NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 1, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 1, 2024

The Avalanche and Hurricanes advance to the second round, the Leafs and Predators avoid elimination, the Calder Trophy Finalists are announced, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Winnipeg Jets 6-3 to win their best-of-seven opening-round series four games to one. Mikko Rantanen scored twice and Alexandar Georgiev stopped 34 shots for the Avalanche. They await the winner of the Dallas Stars-Vegas Golden Knights series.

Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Georgiev silenced his critics (including me) with his performance during this series. After giving up seven goals on 23 shots in Game 1, he allowed eight in the next four games with a .931 save percentage.

Winnipeg entered this series tied with the Florida Panthers for the fewest goals-against per game (2.41). Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is a Vezina Trophy finalist who won the Jennings Trophy as the goalie who played a minimum of 25 games for the team allowing the fewest regular-season goals.

However, the Jet couldn’t contain the Avs’ offense, finishing this round with the highest goals-against per game (5.40) while Hellebuyck allowed the most goals (24) among all first-round goalies thus far. They are also the first team in NHL playoff history to allow at least five goals in five straight games in a postseason round.

Three unanswered third-period goals gave the Carolina Hurricanes to a 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders to take their first-round series four games to one. Jack Drury scored the winning goal and Seth Jarvis had a goal and two assists for the Hurricanes, who will face the New York Rangers in the second round.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carolina’s offensive depth proved too much to contain for the Islanders. Credit Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov for keeping his club in most of these games but his teammates lack the scoring punch to hand with the Hurricanes.

An overtime goal by Matthew Knies lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Boston Bruins 2-1 in Game 5 of their first-round series. Jake McCabe also scored and Joseph Woll made 27 saves for the Leafs. Trent Frederic replied for the Bruins as they hold a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is Thursday, May 2 at 8 pm EDT.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the Leafs’ best game of the series. Woll’s steady goaltending gave them confidence and they did a good job containing Boston’s leading scorers. The Bruins at times appeared flat during this contest while the Leafs were fighting to keep their season alive.

The Leafs got the win without top center Auston Matthews, who missed this game with an undisclosed illness.

The Nashville Predators overcame a 1-0 deficit to beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in Game 5 of their first-round series on goals by Roman Josi and Alexandre Carrier. Juuse Saros made 19 saves for the win. Nikita Zadorov scored and Arturs Silov turned aside 20 shots for the Canucks, who hold a 3-2 lead in this series. Game 6 is Friday (start time TBA).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a goaltender’s duel through the first two periods. It looked like the Canucks were going to put this one away following Zadorov’s goal but the Predators refused to quit.

The Predators caught a break on Josi’s goal as the puck squirted behind Silov. The Canucks goalie tried to roll over to cover the puck but was inadvertently pushed during a goalmouth scramble, knocking the puck across the goal line.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard, Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber, and New Jersey Devils blueliner Luke Hughes are this season’s finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the finalists. Bedard is considered the favorite to win but Faber could make this interesting. He enjoyed a strong debut with the Wild, finishing among the rookie leaders in points and sitting among the league’s top-10 skaters in time on ice per game.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: T.J. Oshie said he has much to consider regarding his future as a player. The 37-year-old Washington Capitals winger said he’s been dealing with chronic back issues for years among other ailments.

Oshie has a year left on his contract. He said he’d love to play next season but needs assurances that he can do so without his back giving out. The Capitals winger intends to seek treatment during the offseason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oshie has never played a full NHL season due to injuries. He saw action in only 52 games in 2023-24.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers captain Sean Couturier recently changed agents and is now represented by Pat Brisson. One reason behind the change could be due to his former agent criticizing Flyers coach John Tortorella for benching Couturier for two games. The veteran center took responsibility for his poor play leading to his benching.

Speaking of the Flyers, top prospect Matvei Michkov might be able to join the club next season if the KHL allows him out of his contract with SKA St. Petersburg. Michkov’s contract runs through 2025-26 but SKA chairman Alexander Medvedev said he has a good relationship with the Flyers front office and has regularly spoken with them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s nothing set in stone here but Medvedev said a decision on Michkov’s future could come by the end of June.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot could undergo wrist surgery in the coming weeks. The recovery time would be between two and three months.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The sooner Chabot has the surgery the more likely he’ll be fully recovered in time for training camp in September.

