s believed they’ll look outside the organization for a replacement. Assistant GM Eric Joyce takes over on an interim basis.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers made little progress toward their goal of becoming a Stanley Cup contender during Tallon’s tenure. His replacement must build around the club’s core talent (Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad), addressing their weaknesses (such as their poor defensive play), and change the culture of losing that’s dogged this franchise for over two decades. 

NHL.COM: The opening round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs begins today with four games. The Columbus Blue Jackets face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning (3 pm ET), the Calgary Flames meet the Dallas Stars (5:30 pm ET), the Carolina Hurricanes square off against the Boston Bruins (8 pm ET), and the Chicago Blackhawks go up against the Vegas Golden Knights (10:30 pm ET).

SPORTSNET: Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins is sidelined indefinitely. As per league protocols, no information was revealed regarding his condition.

CBS SPORTS: Philadelphia Flyers winger Jakub Voracek (undisclosed) will be a game-day decision when his club faces off with the Canadiens in Game 1 of their opening-round series on Wednesday.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Sammy Blais could miss the start of his club’s opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. He suffered an apparent leg injury during Sunday’s round-robin loss to the Dallas Stars.

TSN: The NHL reported no positive COVID-19 tests in its first two weeks in their secure zones in Edmonton and Toronto.

NHL.COM: The Hockey Hall of Fame has postponed its Induction Weekend ceremonies (Nov. 13-16) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rescheduling plans will be made during the board of directors meeting on Oct. 29.

TSN: Long-time NHL insider Bob McKenzie is scaling back his schedule in what he deemed a “soft retirement”. He’ll still appear in special events like the World Juniors and the NHL Trade Deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McKenzie is the best-connected man in hockey and the most trusted insider. Best wishes in his future endeavors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 24, 2020

More details on a possible resumption of the schedule in July, the potential plans for the 2020 Draft, the Blue Jackets re-sign goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST ON THE POSSIBLE RESUMPTION OF 2019-20 NHL SEASON

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the NHL is looking at a series of phases toward re-starting the 2019-20 season. It’s currently been in Phase 1 (lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation) since mid-March. The league is optimistic about moving into Phase 2, which would see players from around the world returning to their NHL clubs and getting into a two-week quarantine period of small-group training.

Following that could see Phase 3, which could see a plan of four divisional cities hosting multiple teams staging two-week training camps. After that would be Phase 4, the resumption of games.

Darren Dreger suggests the Phase 2 period would ideally be around May 15. He said the league and the NHL Players’ Association are discussing restart strategies, but some teams aren’t optimistic about whether it’s safe enough to return anytime soon.

Pierre LeBrun reports the league is vetting 12 NHL cities for those four divisional hosts. He cites colleague Frank Seravalli indicating Toronto, Edmonton, Dallas, and Pittsburgh were under consideration. LeBrun also mentioned Minnesota (Minneapolis-St. Paul), and Columbus.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports at least one NHL team told its players to be prepared to report on May 15 to begin informal workouts before a training camp of up to three weeks. Not every NHL club, however, is acting in a similar matter. He added Columbus is the favorite to host Metropolitan Division games.

Brooks also said there has yet to be in-depth conversations between the league and the NHLPA regarding health protocols to protect the players from COVID-19. It’s unknown if players returning from Europe would need to be quarantined for two weeks before rejoining their clubs.

WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen reports Winnipeg has been removed from that list of potential locations, citing various infrastructure issues such as suitable hotel accommodation to house all those players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A growing sense of cautious optimism has been evident this week among NHL officials over a possible resumption of the season. However, they’ve also repeatedly stressed it would depend upon ensuring the health and safety of its players and those involved in staging those games. They’re hopeful, but they’re also not going to rush things. Like provinces and states that are starting to ease back restrictions, the league will do this step by cautious step.

2020 NHL DRAFT UPDATE

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the NHL head office is keen to stage the 2020 NHL Draft in early June, well before the proposed resumption of the schedule. Pierre LeBrun said there’s been considerable pushback from NHL general managers. They’re concerned about determining the draft order, as well as the ability to make normal trades.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Ottawa Sun that a June draft would likely use a points percentage system to determine the draft selection order. Based on the reports from McKenzie and LeBrun, however, most of the general managers are against the notion of staging the draft before the start of the season. Several teams also made deals during this season involving conditional picks to be determined by playoff performance or a player re-signing with his new club. Sorting that out could create more headaches for the league.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: The Columbus Blue Jackets re-signed Elvis Merzlikins to a two-year, $8-million contract extension. The 26-year-old goaltender was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Merzlikins’ new deal came within a week of the Jackets re-signing Joonas Korpisalo to a two-year, $5.6-million deal. They now have over $75 million invested in 19 players for 2020-21, with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson still to re-sign.

Some are wondering why general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is re-signing players when next season’s salary cap has yet to be determined. Same goes for St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong. It’s been suggested their recent moves indicate the salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for next season.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Alex Ovechkin and Wayne Gretzky played to a tie in their NHL 20 matchup, raising over $41K for coronavirus relief.

STAR-TRIBUNE.COM: Former NHL player and 1980 Team USA alum Mark Pavelich is no longer resisting mental health treatment. He’s making progress toward a newly scheduled hearing to determine his fitness to stand trial for assaulting a neighbor last year.










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Columbus Blue Jackets

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Columbus Blue Jackets

 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 3, 2020

Could the Rangers pursue Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? What will the Blue Jackets do with their goalie tandem? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NUGENT-HOPKINS TO THE RANGERS?