DAILY FACEOFF: Speaking of the Senators, they reportedly interviewed Travis Green for their vacant head-coaching position. Green is currently the interim coach of the New Jersey Devils.

THE ATHLETIC: And speaking of New Jersey, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas denied speculation that head coach Mike Sullivan could become the next Devils head coach. Dubas said the Devils haven’t sought permission to speak with Sullivan nor have they been granted permission.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This sounds like another example of the hockey media “telephone” game. A pundit wonders whether Sullivan would be interested in coaching the Devils because he’s friends with their general manager. People start talking about it and it morphs into Sullivan trying to get out of his contract with the Penguins to coach the Devils.

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Canadiens winger Juraj Slakovskiy is undergoing some medical procedures in Montreal. It will delay him joining Slovakia at the upcoming World Championships in Czechia but isn’t expected to prevent him from playing in the tournament.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 27, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 27, 2023

The three stars of the week and more as we catch up on the latest news following the league’s holiday break in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, and Detroit Red Wings right wing Patrick Kane are the league’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 24.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov (NHL Images).

The NHL returns to action following its three-day holiday break with fourteen games featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs facing off against the Ottawa Senators, the Tampa Bay Lightning squaring off against the Florida Panthers, the Dallas Stars meeting the St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche going up against the Arizona Coyotes, and the Winnipeg Jets versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Blown leads and a recent scoring drought are among four issues the Bruins must address following the holiday break.

ESPN.COM: Anaheim Ducks rookie Leo Carlsson will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks with a sprained right knee ligament. The 19-year-old suffered the injury during Thursday’s game against the Calgary Flames when he became entangled with Flames defenseman MacKenzie Weegar.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carlsson was fortunate to escape serious injury as his leg bent at an awkward angle. In 23 games, he’s fourth among rookie scorers with eight goals and 12th in points with 15 as the Ducks carefully managed his playing time and number of games played before his injury. Carlsson’s numbers might have been higher had he played as many games as most of his fellow rookies currently ahead of him in goals and points.

SPORTSNET: Columbus Blues Jackets forward Sean Kuraly is resting at home after undergoing tests for an abdominal injury suffered in the final minute of the first period during Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The tests came back negative but there’s no indication how long he’ll be sidelined.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuraly left the ice on his own but paramedics were called in after he collapsed on his way to the Blue Jackets’ dressing room, resulting in play being briefly suspended. Fortunately, the injury didn’t appear to be serious but was taken to the hospital for tests as a precaution.

DAILY FACEOFF: The Carolina Hurricanes recalled goaltender Antti Raanta on Tuesday from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: The Red Wings placed forward Christian Fischer on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 23 and called up Jonatan Berggren, Austin Czarnik and Simon Edvinsson from their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids under emergency conditions.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators are continuing talks with the National Capital Commission for a lease at LeBreton Flats. However, they’re also studying other options in case a lease agreement with the NCC falls through.

ESPN.COM: All eyes will be on Team Canada center Macklin Celebrini during the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship currently underway in Gothenburg, Sweden. He’s projected to become the top prospect in the 2024 NHL Draft class but he will face competition from players such as Team USA’s Cole Eiserman and Finland’s Aron Kiviharju.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A prospect’s performance in the WJC can affect their value in the draft. It’ll be interesting to see how the potential Class of 2024 performs in this tournament.

DAILY FACEOFF: The WJC isn’t the only international tournament currently taking place. Mike Gould lists five former NHL players worth watching at the 2023 Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Young Russian NHL prospects could be staying in the KHL for four to five years before being allowed to join their NHL teams. Flyers prospect Matvei Michkov’s current KHL contract expires in 2026 but could end up staying beyond that if the KHL implements new rules that determine how long teenage prospects would have to stay and play in Russia. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was always the risk for NHL clubs drafting Russian players. The KHL currently has rules in place that prevent their best young players from bolting to the NHL soon after being drafted. If those rules change, the Flyers could wait another four or five years before Michkov finally joins their roster.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 12, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 12, 2023

Quinn Hughes named the Canucks’ new captain, the Avalanche hope Gabriel Landeskog can return for the 2024 playoffs, Zach Parise not returning to the Islanders to start the season, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks yesterday named Quinn Hughes as their new captain. He replaces Bo Horvat, who was traded in January to the New York Islanders. The 23-year-old defenseman is entering his sixth season with the Canucks and is the 15th captain in franchise history.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hughes got the nod over such notable teammates as J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson. The respect that he has from his teammates appears to have factored into this move by the club. Horvat spoke to Hughes on Sunday before the announcement was made and took to Instagram to praise the new captain.