NEW YORK POST: In a recent mailbag segment, a reader told Larry Brooks he’d heard lots of rumors about the Rangers trading for Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Brooks acknowledged the Rangers will attempt to bulk up at center for next season. They could be in the market for a second-line center depending on Ryan Strome’s contract status and Filip Chytil’s readiness. He feels they could defenseman Tony DeAngelo as trade bait.

Could the New York Rangers trade for Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? (Photo via NHL Images)

While Nugent-Hopkins would be a good fit, Brooks doesn’t believe the Rangers will pursue him. He pointed out RNH is only a year away from unrestricted free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could do it if they get permission from the Oilers to speak to the Nugent-Hopkins camp about a contract extension. However, I think the Oilers prefer to retain RNH. If they were to shop him in the off-season (whenever that might be), it’ll be for a second-line winger, not a puck-moving defenseman.

COULD THE BLUE JACKETS TRADE KORPISALO OR MERZLIKINS?

THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required) Aaron Portzline reports the Columbus Blue Jackets believe they have two No.1 goaltenders in Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins. There’s an assumption they could trade one of them this summer. Both are restricted free agents with arbitration rights sitting a year away from unrestricted free agent status.

Portzline expects the Jackets won’t accept anything less than two years. It’s unlikely either goalie will accept anything longer than three or four years.

A free-agent goalie market featuring Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, and Chicago’s Corey Crawford could also affect efforts to trade Korpisalo or Merzlikins. Finding the right team and the right deal could also complicate matters.

The Jackets can afford to wait to move either goalie. They also won’t be under pressure to move one before next summer’s expansion draft, as Merzlikins is exempt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Jackets have over $68.2 million invested in 17 players, with Korpisalo, Merzlikins, and forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson as their notable free agents. They’re in a good position with their goaltenders.

If a club offered up a good young NHL center, they’ll probably act on it. Nevertheless, I think they’ll sign both netminders to two-year deals and see how things shake out.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2020

Leon Draisaitl reaches 100 points, David Pastrnak gets closer to 50 goals, Steven Stamkos sidelined six-to-eight weeks, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Leon Draisaitl became the first player this season to reach 100 points as the Edmonton Oilers downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-2. Draisaitl led the way with two goals and an assist, giving him a league-leading 102 points. The Oilers (76 points) move into sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division, while the Jets (72 points) remain just outside the Western Conference wild-card picture.

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl reached 100 points for the second straight season (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring injury or a slump, Draisaitl is well on his way to winning the Art Ross Trophy and should be considered a serious contender for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He stepped up his game during captain Connor McDavid’s recent absence due to injury.

David Pastrnak tallied his 47th goal and Tuukka Rask turned in a 25-save shutout as the Boston Bruins down the New York Islanders 4-0. Charlie McAvoy had a three-point performance for the Bruins (94 points), who hold a seven-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and overall standings. Before the game, the Islanders honored Butch Goring by retiring his No. 91. Isles winger Cal Clutterbuck returned to action for the first time since suffering an injured wrist on Dec. 19.

After taking a 3-0 lead, the Tampa Bay Lightning held on for a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames. Earlier in the day, the Lightning learned captain Steven Stamkos will be sidelined six-to-eight weeks as he undergoes surgery on Monday to repair a core muscle injury. With 87 points, they sit second to the Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings. The Flames, meanwhile, hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 73 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos could return in time for the opening round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Ryan O’Reilly’s shootout goal gave the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to force the overtime and shootout frames. It was the Blues’ seventh straight win, giving them 88 points and a three-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Western Conference. The Stars (81 points) slip four behind the second-place Avs in the Central Division.

The Avalanche picked up their eighth straight road win and sixth consecutive victory by beating the Nashville Predators 3-2. Pavel Francouz made 30 saves for the win. The Avs (85 points) sit three behind the first-place Blues in the Central Division, while the Predators (72 points) hold the final Western Conference wild-card berth with three games in hand over the Winnipeg Jets.

Martin Jones made 30 saves as the San Jose Sharks blanked the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins 5-0. The Penguins (80 points) are third in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ve dropped six straight games.

Martin Marincin’s first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner as the Toronto Maple Leafs doubled up the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. Auston Matthews tallied his 45th goal of the season for the Leafs (78 points), who’ve won three straight and hold a five-point lead over the fading Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Canucks (74 points) remain in third place in the Pacific Division.

The Panthers, meanwhile, suffered their sixth straight defeat by dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the Chicago Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist in regulation and scored one of the Hawks’ two shootout goals. Mike Hoffman also had a goal and an assist for the Panthers (73 points), who sit five back of the Maple Leafs. Earlier in the day, the Blackhawks announced Andrew Shaw (concussion) and Zack Smith (hand injury) are done for the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those moves the Panthers made at the trade deadline have done nothing thus far to improve their performance. If they don’t snap out of their funk soon, they can forget about reaching the playoffs, and general manager Dale Tallon could start worrying about his job security.

The Montreal Canadiens blew a 3-0 lead to the Carolina Hurricanes but won the game 4-3 on an overtime goal by Jeff Petry. With 75 points, the Hurricanes are one point behind the idle Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern wild-card spot.

Clayton Keller tallied twice and collected an assist to lead the Arizona Coyotes to 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. The Coyotes (72 points) are sitting just outside the Western Conference wild-card spots. Sabres rookie Victor Olofsson left the game with an injured right leg.

Artem Anisimov scored two goals and the winner in a shootout as the Ottawa Senators nipped the Detroit Red Wings 4-3, handing the latter their fifth straight loss.

Adrian Kempe scored in overtime as the Los Angeles Kings edged the New Jersey Devils 2-1.

CBS SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins was diagnosed with a concussion, but isn’t expected to be out of the lineup for long. Defenseman Ryan Murray will return to action today against the Canucks. He’s been sidelined by a back injury since Dec. 14.