THE ATHLETIC: Colorado Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland is hoping that team captain Gabriel Landeskog can return to the lineup for the 2024 playoffs. The 30-year-old left winger will miss the 2023-24 regular season recovering from the knee injury that sidelined him for the entirety of last season.

There’s still so much to be gleaned from this,” said MacFarland. “It’s hard to put a timeline on it.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Landeskog underwent three surgeries on his knee in the previous two years. If he misses this season and the playoffs his playing career could be over.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello yesterday said that Zach Parise will not be returning to the club for the start of the season. The 39-year-old free-agent winger remains with his family in Minnesota. Lamoriello left the door open for a possible return later in the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Parise isn’t signing with another club nor is he retiring. He appears to be taking some more time to see if he wants to play one more NHL season.

DAILY FACEOFF: Speaking of the Islanders, Alexander Romanov could miss the start of training camp following offseason shoulder surgery. Lamoriello said the 23-year-old defenseman is progressing well and should return to the lineup soon.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens named Mike Matheson as an alternate captain. He replaces Joel Edmundson, who was traded to the Washington Capitals in July. The 29-year-old defenseman is thrilled by the news. “I grew up in Montreal, idolizing this team,” he said, calling it a “pinch-myself moment.”

DAILY FACEOFF: In other Canadiens news, Christian Dvorak has not been medically clear to start the coming season. The 27-year-old forward underwent season-ending knee surgery in March.

CAROLINA HOCKEY NOW: The Hurricanes signed forwards Kieffer Bellows and Jayden Halbgewachs to professional tryout offers.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers prospect Matvei Michkov has been loaned by SKA St. Petersburg to fellow KHL team HK Sochi. The 18-year-old winger played for Sochi last season, collecting 20 points in 27 games. He’d been unable to get playing time with SKA St. Peterburg.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Michkov was chosen seventh overall in this year’s draft by the Flyers. His early-season struggles with SKA St. Petersburg created a stir on social media with his critics already calling him a draft bust. However, it’s far too early to write him off.

Michkov’s under a KHL contract through 2025-26. He’s got plenty of time to sort out his game before he’s ready to join the Flyers. We’ll have a better grasp of his abilities by then.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2023

Check out the latest on Kevin Hayes, Anton Khudobin, Tuukka Rask and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues head coach Craig Berube believes Kevin Hayes will bring experienced help at the center-ice position to his team. The 31-year-old forward was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in July.

Berube noted that Hayes played well during his tenure with the New York Rangers, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. “He’s a good player with the puck, he makes plays,” said Berube. “Big, he’s got good size. When he was with the Rangers, he was killing penalties, he was a faceoff guy. He was really good at the dot. There’s a lot of upside there that he can really help us.”

St. Louis Blues center Kevin Hayes (NHL Images).

Hayes averaged 20 goals and 30 assists per 82 games during his four seasons with the Flyers. Despite a 54-point performance last season (including a team-leading 36 assists), he was a healthy scratch at times under coach John Tortorella and spent some time as a left wing. His production dropped to seven points in his final 28 games with the Flyers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues are hoping that Hayes will improve in St. Louis and bolster their depth at center after trading away Ryan O’Reilly last season. He carries a $7.1 million cap hit through 2025-26 but the Flyers retained half of that. The Blues only gave up a 2024 sixth-round pick to get him. This could turn into a steal for the Blues if Hayes regains the form that earned him that lucrative contract.

DAILY FACEOFF: Anton Khudobin signed a contract with Sokol Krasnoyarsk in Russia’s second-tier VHL. The 37-year-old goaltender spent most of last season with the AHL’s Texas Stars. Traded to the Chicago Blackhawks before the March 3 trade deadline, he made his last NHL appearance on March 23, giving up six goals on 28 shots.

Before that, Khudobin had a well-earned reputation as a reliable backup goaltender with the Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, and Dallas Stars. His most memorable performance occurred during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs as he backstopped the Stars to the Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin struggled following the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season. A nagging hip injury led to season-ending surgery in March 2022 requiring a six-month recovery period.

In 260 NHL games played, he had a regular-season record of 114 wins, 92 losses and 33 overtime losses with a 2.52 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and 11 shutouts. He also had a record of 14-10-0 in 24 playoff starts with a 2.63 GAA, a .919 SP and one shutout.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Former Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask recently denied a long-standing rumor that he missed the last game of the 2015-16 season due to a hangover from drinking at a Boston pub the night before.

Rask was actually sidelined by a stomach virus and was replaced in that game by Jonas Gustavsson. The Bruins fell to the Ottawa Senators 6-1 and missed the playoffs.

In a recent interview with the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, Rask said that the rumor was started by a former bartender at the pub. The former Vezina Trophy winner said he was there five days beforehand but not the night before that crucial game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask was among the NHL’s elite goaltenders during most of his tenure in Boston. He holds the Bruins’ record for career wins with 308, backstopping them to two Stanley Cup Finals and winning a Cup as Tim Thomas’ backup in 2011. Nevertheless, he never really got his just due from some Bruins fans during his 15-season NHL career.

LA HOCKEY INSIDER: The Los Angeles Kings enter this season with the second-lowest payroll invested in goaltending. They have three goalies with NHL experience in Cam Talbot, Pheonix Copley and David Rittich. It’s expected that Talbot and Copley will be their main tandem to start the seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Goaltending is the Kings’ potential Achilles’ heel this season. Don’t be surprised if general manager Rob Blake goes shopping for an upgrade at some point if Talbot, Copley and Rittich struggle between the pipes.

DAILY FACEOFF: Highly-touted Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matvei Michkov was a healthy scratch from SKA St. Petersburg’s first two games in the new KHL season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some on social media are pointing to this as justification for why Michkov dropped to seventh overall in this year’s draft. That’s as may be but it’s still very early in the 18-year-old winger’s career. He won’t be making his NHL debut for three more seasons so there’s plenty of time for him to develop and improve as a professional in the KHL.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 3, 2023

Check out the latest on Devils’ winger Jesper Bratt, Jets forward Gabriel Vilardi, Canucks winger Tanner Pearson and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: Jesper Bratt recently explained to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that he used the pressure of his two short-term contracts as motivation to justify that he was worthy of a long-term deal.

New Jersey Devils winger Jesper Bratt (NHL Images).

I liked going into the summer pressuring myself a little more,” said Bratt. “Okay, I have to prove myself. I gotta work harder, I gotta show them how good I am.”

The result was back-to-back 73-point campaigns for Bratt, including breaking the 30-goal plateau last season for the first time. Earlier this summer, the 25-year-old winger signed an eight-year, $63-million contract ($7.875 million average annual value).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bratt acknowledged his new challenge will be justifying his lucrative new contract. He’ll have little difficulty doing that if he remains a 30-goal, 70-plus-point winger.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets forward Gabriel Vilardi arrived in Winnipeg last week to begin preparation for training camp later this month. Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in June as part of the Pierre-Luc Dubois, the 24-year-old Vilardi claimed to be unaware of the club’s soap opera over the past two seasons over a perceived lack of accountability and leadership among the players.

Vilardi claimed he was surprised to find out that the Jets didn’t have a captain last season. “I thought Mark Scheifele was the captain. I don’t even know. That gives you my answer,” he said, going on to say that he uses that line often.

I’m here to play hockey. That’s my job. From what I’ve seen so far, Winnipeg isn’t that bad. We’ll see the winter.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vilardi was the key piece in the four-asset return that the Jets received from the Kings for Dubois. He’s coming off a career-best performance of 24 goals and 41 points in 63 games. His performance this season could play a crucial role in the Jets’ playoff hopes for this season.

VANCOUVER HOCKEY NOW: Rob Simpson reports Canucks winger Tanner Pearson feels he’s 100 percent recovered from the hand injury that limited him to just 14 games last season. That could create a salary-cap crunch for the Canucks, who are currently some $4.4 million over the $83.5 million cap. Pearson, 31, carries a $3.25 million AAV for the coming season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pearson was mentioned earlier this year as a potential trade candidate if he was ready to return for the start of this season. Those rumors could surface again if he is indeed good to go for 2023-24.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators and Shane Pinto aren’t close to a new contract. However, it’s hoped the restricted free agent center will be signed soon. NHL training camps open on Sept. 21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pinto, 22, completed his entry-level contract last season. It was his first full NHL campaign and he showed promise with 20 goals and 35 points in 83 games. The Senators, however, are bumping up against the cap.

The Senators can exceed the cap by 10 percent until the start of the season when they must be cap compliant. Signing Pinto will mean clearing some cap space via demotions and/or trade.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers president Keith Jones said his club was getting close to a new contract for Morgan Frost. The 24-year-old center completed his ELC last season. He had 19 goals and 46 points in 81 games in 2022-23. “Morgan’s an important player for us in the future. That will work itself out,” said Jones.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Speaking of the Flyers, 2023 first-round pick Matvei Michkov was a healthy scratch for SKA St. Peterburg’s KHL season-opening on Saturday. Chosen seventh overall by the Flyers, the 18-year-old winger is considered one of Russia’s top hockey prospects.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This news caused a bit of a stir yesterday on hockey Twitter..er, sorry, “X”. A scoring winger, Michkov was apparently scratched because of his defensive play.

I wouldn’t put too much stock into Michkov getting benched unless this becomes a trend over the course of this KHL season. He’s under contract with SKA St. Petersburg through 2025-26. There’s plenty of time for this kid to develop his game before joining the Flyers, provided his KHL club will let him go.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Sammi Silber reports former NHL defenseman Madison Bowey has signed with KHL club Dynamo Minsk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE Bowey’s last NHL season was in 2021-22 with the Vancouver Canucks, playing two games with them and spending the rest of the season with their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford. He spent last season with the AHL’s Laval Rocket.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2023

Johnny Gaudreau expresses optimism over the Blue Jackets’ upcoming season, the latest on the Rangers, and the NHL Network’s top 50 prospects in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Johnny Gaudreau feels a lot more comfortable entering his second season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He now knows the team and the city better, saying it’s starting to feel more like home.

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

Gaudreau joined the Blue Jackets last summer as a free agent but he and the club went through a difficult season, in part due to injuries to key players like Zach Werenski. His production dropped from a career-best 115 points in 2021-22 with the Calgary Flames to 74 points in 80 games.

Nevertheless, Gaudreau is optimistic about the club’s chances this season. “The amount of skill we have on our team with some of the young guys, it’s pretty fun to watch every day in practice and in games,” he said, adding that he hopes teams continue to underestimate the Jackets.

Gaudreau also believes the club’s hiring of Mike Babcock as head coach will improve their performance. “We need that hard-nosed coach that’s going to push us in practices and in games,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A return to form by Gaudreau will be crucial to the Blue Jackets’ hope for improvement this season. How well they adjust to Babcock’s coaching and the overall health of the roster will also be important.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers are hoping that veteran additions Blake Wheeler and Jonathan Quick will have a positive effect on the roster this season.

Both players signed bargain contracts with the Rangers. Wheeler inked a one-year, $1.1 million deal after being bought out by the Winnipeg Jets. Quick accepted a one-year, $925K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both players are past their prime but their experience and leadership could be helpful to the Rangers in their quest to win the Stanley Cup this season. Wheeler still has effective playmaking skills and might benefit from skating as a right wing on the Blueshirts’ top-two forward lines.

Quick could be useful in a backup role to spell off starter Igor Shesterkin. If he sees around 25-30 games of action it would ensure Shesterkin isn’t overworked before the playoffs begin.

LA PRESSE: Speaking of the Rangers, Alexis Lafreniere shed some light on his contract negotiations. The 21-year-old left winger is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights.

Lafreniere said talks are ongoing between his agent and Rangers management. He’s hopeful that an agreement will be reached within the next several weeks. “You have to be patient, sometimes it takes longer,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lafreniere has been occasionally mentioned in the rumor mill as a potential offer sheet candidate. Based on his comments, however, that appears to be a remote possibility. He’s likely to be signed before training camp opens in late September.

Lafreniere’s lack of arbitration rights gives him little leverage with the Rangers. The threat of an offer sheet would be his most effective weapon. Given the high number of teams with less than $5 million in cap space for the coming season, it’s unlikely he’s going to get one, assuming he’s willing to entertain that option.

NHL NETWORK: Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard sits atop the NHL Network’s recent ranking of the league’s top 50 prospects.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli, Anaheim Ducks forward Leo Carlsson, Philadelphia Flyers winger Matvei Michkov and New Jersey Devils defenseman Luke Hughes round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As expected, this generated plenty of responses from hockey fans. Check out the full list and feel free to respond in the comments below.